Category Archives: Astronomy

OR: Deep Sky Ranch (Willow Springs), 3/13/10

General

Mark Wagner, Richard Navarrete, Steve Gottlieb, Peter Natscher, Rogelio Bernal Andreo and I met with our host, Kevin Ritschel, at his ranch in Willow Springs on Saturday, March 13, 2010.

Conditions

By sunset, the wind had subsided. The transparency was about average. Seeing was a bit soft early on, but it improved to just about average later in the evening.

Highlights

The zodiacal band was very obvious, pointing straight up, all the way to the Pleiades. The spiral arms around M 81 were obvious on both sides, although one side is much easier than the other. M61 was showing a lot of structure, reminiscent of photographs I’ve seen of that galaxy. Steve showed me a beautifully complex and surprisingly bright Sharpless object (Sh2-311? I’m not sure) in his 18″ Starmaster telescope. We also looked at a couple of galaxies showing intricate detail in Peter Natscher’s 24″ Starmaster telescope. Finally, Richard showed me an easy Hickson group (which one?) in his equatorially mounted Obsession 18″ telescope. With my Meade Lightbridge 12″, I observed mostly Herschel 400 objects in Cam, Mon, Pup, Pyx and Vir. Among those objects, N2403/N2404 and the group composed of N4216, N4222 and N4206 were spectacular.

Star Hopping Technique

When printing an observing list, I always sort the objects by their Uranometria page and then by right ascension. I also sort the Uranometria pages from West to East and from South to North. Additionally, as a convenience, I always try to choose my targets in order to minimize the number of Uranometria pages I’ll have to refer to. When I want to point the first object on a given Uranometria page, I start by locating a naked eye star on that page as close as possible to that object. I then point my scope to that star using a red dot finder. Once I’ve confirmed the orientation of the field of view, I can hop from object to object using my trusty Stellarvue 9×50 RACI finder scope in only a few seconds! Once the finder scope cross hair indicates the suspected location for an object, I look in the eyepiece, and the target is right in the middle of the field of view. Star hopping can be faster, more accurate, more fun, more rewarding and a lot more silent than a Goto! But it does require a bit of preparation…

The Big Freeze

My dew control equipment worked flawlessly, which allowed me to observe until about 12:30am (a respectable 5 hour session…). Around that time, the cold was becoming unbearable. No one specific part of my body was especially cold, but I realized that I was not able to focus anymore for long periods of time. I decided to take shelter in my car and slept for a couple of hours. Around 3am, I was woken up by Rogelio’s car headlights. I then realized that I was extremely uncomfortable because of the cold, and I’d better do something about it. So I packed the rest of my equipment and left around 3:30am, with the car heater set to its maximum setting. It took me a good hour to warm up. I made a quick pit-stop in Gilroy and picked up some breakfast at the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant. Needless to say that under such circumstances, it tasted mighty good!

Acknowledgments

Big thanks to our host Kevin Ritschel. I’m hoping to visit the Deep Sky Ranch again next month!

Observing Log

Location: Deep Sky Ranch (Willow Springs)
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PST)

NGC 1961 GX Cam 05h43m15.3s +69°23’17″ 11.8m 07:30pm
Moderately faint round core roughly 20″ in diameter, surrounded by an extremely faint halo which I estimated to be 2′x1′ E-W. Moderately faint (mag 13.9) superimposed star 30″ SSE of the core.

NGC 2403 GX Cam 07h37m53.2s +65°34’57″ 8.8m 07:45pm
Easily spotted in 9×50 finder scope. Moderately bright core 1.5′x45″ elongated NNE-SSW surrounded by a moderately faint halo 4′x3′ elongated WNW-SSE showing some mottling. Very faint extensions seem to extend 6′x3.5′ WNW-SSE when observed at low power using averted vision. The HII region NGC 2404 appears as a small round moderately bright knot about 1.5′ ENE of the core. Many superimposed stars are visible.

NGC 2251 OC Mon 06h35m12.8s +08°21’26″ 8.8m 08:05pm
About 30 moderately bright to faint stars within an area roughly 10′x4′ NNW-SSE. Just north of much larger but sparse open cluster Basel 8.

NGC 2421 OC Pup 07h36m41.2s -20°38’18″ 9.0m 08:25pm
Barely detected in 9×50 finder scope. About 25 moderately bright to faint stars within 6′. A double star (mag 10.8 and 11.7) is isolated near the center of the cluster. A few moderately bright stars to the south. Do they belong to this cluster?

NGC 2440 PN Pup 07h42m24.3s -18°14’11″ 11.5m 08:35pm
Appears very bright, small and slightly blue using direct vision at low power (95x). At high magnification (305x), faint extensions can be seen to extend 50″x30″ elongated in the WSW-ENE direction. The core region is very bright, round, featureless, and measures about 25″ in diameter.

NGC 2479 OC Pup 07h55m35.2s -17°44’27″ 9.6m 08:50pm
Appears as a very faint smudge in 9×50 finder scope. About 40 moderately bright stars within 10′.

NGC 2482 OC Pup 07h55m39.6s -24°17’22″ 8.8m 08:55pm
Seen in 9×50 finder scope. About 40 moderately bright stars scattered within 10′. Bright (mag 8.0) slightly yellow star about 8′ WSW.

NGC 2509 OC Pup 08h01m17.0s -19°05’02″ 9.3m 09:00pm
Compact group of over 2 dozen moderately faint stars over a milky background. Dense V-shaped core. Loose subgroup about 3′ E of the core. Best seen at 169x.

NGC 2527 OC Pup 08h05m24.8s -28°10’49″ 8.3m 09:10pm
Best seen at low power (57x) using the Panoptic 27mm. About 2 dozen moderately bright stars failry uniformly spread over an area roughly 8′ in diameter.

NGC 2613 GX Pyx 08h33m51.1s -23°00’44″ 11.1m 09:15pm
Moderately faint core 45″x15″ WNW-ESE surrounded by a fairly faint halo 4′x1′ with the same orientation.

NGC 2506 OC Mon 08h00m31.8s -10°48’05″ 8.9m 09:30pm
Seen in 9×50 finder scope. About 2 dozen moderately bright to moderately faint stars within an area 10′ in diameter over a background of faint stars too numerous to count.

