More bits for the Telescope

As mentioned in my last post, I’d ordered an accessory kit of extra lenses and filters for my Explorer 130 telescope. The parcel arrived today and very impressive it is!

Sorry, no sad unboxing video (!), just a simple pic of the aluminium case and its contents:-


The kit comprises of four long-relief lenses (2mm, 5mm, 15mm and a 20mm), four filters (blue, amber, neutral and moon), a red LED torch in a lockable case. The kit has a quality feel to it. The lenses are glass, so no cheap stuff here. The bit that seems to be missing is an instruction manual, as described in the advert. I’m not too bothered about this as details how to use the kit can be sourced elsewhere and of course the advert does say the offer can be changed at any time.

Edit: I’ve since noticed that the guide in the advert is the same as the user guide that is supplied with the instruction manual for the telescope. OVL have obviously changed their policy with which kit the guide is supplied with and makes more sense to supply it with the ‘scope.

The 2mm and 5mm lenses should help in getting some excellent views of Jupiter, which is now above the horizon around 22.30hrs BST. Overall I think this is a good accessory kit which is great value at £69, half normal price having bought a Skywatcher telescope (proof of purchase has to be provided).

For more information, take a look at:-

Posted by Wordmobi


Bits and Pieces

Lots of short mentions in this post, so I’ll jump right in.

My subscriber copy of ‘Sky at Night’ magazine has arrived and I’ve read it death already. Useful stuff:- Jupiter observing tips, astro photographer of the year results, observing forms for the planets to print. Will hit the newstand on Thursday the 22nd of September.

I’ve ordered the special offer kit from Optical Vision Ltd, where if you buy a Skywatcher telescope you can order (in a carry case) a complete starter kit of lenses, red light torch and filters. It has to be ordered within four months of purchase of the telescope, so I’m hoping for delivery very soon!

In a previous post I waffled about the ultimate mobile browser. In the past week or so I’ve upgraded two on my E71; Skyfire and Opera Mini.

Skyfire has reached version 1.1 and there is a noticeable improvement in speed. A difference I’ve found with it is that on a ‘live’ website that updates in realtime, Skyfire handels it fine. This was useful when tracking the ISS (see my latest post below).

Opera 5 Mini Beta – only just installed it, first impressions very good, very fast rendering of webpages except for one major annoyance. Because its written in Java, there seems to be a major omission in that you cant copy and paste from the system clipboard. Therefore getting web addresses from Gravity (the S60 Twitter client I use) is a no-no… Along with anything else stored on the clipboard. Hopefully there is a workaround hidden somewhere, or it will be added in a full release.

Posted by Wordmobi

And then two came along at the same time

After waiting for weeks (for one reason and another, not just the weather), it was finally a clear night last night. Intending to get the telescope out later that evening, I started browsing my twitter updates and noticed one that said ‘ISS viewable from the UK from 9:45pm, approaching from the west, getting dimmer as it passes overhead’. I looked at the time – 9:45pm! Dashing outside, I started scanning the skies; true enough, it didn’t take long for a bright pin-point of light, surprisingly bright, approach from the west. I called my wife to see it and we watched as it passed almost directly overhead, getting dimmer and dimmer until it was lost amongst the night sky, directly overhead. ‘Wow’ was both our response and as there was nothing else to see, we both went back inside.

So I started looking for websites that would give me real-time updates of the ISS and its current position. The best one seems to be:-|35817

This link will give the current position of the ISS and the Japenese H-2 transfer vehicle, which are currently docked (or near as). A useful feature of the site is that it will give a 5 day prediction of where it will be, useful for planning your next observation.

Whilst I was scanning the sky, I noticed another bright star in the south-west. Seeing a good opportunity for a quick observation, I decided to get the telescope out and set it up in the back garden. I didn’t bother with getting it aligned or level, simply to get the aim and ‘scope pointed at the object and to view it as quickly as possible. Using the red dot spotting sight, the ‘scope was lined up and I fitted the 25mm lens. Once it was focused and the object was in sight, I was puzzled by three faint dots spaced around the main object. Heart sinking, thinking this was a problem with the lens, I quickly realised this wasn’t the case when I focused the main object a little more and noticed two horizontal bands – I’d found Jupiter! The three dots along the horizontal axis were some of the Galilean moons. I’d read earlier in the week that one would be out of view, either in rfont or behind of Jupiter itself.

For the next 20 minutes I swapped the 25mm lens for the 10mm and mixed the Barlow lens, looking to get the best possible view. I found that using the 10mm lens on its own offered the best level of sharpness and contrast when looking at the dark atmospheric bands on Jupiter. The Barlow lens appeared to give a slight colour distortion around the edges of Jupiter. I couldn’t also believe the speed that the object moved across the sky; I was changing the lens and within a few seconds, the view had changed and I had to re-align the ‘scope, using the red dot viewer or the 25mm lens, to centre the object.

Satisfied with my discovery, I packed the kit away for the night.

