Owls, Heatwaves and Bad Vibrations July has been pretty fruitful. I got fifteen sessions, which is two more than last July. In fact, only January so far has exceeded it. The compact and bijou 60mm EDF was out the most this month with ten outings overall. Followed by three with the 80mm Evostar, and two with the 102mm SkyMax. I had an interesting run from Saturday the 2nd to Monday the 4th with the 60mm doublet. With no Moon these were a satisfying triplet of rich field observing periods. In the southern sky I saw the Trifid, Lagoon, Star Queen and Omega nebulae among others, as well as a plethora of many open clusters. I even got a glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy. I had very nice views of Jupiter and Saturn. Mars was more of a challenge with the 60 EDF, notwithstanding that it is only just over seven arc seconds in diameter at present. Interestingly I could pretty easily perceive northern polar hood clouds and the southern polar cap. I also split Zeta 1 Aquarii for the first time this year. I’ve always liked this double, which apparently defines the top of Aquarius’s water jar. From the 7th to the 10th I had another run of sessions with the ‘Titchy Sixty’. On the 7th I got a stunning view of the Rupes Recta beautifully highlighted by the lunar terminator. Later the same night I saw Europa slowly appearing from behind Jupiter. The GRS was also plainly visible. Between the 13th to the 16th I achieved the third consecutive run of July. The first night the seeing was really good. I split Mu Bootis into its three constituent stars at 96x with the 60 EDF. This was a testament to the efficacy of the SvBony F9125A Barlow element when threaded directly into my 6mm Vixen SLV. On the 14th I witnessed the phenomenon of the ending of a Europa eclipse. I expected it to pop back into view right next to the planetary limb. Although it actually appeared within a few seconds, rapidly getting brighter, until it eventually disappeared behind Jupiter. The next two sessions were early morning dedicated planetary outings with the 102mm SkyMax. The four inch Maksutov is highly re-positionable on the AZ5 mount. Necessary for my observing with the planets initially so low. Once the SkyMax had cooled sufficiently I had some excellent views of Saturn and Jupiter. I had a brief look at the Moon and turned my attention to an early dawn Mars at around 200x. The phase and bright southern polar cap were still visible, as were what I still reckon are the NPH clouds. There was a gratifying hint of darker albedo features. I achieved three sessions with my ED80 Evostar. Two of them coincided with two of the hottest days of the year so far. It was a tad weird sitting on my back lawn at 04:45, British Summer Time, in only a T-shirt and cargo trousers. Let alone being buzzed by a low flying tawny owl. On the 18th I discovered that my brilliant idea of making an extension tube for the Takahashi Barlow out of an SvBony Barlow housing, wasn’t actually brilliant. Unfortunately it gave me seriously bad vibes (man)! The vibration return was worse than I thought it would be. I went back to the TV 2x Barlow used conventionally as it plays well in the Tak' diagonal. I also experimented with the F9125A actually threaded into a Barlow housing. The second night (technically on the 20th) was even hotter. Either way I got some excellent deep sky observing and views of the planets. I could plainly see Rhea and Titan. The last session with the 80ED was on the 26th. Transparency issues aside, I could even see the Milky Way pretty clearly. I eventually turned my attention to Mars and the gas giants after a while. At 200x I probably got the best visual image of Mars yet. I observed Saturn at 120x with a 5mm Tak’ LE until well after transit. The final session of July, actually on Sunday the 31st, was in daylight. The Titchy Sixty was out between 19:00 and 20:30 as I searched for a setting Mercury, albeit without success. I did get to see the elusive Petavius Rille briefly on the thin lunar crescent before … you guessed it … clouds.