With an aborted attempt to open up and observe comet Lovejoy a few days earlier – a rain shower stopped play just as I was about to  slew to it –  found me rushing home from club night with clear skies and no Moon. With everything fired up, the lack of any COM port meant that I had to drive the scope manually. After syncing  and entering co-ordinates manually,  I had it sitting in the FOV of the Finderscope.
Now that I had it, I decided to alot 20 minutes to figuring out why the pooter wasn’t showing any COM ports. Eventually, it was tracked down to a duff USB hub. This is the fourth hub to die in 10 years. Being stuck out on the pier, I guess the electronics just can’t cope with those damp conditions. For the moment, I have bypassed it completely and the USB/Serial dongle is now connected directly to the USB extension cable going to the pier.
dsm
While I’m off piste, I also used the the Dark Sky Meter app for the first time with a cloudless sky for the first time tonight. As I have only just started to try and record the NELM at the Zenith in my observations, any gizmo that makes this easier has got to be tried. While I’m sure it’s not as accurate as the dedicated job costing over £100, this free app is close enough and for my purposes, will offer a good comparison between my observing sessions.
Anyway, here we go.
 
Session Data
Date: 17/1/2015 Time: 23:59 – 02:51 UT
Seeing: I Perfectly  Stable, Transparency: II Clear, Temp:1.9c, Air Pressure: 993mb, Humidity: 63%, Dew Point: -4.4c, Wind Speed: 4mph, NELM: 5.3mag
 

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

In the TMB 80 f/6, 26mm Plossl, 18 X, 2.8°, West is to the 3 O’Clock.
The core is a point light source and the coma seems to extend about a 1/10 of the dia of the FOV. The direction of the tail is problematical as it’s not visible, but you get a sense that it’s running to the East. With AV4, you now get a hint of tail, but it is very tenuous.
While using this scope a fast moving meteor wizzes East to West.
Switching to the Altair Astro 250mm, 14mm Delos, 145 X, 29.8′. If I move the comet to the West in the eyepiece and now sweep from North to South where I think the tail is, I get a sense of brightening as I sweep through the area between the Comet and the Eastern edge of the FOV. Either side of this like the sky appears to be darker. As with all these tail observations, I cannot really say I saw it, but got a sense of it being there – I’m not sure that counts though.
With AV4 I can see the bow shock extending  quite a ways to the West, but saying how far this extends in front of the core is difficult to say. After about 30 mins of switching between the various scopes and coming back to the big scope, I now get a firmer sense of the bow shock extending about a 1/4 of the distance between the core and the edge of the FOV. This works out at about 3 arc/sec.
In the 10x60mm Finder, 23mm Reticule, 10 X, 5.1°. The Comet is still easily seen. The core is now is very soft, but there is no hint of a tail at all.
m1

M1, NGC1952

In TMB 80 f/6, 26mm Plossl, 18 X, 2.8°. West is to the 3 O’Clock.  Zeta Tauri is off to the edge of the FOV to the SE.
M1 is really small and is only visible with averted vision.  A quick flick with AV2 brings it back again easily and that can be held with direct vision for a sew seconds before it disappears  again.
In the Altair Astro 250mm, 40mm Plossl, 51 X, 52′. West is now to the 8 O’Clock and is easily seen with direct vision.
In the Altair Astro 250mm, 14mm Delos, 145 X, 29.8′, UHC Filter. With AV the longest dimension covers about a quarter of the diameter of the FOV, which is about 6 arc/sec. This is about the recorded size, so this evening I would seem to be seeing the whole caboodle. The UHC darkens everything, but M1 now looks mottled. The detailing seems to move as you avert your vision around the FOV trying to find the sweet spot, so what I think I’m seeing is noise rather than any structure in the object.
m35

M35, NGC2168

In the 10x60mm Finder, 23mm Reticule, 10 X, 5.1°. West is to 5 O’Clock. Propus is off to the S/E towards the edge of the FOV.
The cluster is easy to see against the background. The cluster looks like an inverted triangle, with the base towards the NEE and the point pointing WWS. The 14 arc/sec baseline stars,  of which I counted five off,  are interspersed with a glow of unresolved fainter stars.
Switching to the TMB 80 f/6, 26mm Plossl, 18 X, 2.8°. West is to the 4 O’Clock and 3 Gem is out towards the FOV to the South.
The triangular shape seen in the finderscope is now much more pronounced and the unresolved stars in the smaller scope now become resolved. Interspersed in these are a large number of fainter unresolved stars. Now looking to the West of the core there is a oval of stars going out 35 arc/sec to the West and back forming a loop. If I place the cluster to the Northern edge of the FOV, there is a line of 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 mag stars going off to the South. About 35 arc/sec from the cluster,  this line of stars branch off, forming a Y. The left hand arm goes to the South towards 3 Gem and the right hand arm SWW to 1 Gem. Not having turned on the NGC display, I didn’t notice that to the SW was the small and faint open Cluster NGC2158. In the POSS image it seems blindingly obvious, but I didn’t notice it 🙁

Mizar, Alcor, ALDS50, 80UMa

In the 10x60mm Finder, 23mm Reticule, 10 X, 5.1°.Mizar and Alcor are easily split – Well I would hope so as they can be split with the naked eye. Mizer cannot be split.
In the TMB 80 f/6, 26mm Plossl, 18 X, 2.8°.  Mizar just splits, but only just.
In the Altair Astro 250mm, 10mm Delos, 203 X, 21.3′. The split is easily seen.