However this morning, still intriged by what moons I had seen, I searched the web for some answers. I found them at:-

…where you can enter any time/date to get the positions of Jupiters GRS (great red spot) and main moons.

Jupiters moons at 11:55pm 12/09/09

Jupiters moons at 11:55pm 12/09/09

So I’d spotted (L to R) Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Io was transiting Jupiter at the time. Don’t forget this view is inverted, as I’m using a reflector telescope.

If I can get hold of some more lenses with a higher magnification (I have some in mind), this should enable me to achieve even better views of Jupiter and its moons. I feel the credit card getting itchy…

To Motor or not to Motor

Something I’ve failed to mention in setting up my Explorer 130PM telescope is that even though it was supplied with a motor drive (hence the ‘M’ in the model name), I haven’t fitted it to the scope yet.

Why? Whilst I was settling up the ‘scope I thought it would be easier simply not to attach it, whilst I learnt how to use the controls. I found that during my last observing session, I could use the manual controls (R.A. And Dec fine adjustments) to pan around the sky looking for interesting sights. I moved the scope and generally got a feel for how to alter the angle of the EQ2 mount with relative ease.

I don’t think I would have been able to look around the sky as easily if I had the motor drive attached. However, the plan is to fit it at a later date, to take into account the movent of the Earth for long exposures as it will be useful if I can get a digital camera attched to the eye piece. I have seen some results (not necessarily with the same ‘scope) taken of the moon with a camera phone and they aren’t bad.

I’m hoping for some decent weather now that the moon is back in phase, so I can get the ‘scope out and capture some good views of craters and the surface of the moon.

Posted by Wordmobi

First Light

At last, a clear night on Friday night with which to try out the new ‘scope. A disadvantage of the summer months (for stargazers anyway) is that you have to wait until very late / early hours of the morning before it is sufficiently dark to start observations.

Went out at 11:45pm and set the scope up at the front of the house, simply from the point of view for ease of setting things up. The aim was to keep things simple: just get the scope setup and practice using the adjustment controls and lenses.

Where I live, light pollution is a big problem and even though I managed to get my eyes dark adapted, it still looked light outside. This is with virtually no moon! Once I got everything set up, I tried the 25mm lens. The biggest surprise was that even though with the light pollution, was the number of stars viewable that aren’t normally, with the naked eye.

For about an hour and a half, I panned and moved the scope around the sky, pointing at anything that looked ‘interesting’. Though I didn’t get lucky with getting a view of any planets, I did spot the flash of a meteor in the viewfinder and another just as I was packing up. A left-over from the Persieds?

What did I learn from my first session?
1. Don’t set expectations high that you will see colourful stars and planets, you won’t (easily), just try to understand how the scope works and how to use it.

2. Extra useful tools to have: a spirit level and a compass (must shop for latter) for ensuring the scope is level after extending the tripod legs and knowing which way is north etc.

3. If you change a lens, say a 25mm for a ‘tighter view’ 10mm, try to ensure that you centre your ‘target’ before changing, otherwise when the lens is replaced, you may get a completely blank view and think there is something wrong with your ‘scope!

I think a light pollution filter is going to be a high priority item for shopping, so I’m going to get out my Sky At Night mags and have a look at some reviews.

Posted by Wordmobi

Built and Ready to go

Though the detailed manual made the assembly of the Skywatcher 130PM seem more complicated, it really was simplicity itself. The manual is very detailed with a very useful exploded diagram with all the parts labelled.

So I sat down this afternoon in the conservatory with plenty of room (and the two dogs asleep, so no disturbances!) to work. The telescope is well packed and within an hour I’d got all the parts assembled together, balanced and a rough understanding of what each thumb screw adjusts. Knowing which one is best to adjust what angle will come with practice.

Even though it was late afternoon, I was dying to try the ‘scope out, so I grabbed the assembly and carried it outside up the back garden.

Note: this is heavy (16kg) and unless you’re pretty tall, you are recommended to assemble it outside at the point of location.

Out came the two supplied lenses, the barlow lens and surprise addition, a moon filter! ‘First light’ was focused the coping stone tiles on a neighbours roof (a couple hundred feet away); during ‘observations’ a fly landed on the top of the tiles, which could be seen clearly and in focus. Satisfied that I’d got some sort of a result and happy changing the eyepieces, I transported the ‘scope back to its resting place. Hopefully the weather will be kind and there will be clear skies soon!

A note about ‘RA’ and ‘Dec’… I’ve been trying to get my head around how it all works. I’m taking the attitude of learn by using the ‘scope, instead of trying to understand what the equitorial plotting system is all about, straight from the book.

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The Kit…

… and here is what is going to get me started.

Didn’t realise it at the time, but the SkyWatcher Explorer 130PM is apparently a highly-rated telescope. I cannot believe the size though! When I visited the dealers ( I didn’t expect to come away with a huge box; good job the package fits inside an Audi A3 Sportback with the back seat down.

I’ve only had chance to take a brief look at the contents, however this week its going to be set up.