Tag Archives: DRAACO

Messier 2: Messier’s First Globular Cluster

Charles Messier’s first globular cluster in his catalog, M2 was a challenge for me because I was not familiar with the Aquarius Constellation. I had to borrow Arnold Brody’s large sky atlas because it showed more faint stars that I could hop than The Evening Sky Map was showing. This has made me even more comfortable with my finder scope and now have a better understanding of its footprint in the sky.

This was my 6th straight night of observation during what has been an amazing week for stargazing. I was back at the DRAACO dark sky site and it looked even darker than last night except there was a little bit of a breeze. I even brought my binoculars for use between breaks. Tonight’s primary targets were M2 and M92.

Last night, my finder scope’s objective did not dew but its eyepiece did. This time, I made it a habit to keep the eyepiece cap on between use and it helped delay dew formation.

Object #11: M2
Location: DRAACO, Orono, ON
Date/Time: Sep. 28, 2013 8:55 PM
Constellation: Aquarius
Seeing: Excellent
Telescope: D=305 mm F=1500 mm
Magnification: 83.3 x @ 82° AFOV
Notes: Globular cluster with a bright center and faint arms radiating from the center.

Messier 2

On September 17, 2013, I officially started the pursuit of my Messier 30 certificate. It is an exciting awards program for astronomy club members and a way for amateur astronomers to keep track of their observations. The Messier 30 is the first milestone in AstronomyForum.net‘s certificate program. The Durham Region Astronomy Association also has one.

View Updated Spreadsheet

Durham Region Light Pollution and where to find a Dark Sky Site

Light pollution map of Durham Region.

When I first started observing with my telescopes, I had an idea what light pollution meant, but did not realize its impact on visual observation especially on Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s). I thought I could observe anywhere I wanted  as long as it was a cloudless sky. I live in the Durham Region after all. Not so fast.

I spent an entire week hunting for the M13 and the Andromeda Galaxy to no avail. Why? Because my sky was brighter than these faint objects. I eliminated most of the local light pollution from my backyard by turning my kitchen lights off, my cell phone, light shields for my telescopes, and used a blanket over my head to block out my neighbour’s lights. After 15 mins of dark adaptation, I still see nothing of these objects.

It turns out that there is a ‘light dome’ high above my sky. The light pollution map above represents the intensity of this light dome super imposed over a map of Durham Region and eastern Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In the order of brightness level:

  • White – Entire sky is grayish or brighter.
  • Red – Milkyway at best very faint at zenith.
  • Orange – Milkyway washed out at zenith and invisible at horizon.
  • Green – Some dark lanes in milkyway but no bulge into Ophiuchus.
  • Yellow – Zodiacal light seen on best nights.
  • Blue – Low light domes on horizon.
  • Grey – Faint shadows cast by milkyway visible on white objects.
  • Black – Gegenschein visible. Zodiacal light annoyingly bright.

I live a suburb of Oshawa in a red zone and within a few minutes of a white zone in the core of the city. By driving to an orange zone 20 minutes away, I was able to see some of the Milky Way’s ‘spilled milk’ look across the sky whereas it was not at all visible from my backyard. I finally found M13 and it didn’t take long for it to ‘pop’ out of my eyepiece. If you want to know the light pollution map in your area, check out Dark Sky Finder by Jonathan Tomshine: http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/ and you will find some dark sky sites around the GTA area within an hour’s drive.

In the Durham Region, I do most of my DSO observations from Long Sault Conservation Area which is just outside the grasp of the red zone. Sometimes I use my local club’s DRAACO observatory which is well within the orange zone. It is well worth the drive for a great night of visual observation and sketching.

First Light with 12″ Sky-Watcher Flextube

My used 12″ Sky-Watcher Flextube pointed at the moon.

I took my 12″ Sky-Watcher Flextube to the Durham Region Astronomical Association’s dark site last night for the first time and found that the location was a few minutes further and more difficult to get to than Long Sault Conservation.

Moon: With a 75% full moon, it lit up the haze so much that I could not even resolve M31. So I put my shades on and observed the moon instead. The details of the moon’s surface at the terminator was spectacular. With a barlowed 7mm (428x), the image was wavering quite a bit, but so incredible. I could resolve the craters and the shadows they cast. It was like hovering over the moon in a spaceship.

Jupiter: I packed up and went to friend’s house to watch a boxing match. By the time it was over, it was already 2 AM and I could see Jupiter already. So I setup my telescope right at my front steps to observe it. At 214x, I could resolve the 2 dark stripes and at least 4 moons but again, it was wavering and not focused. At 428x, it was even worse. I was a little disappointed because the view was only marginally better than my Discovery 8 EQ.

M42 Orion Nebula: By 3 AM, I noticed Orion’s belt was higher and was above a line of haze. Still struggling with my right-angle viewfinder orientation, I pointed it in the general direction of M42 and started panning the area at 62x. It took 30 minutes and I was about ready to give up, until I noticed a glare from the corner of the FOV. I followed the glare as it got more intense, and then it emerged: The Orion Nebula.

I couldn’t believe it that even with all that haze, it was resolving with very good contrast. I noticed at least 2 round voids occupied by stars in the white dust that radiated away from the centre in 180 degree direction. I was so happy that I even woke up my wife to show it to her. Her reaction after seeing it was interesting to me: “you mean that cloud?”

My 12″ Sky-Watcher Flextube at the DRAACO observatory.

Concerns: Significantly heavier and more awkward to transport than the Discovery 8 EQ. Altitude adjustment was sticky and tube is bottom-heavy it wants to slew up quite often by itself. No significant proof of improvement over the Discovery 8 EQ thus far.

At 4 AM I packed it in. What a great ending for a mostly disappointing night.