NGC 2539 OC Pup 08h11m07.5s -12°51’08″ 8.0m 09:35pm
Seen in 9×50 finder scope. Located 10′ NW of bright yellow 19 Pup. About 50 moderately bright stars scattered fairly uniformly within an area 12′ in diameter.

NGC 4216 GX Vir 12h16m27.8s +13°05’20″ 11.0m 10:50pm
Small bright core surrounded by a moderately faint halo 7′x1′ elongated SSW-NNE. Fairly faint (mag 13.7) superimposed star 45″ ESE. Smaller and much dimmer NGC 4222 and 4206 were seen in the same field of view at 95x.

NGC 4371 GX Vir 12h25m28.8s +11°38’36″ 11.8m 11:05pm
Small (about 20″) and pretty bright core slightly elongated E-W surrounded by a faint halo 2′x1.5′ with the same orientation.

NGC 4429 GX Vir 12h27m59.9s +11°02’48″ 11.0m 11:10pm
Fairly bright core 45″x30″ elongated E-W with a stellar nucleus, surrounded by a moderately faint halo 4′x1′ with the same orientation. Located less than 2′ SSW of a bright (mag 9.1) star.

NGC 4435 GX Vir 12h28m13.8s +13°01’06″ 11.5m 11:20pm
About 1′ in diameter, slightly elongated N-S. Moderately bright stellar nucleus. Forms a pair called the “Eyes” with NGC 4438 located 5′ SSE.

NGC 4438 GX Vir 12h28m19.2s +12°56’53″ 10.9m 11:20pm
Fairly bright core 45″x15″ elongated NNE-SSW with a bright stellar nucleus. Halo is 3′x1′ in the same direction. Forms a pair called the “Eyes” with NGC 4435 located 5′ NNW.

NGC 4478 GX Vir 12h30m50.8s +12°16’01″ 12.2m 11:40pm
Fairly bright round core 30″ in diameter. Slightly fainter halo extends roughly 1′ in size. Located near M 87 and NGC 4476.

NGC 4365 GX Vir 12h25m01.7s +07°15’24″ 10.5m 11:50pm
Framed by 2 moderately bright field stars. Small (about 20″) bright round core. Faint halo 3′x1′ elongated NE-SW. Forms a nice pair with smaller and fainter NGC 436 located 5′ NE.

NGC 4261 GX Vir 12h19m56.8s +05°45’54″ 11.4m 12:00am
Bright round core 45″ in diameter. Faint halo 2′x1.5′ elongated N-S. Nice field of view with NGC 4257, NGC 4264 and MCG 1-31-53.

OR: Dinosaur Point, 3/10/10

Greg LaFlamme, George Feliz, Scott Baker, Rogelio Bernal Andreo, Al Howard and myself met up at Dinosaur Point last night. The transparency was just about average as predicted by the Clear Sky Clock. The seeing was quite soft early on, but it improved a bit to just about average as the night went on. The entire sky was clear and usable, except maybe for a few wispy clouds to the north. The wind was nonexistent. I did not think of getting a temperature reading during the night, but it was rather cold, causing me to bail out early. I eventually got about 5 hours of observing, and successfully tested new dew control equipment. Most of the objects I observed were bright targets from the Herschel 400 and Messier lists. One of the highlights of the night was seeing the spiral arms of M81 in Greg’s 22″ scope, and later in my own 12″ scope. We also counted a dozen members in the NGC 3158 group located in Leo Minor. When I left, Rogelio was doing “ass-trash photography” (those are his words…) while Al was acquiring data for his next APOD. All in all, a pretty good night! I’m now looking forward to this weekend, carrying the promise of even darker skies. Below is my log for the night. Cheers!

Location: Dinosaur Point [Elevation 648 ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PST)

NGC 2335 OC Mon 07h07m19.6s -10°02’50″ 9.3 mag 07:20p
Barely visible in 9×50 finder scope using averted vision as a small and very pale smudge. This cluster is composed of about 25 moderately bright to moderately faint stars, plus a few fainter ones coming in and out of view, appearing within an area 10′ in diameter. The brightest star (mag 9.5), located near the center of the cluster, appears slightly orange.

NGC 2343 OC Mon 07h08m36.5s -10°38’10″ 7.5 mag 07:25p
Already noticeable in 9×50 finder scope. Contains about 20 moderately bright stars within 6′. There is a tight double (J2782A/B) in the center of the cluster. A pretty double, which brighter component, to the east, appears orange, grazes the eastern edge of the cluster.

NGC 2353 OC Mon 07h15m00.6s -10°17’15″ 5.2 mag 07:35p
Barely visible in 9×50 finder scope. About 40 moderately bright to faint stars scattered within an area 12′x10′ WNW-ESE. A very bright star (mag 6.0) is located at the SW boundary. Hipparcos data seems to show that the brighter stars in this cluster are superimposed field stars (the cluster supposedly being 3,600 ly away from us) which would explain the large brightness distribution.

M 47 OC Pup 07h37m04.8s -14°30’35″ 4.3 mag 07:50p
Easily seen in 9×50 finder scope, along with nearby M46. Composed of about 80 bright to moderately faint stars scattered within 25′. Nice appparent double in the center, with components of similar brightness (mag 6.9 and 7.3). Small and faint cluster NGC 2425 spotted just 30′ SE.

NGC 2423 OC Pup 07h37m35.9s -13°53’53″ 7.0 mag 08:00p
Located about 1° N of much brighter M47. Composed of about 50 stars of similar magnitude scattered within an area 12′ in diameter. Nice apparent double star near the center.

NGC 2438 PN Pup 07h42m21.2s -14°45’34″ 11.0 mag 08:05p
This planetary nebula is embedded inside open cluster M46, providing a striking view at 95x. Fairly bright and round, about 1′ in diameter. A moderately bright star is located just 15″ SE. At 217x, two faint superimposed stars can be seen, the brighter one being located 5″ NW of the center, while the dimmer one is about 5″ W of the center. Using a UHC filter, the nebula shows up as a ring. The marginally darker inner region is about 30″ in diameter. The eastern portion of the rim seems slightly brighter.

