Time: 21:30-22:30 BST
Instrument: 130mm F/5 Newtonian reflector on a Vixen Porta II, using no fans or automatic tracking.
Eyepieces used: 32mm Plossl, 26 mm Celestron X-Cel, 10mm Orion Sirius Plossl, 2x and 3x Barlows.
Seeing: Average, Ant III
The evening of April 3 2021 proved to be fine and clear, but remaining unseasonably cold for the time of year. It was a good night to set up my trusty grab ‘n’ go Newtonian reflector, a modified 130mm f/5(aka Plotina). After assessing the sky conditions by observing Theta Aurigae, I deduced that this was going to be an average night seeing-wise, and so kept my magnifications to a maximum of 195 diameters.
My first targets included Mizar & Alcor, Algieba (Gamma Leonis) and Polaris, all of which showed their companions at powers between 65x and 130x.
I then moved onto some more challenging targets: Castor A/B/C in Gemini which showed me the snow-white A and B components beautifully resolved at 130x and 195x. The wider and fainter companion C was best seen at 130x.
Moving to Wasat (Delta Geminorum), the 130mm f/5 showed me its close-in faint companion on and off at 130x with a concentrated gaze. Panning eastward into southern Ursa Major, I trained my 6 x 30 finder on the interesting pair of stars, Alula Australis & Borealis. The latter presented quite similarly to Wasat, with its very faint companion close in to the primary at 130. Cranking up the power to 195x rendered the companion invisible on this occasion however. Alula Australis was stunning at 130x and even better at 195x, its yellow near-equal pair resolving nicely so high up in the sky. This is a fascinating system to watch in the present epoch, as the pair orbit their common centre of gravity in just six decades!
Next I tried two more challenging systems for these average conditions; Theta Aurigae now lying lower in the west, and Iota Cassiopeiae, still well situated fairly high up in the northern sky. All three stars of Iota Cass were best seen at a glance at 130x but less stable to discern at 195x. Ditto for Theta Aurigae, the faint close-in companion of which was seen intermittently on and off at 130x as the star was allowed to drift through the field.
Finally I moved the telescope on its Vixen Porta II mount to the front of my house, where I enjoyed a better view of the eastern sky. Aiming the telescope at Epsilon Bootis( Izar) I was delighted to get a reasonable split of the system at 195x but I knew that it would look better and better as it gained altitude with the progress of the night.
Turning my attention next to some larger deep sky objects, I enjoyed a lovely view of the Beehive Cluster in Cancer at 26x. Moving over to Auriga, I passed several minutes observing each of the three Messier open clusters at 65x. The most compelling of the three was M36, with many dozens of stars strewn haphazardly across the entire field of the 10mm Plossl ocular.
Moving the telescope into Perseus, I enjoyed a very grand view of the faint naked eye open cluster, M34, best observed at 65x. Finally, I decreased the power to 26x and moved back into Ursa Major to pay the endlessly fascinating M81 & M82 galaxies a visit. Both were easily framed in the same low power field and the distinct morphology of both galaxies clearly discerned in the 130mm telescope.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable hour under the starry heaven with a small, but powerful Newtonian telescope!