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20 January 2018Observing Report - Members Session 20/01/2018

Time: 19:40-22:00

Location: JSL Observatory 57.48 N, -4.09 W

Conditions: Seeing: 3/5. Transparency: 2-3/5. Light breeze, -4°C. Slight haze, bad light dome from town.

Instruments: Meade LX200R 14" (40mm, 26mm, 17mm), 10×42 binoculars


  • M31T (SG, And)
  • M42B,T (EN+RN, Ori)
  • M44B (OC,Cnc)
  • M50B (OC, Mon)
  • M82T (IG, UMa)
  • M97T(PN, UMa)
  • NGC457T (OC, Cas)
  • NGC2024T (OC+EN, Ori)
  • NGC2301T (OC, Mon)
  • NGC2403T (SG, Cam)
  • C14T(OC, Per)
  • Cr70B (OC, Ori)
  • 39 OriT (DS, Ori)
  • 43 OriB (DS, Ori)
  • 48 OriB(DS, Ori)
  • 48 CncT (DS, Cnc)
  • 57 AndT (DS, And)
  • 119 TauT (CS, Tau)

B: observed with binoculars, T: observed with telescope


  • M31T (SG, Andromeda Galaxy): very disappointing due to haze and light pollution. Only the galactic core was readily visible; barely any extent outwards.

  • M42T (EN+RN, Orion Nebula): nice view, but not as much detail in the nebula without a UHC filter. Trapezium resolved to 4 stars, but mediocre conditions were evident in the view.

  • M50B (OC, Heart-shaped Cluster): fairly good resolution despite low altitude. Great cluster for binoculars, and fairly easy to locate starting from Sirius.
  • M82T (IG, Cigar Galaxy): galaxy suprisingly bright, with some structure visible. Core of starburst region seen, but no extended features.

  • M97T (PN, Owl Nebula): appeared large even in the 40mm (89×). Perfectly circular ‘orb’ of nebulosity, with an almost 3D appearance. Hint of two darker circles (‘eyes’) with averted vision.

  • NGC457T (OC, Owl/E.T. Cluster): nice to see at higher power (89× rather than 10× binoculars). Stars forming ‘eyes’ of owl prominent, but rest of image lost in the magnification - much more ‘owl-like’ in binoculars. Full resolution of the cluster though.

  • NGC2024T (OC+EN, Flame Nebula): not too tricky to see after slewing Alnitak out of the FoV. Vague shape seen with averted vision, but no obvious structure. UHC filter and better sky conditions should help.

  • NGC2301B (OC, Hagrid’s Dragon Cluster): located around 12-13° East of Procyon, and above M50. Cluster very well resolved - brighter stars formed presumed ‘dragon’ shape. Rich star field, but cluster still stood out well.

  • NGC2403T (SG, C7): first telescope view (previously seen with binoculars). Fainter than expected, quite large but only hints of spiral-like structure. Questionable sky conditions (haze) at time of observation.

  • Cr70B (OC, Orion’s Belt Cluster): loop of stars starting above and dropping between Alnilam and Mintaka was very nice. Loop appeared to extend back around on itself to end between Alnitak and Alnilam, though this part was much fainter.

  • 39 OriT (DS, \(\lambda\) Ori, Meissa): easier to split with the 26mm (137×), but a more pleasing view (likely due to conditions) and still just about a clean split with the 40mm at 89×.

  • 43 OriB (MS, \(\theta^2\) Ori): components A and B fairly easy to split, and component C was glimpsed during brief moments of good seeing.

  • 48 CncT (DS, \(\iota\) Cnc): tight double, with a golden yellow primary and a fainter slightly white secondary. Nice view at 89×, and a good ‘showpiece’ double star.

  • 57 AndT (DS, \(\gamma\) And, Almach): one of the very best telescope doubles, even in average conditions. Perfectly spaced to give the sense of a binary system, and stunning gold and blue colours.


  • Session ended at 22:00, due to freezing temperatures and worsening haze. Promising evening, but didn’t really deliver the expected seeing or transparency. Light pollution from Inverness was exacerbated by the haze and reflection from snow, extending to a much higher altitude than usual.



19 January 2018Observing Report - Public Session 19/01/2018

Time: 20:00-22:15

Location: JSL Observatory 57.48 N, -4.09 W

Conditions: Seeing: 3/5. Transparency: 1-2/5. Lots of cloud but clear to the South, if hazy. Breezy, -1°C.

Instruments: Meade LX200R 14" (TMB 40mm, 89×), 10×42 binoculars


  • M1T  (SnR, Tau)
  • M42B,T  (EN+RN, Ori)
  • M43T  (EN, Ori)
  • M44B  (OC,Cnc)
  • M50T  (OC, Mon)
  • M78T  (RN, Ori)
  • M82T  (IG, UMa)
  • NGC1977T  (HII+RN, Ori)
  • NGC2158T  (OC, Gem)
  • NGC2237T  (HII, Mon)
  • NGC2244T  (OC, Mon)
  • Cr70B  (OC, Ori)
  • 34 OriT  (DS, Ori)
  • 39 OriT  (DS, Ori)
  • 119 TauT  (CS, Tau)

B : observed with binoculars, T : observed with telescope


  • M1T (SnR, Crab Nebula): brief look to check alignment. Some mottling/structure with averted vision.