NGC 1444 OC Per 03h50m12.0s +52°41’36″ 6.4 mag 08:30p
A bright double star (Struve 446), which components are roughly E-W, separated by 15″, the brighter component being to the E (mag 6.7 and 6.8) is at the heart of this very poor cluster. A line of 4 evenly spaced moderately faint stars starts about 1′ NW and ends 1.5′ W of the double star aforementioned. 6 additional faint stars can be spotted within an area 5′ in diameter. This object is marked as a double star in Uranometria 2nd edition (?)

NGC 2489 OC Pup 07h56m41.1s -30°05’42″ 9.3 mag 08:40p
This cluster is composed of about 3 dozen faint to moderately faint stars, fairly evenly scattered within an area 6′ in diameter. The bright orange PX Pup is located just 25′ S. Also, another cluster, named Haf 20, located about 30′ S, was barely detected.

NGC 2567 OC Pup 08h18m58.5s -30°40’35″ 8.4 mag 08:55p
Detected in 9×50 finder scope. This cluster is composed of about 3 dozen moderately faint stars scattered within an area 10′x5′ WSW-ENE. 6 stars form a 5′ long chain almost N-S located in the middle of the cluster.

NGC 2571 OC Pup 08h19m22.7s -29°47’11″ 7.4 mag 09:00p
About 20 moderately bright to moderately faint stars scattered within an area 6′x3′ WSW-ENE, surrounded by a ring almost devoid of stars about 4′ thick.

NGC 2627 OC Pyx 08h37m42.2s -29°59’42″ 8.4 mag 09:05p
About 2 dozen moderately faint stars over a milky background that seems to be composed of many faint stars, some of which coming in and out view as I looked around, within 6′. The southern edge of this cluster seems to be delimited by a region almost devoid of stars elongated E-W and 6′ wide, with a few more stars just south of it.

NGC 3003 GX LMi 09h49m14.5s +33°22’20″ 12.2 mag 10:00p
Moderately faint, 4′x1′ WSW-ENE, brighter core roughly 1.5′x45″.

NGC 3021 GX LMi 09h51m36.3s +33°30’14″ 12.5 mag 10:05p
Moderately bright, 1.5′x45″ WNW-ESE. Gradually brighter to a faint stellar nucleus. Located 1′ WNW of a moderately bright (mag 11.6) star. Moderately faint superimposed star about 20″ NNE of nucleus that could easily be confused with a supernova.

M 95 GX Leo 10h44m32.4s +11°38’47″ 10.6 mag 10:50p
Spotted in 9×50 finder scope. Bright round core 1′ in diameter, surrounded by a faint diffuse halo 5′x3′ elongated SSW-NNE. Located about 1.5° W of M96.

M 96 GX Leo 10h47m20.4s +11°45’45″ 10.1 mag 11:10p
Spotted in 9×50 finder scope. Bright round core 30″ in diameter, surrounded by a faint featureless halo 5′x3′ elongated NW-SE. Located about 1.5° ENE of M95 and 1.5° SSW of M105.

M 66 GX Leo 11h20m49.2s +12°55’55″ 9.7 mag 11:25p
Member of the famous Leo triplet. Bright core 30″x45″ embedded inside a fairly bright bar 2′x45″ elongated NNW-SSE, surrounded by a fairly faint halo 6′x3′ elongated N-S, appearing slightly mottled and not quite oval.

M 65 GX Leo 11h19m30.0s +13°01’57″ 10.1 mag 11:35p
Member of the famous Leo triplet. Bright round core 1′ in diameter, gradually brighter to a stellar nucleus, surrounded by a moderately faint halo 6′x1′ N-S. Faint superimposed star about 30″ ESE of the nucleus. Photographs of this object show a long dust lane lining up the E of the halo, which I failed to notice.

OR: Henry Coe State Park, 1/13/2010

I decided to take advantage of a break in the weather and headed to Henry Coe state park. There, I found Jeff Weiss and Paul Duncan. Rogelio joined us a short while later, followed by Mark Johnston and his family. Even though it had rained the day before, the overflow parking lot was not as muddy as I had feared. The wind was a bit strong early on, but died down around 8pm. The temperature stabilized in the low 40s. Transparency and seeing were both slightly below average. At times, clouds covered almost the entire sky, only to retreat a few minutes later. My observing list was composed of bright targets, mostly from the Herschel 400 project, and mostly to the East or near the Zenith. I was able to observe until about 9:30pm. Around that time, dew really became a problem. Since I have absolutely no anti-dew equipment, it meant that it was time for me to pack and go home. However, before leaving, using Paul’s (dry) eyepieces, we were able to get half-decent views of Mars, and easily saw Syrtis Major, Utopia Planitia and the north polar cap. Overall, it was a fairly pleasant evening.

Location: Henry Coe state park [Elevation 2600 ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PST)

NGC 1027 OC Cas 02h43m29.3s +61°38’37″ 7.4 mag 06:50pm
About 40 fairly bright to moderately bright stars within an area 20′ wide, centered on a bright (mag 7) yellowish (?) star.

NGC 650 (M76 – Little Dumbbell) PN Per 01h42m59.4s +51°37’54″ 10.1 mag 07:00pm
At low magnifications, this nebula appears bright, rectangular, 2′x1′ elongated NE-SW. At higher magnifications, it appears to be composed of two oval lobes, each being slightly elongated NW-SE, and separated by a “bridge” of slightly lower surface brightness. The lobe to the SW is the brighter of the two, and a faint star appears at its southern edge. A UHC filter reveals faint extensions to the SE and the NW (the SE extension being easier to detect).

NGC 869 (h Persei) OC Per 02h19m44.5s +57°10’49″ 4.3 mag 07:20pm
Striking at low power, when nearby NGC 884 appears in the same field of view. Composed of 100+ bright stars scattered within a 8′ wide area, with a few additional stars to the NW. Two very bright yellowish stars (mag 6.7 and 7.1) stand out near the center.

NGC 884 (Chi Persei) OC Per 02h23m02.8s +57°11’18″ 4.4 mag 07:30pm
Striking at low power, when nearby NGC 869 appears in the same field of view. Composed of 100+ bright stars scattered within an area 15′ in diameter. A few orange stars can be spotted in and around the cluster, the most impressive of which is FZ Per (mag 8.0), located about 10′ WNW of the cluster center region.

