Summer Sights

August 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

Once you have a Meade ETX-90 Telescope aligned and ready to go (no small feat, at times) you can see some pretty cool objects in the Summer sky. Saturn is currently riding high, and the rings are at a lovely angle – but that’s about it for the Solar System as I’m not willing to wake early for Jupiter. There’s also Andromeda (and M32 if it pleases), but for the ETX-90 most extra-galactic sources are too faint. Instead I’ve been systematically observing the star clusters and nebulae of the Milky Way. It’s been fun!

The ETX-90 is equipped with Meade’s Autostar system, which can take you on a tour of the sky once it’s set going. It will tell you that you’re off to M11, and then M22 and maybe M5. If you’re like me and don’t have the Messier and NGC catalogues memorised, this is basically a lucky dip of galactic sources. You might find a perfect globular cluster or a dizzyingly faint star-forming nebulae – it’s down to the whim of the Autostar. It’s a lovely way to spend an hour or two on a warm evening.

I’m not much of an astrophotographer so instead I’ve been starting to use up my SLOOH credits and have been recording the same objects using the ‘online space camera’ that I am seeing through the ETX-90. Above you can see my SLOOH views of Saturn, the Wild Duck Cluster (M11) and the Lagoon Nebula (M8).

SLOOH have an iPad app out that lets you buy access on a per-picture basis. It’s expensive (£1.99/image) and not as much fun as controlling the telescope using their usual online interface. However the iPad app is free and pretty easy to use.

The Wild Duck Cluster is my favourite of these images. I’ve not seen it before the other night and it looks most like what I saw through the telescope. The cluster is a very compact open cluster that contains thousands of stars. It’s about 6,000 light years away, and it always humbles me to be able to see so deep into the Galaxy on a night when the Galaxy itself is so clear in the dark night sky. Lovely.

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