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Shortly after sunset I looked out the front window of my house and noticed that there was a very thin (~11%) crescent Moon visible in the western sky. So I decided to set up the TMB 105mm f/6.2 refractor on its alt-az mount for a quick observing session.
As I was setting up the telescope the Earthlit portion of the moon was easily visible to the unaided eye even though the sky was still light. It wasn't until I observed the Moon through the telescope at low power 12x (56mm Meade, FOV ~4.3°) that I realized the Moon was very close to the Pleiades. The Moon and Pleiades looked pretty as the sky grew darker but became a striking view after the sky became completely dark.
Through the TMB 105mm the Earthlit portion of the Moon showed a lot of fine detail at 16x (41mm TV Panoptic, FOV ~4.0°), 21x (31mm TV Nagler, FOV ~3.7°), and 33x (20mm TV Nagler, FOV ~2.4°), including maria and larger craters. Several faint stars were visible near the lunar limb.
To bring out finer detail I inserted the Baader binoviewer and used a pair of TV 24mm Panoptics (27x, FOV ~2.4°), TMB 16mm Super Monocentrics (41x, FOV ~0.5°), TMB 14mm Super Monocentrics (47x, FOV ~0.4°), TMB 10mm Super Monocentrics (65x, FOV ~0.3°), TMB 9mm Super Monocentrics (72x, FOV ~0.3°), TMB 7mm Super Monocentrics (93x, FOV ~0.2°), and TMB 5mm Super Monocentrics (130x, FOV ~0.2°). One of the nice things about the TMB 105mm with the Feather Touch Focuser is that it is possible to use the binoviewer without the 1.25x or 1.7x corrector in place which makes it possible to get the widest field of view. In this case both the Moon and Pleiades fit into the field of view with the TV 24mm Panoptics. The seeing ranged from fair to good.
On the sunlit portion of the Moon the terminator was about three-quarters of the way across Mare Crisium. On the eastern edge of the mare the mountain Mons Usov was prominent, as were smaller mountains near the wrinkle ridges Dorsa Tetyaev and Dorsa Harker. The crater Picard was only partially illuminated along its eastern rim and its floor was in shadow. The low angle of the lighting made the mountains one side of the mare appear like a twisted rope.
A number of craters were visible on both sides of Mare Crisium, including to the north, Cleomedes, Burckhart, Geminus, and Messala, and to the south, Langrenus, Vendelinus, Petavius, and Furnerius. The floor of Cleomedes was mostly in shadow, as was the western portion of Burckhart. In Charles A. Wood's fine book "The Modern Moon, A Personal View" (also in S&T, March 2002) he notes that Furnerius is a very old crater, having formed before the impact of the Nectaris basin, some 3.92 billion years ago. Due to its age Furnerius is not as prominent as one of its neighboring and younger craters, Petavius, which showed a lot of interesting detail through the TMB 105mm.
For example the central portion of Petavius showed a large central peak complex with a cleft that cuts across the crater floor. Also there was a rille that curves around the inside of Petavius's west wall. Charles Wood notes that:
"Petavius is one of the most visible examples of "floor-fractured crater" (FFCs) - a class of large craters whose original impact floors have been modified by volcanic activity and fracturing. Almost all FFCs are big and occur near the borders of maria and their enclosing basins."
The crater Langrenus showed also interesting detail including central peaks and terraced walls.
After observing the Moon for a while at higher magnifications the seeing started to deteriorate so I decided take one last look at the Moon and Pleiades at lower power using TV 24mm Panoptics. Being able to fit both in the same FOV and using binocular vision provided a sense of scale to our solar system and galaxy. For example, even though they appeared next to each other our Moon is approximately 240,000 miles away while the Pleiades are around 407 light years away.
By this time the Moon and Pleiades were sliding behind some tree branches. When I refocused the telescope so that the tree branches were in focus the out of focus star images reminded me of lights on a Christmas tree, and the out of focus crescent Moon a large ornament. I always associate the Pleiades with winter, yet the tree branches had new buds coming out on them which reminded me of spring. I felt a sense of connection between the tree on our world, the moon in our solar system and stars in our galaxy. I wondered if there was a planet orbiting a star in the field of view of my telescope where it might be spring as well, and if there might be intelligent life that was looking up and wondering the same thing. I felt as if I was going from the microcosm of a nearby tree bud, to the Moon and stars in our universe, all in the same field of view of the TMB 105mm refractor.