NGC 1501 PN Cam 04h07m54.7s +60°57’07″ 12.0 mag 07:55pm
Moderately bright and almost round, very slightly elongated E-W, about 1′ in diameter. Very slightly darker in the center. The northern and southern portions of the rim appear very slightly brighter. Moderately faint (mag 14.4) central star easily visible when not using a narrowband filter. This nebula is also known as the (Blue) Oyster Nebula.

NGC 1502 OC Cam 04h08m47.0s +62°21’46″ 4.1 mag 08:05pm
Located at the southeast end of a popular asterism known as “Kemble’s Cascade”. About 40 moderately bright to very bright stars within an area roughly 7′ in diameter, centered on a close pair of bright yellow stars (Struve 485)

NGC 1535 (Cleopatra’s Eye) PN Eri 04h14m45.8s -12°42’54″ 9.4 mag 08:45pm
Bright, round, about 15″ in diameter, surrounded by a fainter round envelope about 25″ in diameter. The central star was easily seen when not using a UHC filter. The region just around the central star looks slightly darker, although this may be a visual artifact (a DSS image shows that it is indeed real). The nebula shows a very light tinge of blue at low magnifications.

NGC 1664 OC Aur 04h51m52.0s +43°41’41″ 7.2 mag 09:10pm
About 30 moderately bright stars within an area 10′ in diameter. One of the stars (HN Aur) appears prominently red on photographs, but I did not notice it. Since it is a variable star, its redness may vary over time. Some people find that this cluster appears to draw the shape of a kite, which is why it is often nicknamed the “Kite Cluster”. Others have seen the leaf of a clover (Walter Scott Houston). I personally see the shape of a heart. The string of stars to the SSE forms the string of a heart shaped helium balloon…

NGC 1857 OC Aur 05h20m50.6s +39°21’19″ 8.4 mag 09:30pm
About two dozen fairly faint to moderately bright stars scattered within an area 10′ in diameter centered on a bright (mag 7.4) orange star.

NGC 1245 OC Per 03h15m26.0s +47°16’42″ 7.7 mag 09:45pm
Roughly 60 moderately faint stars spread fairly evenly over an 8′ wide area, except for a couple of small regions nearly devoid of stars near the center of the cluster. Bright (mag 8.0) star about 5′ SSE.

OR: D.A.R.C. Observatory, 11/21/2009

After much consideration, I decided to head to the DARC observatory on Saturday night. It was a little bit of a gamble since the clear sky clock had forecast below average to average transparency, which usually means that wispy clouds would pass overhead, possibly ruining my chances of detecting the most subtle details on the faint targets I was planning to observe. But since it was the last opportunity to go out and observe during this new moon, I took the chance and hoped for the best.

I arrived after dark, around 6pm, and quickly setup my equipment next to Peter Nastcher and his 24″ Starmaster telescope (always a prime spot) Shortly after, a “show and tell” presentation took place inside the observatory building. Dr. Bob Caton talked about some of the photographical work he’s done recently with his 4″ wide field refractor and 20″ Ritchey-Chretien telescope. Daniel Stefanescu talked about M1, and I briefly showed off a few photographs of the early construction of my new 16″ F/4 telescope.

Around 8:50pm, the sky got dark enough to start observing. As expected, thin clouds were passing overhead. Thankfully, they remained to the north, and never really interfered with my plans to observe Herschel II objects in Cetus. By 10pm, the sky was completely clear, and the transparency was actually very decent. The NELM was 6.6 in Aries. After midnight, the air became slightly drier and the transparency slightly better, bumping the NELM to 6.7. The wind was non-existant. The temperature was hovering between the mid and the low 30s. The humidity was high, but the optics remained mostly dew free for the entire night.

Among the highlights of the night, I saw the horse head nebula (Barnard 33) for the first time, using my 12″ telescope and a UHC filter. I was actually surprised by how easy it was to detect. Using a Panoptic 27 without a filter, I was even able to see it along with Alnitak (Zeta Orionis) and the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) in the same field of view. What an incredible sight! We also looked at the horse head nebula through Peter’s 24″ scope, and the horse head shape was unmistakable.

The deep red/pink color in M42 was very obvious around the bright blue-green core region and in the two far flung extensions. The E and F stars in the trapezium were easily detected. Finally, Sirius’ companion, affectionately called “the pup”, was seen by several observers.

I would like to thank Dr. Lee Hoglan and Dr. Bob Caton for their continued hospitality. It was a good night, and I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity to observe there. Below is my log for the night. Cheers!

Location: D.A.R.C. Observatory [Elevation 1400ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PST)

NGC 151 GX Cet 00h34m34.6s -09°38’56″ 12.3 mag 09:05pm
2.5′x1′ elongated ENE-WSW. Very faint halo. Moderately faint core, round, approximately 30″ in diameter. Stellar nucleus. Moderately bright star just outside the halo at the ENE end.

NGC 217 GX Cet 00h42m05.7s -09°57’55″ 13.5 mag 09:20pm
Moderately faint core about 1′x30″ elongated WNW-ESE. Very faint stellar nucleus. Extremely faint halo roughly 2′ in length elongated WNW-ESE.

NGC 337 GX Cet 01h00m21.9s -07°31’21″ 12.0 mag 09:50pm
2′x1.2′ elongated NW-SE. Moderately faint, very slightly brighter in the center. Subtle hints of mottling detected (?)

NGC 357 GX Cet 01h03m53.7s -06°17’02″ 13.2 mag 10:05pm
Round, 20″ in diameter. Hints of a stellar nucleus (?) Only the core was positevely detected. The halo must be extremely faint! Moderately faint star about 40″ E.

NGC 636 GX Cet 01h39m38.2s -07°27’37″ 12.4 mag 10:15pm
Fairly bright core, round, 20″ in diameter, fairly bright stellar nucleus, very faint halo, gradually dimmer toward the outside. Did not note the extent and position angle of the halo.

NGC 428 GX Cet 01h13m28.0s +01°02’13″ 11.9 mag 10:45pm
3′x2′ elongated NW-SE, moderately faint. Very slightly brighter core, round, 45″ in diameter. Two bright stars (mag 8.6 and 8.7) about 8′ W and 8′ NNE. Interestingly enough, I did not note the presence of two prominent albeit dimmer stars (mag 11.9 and 12.5) located just outside the halo to the S and the NW.

