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A review turns into an observing session

Crystal-Ball_Quattrocchi
The Crystal Ball. by Keith B. Quattrocchi
In the May 2011 issue of Astronomy, I wrote a review titled, “Track the sky with Vixen Optics’ AXD Mount.” I mostly edit reviews as part of my job here at the magazine, but because this one combined a review with a 2-day, dark-sky observing session, I humbly volunteered to do it.

So, on November 3 and 4, 2010, I tested the AXD Mount at the Observer’s Inn, an astronomy bed-and-breakfast facility in Julian, California, which lies in the northeastern part of San Diego County. The Observer’s Inn is the creation of Michael and Caroline Leigh. Their relaxing decorating choices, attention to detail, and wonderful breakfasts made for a great stay.

As I put the mount and its Star Book Ten controller through their paces, I aimed the scope atop the mount at many deep-sky objects all across the sky to check the pointing accuracy. At the end of each night, I realized I had observed approximately 50 deep-sky objects.

The first night, the telescope was Vixen’s 10.2-inch VMC260L modified Cassegrain design optical tube assembly. For night number two, the Vixen representative stepped things up a bit, choosing the company’s 13.2-inch VMC330L unit, which I don’t think is even available yet in the United States. I had a variety of high-quality eyepieces — 42mm, 31mm, 22mm, 13mm, 8mm, and others — on hand to help with my testing.

I’ve put together an image gallery of celestial treats I observed both nights. I hope you can get out under a similarly dark sky and enjoy them like I did.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

Mirach's Ghost (NGC 404) by Anthony Ayiomamitis


NGC 7741 by Adam Block/Mount Lemmon Sky Center/University of Arizona

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