Thought I would post my latest observing session. It has been quite a while since I posted anything here. Last night, Sunday, I decided to go outside, late, to do a little stargazing since it was a clear night with the 1st quarter Moon steadily moving farther westward.
It was around 10:30pm (CST) with temps hovering around 45 degrees and very low humidity and very little wind blowing. Instead of grabbing for either the 4 inch f/10 refractor or the "black beauty", the Z12 dob, I told my wife that I was going to take my little Meade 70AZ refractor out for a little while. So bundeling up a little bit I put 3 eyepieces in my coat pockets (25mm Meade MA, Zhumell 9mm plossl, 6mm Orion Expanse) along with my Ultima 2X barlow and grabbed the scope, my pocket sky atlas, my Stardust chair, and a red flashlight and out the back door to the deck I went.
Positioning myself next to my stored light blocking screens to one side of the deck, I set my "tools" up. Facing the eastern sky presented me with Ol' Jove steadily rising in the constellation Gemini so I aimed the little refractor towards the gas giant and plopped in the 6mm Expanse which gave me 100X. The two main equatorial belts along with 2 or 3 other banding was clearing visible running in a vertical position looking thru the eyepiece with 3 of the Galilean satellites doing their nightly dance around the "mother planet", two on one side and one on the opposite side of the planet. Didn't detect the GRS at this particular time of the night. Didn't take time to check to see when it would be coming into view before going outside. The image was a little "soft" and yes there was clearly a bluish halo around the planet, but not too bad for the little achro refractor IMO.
While in the neighborhood I moved the scope up and east towards Castor and was able to clearly see the AB pair of Castor clearly separated with the 6mm Expanse. Both appearing white to my eyes.
Noticing that Orion along with Lepus were rising higher in the S-SE, I decided to see if I could catch a glimpse of R Leporis or Hind's Crimson Star. Placing the scope on Mu Lep. I star-hopped my way over to the area where R Lep was located using the 25mm eyepiece that gave me 24X in the scope. Even at that low power the magnitude of the star was bright enough to clearly stand out from all the rest in the FOV. The deep red/orange color of that carbon star looked like a tiny drop of blood on a black velvet sky with just a few other little diamonds sprinkled in the general area to add to the beauty! As I sat there for several minutes just soaking the beauty of it in, I couldn't help but wonder how long before R Lep would breathe it's last in one great final upheaveal before it's light would go dim?
Moving on, I wanted to see if I could locate the globular cluster in the little refractor while in the constellation Lepus. again using the 25mm eyepiece I star-hopped from Beta Lep (Nihal) several degrees S-SW until I spotted a tiny fuzzy star close to the double star h3752. I knew that fuzzy star had to be M79. Using the 9mm plossl gave me 67X which increased the size of M79 just a tad. You could clearly tell it was a globular cluster even though it still appeared just a little larger fuzzy looking "cotton ball".
Moving north of Lepus I wanted to drop in on one of my all time favorite DSO's, M42. Even at 24X with the 25mm eyepiece the "bat wings" of that huge "star factory" was evident along with seeing the Trapezium as well. Increasing the magnification to 48X (with the 2X barlow), 67X (9mm plossl) and 100X (6mm Expanse) steadily increased just a little bit more detail of the nebula and surrounding area at each increase in power. The "tear drop" shape of M43 was more evident at higher magnification as well. NGC 1977, the "Running Man", showed just a hint of nebulosity at 67X and 100X but unable to make out any "figure" in the small aperture scope. Still the star cluster of NGC 1977 shown like blue-white diamonds. Some nebulosity was detected around Iota Ori at those same magnifications. The beautiful, large, open cluster NGC 1981 shone brightly as blue-white in the scope even at low power! Moving up and over I took in Sigma Ori which is actually a quadruple star system but I was only able to detect the 3 brightest ones in the little scope: A, C, & D companions and of course taking in Struve 761 a triple star system itself was a very nice treat. Two multiple star systems all in the same eyepice!
As the night was growing later and colder I directed my little refractor towards the "Big Dog", Canis Major that was rising nicely in the SE. Using the 25mm as a finder I aim the scope at Sirius and slowly moved downward until I came to the nice open cluster M41 with approx. 25 stars visible in the eyepiece. Increasing the magnification to 67X showed a few more stars in the fairly large cluster. Nice target in a small scope for sure! Moving further southward I took in Omicron 1 surrounded by the open cluster Collinder 121. It too is a nice cluster but not quite as bright and showy as M41. The last two objects I went far while in Canis Major before retiring for the night were h3945 and Tau Canis Majoris together with NGC 2362. h3945 is the winter "Alberio" to me with the primary being a nice yellow/orange and the companion bluish with a very nice separation even at 24X. Moving southward brings you to another beautiful object, Tau Canis Majoris surrounded by the beautiful little open cluster NGC 2362. At 24X the cluster appears as a hazy patch with just 2 or 3 stars prominent. Increasing the power to 67X begins to reveal its true nature as more stars are revealed in the eyepiece. At 67X and 100X the cluster appears both slightly triangular in shape and also appears to "spiral" loosely around Tau. I couldn't help but sit and star into the eyepiece for quite a number of minutes in spite of the dropping temperature. In the Z12 dob it is truly an object to behold! But even in the 70mm it still was no slouch either.
So at around 12:30am I decided I had had enough fun for one cold evening and packed everthing up and picked up the little 70mm refractor, tripod and all, with one hand and headed in doors to lay my tired body down for the evening. Yes, the little scope is limited in what it can and cannot pull in; yes there is the blue halo around many bright objects; yes the little light aluminum tripod can be very shakey; but all in all, when you don't feel up to hauling out the bigger "guns" and you only have a little bit of time or maybe you have a couple of hours, it still can be fun and enjoyable scanning the starry "ocean" above with just a little light-weight simple mount scope such as this one.
Here's hoping for clear and starry skies to you all!
Zhumell Z12 Dob, Celestron Omni XLT 102mm refractor on CG-4 Mount, Meade AZ70 refractor, Celestron Ultima 2X Barlow 1.25, Telrad with 4 3/8 Riser, Zhumell Skyglow Filter, Zhumell OIII Filter, Baader UHC-S Filter, Meade ND96 Moon Filter, Baader Planetarium Hyperion 21mm, 13mm, 8mm and 5mm eyepieces, Meade 9mm and 25mm Plossls, Zhumell 9mm Plossl and 2 inch 30mm SWA, 6mm Orion Expanse and Pentax 10 x 50 PCF WP ll Binos