NGC 1045 GX Cet 02h41m00.0s -11°14’01″ 13.5 mag 10:55pm
Fairly faint, round, 30″ in diameter. Moderately faint stellar nucleus.

NGC 991 GX Cet 02h36m04.2s -07°06’32″ 12.9 mag 11:30pm
Very faint uniform glow about 1.5′ in diameter, very slightly brighter core. Moderately bright star (mag 13.4) about 1.5′ S.

NGC 1035 GX Cet 02h40m00.6s -08°05’23″ 12.9 mag 11:45pm
2′x30″ elongated NNW-SSE, moderately faint, fairly uniform. Moderately faint star at the SSE tip.

NGC 1087 GX Cet 02h46m57.7s -00°27’17″ 11.5 mag 12:05am
2′x1′ elongated N-S. Moderately bright, pretty uniform, very slightly brighter core.

NGC 1090 GX Cet 02h47m06.5s -00°12’11″ 12.6 mag 12:10am
2′x1′ elongated E-W, fairly faint, pretty uniform. Slightly brighter core about 20″ in diameter. Pretty faint star (mag 15.2) just 45″ S.

NGC 1032 GX Cet 02h39m56.4s +01°08’21″ 12.6 mag 12:30am
2′x45″ elongated ENE-WSW. Moderately faint core, about 30″ in diameter, slightly elongated ENE-WSW. Three moderately bright stars (mag 13.2, 13.2 and 13.5) to the E, NE and N, about 1.5′ from the core.

NGC 1070 GX Cet 02h43m55.6s +05°00’47″ 12.6 mag 12:40am
Moderately faint core, about 30″ in diameter, very slightly elongated N-S. Very faint halo, about 1.5′ in diameter.

NGC 1073 GX Cet 02h44m13.0s +01°25’13″ 11.6 mag 01:05am
Round, uniform, faint glow, about 4′ in diameter. Extremely slightly brighter core. A DSS image shows that this galaxy is a barred spiral. I did not see any visual evidence of that.

NGC 1514 (Crystal Ball Nebula) PN Tau 04h09m57.0s +30°48’15″ 10.8 mag 01:30am
Moderately faint, roundish nebulosity, about 2′ in diameter, very slightly elongated NNW-SSE, surrounding a bright star (mag 9.4). Appears uniform at first. A UHC filter reveals irregularities in brightness. The nebulosity appears slightly dimmer around the central star, although this may be a visual artifact due to the presence of the bright central star (a DSS image shows that it is indeed a real feature). Hints of mottling. Brighter knots to the SSE and NNW.

NGC 1762 GX Ori 05h04m10.0s +01°35’21″ 13.4 mag 01:40am
Very faint glow, less than 1′ in diameter, possibly slightly elongated N-S. Moderately faint superimposed star just 15″ E.

NGC 1587 GX Tau 04h31m12.8s +00°41’09″ 12.7 mag 01:50am
Round, about 45″ in diameter, moderately faint, gradually brighter toward the center. Forms a nice tight pair with NGC 1588, located just 1′ E.

From Dream To Reality

I have always been a pragmatic person. While designing my telescope using computer assisted design software was a very rewarding experience, I have felt a much greater sense of accomplishment making it happen. This is why I am very proud to show off the mirror box of my future telescope. This is the result of 4 nights of work at the sawdust shop in Sunnyvale. I am very happy with the way it turned out, and look forward to getting more work done in the next few weeks! Note: click on the thumbnails below to see the full size photographs.




OR: Dinosaur Point, 11/14/09

After a short (55 minutes) and pleasant drive, I arrived at Dinosaur Point early (around 4pm) because of the new access rules, and to have plenty of time to setup my equipment. Albert Highe, George Feliz and Peter Natscher arrived shortly after and setup right next to me. Dave Cooper, Jamie Dillon, Bob Jardine and Al Howard were a little further down the parking lot. What a great team of observers! (ok, Al doesn’t really count as an observer, but he’s cool nonetheless)

The wind was non-existant. The temperature dropped from the low 60s to the mid to low 40s, which is not a huge difference. This always helps with the seeing, especially in large newtonians. The transparency was about average until about 9pm, when it got slightly better. At 9:30pm, I did a NELM test in Triangulum and obtained 6.3, which is pretty good for the site.

Since I don’t have a whole lot of Herschel 400 targets left around this time of the year, I decided to observe mostly Herschel II objects, and finished the night with a couple of galaxy groups from Alvin Huey’s “Selected small galaxy groups” observing guide. Among the highlights of the night, we observed NGC 891 and M 33 through Peter’s 24″ Starmaster telescope. The views were absolutely breathtaking! We also looked at the hydrogen filaments inside M 1, which we also detected through George’s 13″ scope, and to a lesser extent in my own 12″ scope.

Overall, I was very pleased with the evening, and it reminded me of why I like Dinosaur Point so much: short easy drive, fairly good skies, setup on a paved parking lot, in bed by 2am after 6+ hours of observing! Below is my log for the night. Cheers!

Location: Dinosaur Point [Elevation 648 ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PST)

NGC 7184 GX Aqr 22h03m13.7s -20°45’54″ 11.7 mag 06:20pm
Moderately faint slightly elongated core, stellar nucleus, very faint halo elongated 3×1 ENE-WSW. Very faint superimposed star about 1′ ENE of nucleus. Fairly bright star at the ENE end of the halo.

NGC 7218 GX Aqr 22h10m45.0s -16°36’39″ 12.4 mag 06:40pm
2′x1′ elongated NNE-SSW. Gradually brighter toward a moderately faint core. Moderately bright superimposed stars 1′ E and 1′ NNE. Best seen at 217x.

NGC 7171 GX Aqr 22h01m35.0s -13°13’17″ 13.1 mag 06:50pm
Moderately large, very low surface brightness, only very slightly brighter in the core. Elongated 3:2 NW-SE. Extremely faint superimposed star 1′ E.

NGC 7377 GX Aqr 22h48m20.9s -22°15’31″ 12.1 mag 07:10pm
Small (about 1′ in diameter), round and fairly bright. Stellar nucleus. A small grouping of 5 fairly bright stars is located just SW of this galaxy.

NGC 7392 GX Aqr 22h52m21.9s -20°33’18″ 12.6 mag 07:20pm
2′x1′ elongated WNW-ESE. Stellar nucleus embedded inside a fairly bright small core.