I noticed that Orion was setting in the western sky so swung the telescope over towards the Orion Nebula. However it was just above the roof of the house and in the trees but I was able to make the central portion of the nebula which had a light blue-green color to it.
Both Saturn and Jupiter were well placed so I observed them as well. Saturn looked nice with the Equatorial Zone appearing light yellow, the South Equatorial Belt light brown, and South Polar Region light green. The Cassini Division easily visible, and the Crepe Ring visible on both sides of the globe and sometimes in front of it. Titan, Rhea, Dione, and Tethys formed a curved line off to one side of the planet.
On Jupiter a number of belts and zones were visible including the South Polar Region, South Tropical Zone, South Equatorial Belt, Equatorial Zone, Equatorial Belt, North Equatorial Belt with a couple of festoons visible, North Tropical Zone, and North Polar Region. The Jovian moons appeared as disks and had subtle but noticeable differences in color.
Even though I had originally planned on a quick observing session I ended up observing for almost two hours. It was one of those off the cuff observing sessions that we sometimes see more than we expected.
With clear skies forecast for the morning I woke up early to observe some deep-sky objects in the Sagittarius region and later Mars with the TMB 105mm f/6.2 refractor on its alt-az mount. Astronomical twilight began around 4:25 AM so I set up a little before 4:00 AM. It was a clear and cool morning with the limiting magnitude around 5.5. When I began observing deep-sky objects I used an AP MaxBright diagonal with TV 41mm Panoptic (16x), TV 20mm Nagler (33x), TMB 16mm Super Monocentric (41x), and TV 12mm Nagler (54x).
First up was M 22, which was pretty and nicely resolved in the telescope, including the central portion of the cluster as well as the outlying stars. I then swung the telescope over to M8, the Lagoon Nebula, and M20, the Trifid Nebula, which easily fit into the same field of view in the 41mm Panoptic (~4.0°). In the 20mm Nagler and 16mm monocentric M8 was nicely resolved into the cluster and nebula, and the darker "lagoon" portion was prominent. When observing M20 I had the impression that the lower portion of the Trifid had a slightly different color tint to it (a slight blue color) than the upper portion did. M17, the Swan Nebula, had a light blue color to it and the bottom of the nebula appeared serrated.
Looking to the eastern sky I noted that Mars was rising, so in preparation to observe it took the MaxBright diagonal out and inserted the Baader binoviewer. But before swinging the telescope over towards Mars I decided to take a one last look at the same deep-sky objects I had just observed, but this time replace the diagonal with the binoviewer. The nice thing about the TMB design is that it is possible to reach focus with a binoviewer without need of the 1.25x or 1.7x corrector or barlow in place. So the eyepieces will have the same magnification and field of view as they do when used in a diagonal, but with the benefit and comfort of using two eyes over one. While there may be some light loss due to the additional glass in a binoviewer, this seems to be compensated for by the fact that our brains are "wired" for input from two eyes. So the brain tends to belief more of what it sees when it has input from two eyes.
In this case, when I observed M22 with the binoviewer and a pair of TV 24mm Panoptics, I found it much more comfortable than when using one eye and diagonal. Also, the cluster was better resolved, as it was easier to see the stars in outer portion of the cluster, and overall the view was more aesthetically pleasing. The same held true for the detail in M8, M20, and M17. So I decided from this point on to try the binoviewer with the TMB refractors whenever I observed deep-sky objects.
Unfortunately when I swung the telescope over towards Mars the seeing was not very good but I was able to resolve the gibbous shape of the disk and see some dark surface markings at higher powers. Also there was a relatively bright yellow colored star (i Capricorni, magnitude 4.28) off to one side of Mars. Through the telescope Mars and i Capricorni reminded me of a colorful double star.
