A very clear (and cold) night, so I spent about an hour outside with the new scope. With a small and random set of goals. Here’s what I saw.
Ring Nebula / M57. Hooray! I think this is my first deep sky object, and certainly my first nebula I could really see. Had a hell of a time finding it; knew it was in Lyra somewhere, between Sulafat and Sheliak, then just sort of waved the scope around until a little smoke ring caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t see the object directly, even through the eyepiece I had to look to one side or the other. And so no colour, just a little grey ring, but unmistakably not a star! Of course it could have been a smudgy focus error but knowing I was supposed to find it there, a win. As an added bonus there was a satellite traversing from left to right just as I spotted it around 18:45 local time.
Epsilon 1 Lyra, the Double Double. Just above Vega, I could easily make out the double star but couldn’t resolve how each of those two were themselves the double. Honestly not very interesting, I don’t get why double stars are so exciting to people.
Dumbbell nebula / M27. Failure. I was hoping to spot this but without any nearby obvious bright stars I don’t know how to home in on it. Also now that I know how difficult it is to see the Ring Nebula, I worry about seeing anything even less clear of a shape.
Cat Eye Nebula. I put it on my list to find but it’s behind some trees. One thing that’s tricky with where I am is I don’t have a good view north, so even finding Polaris is challenging. Speaking of which I read somewhere I should record how easily I can see all 7 Little Dipper stars with the naked eye as a measure of sky darkness. I could see all 7 tonight, but a couple were faint and only really visible with slightly averted eyes.
Jupiter, with Europa playing peek-a-boo. When I first saw it I could only see three moons, later I could see a fourth just peeking out the side. Looking in Stellarium I see that it was Europa just becoming visible, but I’m not sure if it was in front of or behind Jupiter. The planet is so bright I really want a magnifying eyepiece. My setup now is about 480x and the 8″ is theoretically capable fo 400x (more realistically, 200x). I need to research eyepieces. With what I have I can just make out two bands of dark and light in the southern side. Haven’t made out the Red Spot.
Pleiades. Took another look, they’re right there, and I appreciate more now that what I’m really looking at is lots of bright blue young stars. I found Alycone and Merope again and convinced myself that maybe I could see some hint of the nebula with the dark lane between them. But not really.
Orion Nebula / M42. Boy am I glad I stuck around for that! Took awhile to rise, but very easy to find and spot. I instantly saw the nebular structure, the glow and intricate detail. My first diffuse nebula that I could actually see! I’m continually struck by how analog the images through the scope look, nothing at all like raster pictures on a screen. Infinite depth and detail. Then I looked at SkySafari+ on my iPhone (in night vision mode, dark red) and when I looked back all the nebula was gone. Bam! Didn’t realize how crucial night adaptation was or how the iPhone ruins it. Came back after about 10 minutes. I thought I saw some blue color to the cloud, not sure, and most of the images online are purple so maybe not. (Forgot to write down, I saw the 4 stars in the Trapezium too. Um, I think I did, forgot to make a note at the time.)
Still want to see Saturn through the scope, maybe I’ll get up before dawn tomorrow. Also really want an eyepiece that magnifies the planets up big.
Forgot to mention, lots of meteors. Mostly east to west. Geminids?