Thursday, June 30, 2011

6/30/11 Observing Log

First observing session of 2011! Wow, it has been almost a year since I have taken the telescope out for some night-time viewing! I happened to notice it was fairly clear tonight without too much city haze, and no moon visible, so I decided to see if I could find a few more Messier objects.

But even more exciting, I have ordered another telescope!

After using the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian for all my recent viewing over the past few years, I have now ordered the Orion SkyQuest XT10g Computerized Go-To Dobsonian. I have been wanting a computerized scope that can track against the earth's rotation for a long time, and the value of the XT10g is superb.

Orion has a backlog of orders, and it looks like the scope will not be shipped until mid-to-late August. The May 2011 issue of Sky & Telescope has a great review of the XT10g, remarking that the optics and mirror are excellent, but there is a slight bit of vibration when the motor unit moves the scope. So I also ordered a set of damping pads.

The thing I like about the XT10g is that once you align it by viewing two stars, you can move it by hand to a new object instead of slewing to the object, and the scope will maintain its tracking abilities.

I'm hoping that I can finally take some pictures of the moon and the planets through the new scope by using a camera T-attachment. But that is all for later after I have had the new scope for a while.

Observed these objects tonight:

  • Saturn - Spent quite a bit of time looking at Saturn tonight. The rings are opening up more evey year. The 5mm Stratus gives very clear views at 240x in between the usual shakes of atmospheric turbulence. I then added the Celestron 2x Barlow to boost the mag to 480x, which turned out fairly well with sharp views on occasion, and was high-powered enough to finally see the Cassini Division! I then switched to the Orion 3x Barlow for 720x, which was still not as bad as I thought it would be. I could still get occasional sharp views even at 720x, though the coloring was a bit washed out.

  • M3 - First sighting. Star hopped from Arcturus and Muphrid (Eta Bo├Âtis). Fairly faint with the north Austin light pollution, but looks good through 13mm Orion Stratus at 92x.

  • M5 - Star hopped from Unukalhai (Alpha Serpentis). Brighter than M3. Can see individual stars even with the north Austin light pollution. This would probably look amazing under some very dark skies with no light pollution.

Overall, spent about an hour outside tonight stargazing.