NGC 7600 GX Aqr 23h19m26.0s -07°31’25″ 12.9 mag 07:35pm
1.5′x1′ elongated ENE-WSW. Moderately faint stellar nucleus.

NGC 7156 GX Peg 21h55m04.6s +02°59’32″ 13.3 mag 08:00pm
Small (about 1′ in diameter), round, dim, fairly uniform, only slightly brighter core.

NGC 7177 GX Peg 22h01m10.3s +17°47’23″ 11.9 mag 08:10pm
Round bright core, about 1′ in diameter, surrounded by a faint halo 2.5′x1.5′ elongated E-W. Stellar nucleus. Best seen at 217x.

NGC 7332 GX Peg 22h37m54.1s +23°51’14″ 12.0 mag 08:25pm
Very bright stellar nucleus embedded inside a bright compact core. Moderately faint halo roughly 2.5′x45″ elongated NNW-SSE. Forms a beautiful pair with NGC 7339 at 217x.

NGC 7742 GX Peg 23h44m47.4s +10°49’32″ 12.3 mag 08:50pm
Small (about 1′ in diameter), round, fairly bright, gradually brighter to a stellar nucleus. Mag 12.7 star just 1.5′ ESE.

NGC 23 GX Peg 00h10m25.7s +25°59’00″ 12.8 mag 09:05pm
Small (< 1') round faint halo, fairly bright almost stellar core. A fairly bright star is at the SSW end. Forms a nice pair with dimmer NGC 26.

NGC 604 BN Tri 01h35m11.7s +30°50’17″ mag 09:25pm
This nebula physically belongs to M33. Seen easily in a 12″ scope as a bright round patch about 1′ in size. In Peter Natscher’s 24″ scope, its shape appears slightly irregular.

NGC 598 (M 33) GX Tri 01h34m26.5s +30°42’53″ 6.4 mag 09:25pm
Barely detected naked eye. Easily seen in 9×50 finder scope, including the broad S-shaped spiral structure. Elongated 3:2 NNE-SSW. Large bright round core. Appears amazing in a 12″ scope, with lots of fine details easily visible in the spiral arms. Absolutely dazzling though Peter Natscher’s 24″ scope! Several NGC objects physically belong to M33: NGC 604, NGC 595, NGC 592 and NGC 588. All were seen very easily in a 12″ scope.

NGC 7640 GX And 23h22m36.4s +40°54’19″ 11.6 mag 09:40pm
6′x1.5′ elongated NNW-SSE. Moderately faint halo with a slightly brighter core. Slight impression of mottling. Fairly bright superimposed star just SE of the core. 2 superimposed stars in the halo N of the core.

NGC 206 BN And 00h41m04.3s +40°47’34″ mag 09:45pm
Star cloud that physically belongs to M31. Located about 40′ SW of M31′s core. Roughly 5′x2′ elongated N-S. Fairly faint.

NGC 214 GX And 00h42m01.3s +25°33’29″ 12.9 mag 10:00pm
Fairly small (1.5′x1′), elongated ENE-WSW, moderately faint, pretty uniform, slightly brighter core. Barely detected stellar nucleus.

NGC 1068 (M 77) GX Cet 02h43m13.3s +00°01’54″ 9.7 mag 10:20pm
Roughly circular, moderately faint halo, about 2′ in diameter, very slightly elongated N-S. Bright slightly S-shaped core elongated 3:2 NE-SW containing a very bright stellar nucleus. Some mottling visible (hints of broader spiral arms emanating from the core)

NGC 672 GX Tri 01h48m30.0s +27°29’11″ 11.4 mag 10:50pm
5′x2′ elongated ENE-WSW, pretty uniform, moderately bright. Forms a nice pair with much dimmer galaxy IC 1727 located about 8′ SW.

NGC 925 GX Tri 02h27m54.9s +33°37’36″ 10.6 mag 11:10pm
4′x2′ elongated WNW-ESE. Moderately faint, pretty uniform, slightly brighter core. Many fairly bright field stars enhance the view.

NGC 890 GX Tri 02h22m38.8s +33°18’53″ 12.8 mag 11:15pm
Small (about 1.5′x45″) elongated NE-SW. Fairly bright, gradually brighter to an almost stellar nucleus.

NGC 68 group
Pretty compact. A few field stars distract the observer, making the 3 galaxies in the center harder to spot.
NGC 68
NGC 69 (very faint)
NGC 70
NGC 71
NGC 72
NGC 72A (very faint)
NGC 74 (very faint)

NGC 383 group
Fairly bright members, loose group.
NGC 373 (faint)
NGC 375 (faint)
NGC 379
NGC 380
NGC 382
NGC 383
NGC 384
NGC 385
NGC 386 (faint)
NGC 387 (very faint)
NGC 388

Entering the World of Amateur Telescope Making

For the past few weeks, I’ve been designing my next telescope, an Albert Highe inspired 16″ dobsonian. The decision to build my own telescope stemmed from the fact that I knew exactly what I wanted, and I could not get it from any of the well known US telescope manufacturers. In addition, I wanted to learn new skills, including computer assisted design and woodworking. The image to the left is the latest rendering of the optical tube assembly as I envisioned it (click for a higher resolution image). Below are my original specifications:


  • The mirror box and rocker box must fit together within 24″ x 24″ x 18″, so that it fits in my car.
  • The eyepiece height cannot exceed 64″, so that I don’t have to use a step stool or a ladder.
  • The weight of the heaviest component cannot exceed 40 lbs, so that I can easily lift it.
  • Overall cost must not exceed $5,000.

I opted for a 16″ F/4 mirror, which should fit my goals. In the next few months, I will be posting photographs as I build and assemble the various parts that make up the telescope. Stay tuned!

OR: Deep Sky Ranch, 10/16/09: Tarentulas and Galaxy Clusters

I had originally planned to go to the DARC observatory on Saturday night. However, due to a dismal weather forecast, I was forced to rethink my plans. The forecast for Friday night was actually looking pretty good, and an opportunity came up to go to Willow Springs. I had never been up there before, so I jumped at the opportunity, packed my gear in a hurry, and headed down to Deep Sky Ranch.