I woke up early and looking out the back window I noticed it was clear out so I decided to set up the TMB 105mm f/6.2 refractor on its alt-az mount for an observing session. When I got outside astronomical twilight had just begun so I decided to observe deep-sky objects first. The limiting magnitude was around 5.5 and the Milky Way extended from Sagittarius overhead through Cygnus. Mars was visible in the southeastern sky. In the western sky Arcturus blazed in all its glory, while in the eastern sky Pegasus was already rising, giving the impression that fall was waiting in the wings as spring was getting ready to depart.
Often when I am out observing I will hear owls off in the distance, or coyotes, which sometimes migrate through the area. On this morning however it was a group of wild turkeys in nearby farmland that were having a rather raucous discussion in the cold morning air before sunrise. It would explain where the wild turkey came from that I saw on our back lawn one morning during the winter that was the eating bird food I had put out on the ground to give other birds something to eat.
Once the TMB 105mm was set up I inserted the 41mm TV Panoptic (16x, FOV ~4.0°) into the Maxbright diagonal for low power sweeps of the Milky Way. Both M8 the Lagoon Nebula and M20 the Trifid Nebula easily fit into the same FOV. Th Lagoon showed the nebulosity, dark lagoon portion of nebula, and the star cluster well. M20 showed both sections of the nebula. Further up M17 showed its swan shape with some mottling, and somewhat of a serrated appearance along the bottom. The star cloud M24 looked very nice and was well resolved. M11, The Wild Duck Cluster was very nicely resolved as well with a very pretty orange star (TYC 5126-3125-1) off to the top of the open star cluster. Albireo was very pretty as always in the TMB 16mm Super Monocentrics at 41x.
With twilight getting brighter I swung the telescope over to Mars. This is the third time I have observed Mars this season but this was the best seeing I have had so far. Its magnitude was 0.6, its phase 87%, and its diameter was 6.89". Through the TMB 105mm with the TMB 5mm Super Monocentrics at 130x in the Baader binocular viewer the South Polar Cap was visible, as were dark albedo features that reminded me of Mare Cimmerium/Mare Tyrrhenus and Syrtis Major. Checking a map of Mars when I got back inside confirmed that I was seeing these features. Considering that the globe is less than 7" in diameter I was very impressed with the performance of the TMB 105mm.
Looking to the east I noticed there was a very thin (~10%) crescent Moon rising and the Earthlit portion was very prominent. Through the 105mm with the binocular viewer and a pair of TV 24mm eyepieces at 27x and TMB 16mm Super Monocentrics at 41x there was a wealth of detail visible. This included Aristarchus, Gramaldi, the double crater Sirsalis and Sirsalis A, Schickard, Hevelius, Cavalerius, Oceanus Procellarum, and Schickard.
Aristarchus is a very bright crater and was easily visible on the Earthlit portion of the Moon. It is a relatively young lunar feature with an estimated age of 450 million years.
Grimaldi is a walled basin with a large flat floor that was filled with lava, and it is one of the oldest lunar features with an estimated age of over 4 billion years.
Sirsalis and Sirsalis A are overlapping craters that have an estimated age of between 3.2 to 1.1 billion years.
Hevelius is a circular walled plain that borders Oceanus Procellarum, and has an estimated age of between 3.92 to 3.85 billions years. It is named for Johan Hewelcke (or Hevel), a 17th century astronomer born in Dantzig, Germany. He determined the rotation of the Sun by observing spots in 1645, and he discovered solar facules as well. He was the author also of the first detailed map of the Moon in 1647. Cavalerius is a prominent crater to the north west of Hevelius. Cavalieri was a pupil of Galileo.
Oceanus Procellarum is the largest lunar mare and is very flat to its center. It has an estimated age of between 3.85 to 3.2 billions years.
Schickard is a vast walled plain with a partially flooded floor. It too is a very old feature with and estimated age of over 4 billion years ago. When I first began observing in the early 1970's Schickard and a nearby crater Schiller were among my favorite features to observe.
The more I use the TMB 105mm f/6.2 the more I am impressed with its ability to perform very well at low power sweeps as well as at higher power in bringing out finer detail, all in a relatively portable package.
