Observing Log for

Session Details


54.33, -1.445



Conditions: Cold, Waning Gibbous Moon, UrMin NELM: 5.0 (?). Tonight I aimed to do some more lunar observing as well as taking some photos with the camera mounted on a tripod. Also since Luna had moved away from Auriga I went for the three open clusters as well as checking out some more of the sights in Orion.


The Moon

With the moon now a waning gibbous with approximately 96% illumination I decided to attempt some more photography. This time I mounted my camera on a tripod and placed the camera at the eyepiece of the scope. The attempts were only half successful with better focus and less stability issues but I still need to get better at predicting the movement of the moon. Now that I have done this I am ready to do some better shots and possibly try for a mosaic.

M36 - Auriga Open Cluster

The previous week with no moon in the sky it had been easy to find the Auriga open clusters. However, with the moon dominating the sky, the finder scope was useless so I had to rely on my skychart and the 25mm Plossl eyepiece. Tracking from Theta Aurigae towards Eta and then moving up towards Zeta it was realtively easy to find 36. In the 25mm eyepiece (x40) it appeared as a small cluster of stars in the center of the FOV. Adding in the Barlow (x80) filled the FOV with the cluster. I observed it long enough to sketch the cluster and see how the fainter stars resolved and became brighter.

M38 - Auriga Open Cluster

I had found this cluster the previous week - this time I observed it long enough to make a sketch.

Sigma Orionis and Struve 761

This was my first new object found thanks to Turn Left at Orion. A very nice grouping of four stars. With the clock drive and a reasonable polar alignment I was able to track this object and make a sketch based on the view through the barlowed 10mm EP (x200). The system is comprised of 5 stars, A and B are a close double and could not be resolved. They appeared as a single mag 3.8 object. Very close and to the SW of A/B was the faint mag 10 C. To the east of A/B was the mag 7.2 D whilst slightly further out was the mag 6.5 E. No colour was discernible.

Sigma Orionis is located 1500 light years from Earth and is part of the system which includes the Belt stars and the Orion Nebula.

To the northwest of Sigma Orionis, in the same FOV could be seen Struve 761, a three star system with magnitudes 8, 8.5 and 9.

Comet Machholz

Although easy to find in the binoculars this proved a difficult find the 'scope. The problem was mainly due to the proximity to a street light and the washing out effect of the moon. Eventually, by starhopping from Alderbaran down Orions shield/bow I was able to find it. At all powers the comet was only visible as a fuzzy disc of light and was rather a disappointment. I shall return to it when it has gained more altitude and the moon has gone.


Saturn looked fantastic. With the clock drive working perfectly I was able to follow it at x200 for about 10 minutes. In fact, I looked at it for so long that by the end I could hardly see it because the eyepiece had steamed up with condensation from my eye! It was well worth it though - the Cassini division was strikingly clear and the Encke division was also visible at times. There were 5 objects which could have been stars or moons (more likely the latter), which I should have sketched for subsequent identification.


I took another look at 31 but it was washed out by the moon. I was looking at it using the barlowed 10mm eyepiece when a satellite moved gracefully through the field of view. It could easily have been my imagination but I thought I could see some details on the satellite, rather than it just being a point of light!