Saturn

What a sight this is in the telescope In many ways there is nothing to rival the real time appearance of this planet, as it seems to hang in space like a luminous flying saucer (Figure 6.9). It responds very favorably to CCD video imaging, but you will probably find that soon you want to try to capture the additional subtleties that you see in the eyepiece. By comparison to video, drawing it is another matter entirely, as Saturn is amongst the greatest challenges to our drawing skills that we...

NGC 650 M 76 Little Dumbbell Nebula

This irregular planetary (Figure 7.5), magnitude 11, 140 x 70, with a 16.5 magnitude central star, derives its name from the casually observed similarities between it and the much larger Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula. Although it is often described as one of the least conspicuous of the Messier objects, it is still quite easy to spot from our city lairs, and with a narrowband filter it becomes quite a striking sight. Time exposures reveal a complex structure with loops, altogether...

Big Gun Number 4 Video

A very good extension of enhanced viewing for many people would be one of the CCD video camera systems offered today. These make it easily possible to share live viewing in our suburban surroundings with large groups of people, directly on a monitor and without the need for computers or software. I can attain a good image scale, equal to moderate (but not low ) powers, with a direct hookup to a CCD video camera. For a moderately high power, a combination with a 2x Barlow provides very good...

The Moon

The Moon, being truly local in galactic terms, is our best opportunity to study another world in intimate detail (Figure 5.1). It is also a prime candidate to form a long-term relationship with from suburban locations, because it is completely accessible from what would be some of the worst conditions for almost anything else. Often flying high in the sky, it is well-placed much of the year so as not to be obscured by city buildings and other horizon blockers. In order to enjoy spending time...

Big Gun Number 2 Light Pollution Filters

The second big gun in the war against light pollution was the purchase of light filters. These have turned out to be a nearly indispensable aid on many subjects, as they will often throw the subject into stark contrast against the sky. I have found that narrowband filters (as opposed to broadband or other) are preferable for most suburban purposes, as they allow the transmission of light from the target object and suppress other wavelengths, including sodium and mercury vapor streetlamps. In my...

On the Philosophy of Building versus Buying

As you became aware in Chapter 2, I always had a thing regarding the direct connection between the telescope, as an entity in itself, and observing with it. Even so, designing and building the telescope by oneself expands this further. For many years I simply could not separate these two worlds, as there is no doubt in my mind that there is another dimension added to the wonder of it all by having fashioned an instrument oneself. Even more remarkable is the near disbelief one experiences when...

Emission Reflection and Dark Nebulae

Reflection nebulae do not usually respond favorably to image intensifiers, because the light that leaves them is usually at the blue end of the spectrum. To have any real chance of seeing them effectively in city conditions, you will need the use of narrowband light pollution filters. Success with emission nebulae will depend on the specific wavelengths of light they are generating, and they often respond very favorably to image intensification. Some nebulae may respond to both forms of viewing...

NGC 6853 M27 The Dumbbell Nebula

With or without a narrowband filter, the Dumbbell Nebula makes its presence known immediately, even in our compromised skies. This is not one of those sights that you suspect you can see It appears as a bright white egg-shape in the field of view, quite luminous and striking Figure 7.55 . Sufficient aperture will resolve its famous outline easily, and shadings of brightness become obvious. The subtle extensions on either side may be seen with larger scopes, and give the nebula a somewhat...

Big Gun Number 3 Image Intensifiers

Magnetic Focused Image Intensifier

The third and most important weapon in my city viewing arsenal, after the telescope itself, was the purchase of a modern third generation image intensifier, especially made for astronomy the remarkable I3 Piece by Collins Electro Optics . The beauty of the Collins device is that you use it just as you would a conventional eyepiece. Image intensifiers require no image processing, monitors or separate controls. Image intensifiers per se are hardly new to astronomy, and have been written about...