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Comet Swan and some deepsky tourism
On Monday the 16th of October, Leo and I got out to our new observing spot to have a look at Comet Swan. We arrived at 20.15 hrs local time, and the sky looked pretty clear and transparent. We could see stars right down to 15 degrees above the horizon, which is very good in our area.

Leo set up his 4-inch Takahashi and the Argo Navis. I got the 15x80 binoculars (with mirror mount) out of the car. I also got my 7x50 binoculars with me. We were ready to go within five minutes, and after searching for another two minutes we already had Comet Swan in both the 15x80 and the 4-inch Tak. Swan looked like a big fuzzy snowball, diffuse on the outer edge, gradually getting brighter towards the center. We could not detect a tail. Leo also tried higher magnifications with the binoviewer, but it did not really change compared to what we saw with lower magnifications.

Image from SkyTools by CapellaSoft (Click to enlarge),

After we looked at comet Swan for quite some time, we decided to do some good old deep-sky tourism for another hour. No serious observing with sketches and observing reports, just enjoying the wonderful views: M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), M32, M33, M34, the Double Cluster in Perseus, Stock 2 (the Muscle Man), NGC 457 (ET or Owl cluster), NGC 7789, M39, Albireo, Collinder 399 (The Coathanger), NGC 752 (and the Hockey stick), M15, M45, M81, M82, the Veil Nebula, Phil Harrington's Red Necked Emu, Kemble's Cascade, and probably a few others. It was great to just freewheel across the night sky and simply enjoy the views, comparing all objects in both instruments. Most objects were readily visible through both instruments, although some looked better in the 15x80 others in the 4-inch TAK. The Pleiades (M45) for instance, were very beautiful in the 15x80. The Veil nebula was easy in the 4-inch TAK with the O-III filter, but invisible in the big binoculars.

My favorite object for the 15x80 is the Milky Way in Cygnus. In my opinion this is one of the best sights through big binoculars, hard to beat. I simply enjoy scanning this area time after time with the 15x80 (field of view 3.5 degrees). I also managed to find Phil Harrington's "Red Necked Emu" with the 15x80, a real fine object for big binoculars or a 4-inch telescope, just like Stock 2 and Kemble's Cascade. I also scanned the area around Deneb, and I think that for the first time ever, I detected a part of the North America Nebula, however I still find this one of the hardest objects to "see"?.

At the end of our observing session we got a visitor, a young German gentleman who asked if he could have a quick look through the telescope. While his girlfriend was freezing inside the car he just enjoyed a few objects we showed him, and before he left, he asked a question, the same question I asked 30 years ago when I looked through a (big) telescope for the first time in my life: can you see the American flag on the Moon?

Around 22.30 hrs. local time we packed up and went home. We had really enjoyed this short session, and we also agreed on the size of instruments we used tonight. Something small and easy to setup beats the big guns if your only out for a few hours. The 4-inch Tak and the 15x80 binoculars were the perfect choice!

Leo and his 4-inch Takahashi (Click to enlarge)
Posted by Math on 10/22 at 10:50 AM
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