Mars and Uranus were within a little over a degree of each other in the morning sky before sunrise during mid-May 2005 so I decided to observe them with the TMB 105mm f/6.2 refractor on its alt-az mount. With summer fast approaching and astronomical twilight beginning earlier each day I got up a little after 3:00 AM to observe some deep-sky objects first. Although it was a cold and clear morning with the limiting magnitude around 5.5 there was some haze near the horizon.
With the constellations of Pegasus and Andromeda rising in the eastern sky I swung the telescope over to M31. I used the Baader binoviewer with pair of TV 24mm Panoptics, which in the TMB 105mm can reach focus without the need of a barlow or the 1.25x or 1.7x corrector. I find that it is very comfortable to observe deep-sky objects using the binocular viewer, and the use of two eyes seems to help bring out more detail over using a single eyepiece and star diagonal. Even though M31 was only about 20 degrees in elevation and there was some haze near the horizon the central brighter portion of the galaxy was easily visible, as was the fainter sections on both sides out towards the arms. M32 was visible as well. In observing the Andromeda Galaxy I recalled that I was seeing light that left the galaxy over 290 million years ago, yet I was observing it in the present, and would be observing it again in the future during the fall and winter. At that moment the past, present, and future seemed to intersect at the eyepiece, as I listened to a couple of nearby owls call out to each other.
Next up was Lyra, and in the 24mm Panoptics Vega looked very pretty and the Double-Double was partially resolved. M57 appeared relatively bright in 16mm TMB Super Monocentric eyepieces, with the darker central portion of nebula pronounced, and the ring somewhat elongated at both ends. I was surprised how nice it looked in the TMB 105mm, perhaps because I was observing it with two eyes.
I then swung the telescope over to observe Mars and Uranus. Both were around 20 degrees in elevation, with Mars having a magnitude of 0.5 and a diameter of 7.17", while Uranus had a magnitude of 5.9 and a diameter of 3.44". Unfortunately the seeing in this part of the sky was mostly poor, so I was not able to make out any detail on Mars. However when the seeing settled down I was able to use a pair of 16mm and 14mm TMB Super Monocentric eyepieces and see the gibbous phase of Mars and resolve Uranus as a disk. Even though the seeing was not as good as I hoped it was pretty to see them near each other, with the rusty orange color of Mars contrasting nicely with the greenish color of Uranus.
I had the opportunity to observe the conjunction of Mercury, Venus, and Saturn on June 27th, 2005 using my binoculars shortly after sunset.
It was a partly clear evening with some clouds and haze. However Venus and Mercury were easily visible to the unaided eye within 0.1° of each other and about 11° above the horizon. Venus with a magnitude of -3.9 was noticeably brighter than Mercury, which had magnitude of -0.0. Through the binoculars Mercury appeared to have an orange color to it, while Venus appeared more off-white in color. There were times when they both seemed to show a gibbous phase, with Venus, which had a diameter of 10.91", being easier to denote than Mercury, which had a diameter of 6.59".
Saturn, which was lower in sky (around 9 degrees above the horizon) was not readily visible without binoculars. Through the binoculars it appeared somewhat elongated, and had a creamy tan color to it. In comparing the colors of Mercury, Venus, and Saturn I recalled having observed a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter a few years ago. At the time Venus appeared more yellow-white in color compared to Jupiter which appeared more off-white, perhaps because of the differences in the composition of their atmosphere's.
I recently had the opportunity to observe Mercury, Mars, Saturn, the Moon, and deep-sky objects with the TMB 175mm f/8 refractor during several observing sessions in late August and early September.
During the first session in late August I got up a couple of hours before sunrise to observe. It was a clear and cool morning and the seeing was mostly fair. The last quarter Moon showed a remarkable amount of fine detail, including the Montes Alps (Rukl map #12) and Montes Apenninus (Rukl map #22) where it appeared that material such as boulders and rocks had rolled down slope. Fine detail was noted also in Vallis Aples (Rukl map #4) where portions of the rille were visible, as well as fine detail in W. Bond (Rukl map #4 also), in Aristarchus (Rukl map #18), in Kepler (Rukl map #30), and in Copernicus (Rukl map #31).