  • M42T (EN+RN, Orion Nebula): observed with a 2" Baader UHC filter fitted to the TMB 40mm. Filter made an amazing difference; ‘wings’ extended around to almost form a complete loop, and had obvious structure (‘serrations’). Region of nebula below Trapezium showed very detailed and delicate ‘wisps’, with curving shapes and mottling. Incredible view!

  • M42B (EN+RN, Orion Nebula): observed with a 2" Baader UHC filter held in front of the right objective. Much darker sky background and reduced haze. ‘Wings’ of nebula extended much further than without the filter, and region below Trapezium became much more prominent. An interesting experiment.

  • M43T (EN, de Mairian’s Nebula): the UHC filter helped to make a clear distinction between M42 and M43, which showed an obvious ‘enlarged comma’ shape.

  • M50T (OC, Heart-shaped Cluster): a surprisingly good cluster for the relatively high magnification/narrow TFOV of the SCT. Full resolution, and enough ‘breathing space’ around the cluster to retain some context.

  • M82T (IG, Cigar Galaxy): very brief look to check alignment; no detail noted, although area was hazy at the time.

  • NGC1977T (HII+RN, Running Man Nebula): easily found by manually slewing up from M42/43 with the UHC filter fitted. Most prominent were the darker regions around/within the nebula, but the nebulosity did become apparent after a short while and showed some shape and vague structure.

  • NGC2237/2244T (HII/OC, Rosette Nebula/Satellite Cluster): core of cluster well defined, but with the narrow TFOV at 89×, the full extent of the nebula was out of view. However, a dark ‘hole’ through the middle of the rosette was seen, with obvious nebulosity surrounding it and extending beyond the FOV using the UHC filter.

  • 34 OrionisT (DS, Mintaka): wide double at 89×. Secondary much fainter, but still appeared bright with 14" aperture.

  • 39 OrionisT (DS, Meissa): very tight double (4.5"), both white stars but the secondary fainter. Just about a clean split (i.e. dark space) at 89×.

  • 119 TauT (CS, The Ruby Star): easily found with the naked eye to the lower right of Tianguan and slewed to manually. Nice to see in a large scope, with vivid red colour against a sparse, dark background.




09 May 2016Transit of Mercury

The morning of Monday 9th May dawned with a covering of dank, grey mist and gloominess. Despite that, astronomers in and around Inverness were quietly optimistic: the day would clear up and they would all get to view an event they had been looking forward to: the transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun.

Here at HAS we had planned to hold a special observing event, open to the public, at the Jim Savage-Lowden Observatory at Culloden. A team of session hosts was on hand to set up specially filtered telescopes, including our hydrogen alpha Lunt LS60 ‘scope, to watch the event in safety.

The transit was due to start at about 12:12, and by that time the mists had cleared and a variety of telescopes were set up in and around the Observatory compound. Gerry Gaitens and Pauline Macrae had their TAL 100 refractor and Meade ETX 125 ‘scopes set up and the end of the path to the visitor centre carpark, letting visitors to the Culloden Battlefield know what was happening, and enticing them along the path to the observatory itself. Within the compound there were more ‘scopes set up: the Society’s 90mm Maksutov with white light filter, two (not one, but TWO) Lunt LS60 h-alpha scopes, and my own Skywatcher ED80 equipped with Baader Herschel Wedge. Paul Jenkins, Rhona Fraser (with her William Optics 90mm Apo), Pat Escott, James Hitchmough and myself (Antony McEwan) were all on hand to assist, explain and share.

First Contact was clearly seen, followed a couple of minutes or so later by Second Contact, and then the transit became a matter of following the sharp black disc of Mercury drift slowly (to our eyes!) across the magnificent Sun’s disc over the following hours. The Sun had several other areas of interest on the day. Two large groups of Sunspots provided a nice distraction (and comparison), along with prominences visible through the h-alpha telescopes. A third Sunspot group was close to the limb, gradually “coming round the bend” towards us. Against the backdrop of the Sun’s disc in h-alpha wavelength, the scene took on a three-dimensional aspect, which was very rewarding. Other views through various telescopes also gave a sense of the scale and perspective of the event.

We were inundated with visitors to take advantage of the Sunny views! At last count it was reckoned that over a hundred people came to see us (and the transit!) and all were made welcome and treated to fantastic views. Family groups, visitors, Society members, staff from the Culloden Visitor Centre, tourists, locals interested in joining the Society - even lost travellers all enjoyed views of a remarkable and fascinating event, and we were glad to have them all.

The Transit ended with the Sun fairly low over the horizon, but some stalwarts still stayed on to see the very end. The seeing was poor, with atmospheric turbulance making it hard to mark precisely the very last contact, but it seemed to draw a line under it all to stay to the very end. 

We would like to thank you all for visiting and making the day a truly enjoyable and memorable one in HAS History!


The image below was taken by Pauline Macrae (HAS) using a smartphone and Meade ETX 125, and shows Mercury in the lower right, with a fantastic sunspot group in the upper left.

The next image was taken by Rupert Smith (astrograph.net) with an APM 100mm Apo equipped with Quark Chromosphere H-alpha system, and shows the kind of view we had through the Society's Lunt LS60THa solar 'scope.


Report by Antony McEwan (HAS)


JSL ObservatoryNext Observing Session
Solar Saturday

Sat 25th August
14:00 - 16:00


Come and safely observe the Sun with our specialist equipment. Please note that you should never look or point any instrument at the Sun - instant and permanent eye damage will result! Our equipment is safe to use and operated by trained Supervisors.
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