Fine Grinding Finished

Surface after 5 micron

The 4 inch mirror after White Aluminum Oxide 5 micron.  Notice how it reflects light.  The surface is smooth, gray, and satiny smooth.  I can read regular print through it.  There are absolutely no scratches/pits.  The surface is flawless.  Pitch pouring and pressing process coming soon

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Observing Session #1: Mount Baldy

Me and my Dad got to go up to Mount Baldy (elevation 4000 feet) for an exciting evening of dark sky telescoping.  We knew it was going to be cold, considering it was already down to 48 degrees before we even started ascending the mountain.  We had along my 70mm f/10, and my Dad’s Orion  XX14 Go To dob.

We also had brought along an armada of eyepieces and accessories  as well as a LOT of jackets and coats.  I think by the end of the night, the temp got down to somewhere in the 30s.  Up until about 3 or 4 weeks or so, the average temperature in southern California for the past 3 months was somewhere around 100 degrees.  I’m sure that if we were “seasoned” with cold weather previous to this trip, we probably wouldn’t have been as cold.

Since the recent time change, this is a great time to make a trip up to acceptably good dark skies, just for a couple hours of observing.  This time, we came prepared, with a list of objects to observe, and we had almost everything we needed, short of a few batteries.

We were set up in a lot off of Glendora Ridge Road.  I’m not sure if there any more decent places to put up a scope farther up the mountain.  Itchy for dusk to settle below the horizon, I went over my list of 23 objects.  They were mostly Messier objects, with a couple of NGC’s.  It seems like most of the objects we observed were star clusters, but hey, they’re pretty, and respond well to dark skies.

Some of the highlights of the night included:

– The “Propeller feature across M13.  There are 3 thin dark lanes that cut into the globular and form an airplane propeller.

–  NGC 7000, North American Nebula.  A very large nebula by Deneb in Cygnus.  It was seen naked naked eye.

– NGC 7009, Saturn Nebula. A very cool Planetary Nebula that looks like the planet Saturn.

– Individual Stars in M31.  I could resolve some stars in a cluster within M31- NGC 206

– M31, M32 and M110 in the same FOV.  Was done in 70mm f/10 at 28x.

– M33- Triangulum Galaxy.  Seen for the first time in 10×50 binocs, 70mm f/10, and XX14.  Best view was in 70mm.

– M76- Little Dumbbell.  Allegedly the hardest Messier to find.  Not true.  looks like a smaller, flatter M27 (Dumbell Nebula)

– Dark Nebula in front of M45.  Seen in 10×50 binocs when leaning on the car

– Just seeing the Milky again was a real treat.

In the end, we observed 19 out of the 23 objects on our list.  I definitly don’t regret making that list.  One of the best feeling you can have is having so many stars in the field, you’re overwhelmed.  This happened when I had gazed upon the Double Cluster (NGC 869) with the 70mm f/10 at 28x.  It framed the 2 groupings perfectly; this sight brought a tear to my eye.  This is what a serious astronomy buff does .

Photo: GSMimaging.com

This was the closest picture I could find to what I saw in the eyepiece.  Truly overwhelming amount of stars visisble.  There had to be hundreds, quite possibly thousands of stars visible.  I’m glad the scope is a refractor, because had it been a reflector, the stars would no have been quite so sharp.  I failed to understand this  until I owned this scope.

As far as the seeing, it was great, and dark as it can get for that location.  The location has dark skies, but they’re not the darkest I’ve been under.  For example, Lake Arrowhead.  My family went there on vacation years ago.  My Dad had brought along his 6 inch reflector, and he said that the view of M31 was compared to the view of it through the 14 inch, the 14 was slightly better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a say in this.  I was very young and my primary interest was in my Game Boy.  Oh well, all of this observing makes up for that, so my conscience is clear!

Ascending into the skylight

Amazing resolution with 6 inches

The 6 inch reflector, possibly the most common mirror size manufactured and used in telescopes.  I has been considered the “serious” aperture for many years.  At least that’s what it was like back in the day, meaning the 1950s and 60s.  That has certainly changed in today’s light pollution and advancements in telescopes, including Go-To telescopes

I can remember my grandpa telling me that he used to sketched moon craters and similar objects with his homemade 4.25 inch reflector.  He tried to have some of his sketches put into Sky and Telescope>, and unfortunately, they were never put in. I just got Sky and Telescope, and I don’t see any sketches in it.  Perhaps I’m wrong though.

I recently made an excelent detailed sketch of M42, on of the best nebulae you can view.  M42 is good in most any telescope, but it was great the other day.  Why? Because staying up late was worth it.  Even with a Waning Moon some 40 to 50 degrees away, it was still really good.  One of the only other times I’ve seen Orion- the constellation in general was at a PVAA star party at Mount Baldy.  I mean, this was really good seeing.

On a recent sketch from Astronomy Sketch of the Day, there is a nice sketch of M42-43, with a telescope with aperture of somewhere around 10 inches.  The sketch is great, I tip my hat to them, but notice that the seeing when it was sketched was 3 out of 5.  Most or all deep sky objects generally react well to darker/more transparent skies, so if you see my sketch below, notice that there is more structure and also notice more stars in the “Trapezium”.

Observed with a Star HOC 6-5 EQ; Orion Sirius Plossl 7.5mm eyepiece

Notice that I can pick out the “E” and “F” stars in the Trapezium cluster; this was previously only attainable by the using the Orion XX14, or a 12″ Meade Lightbridge at Mount Baldy.  I could not believe this much structure and defined detail in such a small telescope.  There is an interesting article on Belt of Venus regarding sketching and how much can be seen in a small telescope.  This article included seeing very detailed view of M101 with only a 50mm refractor.  Read this really cool article.

So the moral of the story is that even 6 inches can take you very deep in the sky, giving there’s decent viewing.  One thing to remember is that the light pollution usually is less so after midnight as lights turn off and freeways and highways become vacant.  I believe that most of the light pollution in La Verne is due to the 210 freeway that runs right through town.

When it comes to observing the deep sky, the more you look the more you’ll see; an experienced observer with a 4 inch telescope will see much more detail/structure in all objects than an inexperienced observer with a bigger telescope.

Keep looking up!