I got my hands on a battered pair of Teleskop-Service 15×70 binoculars that had been dropped a few times and damaged. The previous owner had tried to fix them but the binoculars just didn’t want to stay aligned. So I had a go at fixing them, and now they stay aligned for the moment and the focuser operates correctly after the addition of a bit of neoprene foam around hte barrels to act as a spring.

First light was Friday night, and it was enlightening to see how easy M101 and M51 were to see, M13 looked like a globular cluster and not just a puffball. M104 was seen as a spindle. It really looked like I was looking  through two telescopes and seeing more than I had been seeing in the ETX.

Stargazing April 6th-7th

On this monday evening I had a nap when I returned to the house after work, but the nap went on a little longer than I had really wanted.. I woke up at midnight! On the plus side, I looked out the window to see a clear sky so I decided to go and take the scopes for an outing as it was going to take me another 2 or so hours to get sleepy again. It wasn’t that cold outside as well for a bonus.

I brought the ETX70 out of the car and set it up at the NW end of the house in Galway, attaching the 12v battery leads and easy-aligning. For a first target I chose M51, and seeing that there was actually fairly good transparency I went in and took out the 8″ dob-in-progress. As that cooled down I did a little bit of touring around the sky taking in some old friends, as I wanted to get a look at Saturn after the mirror had reached ambient.

As there is currently no finder on the Dob, I was re-learning star-hopping from bright stars again. First up was M51 – this was not that hard to locate, I think I could see hints of spiral structure but it wasn’t clear. I identified M104 through the high-level cloud to the south, then I swung up to M53 (quite a pleasant sight really) and on to M64 (couldn’t see the dark lane). I had a bit of trouble locating M97 but I located it in the end, it’s a little bit larger than I was expecting. I couldn’t locate M108 nearby. Over to Leo and M65/M66 were located, and I tried for M95/M96 without success. M13 was a spectacular sight in all my eyepieces, easily resolved in the 32mm. A quick look at the double-double, clear clean splits on both. Quickly scan over to M57 and using the UHC (thank you Sarah!) and OIII filters really helped to make the Ring surprisingly bright and visible. I slewed back over to Saturn, and it was crisp and mostly steady. Even though the rings are about 2 degrees from edge on, I could just make out the cassini division, and I could easily see through the ring-planet gap. There was an easily visible band across the planet’s surface, that I think was the ring system in silhouette. As I was looking at Saturn, there appeared a halo around the planet that got brighter as the minutes passed. This was seen in all of the eyepieces. Saturn got fainter and fainter and that put paid to my plans to go galaxy hunting in the Virgo cluster.

So at 02.30 in the morning I started to feel sleepy again, so off to bed I went, satisfied with a fairly productive 2 hours outside.