This year the ‘East Lincolnshire Astronomy Club’ (ELAC) hosted a star party week, to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, at Anderby Creek, near Chapel St Leonards. They have used this venue for about 5 years but this was the first summer meet. Work commitments dictated I could only attend for Friday and Saturday, the last day.
It’s Friday, and I had the tent all packed up and ready to go but a look at the 6:30 weather report and a glance at the sky called for a rethink. So I set off on Saturday lunchtime instead. The Garmin GPS suggested the normal holidaymakers route via Wragby etc. but Google Maps showed red traffic issues on those roads and suggested what on paper looked like a straight route, so I went that way. Over hill and dale, it was a lovely tourist route with smashing views but not one for a wide vehicle or a nervous driver, straight over the top of the Lincolnshire Wolds by a variety of B roads. However, I arrived without getting lost and in plenty of time to pitch my tent alongside the other club members, some of whom had been there all week. Once my tent was up we just sat round chatting until the BBQ was ready, and then we chatted a bit longer while waiting for nightfall.
22:00 BST I was still feeing very full after the club BBQ, and by now it was starting to get dark. The sky was clear and there was a noticeable temperature drop. So it was time to ‘suit-up’ and set-up. I had the little Vixen 110 on the Vixen GP mount with me. The ‘plan’ for the night was to try and practice / improve my sky-hop technique. I was using the ‘Star Hopping’ book by Robert Garfinkle page 205, Andromeda.
Starting at Alpheratz (α) and using the suggested hops, I moved to Mirach (β) where there is NGC404 in the same field of view (f.o.v.) It well may be, but I could not see it in the little 110mm. I set the mount’s mechanical setting-circles to this star’s co-ordinates then moved upwards to +42 declination and centred on Almach (γ) . Swapped from 40mm (x25) to 9.5mm (x100) and observed the fainter blue /white ‘b’ star is just a bit of N of the red/orange ‘a’ star. I do like to try and estimate the separation / PA of a double before looking it up, but the illuminated reticule eyepiece has a flat battery. These had been replaced a few days earlier so the switch must have been knocked on at some point. No spares with me. Here we go again !
22:45 Most of the campsite was in darkness now. The site owner had agreed to switch off the site lighting for the week and asked other campers to keep lights at low level, most were happy to. There is always one however and he was just across from me. The caravan outside light blazed like a beacon in the darkness. I should have brought the ‘kitchen’ windbreak to shield me from ground level lights.
23:05 Found M34 by combination of star-hop and setting circle offsets. Almach is approx 2Hr RA while M34 is 2Hr 40m. I viewed it at x100 but it is actually visible in 9x50 finder. Confirmed the star field matched chart by using the star ‘14’ as a marker and had the same position on the chart, using a stencil the size of my f.o.v.
23:35 Navigated to M32. Now, I had decided to observe tonight, not image – but got the camera (Canon 450D) out and fitted it anyway and then found I had left the focus mask at home. I started an image run after first doing some test shots as jpg, at 60 seconds.
00:01 We could all hear just the drum and bass of a rave in a distant field somewhere, somewhat irritating.
00:14 Meteor moving N - > S in Andromeda, magnitude 2 or 3, might be in image. Image set is 20 x 30 sec. 1600, RAW saved in APT as ‘plan 1’. A car drove past with headlights on in frame #13 ! CMOS temp noted at 17° C.
Stopped for some hot home-made cucumber soup and a chin-wag with ELAC members.
01:20 Tried to find M33 but could not find it. In books this is listed as ‘hard to see, needs very dark sky’. Well I can see Milky Way almost all the way from one horizon to the other (‘that’ caravan’s light is out now). How much darker a sky is needed? Moved to the Double Cluster in Perseus – I think. It was hard to tell as so many other stars in f.o.v. Tried to image it. With the narrow fov of the f10 Vixen I may have only got one of the pair. Same ‘plan 1’ settings as before. CMOS temp now dropped to 12° C.
It was starting to get very damp by now. Dew was covering everything, but the long home-made dew shields for the Vixen and its finder were working well. I remembered to take some ‘darks’ and ‘bias’ images, but afterwards realized directly with the camera, which is set by default to save as Jpg not via the computer /APT, so they are no use as they needed to be RAW as well ho-hum.
Moved to γ Delphinus , a nice double star and then tried to sort the red-dot finder which keeps becoming misaligned with the Vixen 110.
02:42 Meteor to west of Pegasus moving North to South
03:00 Clouds were coming in so I packed up went to bed. The drum and bass racket was still going strong.
Woke up at about 07:30 after a very restless night, disturbed by the rave which was still in progress! I gave in and got up and got dressed. The rave then stopped at 8. It turns out it was held at a place locally called ‘the bank’ (Roman Bank), about 1 mile away as the crow flies and site owners were also disturbed by it. Normally these things stop about 2 I was told.
Blue sky, and I sat outside the tent eating my breakfast of cereal, fried eggs & sausage and followed by two thick slices of home baked bread, toasted. I wished I could stay but I had work to go to on Monday. I had a bit of a struggle with the tent pegs as my puller had gone missing from last night, where I last remembered using it to help to get the club gazebo down. I cleared the site by 11 and had a non-eventful trip home with the only delay being the Lincoln by-pass and that added an extra 30 minutes to the 1 hour trip.
A good night observing. Not a high count of objects observed all said and done but its not a race round the sky, they will still be there, mostly, in a million years, we do it for pleasure – I keep telling myself. I could have clocked more things if I had used the go-to mount or not followed the start point of the book strictly but that was not the point of the exercise.