Sterrenknoeier starparty in the Achterhoek

About two years ago the Sterrenknoeiers Astronomical Society had their last starparty, in Hohenwoos (Germany). There’s only a few of us Sterrenknoeiers but with our busy schedules we don’t actually meet in real life often. But we did on the 20th of May at Chris’ house in the Achterhoek, one of the darker areas of The Netherlands and only an hours drive away from where I live.

We had good fun, as we do. But of course the main event was the starparty from the confines of Chris’ dark garden. I’ll just list the objects I’ve seen in no order whatsoever. It’s a brain-dump of what I managed to see. The SQM maxed out at 20.7 according to several Dark Sky Meter (iOS app) measurements, which isn’t all that good actually. There was quite some moisture in the air and that’s always a bad thing. And the seeing was a shoddy 2.3 arcseconds. But, it was clear and that’s a rare sight when in a weekend! So #geekjoy.

Afternoon solar observing

I didn’t make any observing lists as my main goal was to just check out my now fully operational 8″ ATM dobsonian. I did however check Skymaps’ map for this month and decided to go and see most of the naked eye and telescopic objects on it. That way I would at least have some guide as to what to look at.

May’s Skymap

So this is what I saw:

  • Sol – we had a look at the sun with my DIY solar filter (8 cm I  think it is) and a green #58A filter I borrowed somewhere. Only two small sunspots (the next morning there were 4!);
  • Messier 3 – picked this one out early in the evening when it was not completely dark yet. Still a nice globular, ofcourse;
  • M13 – much brighter than M3. I could make out the spidery legs. This is however one of those objects that lay bare the obvious loss of aperture. I went from 12 to 10 to 8″, so a case of reverse aperture fever … ;
  • M51 – only by using some serious averted vision and using my observing hoodie I could make out something vaguely resembling the spiral arms;
  • M101 – just the core, not a trace of the spiral arms. I have not seen it’s arms since a SQM 21.9 night in Kollase some years ago. Hard to beat that one;
  • M64 – the transparency was lousy when I looked at this one. I could not even make out the brighter stars of Coma;
  • M57 – never fails to amaze. At high magnifications the oval shape was clearly visible. I have no filters at the moment so that was that then. On to the next object;
  • M10, M12 and M14 – I had never seen these globular clusters before. I’m not sure whether it was 10 or 12 but one of those two had a shape that wasn’t round at all. M14 just managed to peep above the roof of Chris’ house. I wasn’t impressed much by it. Sorry, M14;
  • M94 – this galaxy is bright! It showed a bright, round core and a less bright round halo around the core. No  further detail;
  • Albireo – never disappoints: bright blue and yellow. Beautyful!
  • Cyg Omicron – a nice pairing of three stars: white, blue and yellow. Not hardly as bright blue and yellow as Albireo’s two stars but it is a nice composition;
  • 61 Cyg – two golden points of light. Nice surprise!
  • Eta Boötis a.k.a. Muphrid – a red giant with a blue companion the latter of which I failed to see;
  • Mu Cephei a.k.a. Herschel’s Garnet Star – not nearly as red as I expected it to be! It was more of an orangy golden color;
  • NGC4485 & 4490 – a gorgeous Arp-system of two droplets of made out of billions of stars. You  can clearly see they are interacting. And pretty bright too (as galaxies go) quite easy to see with directed vision although the fainter one of the two does jump out better when using averted vision;
  • Comet c/2015 V2 Johnson – a bright  and big core. No trace of a tail. On the pictures the others made a tail was visible, though faint.
  • Jupiter – this was actually the first object we all observed as a transit of Ganymede was in progress. Ganymede’s shadow slid over the surface. Later the shadow of Io also made a transit but we forgot to look at it 🙂
  • Saturn – rose to the occasion at the end of our observing session. Still very low so the view wasn’t all too good but we did see it. Amazing ring. Best ring. Fantastic ring.

During the night the Milky Way rose higher and higher and the Swan made it’s reentry. ISS made a pass at 03:00, a bright one at that! Two Iridium satellites crossed the sky, one of which flared brightly! And strangely, we did not see any meteorites.

Did the telescope perform? Yes,  very much so! Me and my mates were pleasantly surprised by the views. And it being a proper dobsonian with a porthole mirror and cardboard tube it does goes to show that  you  can actually have good fun and enjoy visual astronomy with a simple telescope! One thing that didn’t quite work as well was the DIY Telrad dew-buster… #sadpanda. I will make it’s life a bit easier by adding a little shield to put over the Telrad’s little piece of glass. Nothing serious.

All in all one of the best nights of 2017 for me. Next up in the ATM process will be to have the primary mirror coated anew and to mount the 50 mm secondary if and when I get my hands on a new spidervane.

I leave you with two images made on the same night by Chris and Maarten with their very nice astrophoto setups!

M63 with SN (photo: Maarten Roffeles)

 

NGC7000 The Wall (photo: Christian van den Berghe)

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