February 2017 Challenge
Nathan writes-

"I enjoyed the idea of having small challenges each month for observing. As you know, the skies haven't been great this month. But last night there was a clear spell, so I grabbed my telescope and tried to spot M42, M37 and M1. When Ken presented the monthly sky notes, he mentioned you guys are interested in what we used as well as what we observed.
"I took my scope to the hill on Dundee Law. I was going to go to the top but there were some undesirable people atop! So there weren't any nearby street lights, but as you can imagine, there's still quite a bit of light pollution.

I was confident that I could capture the Orion Nebula, as it's one of the brighter objects and I've managed to capture a picture of it before. Sure enough, I managed to get a few pictures of it."
So the details of my telescope are:
- Skywatcher Heritage
- 130mm primary mirror
- 650mm focal length
- viewed using a 25mm eye piece
- pictures were handheld using my phone, which can do long exposure up to 30 seconds and has an adjustable ISO (50 - 3200)"
The Great Nebula in Orion (M42)
"Next I tried to find M37. I hadn't seen it before and so wasn't totally sure what to expect (how bright/dim it would be and whether it would look like a blurry object). I pointed my telescope in the area where it should be and quickly found it. To my surprise, I was able to resolve individual stars, so it was very noticeably a star cluster. I was even able to get few pictures of it, although I still don't have a way to mount my phone yet so the pictures are wobbly, but you can definitely pick it out."
Star Cluster M37
"Finally there was M1. I almost didn't even attempt to find it, I've tried a few times before to find it, pointing my telescope in the area it should be but I never saw anything. I was skeptical that I could see anything with the combination of my small telescope and light pollution. Additionally I was trying to find it completely by myself, without someone who has seen it before being able to point it directly at it for me to learn about it's position in the sky. However I did still try, I pointed my telescope in the area that it should be. There was one bright star and I checked the other bright objects around it in case it was actually the crab nebula, but they were all stars. I looked at pictures of the crab nebula, trying to match up the stars to spot the area, but there are so many that I couldn't really find where I was. I threw in the towel. Except, as I moved away from the eye piece, something caught my eye. A little smudge. I looked again. I think I've told you both about how excited I was during the Abernethy star camp when I realised I could spot Andromeda with my naked eye. That too required that I don't look directly at it to see it. Do either of you know about why this happens, where looking slightly off from an object can help you see it? Either way, I did the same thing with this smudge and tried moving the telescope about gently to confirm to myself that there really was something there (and not just a trick of my eye). I was excited, I might have finally seen M1!

I pulled out my phone and took a picture... nothing, not even stars. I tried again with the same result. Confused, I looked up to see a large cloud frustratingly draping itself over Auriga and Taurus. I decided to wait it out and fortunately, after about 10 minutes, I got a clear patch and quickly tried to find the spot again and take a picture.
As with M37, I was taking longer exposure pictures to try to pull in as much light as possible (about 3 seconds) meaning I got really wobbly pictures. However, I was able to capture the "smudge" that I saw. I put it up alongside a more detailed (and steadier) picture of the crab nebula and I believe that I really was able to find and capture it. However I'm interested in what you guys think, I may just be willing it to be but actually might not have seen anything!"
My collage of M1
"I've attached some of the pictures that I took. For M1, I've created a collage to help highlight it!

As a bonus, I told my girlfriend Yoshiko about the challenges and she too liked the idea. She has my original scope (they're our twin telescope) and so made an attempt too. She wasn't able to get the latter two as there's just too much light pollution (she's in Tokyo), however she did snap a picture of the Orion Nebula which she said I could share with you too.

Thanks again for the challenge, it was really fun to have something to work towards and I did better than I thought I could. And thanks in general for the work you both put into the society and the fantastic advice and experience you have both provided me, I'm very grateful!"
Thanks, Nathan, for sharing this with us.  A great result, more so considering the equipment used.  Let's hope for great things to come in future challenges.
Yoshiko's photo of Orion's Nebula