While driving on Little Panoche Rd, something interesting caught my eye: a tarantula was slowly crossing the roadway. On the way back this morning, I pulled over to take this photograph:

Willow Springs is a great place for deep sky visual observing. The sky is fairly dark, and the only really noticeable light dome, emanating from Hollister, is not much of a problem. Here is a summary of last night’s weather conditions:

  • No wind.
  • Temperatures in the low 50s.
  • Average seeing.
  • Average transparency.
  • Very high humidity: my table top and paper charts were soaked, and my eyepieces were covered in dew.

Were present Steve Gottlieb, Mark Wagner, Mark Johnston, Rogelio Bernal Andreo, Richard Navarette and of course our gracious host, Kevin Ritschel. Here is a photo of famous DobZilla, Kevin’s 30″ dobsonian telescope:

Since I am almost done with the Herschel 400 list, I had decided to start a new project: observing the galaxy groups featured in one of Alvin Huey’s free downloadable observing guides: Selected Small Galaxy Groups. These galaxy groups are fascinating because they are a real test of the observer’s visual acuity and equipment. Although the brightest members are usually immediately detected, these groups reward patient observers. The more time is spent at the eyepiece, the greater the number of galaxies that become visible! This way, I was able to detect a good number of members after spending about 30 minutes on a given group. I did not take detailed notes of my observations this time around, but I did write down the list of members I was positively able to detect. All observations were done using my Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5 dobsonian telescope, and using mostly my 9mm Televue Nagler type 6.

NGC 383 Group (also known as the Pisces Group)
NGC 373/NGC 375/NGC 379/NGC 380/NGC 382/NGC 383/NGC 384/NGC 385/NGC 386/NGC 387 (hard!)/NGC 388

NGC 3 Group (Pisces)
NGC 3/NGC 4 (hard!)/NGC 7837/NGC 7838

NGC 507 Group (Pisces)
NGC 494/NGC 495/NGC 496/NGC 499/NGC 501/NGC 503/NGC 504/NGC 507/NGC 508/NGC 515/NGC 517/IC 1682/IC 1687/IC 1689/IC 1690

NGC 80 Group (Andromeda) – Featured in the current edition of S&T’s “Going Deep” column.
NGC 79/NGC 80/NGC 81 (hard!)/NGC 83/MGC 4-2-10 (PGC 1384, and also sometimes incorrectly labeled NGC 84) (hard!)/NGC 85/NGC 86/NGC 90/NGC 93/NGC 94/NGC 96
I also observed this group through Mark Johnston 18″ scope, and confirmed seeing some of the dimmest members.

Perseus Cluster
NGC 1129/NGC 1130/NGC 1131/IC 265/MCG 7-7-3 (PGC 10953)/MCG 7-7-8 (PGC 10980)

Big thanks to Kevin Ritschel for hosting this star party and for sharing stunning views through DobZilla. Also, big thanks to Alvin Huey for putting together the observing guides and making them freely downloadable on his web site.

OR: Henry Coe State Park, 10/10/09

Mark Johnston, Peter Krottje and I met at the overflow parking lot at Henry Coe state park last night. I brought my Meade Lightbridge 12″ (after flocking the inside of the UTA with black velvet ordered from Edmund Optics), while Mark brought both his 18″ Starmaster dobsonian as well as a newly acquired equatorially mounted 190mm Orion Mak-Newt. Peter was using his homemade 10″ ultra light dobsonian.

The sky grew darker as the evening went on thanks to the fog dimming the lights emanating from San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy. By 11pm, we were getting SQM readings of almost 21.2, which is pretty good for Henry Coe. The transparency however was clearly below average, and the low level haze was causing some obvious dimming up to 15 degrees of elevation, especially to the south and the west. The sky was however more than decent between the north east and the south east, which is where I spent most of the night, observing mostly open clusters in Andromeda, Lacerta and Cassiopeia.

Here’s a summary of the weather conditions:

  • Average seeing.
  • Mild (but annoying) westerly wind.
  • Surprisingly cold (I had to really bundle up, and almost needed gloves by 11pm)

Here are some of the highlights of the evening:

  • 18 open clusters from the Herschel 400 list. Most of them were honestly not very interesting, except maybe the ET cluster, and a couple of clusters in Cassiopeia that happened to fit within the same FOV of my Pan 27, showing some differences in structure.
  • We observed the California nebula with my 50mm finder scope using a 16mm Nagler type 5 and a UHC filter. We got a much better view through Mark’s 190mm Orion Mak-Newt using a wide field eyepiece and an H-beta filter.
  • We saw the fourth flea around NGC 7331 through Mark’s 18″ scope, and I later caught a glimpse of it in my 12″ scope, although it was coming in and out of view (knowing where to look really helps!)
  • The GRS was transiting. A darker slightly elongated region was spotted right next to it. Probably some disturbance in the equatorial band.
  • There was a nice shadow transit by Io on Jupiter.

It was my first night using the Orion self-centering adapter (instead of a standard 1 1/4″ adapter with a tightening ring) and I have to say that I really liked it! I’m sure it will be very handy this winter when switching eyepieces while wearing gloves.

I took off around midnight, and was soundly asleep by 1am. Overall, it was a good night, and I’m glad I went out. I’m looking forward to observing under darker skies next weekend to start on the Herschel II list, since I’m running out of Herschel I objects. Below is my log for the night. Cheers!

Location: Henry Coe state park [Elevation 2600 ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PDT)

NGC 7296 OC Lac 22h28m27.3s +52°22’19″ 9.7 mag 08:00pm
About 30 stars, a dozen of which are fairly bright, grouped within an area roughly 4′ in diameter. Relatively inconspicuous, best seen at 217x.

NGC 7243 OC Lac 22h15m32.9s +49°57’09″ 6.7 mag 08:05pm
About 80 stars, 20 of which are pretty bright, within an area 25′ x 15′ elongated NE-SW. The center region, delimited to the west by a nice double star, is very sparsely populated.

NGC 7209 OC Lac 22h05m32.1s +46°32’11″ 7.8 mag 08:10pm
About 80 stars, 40 of which are uniformly pretty bright, within an area 20′ x 15′ elongated NNE-SSW. Moderately bright and slightly orange star near the center. Bright yellow star (HT Lac, mag 6.2) about 15′ N.