I then swung the telescope over to Mars. Even with the fair seeing some interesting detail was visible. This included Mare Cimmerium, Mare Sirenum, Hesperia, and Mare Chronium. The South Polar Cap (SPC) was small but bright, limb clouds were visible along the following limb, and the North Polar Hood (NPH) was large, prominent, and a light blue color. In observing the SPC and NPH I recalled an observation of Mars made by George Phillips Bond on December 7th, 1847 using a 15" refractor. In his notes he remarks that: "They must have had extensive snowstorm of late as the white circle at the South Pole has increased very much, there is also an extensive snow distinct near the North Pole." Similar to the current apparition, Mars was at opposition that year on October 31st, and it was slightly larger in diameter (20.65") than 2005 (20.17"). So what he was seeing in December of that year was the SPC growing in size as Mars receded from the Sun and carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere began to freeze to the ground. At the same time the NPH was prominent.
Before sunrise I looked to the eastern sky and saw that Mercury and Saturn were rising. Mercury showed a nice thin crescent phase (0.528) and appeared white. On Saturn the South Polar Region was visible, as was the South Equatorial Belt, the Nouth Polar Region. The Cassini Division was prominent between the A-Ring and B-Ring, and Titan was visible nearby the planet.
During my second observing session I began by observing the triple star Iota Cassiopeia. Even though it was a clear night and the transparency was good the seeing wasn't very good but at 233x in the 6mm Super Monocentric Eyepiece Iota Cassiopeia was nicely resolved into its three components.
Orion was well up in the eastern sky at this point so I decided to observe M42. At low power in the 41mm TV Panoptic at 34x the nebula had a light blue color to its central core region and a light red color off to the right hand side (just above M43). I then inserted the Baader binocular viewer with the 1.7x corrector installed and a pair of 24mm Panoptics (99x). The central region of the nebula appeared somewhat mottled with lighter and darker areas, and the "bat wings" along the bottom of the nebula were prominent. Fainter portions of the nebula extended up from the bottom on both sides and met at the top of the nebula: the right hand side had a striated appearance to it, while on the left hand side the nebula was fainter and more diffuse. Five stars were visible in the Trapezium, although on nights of steadier seeing I have been able to see six stars.
I then turned the telescope over to observe Mars, and the detail observed included the NPH, which appeared light blue in color, a small SPC, limb clouds along the preceding limb, Mare Erythraeum, Mare Sirenum, and Solis Lacus. The seeing was mostly fair and sometimes poor so it made it difficult to make an accurate sketch. As with previous observing sessions I used different Baader filters to enhance the detail, including a blue, green, orange, and a Neodymium Moon & Skyglow filters. The Moon & Skyglow filter enhances both surface and atmospheric detail reminding me of a Magenta filter from Vernonscope that I use to use for my Mars observations.
I noted Saturn rising in the eastern sky and it looked nice through the telescope with four moons visible nearby it including Titan, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. The Cassini Division was visible in the rings, and the North Polar Region was visible, but with only poor-fair seeing not much additional detail was visible on the planet.
The following night I observed again with the 175mm. While waiting for Mars to rise higher in the sky I spent some time observing The Andromeda Galaxy. It showed some interesting detail including hints of dust lanes along one side of M31, as well as along the side of the galaxy, which gave it sort of a "race track", look to it. The central portion of M31 had a brighter core to it and starlike nucleus to it. It's two satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 (or NGC 205) both showed a starlike nucleus as well, and M110 appeared very elongated.
Unfortunately the seeing for Mars was worse than the night before. While I was able to make out the North Polar Hood, a small South Polar Cap, and Mare Erythraeum, the poor seeing made it difficult to see much else. Defocusing the image of Mars made it look like it was under a stream of running water.
However, the poor seeing for Mars was made up for by a nice display of the aurora borealis. It started as a green glow in the northern sky, which then turned into an arc. Later it became pronounced in the NNW sky as well. However as I was breaking down my telescope it became much more active, with streamers and arcs across to the NNE sky, extending up to Polaris and Capella. This activity continued for almost an hour. The colors were mostly green with some red mixed in. I don't know if Mars has ever had a magnetic field that would have supported aurora's but it was to watch them in ours.
