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Chester Astronomical Society Barbecue 2002

The Annual Chester Astronomical societies BBQ was again held at Andrew Bates Farm near Waverton just south of Chester on the 12th October 2002.

We had last used the TROK on the 4th October at Llyn Brenig. The weather since then had been hopeless and I was itching to use it again. We had cleaned the mirror and done a few minor modifications to the telescope earlier in the week in the hope to use it at Llyn Brenig again before the Star party at Andrew Bates on Saturday the 12th. But again the weather let us down, but the forecast for Saturday evening looked promising.

I had to go to my daughter's 12th birthday party that same evening, so I got to Andrews for 4:00pm to set up the TROK. Geoff Regan and Dave Owen turned up just after me. I had spoken to Andrew about putting the telescope on the hard standing adjacent the barn, but the weather looked so good that we decided to set it up in the adjacent field. This would give us a lot more space to move around and more sky to look at.

The trailer had been unhitched form the car so we decided to push the trailer into the field. BAD idea !! The trailer dug into some sand (that Andrew did warn us about) by the gate at the edge of the field. The wheels dug in and we had a real struggle getting it out. In the process we bent the jockey wheel to about 30 degrees of vertical! Luckily a heavy boot put it back. We attached it to the car again and drove around to the other gate that Andrew had said would be best to use instead.

We have got assembling the scope off to a fine art now and it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to get the main scope together. Collimation and adjusting all the finders etc takes a little longer. I left Geoff and Dave with the telescope and turned up later on.

There seemed to be quite a few people littering the farm and the sky looked clear and cloud free. A number of other scopes had been set in the field by now and I could see the outline shadow of some observers huddling around the ladder by the TROK. M13 was the object of the moment and more of the 'lollypop' objects were seen through the night.

The sky was clear and quite dark, but not as dark as Llyn Brenig. This did not make a lot of difference for some objects, but it did make a big difference for others. M1 was a little disappointing. The shape was obvious and the surface brightness quite high, but I could not see the filaments that are normally see at a darker site. A slight increase in the brightness of the background sky and this sort of object really does suffer. Many other objects were seen though including M27, M57, Veil Nebula (east and west portions), M15, M56, M37, M33, M13, NGC6207, M42, Eskimo Nebula, M97, NGC7006 and Saturn. There may have been other objects but I was not there to see them.

M27 and the Veil got many Ooohh's and Wow's. Somebody said it was like using a 'virtual CCD'. These objects always please no matter how many times you look at them. M57 showed us its central star ! Some did not see it but most did using averted vision. Seeing the central star from this site was a little bit of a surprise for me. It may have been because the central nebulosity was just slightly more subdued than at Llyn Brenig so making the point source of the star stand out more?

Detail in the Veil was very nice and attracted a lot of attention. M15 globular cluster was one of the best objects for me. NGC7006 is a very remote globular cluster in Delphinius and was the most difficult object of the night. The object was quite bright in a low power (120x) but was not large enough to be resolved. Going to a higher power (270x) made the object large enough to make it almost resolved, but not quite. The surface being mottled but not resolved into stars. Maybe a darker sky and higher power may do it?

Saturn was low in the sky and the view did not improve until it was much higher. Even then the sky was 'boiling' but the view was quite nice. Rob Johnson said that Titan looked a little pink to him. I could see a similar effect but it was very subtle. M42 was the last object we looked at considering how low in the sky it was and surrounded by cloud the view was spectacular. The UHC filter was used on this for the first time also and the amount of detail was staggering.

I wanted to see what everybody else was up too but time seemed to slip away. Dave Galvin had just bought a Starlight express MX7C, not sure what results where obtained but I am very interested in the latest Starlight range and can't wait to see one in use. By now it was quite late and the sky had mostly clouded over. We packed up around 2:30am on the (13th October) and headed off home. Many thanks go to Andrew for organizing the event and letting us use his farm.

Dave Thomson