I took a look at Astronomy Now‘s guide to the weekly stars and the like. There seemed to be some interesting targets featured including Mercury and the Owl Nebula, M97, quoted as the most difficult to see of the Messier objects. M97 is around 6-12,000 years old and is a large planetary nebula, formed from the expulsion of the outer layers of a dying star. It gets its name from some very hard to see ‘eyes’, making the nebula a bit like an Owl’s head. Apparently.
I went out at around a quarter to nine, but Mercury had already fallen behind some houses and I didn’t fancy lugging my scope around to find it again. Saturn was soon easy to spot, so I turned the Celestron 130 SLT to it and tested out the newly rediscovered 4mm eyepiece, providing magnification of around 162.5x – as opposed to 72.2x offered by the 9mm eyepiece. As would be expected, Saturn was considerably bigger to view and a very nice sight. The 4mm is a toy eyepiece and the image quality wasn’t all that great – made worse by clouds and a highly disturbed sky. As it is a 4mm, focusing was a little more sensitive, though the actual focus of Saturn was drifting with the atmosphere, so it kept going in and out anyway. The slightest breeze shakes images at this magnification (and on this slender tripod) horrendously, and since pretty hardy breezes were coming in, I eventually decided to consider the experiment a success and pack away. The sky too packed itself away as clouds were in complete control within around thirty minutes or so.
Owl Nebula for another day.