A few nights later I was driving home and saw the waxing gibbous Moon low in the sky. It was a hazy night, and this gave the Moon and color to orange to it. The color of the Moon, along with its phase and the lunar mare reminded me of Mars through the telescope.
There have been a number of observational reports and images recently of a large dust storm that began on Mars in the Chryse region on October 17th and has since spread southward over Mare Erythraeum. So even though the weather forecast and seeing did not look promising on October 20th I woke up early and went out to observe Mars anyway with a TMB 105mm f/6.2 refractor. There were gusty westerly winds but when the wind settled down the seeing was very good allowing me to use a magnification of 221x and at times 277x with the Baader binocular viewer. Filters used included a Baader red, yellow, and Neodymium Moon and Skyglow filter. The Moon and Skyglow filter performs similar to a Magenta (W30, W32) filter in that it enhances both surface and atmospheric features.
Solis Lacus, Mare Sirenum, portions of Mare Erythraeum and Mare Acidalium were visible, and the dust cloud was visible on the preceding limb and extended over to and just to the south of Solis Lacus. The dust cloud was visible without filters, and I used a yellow and red filter to help enhance the detail. The end of the dust storm appeared to curve slightly towards Solis Lacus. There were times when the edges of the dust cloud appeared dark, as if it were casting a shadow. It reminded me of a gust front.
Other features visible on the Martian disk included the SPC, limb clouds on the following limb, and the NPH. The NPH appeared to have a darker portion, as well as a lighter portion.
After observing Mars I turned the telescope over to the Moon to take a quick look. There was a lot of interesting detail visible such as the terminator across Mare Crisium and the detail in the mare and the mountainous walls surrounding it was very impressive. A couple of rilles were visible across the floor of the crater Petavius.
Next up was Saturn which looked pretty as always. On Saturn there were a number of features visible on the globe including in the South Equatorial Belt, the South Equatorial Zone which was light yellow in color, and the South Polar Region. The North Polar Region was visible below the rings and had a slight dark blue color to it. The A-Ring and B-Ring were prominent as was the Cassini Division. Four moons were visible nearby including Titan, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea.
It had been a while since I last had the opportunity to observe so as it was a mainly clear night I decided to set the TMB 175mm f/8 refractor up. However the seeing was mostly fair at best, only settling down to good once in a while (4-5 on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being best, or IV-III on Antoniadi's scale). Still it was nice to back out under the night sky with my telescope.
I started off by observing the Moon, which was a few days before full. When the seeing settled down there was some interesting detail visible including four small craters visible on the floor of Plato, which is a walled plain with a very dark floor. There were also one or two lighter areas on the floor of Plato. Nearby in Mare Imbrian, Mons Pico, an isolated mountain with a height of 2400m (7300ft), was prominent as part of it was sunlit while the other part was in shadow. Montes Teneriffe were visible as well and its peaks have a similar height as Mons Pico. Montes Recti (sometimes referred to as the Straight Range), a mountain chain with a height of 1800m (5500ft), was prominent also in Mare Imbrian, and showed interesting detail including the small crater le Verrier B.
I then swung the telescope over to Mars, but the seeing limited the amount of detail I could resolve. Some of the larger scale features that were visible included Solis Lacus, Protei Regio, Bosporos Gemmatus, Aonius Sinus, Mare Chronium, Mare Sirenum, and Mare Cimmerium. There was a very small South Polar Cap (SPC) visible, and even though the North Polar Hood (NPH) was visible it appeared white this time rather than blue as it has under better seeing conditions and higher magnifications. Limb clouds were visible along the following limb. Filters used included none, Baader red, yellow, Neodymium Moon & Skyglow. Central meridian was 143.33, declination of Earth -16.65, P.A. of axis: 321.34, diameter: 19.42, phase: 0.9979, magnitude: -2.18.
Before calling it a night I took a quick look at the Orion Nebula which was rising in the eastern sky. Through the telescope it's central region appeared mottled and light blue in color.