After a truly miserable string of weather to start off the summer, I took the first clear opportunity to reacquaint myself with my Skywatcher 114 telescope and do some astro-imaging using the society’s Canon EOS 350D DSLR Camera. There are few places in the UK with darker skies than Dartmoor National Park and since I live only a 30 minute drive away, this was the perfect place to go for a serious night of astronomy. After picking a site I grabbed my gear and tent before heading up for the night; unfortunately observing through until dawn would leave me in no fit state to drive home! The rocky outcrop of the appropriately named Top Tor offered superbly clear horizons, and although cloud banks were visible low in each direction, they steered well clear and it remained beautifully clear; despite the current light summer nights this was undoubtedly the best sky I have seen in my life!
Being set up in time for sunset meant I had a couple of hours to amuse myself before it got properly dark, though both Saturn and the waxing crescent moon close to the western horizon provided perfect early targets before they sank out of view. As the red light of sunset faded the beautiful summer Milky Way began to emerge, and by 11pm had reached its full glory; to the naked eye the dust lanes were easily visible along its length and the sprawling star field provided such a wealth of detail that I spent much of the night just lying back and taking it all in! Being at higher altitude with low horizons meant that more of the galactic central region was visible than is typical in the UK; the entire constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpius were visible and some relatively short exposures mounted on my equatorial tripod revealed exquisite detail that is just not visible with any sort of light pollution.
While my telescope has served me very well over the last 5 years for naked eye observing, it is only a beginner’s scope and sadly not up to much in the way of astrophotography. While it did manage to image the moon and Saturn to reasonable quality, my attempts to capture the Lagoon nebula (M8) and the Andromeda galaxy (M31) mostly resulted in star trails due to the poor tracking quality of my little stepper motor, and on clean shots the telescope’s poor coma resulted in off-axis smearing of stars. In short, I think it may be time to upgrade to a better model if I can afford it! The dark skies more than made up for this shortcoming however, as the same targets appeared beautifully at low magnification, and I went on to image the Double Cluster (NGC884) between Perseus and Cassiopeia before attempting some star trails to the North. Around 2:30am the camera battery died and I took this as a sign to pack up for the night, though with two more hours of darkness it was extremely difficult to tear myself away!
Sorry, no description available
EventList powered by schlu.net