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    Default ETX-80 and another clear night!



    The weather man is either taking pity on me or is cruel (by denying me sleep ); last night was another clear night here (see planetary journey posting) and the skies were even better then the night before. Again, temps were in the mid to low 60's with clear skies and moderate dewing. Winds were calm, and after dark adapting for a few minutes I could see stars down to around mag 4.5.

    I put the dog out and stepped out to keep him company. I immediately noticed that the transparency was a bit better then the night before, as I could make out all the stars of Sagittarius's teapot and most of the stars of Scorpius. The milky was was clearly evident as it arced across the sky. The air seemed stable. Hmmm...what to do...should I head out to the local park (it was only 10:30 so I could get there in time to beat the moonlight that would come later) or shall I just set up again in the back yard? The latter seemed appealing as I was still feeling pretty tired from last nights excursion that had kept me up until 2AM. I mulled it over for a bit and finally decided that if I don't do something the opportunity will be lost! (I opted for the backyard so that I could retire at a more reasonable hour).

    I carried the scope over to the dark part of the yard again and this time opted for the two star alignment. I chose Antares and Altair, as that was the corner of the sky I would be focusing on (despite a porch light that was left on in the direction of Sagittarius...it was at least dimmer then the others I had escaped from the rest by setting up there...the other neigbors' lights are so bright I cast shadows in my own yard ) The scope was almost spot on again for Antares (just outside the FOV) and did a little better with Altair.

    I'd already lined up a few targets for tonight...some brighter DSO's for a change. First stop was M22. The cluster is certainly big...It gave me the feeling that I was looking at a ghostly moon. I bumped up the magnification a bit but was unable to resolve any stars (not that I expected to). Best views were again with the 9.7mm as it gave darker skies. Just for fun, I popped in an Orion Skyglow filter and despite dimming the cluster, it seemed to improve the view a bit due to the enhanced contrast, although the improvement was slight.

    Next stop was M29 in Cygnus. I'd read in "The Urban Astronomer's Guide" that the author took a fancy to this clusters shape. I'd have to agree...he refered to it as "triangles" but to me it seemed more like a box with open flaps. It looked more like a tiny Pleides in the 26mm EP, but the 9.7mm brought out the boxlike structure nicely. It struck me as being "cute".

    I then headed over to M39 (a nice quick change on the Autostar controller ). This cluster is much larger...the 9.7mm EP was too much magnficiation (it caused the cluster to spill out of the FOV) so I swapped in the 26mm EP. This was much better, but for some reason I have trouble focusing with this EP (it's okay with my glasses on, so it's not the EP's fault...it's just my astigmatism). I replaced the 26mm with a Stratus 21mm (which I rarely use due to the weight, but since the scope was pointing so high it wouldn't be putting much of a strain on the clutch). Odd...this eyepiece is much sharper if I leave my glasses off, but I did note some distortion in the outer third of the field (field curvature). I made a mental note that since the curvature doesn't bother me much to consider getting another (but lighter) wide field EP or two. (I think I'm beginning to develop a dangerous addiction here...EP fever ). Overall, a very pleasing view. It gives me the impression of being in a space ship and gazing out a port hole window. I spent some time taking it all in and scrolling around the cluster (while keeping it in the FOV) to enjoy the views of this region.

    Final stop on my preplanned list is M71. This is a new object for me (along with the two prior Cygni clusters) and it sounded like an interesting target...a cluster that is on the fence between globular and open (with the former being the current consensus). In the 26mm EP it reminded me a lot of M29...a tiny spot of nebulous light (but unresolved versus the granular appearence of M29 at this magnification). Bumping up the magnification with the 9.7mm & 6.4mm EP offered more interesting views, with the cluster still unresolved (but it took on a granular texture). I appreciated it for what it is...a loose globular cluster that is the most distant of tonight's sojourn at around 13,000ly.

    After looking at my watch, it was a little after midnight...still a bit too early to quit! I decided to slide over to Scutum to take in some star fields. After browsing around a bit I hit upon a nice fuzzy patch...hmm....what is it? I asked the autostar and it reported I was looking at M11. I didn't recognize it in the 26mm EP! I'd observed this before and was a little underwhelmed (it had always seemed like a granular patch of light). Tonight I decided to really study it for a bit and I was rewarded! I bumped the power up, starting with teh 9.7mm and proceeding to the 5mm. My favorite views came with the 6.4 and 9.7EP. (The 9.7 was brighter, but the 6.4mm seemed to offer up more stars.) The best way I can describe this is that it looks like a milky white patch of light that has been sprinkled liberally with silver glitter. The more I bumped up the magnification, the more larger the object became, but it still left me the impression of a patch of light covered with glitter. What a beautiful sight....this cluster must be magnificent in larger scopes and even greater magnifications! (Mental note...it will be one of my first targets when I get a 10"). I can only imagine what it must be like to live on a planet located within in (or even better yet just a couple hundred light years) away from this. It is a true jewel...my favorite site of the evening and now one of the best of the summer. (I'm guessing that the steady skies I had tonight are the reason for it looking so much better then it did in June).

    By this time, It was getting on 1:00AM (so much for retiring early . I switched off the scope, packed things up and headed indoors. I know I'm going to sleep well tonight and perhaps dream of stars....
    Craig

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    Craig, i really do enjoy reading your nightly reports! keep them coming as they motivate us all to get out more

    M22, M29 are up next (let me check stellarium) for me!
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