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Observing report TAL 250K
Last night, Leo and I observed the Moon, Saturn and a number of deepsky objects. We used an 8-inch Vixen Newtonian (R200SS) and a 10-inch TAL Klevtzov-Cassegrain (both mounted on a Lichtenknecker mount), combined with a Baader wide field bino-viewer. We used different Zeiss eyepieces. For wide-field viewing we also used a Zeiss 85mm Diascope with Zeiss 20-60x zoom eyepiece and two binoculars, a Vixen 15x80 and a TS 20x90. The deepsky objects observed were M 35, M 42, M 43, M 44, NGC 2264, NGC 2392, Alcor and Mizar, Cor Caroli and NGC 2261.

The Moon
We started with the Moon. The view through the TAL 250K and bino-viewer was simply stunning. The first thing that caught our attention was the alpine valley area. The view of the Alps and especially the shadows they casted, were awesome. They looked like a row of teeth on the lunar surface. Then there was in the same field of view the extremely long, triangular shadow of Mons Piton. To the north-northwest of Piton, the tops of Mons Pico and the mountain just to the south where lit by the Sun while the base and Mare floor where still in the shadows. Just right in front of the Alps some of the Mare ridges where visible.

To the south of the Alps, a part of the northeastern part of the Apennines was already visible, and with the bino-viewer it was as if we observed the mountain chain in 3-D. To the south-southeast of the Apennines, on the edge of Mare Vaporum, was a large rectangular area visible. It looked just like a big landslide to us. With the bino-viewer, Rima Hyginus with the crater in the middle, was again a wonderful sight. To the west of Hyginus, part of the Rimae Triesnecker complex was visible.

On the southern hemisphere, the most interesting feature was the group a group of four craters, Ptolemaeus with to its east Albategnius and to its south Alphonsus and Arzachel. On the floor of Alphonsus, a dark patch could be seen on the western rim of the crater floor. This is probably the result of some volcanic outfall.

We observed the Moon for quite some time, and we concluded that with the bino-viewer the views are simply the best. You see much more detail than with one eye, and observing is not tiring at all. You can observe using both eyes for hours on end. What also surprised us was that you could see Rima Hyginus with the 85mm Zeiss Diascope, with the zoom-eyepiece at maximum zoom (60x). The quality of this small birding-scope is very good.

Image shot with the Coolpix 4500, Zeiss Diascope and Zeiss zoom
eyepiece a few hours before the actual observing session

We only had a short look at Saturn. The seeing was deteriorating quickly (a lot of moisture in the air), and high magnifications were useless. However, the Cassini division was very clear, and we could also see a dark band across the surface of Saturn. We are still discussing about this dark band, was it the shadow of the rings, or a dark zone in the clouds of Saturn?

We started with M 35 in Gemini. This large open cluster looked best in the 8-inch Vixen, because of the wide field of view (f/4 800mm) that you get with this instrument. From there we went to Orion. M 42 was unbelievable in the bino-viewer. Of course you can only see a small part of this nebula in the TAL 250K, using the bino-viewer, but the views were great, even without the nebula filters. The area around the trapezium is one big complex of nebulosity, which you can observe again and again, and you always will see new details. We did not detect the E or F component of the trapezium group (theta Orionis). With the Zeiss Diascope at 60x, the Orion Nebula looked like a big bird flying through the skies with its wings spread. It was amazing to see how far out both nebulous wings spread out from the centre. Again a very pretty sight. M 43 was also visible in the 85mm refractor, using a little averted vision.

We also looked for the running man (dark area between NGC 1973, 1975 and 1977) but we did not detect any nebulosity in the area. The same goes for the Horsehead nebula (IC434) and M 78. They also stayed invisible, even with the nebula filters we used.

Next on the list was M 44 (Praesepe) in Cancer. This is really a wide open cluster, and it fitted niceley in the 8-inch f/4 Vixen and the 85mm Zeiss. The best view however was with the 15x80 binoculars. Saturn and M 44 nearly fitted into the same field of view! From M 44 we moved to Gemini again. This time for a planetary nebula, the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392). It was very easy to spot at higher magnification (fuzzy appearence), but at low powers it just looked like a star. With the bino-viewer and the two Zeiss eyepieces, you could see a grayish, equally bright centre and a fuzzy outer ring around it (probably the Eskimo’s fur-lined hood). We did not see “the eskimos eyes” which you see on the many photographs. From there we hopped south into Monoceros to have a look at the “Christmas Tree”, NGC 2264. It didn’t fit into the TAL’s field of view but with the 8-ich Vixen, it looked just fine, a small Christmas tree. We also looked for Hubble’s variable nebula, but it was “invisible”. Hubble’s variable nebula (NGC 2261) is very intriguing object. Sometimes you simply just see it, and sometimes it is completely invisible.

Finally, we observed a few double stars with the Zeiss. Cor Caroli and Alcor/Mizar are still two of my favorites after all these years. The Zeiss shows them really well, esthetically a beautiful sight. Around three o clock we packed up after six hours of observing. After two months of cloudy nights, last night was a real treat!
Posted by Math on 01/08 at 12:09 PM
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