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Monday, January 10th, 2005
Tonight was simply spectacular. I don't believe I have ever seen as steady of a sky. The atmosphere couldn't have been steadier and the mirror on my dob was frozen (well.. pretty darned cold). I had essentially no heat distortion from the mirror and no waves of atmospheric disturbance. It was as crisp and cool as could be.

Because of this I was able to push my scope to 600 power (2x Barlowed 5.1mm) with no loss of image whatsoever. It was incredible. I've tried to push my scope that far before, but have been very unsatisfied with the results. I've settled that 300x is as high as I can get with this thing, until tonight. I've now experienced very clear views at 600x and was thrilled. I tried for 1200x and to my surprise I was able to keep a steady, though a bit lossy, image. For best high-power viewing I backed down to 600x.

I'm attributing this to near perfect collimation I achieved a few nights ago, the near perfectly steady sky, and the temperature of my mirror.

If it weren't so cold, I'd have stayed out much longer. I only stayed out for an hour and a half, but I only looked at 3 objects!

Machholz (C2004/Q2)
I spent much time on this object tonight. It's at 4.13 magnitude, about as bright as it's going to get, but the tail is still very faint. In my 102mm GT short tube, the tail was completely absent. But in the 40mm of my 12" dob, the tail was evident. It became even more evident when I put on my UHC filter. I tried this for an experiment, and it proved helpful. I'd even say that the faint tail doubled in brightness. So I tried the UHC filter on the 102 GT, to no avail. I think the smaller scope just doesn't pick up enough light.

M45 - Great Orion Nebula
I also spent much time on this object. Using the UHC filter and a wide variety of eyepieces, I could see much more of the nebula tonight than I have in the past. It was so large, I had to use my 40mm widefield eyepiece to try and get it all in. Normally I look at this with my 16mm (93x). I went all the way up to 150x. The vains and dust lanes were clearer and clearer as I magnified the object. I focused my attention in the brightest area with the Trapezium. What a fantastic object.

Saturn
Here is where I spent the bulk of my time. I was absolutely floored by the view at 600x. In the year that I've had my scope I've not seen anything like it. The Cassini division was extremely clear and 360 degrees around the rings - even at 1200 power. The inner rings were clearly brighter than the outer rings. The planet itself was totally spherical, well banded and multi-colored. The shadow of the rings was cast thin and crisp back on the planet. The view was so picture perfect I just stared and studied for nearly 45 minutes. 4 small moons (Enceladus, Tethys, Dione and Rhea) surrounded the planet with 2 more (Titan and Iapetus) off in the distance.


The object I wish was up tonight was the moon. This would have been the most spectacular view of it with such a clear sky. I also wish Jupiter and M13 were up. M13 would resolve wonderfully I'm sure and if Jupiter had it's great red spot facing us, I've no doubt it would have been very clearly.





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