Sunday, October 23, 2011

Observing 10.22.11

It was a cool and very clear night. Unfortunately I was careless in composing my list - set Cartes du Ciel on the wrong date - and so most of what I intended to see was well in the East and wouldn't be coming up until the wee hours of morning. I didn't have the fortitude to wait for them, so I took in a few favorites and managed to catch some of my list between 11PM and Midnight:

  • NGC7479, Herschel 400, Barred Spiral Galaxy
Very faint and hardly larger than surrounding stars with a 25mm eyepiece. The thing that gave it away was the fuzziness. Magnifying didn't help with clarity, but did help with certainty.

  • NGC524, Herschel 400, Spiral Galaxy
  • NGC488, Herschel 400, Spiral Galaxy
  • NGC437, Herschel 400, Elliptical Galaxy
Like the galaxy in Pegasus, these were recognizable only as faint, tiny smudges. Magnification helped only slightly.

  • NGC246, Herschel 400, The Skull Nebula
A fitting one for the final days of October, the Skull Nebula was smaller but a little clearer than the galaxies in the 25mm eyepiece. The 15mm yielded good results. I tried it out with an O3 filter but I'm not sure it helped reveal any greater detail.

It was a great night for satellites and shooting stars, and I also enjoyed the Wild Duck Cluster, the Double Cluster, Andromeda and companion galaxies M110 and M33, and The Pleiades. Jupiter was a good sight with very visible bands, three moons in a triangle formation on one side and a single moon on the other.

The new reflex finder is great. The lens area is larger and is not hidden inside a deep tube. And there was no problem with dewing up - that is until around midnight and the entire telescope dewed up.

Instruments: 10" f4.7 Dobsonian telescope | Oberwerk 20x80mm binoculars

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Reflex Finder

I've been using an Orion EZFinder for some years now and it is pretty much falling apart despite that it hasn't seen very hard use. The replacement is a UAG reflex rifle sight. The UAG sports an aluminum body, 7 levels of brightness, 4 reticles (dot, circle dot, circle dot crosshair, and crosshair), and comes with a rubber lens cover. Construction seems solid and the controls work easily with satisfying detentes. It is designed for a .75" rail, which is larger than the dovetail mount for the Orion finder, so I have some customization to do.My only concern is that the aluminum body will be more prone to condensation than the plastic one. But we'll find out in practice. The UAG sight appears to be identical to Orion's EZFinder Deluxe, and I got it from Amazon for less than half of Orion's price.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Observing 09.24.11

I had high hopes for the first chilly observing session of the Fall Season, but half of the few objects I had on the observing list managed to elude me. Here's what I did enjoy viewing:

  • NGC7086, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • NGC7128, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • NGC7008, Herschel 400, The Fetus Nebula
These were all three challenging to identify with a certainty. I printed out images to help verify and was pleased to find it a useful technique. For the nebula I also enlisted the help of one of the goto scopes, since it was just the ghost of a fuzziness in my eyepiece.

  • NGC185, Herschel 400, Spiral Galaxy
  • NGC278, Herschel 400, Spiral Galaxy
Both had to catch and impossible really to verify from the photos I had printed out since in the eyepiece all I got was a rather tiny smudge. But I checked and re-checked where the telescope was aimed against the sky chart and convinced myself I had found them.

  • NGC7662, Herschel 400, The Blue Snowball Nebula
We also saw a handful of satellites including two close together, one trailing the other, that produced impressive flares in turn. There was one good, long and bright meteor, and Jupiter was good to view when it popped over the trees in the late evening.

Instruments: 10" f4.7 Dobsonian telescope | Oberwerk 20x80mm binoculars

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Observing 08.27.11

Hurricane Irene had sucked all the clouds out into the Atlantic and was piling misery on the heads of friends along the East Coast, but she left us here in Georgia with good clear skies and enough wind to keep the mosquitoes at bay and cool the night. The sky was a little 'soupy', as one of my fellow observers put it, but it was really a good night. Here's what I was able to catch:

  • NGC7686, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • NGC6939 & NGC6946, Herschel 400, Open Cluster & Spiral Galaxy
  • NGC7142, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • NGC7160, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • NGC7510, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • M39, Binocular Messier, Open Cluster
  • NGC7044, Herschel 400, Open Cluster
  • NGC7062, Herschel 400, Globular Cluster
  • NGC6905, Herschel 400, Planetary Nebula - When I thought I had it, I used UHC and 0III filters to confirm
  • M102, Binocular Messsier, Galaxy
  • NGC6402 (M14), Globular Cluster
  • NGC6712, Globular Cluster
There were several satellites, a few of which presented nice flares before disappearing over the horizon (or, rather, behind the trees). I also enjoyed a couple of meteors, Jupiter with 3 moons and Comet Garradd in Sagitta.

Instruments: 10" f4.7 Dobsonian telescope | Oberwerk 20x80mm binoculars

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cartes du Ciel

Cartes du Ciel, or Skychart, is among my favorite tools for observing. The interface is as full-featured and customizable as commercial offerings, it doesn't require massive space on the hard drive, nor does it eat up the computer's resources when running. I use it primarily for creating observing lists and printing charts, but it also includes a telescope driver for the computerized set. And it's free.

Cartes du Ciel

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Observing 07.02.11

It was a hot night, but the skies were good. On this evening I was primarily tracking down Objects for the Astronomical League Globular Cluster list, with a few Binocular Messier list objects. Many of these are a bit difficult for the star hopping Astronomer and a mid-sized reflector, but it was generally fruitful night. Here's what I was able to catch:

  • NGC6426, Herschel 400, Globular Cluster
  • NGC6517, Herschel 400, GLobular Cluster
  • NGC6366, Globular Cluster
  • IC1257, GLobular Cluster
  • M14, Globular Cluster
  • M10, Globular Cluster
  • M12, Globular Cluster
  • NGC5557, Herschel 400 - ~11 mag, this one was difficult
Serpens Caput
  • M5, Binocular Messier
  • Also tried to see Palomar 5, just below M5, with the telescope, but gave up
Ursa Major
  • M40, Binocular Messier
  • Tried to find NGC 6543, the cat eye nebula, to no avail
Also enjoyed viewing the Ring Nebula, M13, CR399 (the coat hanger), Lyra Delta 1&2 (double star), numerous satellites, the ISS, heat lightening, and fireworks from a nearby Independence Day party.

Instruments: 10" f4.7 Dobsonian telescope | Oberwerk 20x80mm binoculars