The Search for M51

Friday, March 14, 2014 was clear despite a weather forecast of overcast skies. With that in mind, I decided to take my telescope out to observe the night sky and confirm what I saw last session was M51.

At midnight, I took all my equipment outside and I set my telescope up for observation. However, when I turned the mount on, it gave me errors 16 and 17. Both altitude and azimuth motors were unresponsive. I realized that the software thinks the mount is the GPS model instead of the SE model. This caused a conflict which caused me to take everything back inside. Once all my equipment was safe, I brought my mount to the computer to update the software. After updating the software to the correct model, I brought everything back outside and continued setting up.

Earlier that day, I was able to move the finderscope from its current position and screwed it in the same location of the piggy back mount. However, when I was calibrating the finderscope, the knob wouldn’t turn all the way to the target body (the Moon). Therefore, I decided to get the telrad (a superior finderscope) and tape it onto the telescope. I then calibrated it to the Moon.

When my telescope was pointed on the Moon, I realized that my neighbour’s house was starting to obstruct the Moon. At the same time, I realized that Mars was clearly visible from my position. I decided to slew to Mars’ position and I saw a beautiful red dot. However, I could not make out any detail. It’s still moving towards opposition, therefore it will get bigger, and hopefully clearer.

I decided to switch my eyepiece from 25 mm to 20 mm to get more magnification and get closer to the planet. After switching the eyepieces, it was out of position. However, I was able to find Mars again. It was slightly bigger in this lens than in the previous lens. It was great to get closer to the planet. After staring at the beauty of Mars for some time, I decided to search for M51.

I moved my telescope to an area where the stars near zenith were not obstructed by trees. I scanned at the same part of the sky where I first saw it, but I didn’t find anything. I found its RA/Dec Coordinates, and slewed my telescope to the coordinates using its computer, but the telescope slewed to the wrong area. I tried slewing to its approximate alt/az coordinates using the SkyView App on my iPhone, and slewing to those coordinates using the computer. However, that didn’t work out either. I was becoming frustrated. Eventually, the clouds moved in, and I had to pack up.

I solved a lot of issues this session, such as my mount, and my finderscope. In addition, I also found Mars. It was an incredible sight. The last time I saw Mars was at 5 am in the park. I hope to see it again, preferably at opposition, when it will look big. Sadly, I could not find M51. However, in retrospect, I realized that moving the teIescope caused my failure to find M51, because the telescope didn’t know that it moved from its current position. That is the reason why my telescope failed to find M51. I hope to prevent that in the future.

Clear Skies to you all!

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