A Pair of April Observing Sessions

Posted by Josh Walawender on Mon 27 April 2020

I managed to go out on April 17 and 26th bracketing the new moon. I spent both nights working with my Stellarvue SVX152 refractor on a new alt-az mount (the Rowan AZ100).

I’ve never explored some sections of the southern skies properly, so at home, I’d used Sky Safari to build a list of all galaxies, globular clusters, and nebulae brighter than 12th magnitude in Hydra.

On the 26th, the moon was up for a few hours after sunset. I’d planned on using the time to try to split some tight double stars, but the seeing was poor. It was very dark once the moon went down, so the DSO hunting went well. I logged 28 objects in each session, most of those were new for me as I typically don’t make notes for familiar objects.

These were fun sessions as I got to know my new mount. I ended up using digital setting circles (DSCs) to find objects in my observing lists. I enjoyed that more than I thought I would. I've been a purist for visual observing my entire life, forsaking the use of "go to" mounts in favor of old fashioned star hopping. I'd recently migrated to the use of a digital finder chart (SkySafari running on an iPad) instead of old fashioned paper charts (Uranometria 2000), but I still found objects by star hopping until now.

This "push to" observing with the DSCs is a great middle ground between star hopping and go to. The Rowan AZ-100 has slip clutches, so you just push the scope where you want it to go, guided by the display on the DSCs. This means I can move between objects faster as my push to speed is usually a lot quicker than the slew speed of typical motorized mounts.

The big advantage of DSCs which I had not appreciated until now is that I no longer have to crane my neck to look along the telescope tube for pointing. I typically use a red dot finder of some sort for rough pointing, then go to either an optical finder scope or a wide field eyepiece in the main scope. Using the red dot finder sometimes requires contortions with a long refractor like my 152. Between avoiding those neck straining contortions and having a nice adjustable chair to put me at the right height for looking through the eyepiece, it was a lot less tiring to go hunting for objects. I think I'm a convert.