It seems an age since I have last updated my journal. The long summer days are now starting to draw in so, after the joys of watching Australia collapse against England for 60 runs, I set up a borrowed Vixen 110 on the ZEQ25 for a field test with a view to getting one as a travelscope. The Milky Way was a grand sight stretching from the zenith to the southern horizon. The Scutum star cloud and Ophiuchus Arm were both clearly visible.

The Vixen 110 is an uberlightweight telescope packs in quite a punch and looks pretty good too with those curved spider vanes. Alas it needs a 1.25” diagonal which I couldn’t find in my kit box so, after a frustrating 10 minutes squatting on the patio and contorting my neck, I gave up and pulled out my 14” Skywatcher auto dob out instead.

After a quick star align M11, the wonderful open cluster in Scutum, was in the eyepiece. I love this open cluster. It has a wonderful richness with a single bright star superimposed in the centre. Next it was a glob tour: M13 (and nearby galaxy NGC 6207) and the southern globs M10 and M12. Once again I appreciated the Earthwin power switch as I cranked through the magnifications without having to swap eyepieces.

Ah, it was good to be outside observing again. I have missed the thrill of exploring the night sky. I then noticed that the Box Nebula, a small planetary nebula NGC 6445, was nearby on the Pocket Sky Atlas. A short sweep and there it was but very hard to make out. After a play with the magnifications I realised that there was a thick layer of cloud covering this part of the sky! A huge stratus of cloud was approaching from the south. Alas there was no time to waste as it was clearly spreading across the horizon and would soon be fully overhead.

I had recently purchased an Astronomic UHC and was keen to test it out. M27, the bright planetary nebula in Vulpecula, was dialled in and, after a grind on the Skywatcher coffee motors, it was in the eyepiece. Gosh what a difference the UHC filter made! M27 grew in size and shape as the outer halo became much more apparent. Another good feature of the power switch is the ability to slide the filter across and back again. Its effect can quickly be assessed and, if need be, an alternative filter tried instead. There was no need for an alternative here! M27 with the Astronomik UHC was a real revelation. Much brighter and more detailed than au naturel.

With little time to spare before the cloud hit Cygnus, I swung further north to the Veil. The Witches Broom was simply stunning as was the bright arc of NGC 6992 and 6995. Without the UHC filter, the faint glow was visible but would be easy to overlook. Sliding the UHC filter back across revealed streams of tendrils and filaments crossing the eyepiece. Alas I had little time to make any sketches or notes before the cloud swept across the field of view.

I was joined briefly by a hedgehog who was exploring the hedge (obviously!), rustling his way through the leaves and twigs. The RAF’s new A400M from Boscombe Down doing some night flying circuits. Its droning engines and night lights traversed across the background stars every few minutes.

So a fun but brief night cut short by a frustrating cloud layer. Once again, the EarthWin power switch proved its weight in gold. No need to change eyepieces and unthread filters. Simply slide and refocus. So much easier! I must now find the 1.25” diagonal and give the Vixen 110 a thorough review.