I actually had the telescope out! Fighting off mosquitos the size of beavers, your fearless corespondent girded his loins, dragged his overpriced equipment out side at last, and actually (drum roll…..) Looked at stuff! Stuff up in the sky!
The pic is M-13, the Hercules Cluster. And before you ask, no, it’s not one of my pictures. I wish. See that nice black sky in that photo? That ain’t here, folks. Around here the sky is more of a pale gray color, even at midnight.
After dispatching zillions of mosquitos by resorting to chemical warfare (Raid Yard Guard) and drenching myself with Deep Woods Off (no, I don’t get paid for mentioning brand names, although I wouldn’t be adverse to contributions of equipment (an SBIG astrophotography setup would be a good start) in exchange for for working the occasional brand name into this hint, hint) I braved the great outdoors (my driveway) lugged the Monster outside and yes, I successfully Looked At Stuff!
It was actually a very pleasant evening. The chemicals actually worked for a change, discouraging the local insect population from feasting on my aging flesh, and allowing me to concentrate on what I was doing for a change.
Spotted M-13, of course, as well as M-3, two of the most impressive globular clusters. I’m fascinated with globular clusters. So are a lot of people. Imagine cramming thousands and thousands of stars into a huge ball less than a couple of hundred light years in diameter. They’re incredible structures.
Even managed to see some of the brighter galaxies and nebula despite the light pollution.
Stayed out for about two hours just running through objects on the scope’s tour function. some were visible, often they weren’t, though. Seeing was limited to about magnitude 9, even with the big 11 inch scope. Large, diffuse objects like galaxies just have a surface brightness that it too low to allow them to be easily seen, especially when contrast is as poor as it was last night.
The nebula were especially impressive last night. I must have spent 20 minutes staring at the Ring Nebula. It’s a fascinating object. As as star comes to the end of it’s life, it blows off large amounts of mass, forming a shell around the star. I the case of the Rign Nebula, it looks like a smoke ring floating around the central star.
That telescope continues to impress me. Of course sheer size has a great deal to do with it. With something that big you’re going to see something no matter how bad conditions may be. The GOTO mount seems to be quite good. After aligning it carefully, the scope will generally stop with the object desired in almost exactly the center of the field of view.
So get out there and look up. It’s the best free show in the universe.