NGC 7686 OC And 23h30m37.3s +49°11’31″ 5.6 mag 08:15pm
About 30 moderately faint to moderately bright stars grouped within an area 15′ in diameter centered on a bright yellow-orange star (HD 221246, mag 6.2)

NGC 7789 OC Cas 23h57m56.4s +56°46’02″ 7.5 mag 08:50pm
Very rich and fairly compact. Very large number of moderately faint stars of comparable brightness scattered pretty uniformly within a roughly circular area 15′ in diameter.

NGC 7790 OC Cas 23h58m56.7s +61°16’01″ 7.2 mag 09:00pm
About 20 moderately faint stars within an area roughly 5′ x 3′ elongated E-W. The proximity of numerous star clusters in the vicinity (esp. NGC 7788) makes this cluster interesting to track down.

NGC 129 OC Cas 00h30m36.0s +60°16’34″ 9.8 mag 09:10pm
Located 15′ NNW of a bright star (HD 2626, mag 5.9) This cluster contains a good number of moderately bright to fairly bright stars. It is not very well delimited, especially to the north, making star counts unreliable. A few fairly bright stars form a ring elongated 3:2 NW-SE.

NGC 136 OC Cas 00h32m07.4s +61°34’04″ mag 09:20pm
Maybe a dozen faint stars grouped within an area 1.5′ in diameter. About 6′ NE of a fairly bright yellowish star (SAO 11238, mag 8.4) This cluster is so inconspicuous that a good atlas is a must to confirm that you’re indeed looking at the right spot.

NGC 381 OC Cas 01h08m59.4s +61°38’19″ 9.3 mag 09:30pm
Fairly sparse cluster containing about 30 moderately faint to moderately bright stars within an area roughly 6′ in diameter. Best seen at 169x.

NGC 225 (Sailboat Cluster) OC Cas 00h44m16.8s +61°49’55″ 8.9 mag 09:35pm
About 30 bright stars within an area 12′ x 8′ elongated NE-SW. Requires some imagination to see the outline of a sailboat…

NGC 457 (ET Cluster) OC Cas 01h20m15.4s +58°20’27″ 5.1 mag 09:40pm
Two bright stars (mag 5 and 7, the one to the NE being the brighter), located at the western end of the cluster, about 3′ apart, form the eyes of the ET cluster. A narrow group of stars, elongated NW-SE, form the body, and a few more bright stars form the arms.

NGC 559 OC Cas 01h30m14.5s +63°21’35″ 7.4 mag 10:25pm
About 30 fairly faint stars within an area roughly 5′ in diameter. Best seen at 169x.

NGC 436 OC Cas 01h16m38.2s +58°51’58″ 9.3 mag 10:25pm
Fairly compact cluster containing about 25 moderately bright to moderately faint stars within an area 5′ in diameter. Best seen at 169x.

NGC 637 OC Cas 01h43m49.4s +64°05’29″ 7.3 mag 10:35pm
Small, compact group of about 20 stars, 5 of which are fairly bright, the others are fairly faint, within an area roughly 3′ in diameter elongated NE-SW. Best seen at 217x.

NGC 654 OC Cas 01h44m44.2s +61°56’11″ 8.2 mag 10:40pm
About 40 moderately faint stars within 5′. Best seen at 169x. Located 3′ NNW of a bright yellow-orange star (HD 10494, mag 7.3) Fits with NGC 663 in the same field of view of my Panoptic 27mm eyepiece, showing some nice difference in structure.

NGC 663 OC Cas 01h46m53.1s +61°17’10″ 6.4 mag 10:40pm
About 80 fairly bright stars within an area 15′ x 10′ elongated NW-SE. Fits with NGC 654 in the same field of view of my Panoptic 27mm eyepiece, showing some nice difference in structure.

NGC 659 OC Cas 01h45m07.6s +60°43’29″ 7.2 mag 10:45pm
About 15 moderately faint stars within an area 4′ in diameter. Best seen at 169x. Located about 15′ NE of a trio of bright stars.

NGC 752 OC And 01h58m18.5s +37°50’08″ 6.6 mag 10:50pm
Seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy spot between Tri and And. Best seen using the 50mm finder scope using a 16mm Nagler type 5 eyepiece. In my 12″ scope, using a Panoptic 27mm eyepiece, more than 100 bright stars are visible. Two bright yellowish stars were seen near the south-western boundary (56 And and HD 11727, mag 5.7 and 5.9 respectively)

CalStar 2009

I was only able to attend the first two nights of CalStar, an annual Star Party that takes place at Lake San Antonio in California. The first night (Thu, Sep 17), the transparency was mediocre (when I called it a night, around 2am, Jupiter was surrounded by a bright halo…). Therefore, I used that first night to focus on bright easy objects. The second night (Fri, Sep 18) was much better with an NELM of 6.7 in UMi. Seeing on both nights was about average. However, the high temperatures during the day caused my (thick) mirror to take many hours to cool down, even with the fan on (and I made the mistake of keeping the shroud on…)

Among the highlights, I was able to see Uranus (easy) and M 33 (hard) naked eye, as well as catch the two brightest satellites of Uranus with my scope. Dave Cooper and Peter Natscher also shared some superb views in their scopes (respectively an AP 6″ apo refractor and a 24″ F/3.7 Starmaster dobsonian telescope)

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had during the day with fellow observers. That’s why I’ve come to love star parties. Even if the weather is not so great, it’s always a fantastic opportunity to learn new things.

Below is my log for both nights. Most objects are from the Herschel 400 list. From now on, I will start mixing in Herschel II and Herschel I objects in my observing routine, in addition to some objects from Alvin Huey’s awesome free guides: “Selected Small Galaxy Groups” and “Selected Galaxy Trios” (which I had printed and coil binded at Fedex Kinko’s) Cheers!

Location: Lake San Antonio [Elevation 1082 ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x – 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x – 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x – 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x – 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x – 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PDT)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NGC 7142 OC Cep 21h45m25.3s +65°49’26″ 10.0 mag 08:40pm
Very inconspicuous group of about 40 moderately faint stars over a milky background. Slightly elongated WNW-ESE. A few brighter stars delimit this cluster on the north and east sides.

NGC 7331 GX Peg 22h37m33.1s +34°28’14″ 10.2 mag 09:00pm
Elongated 3×1 NNW-SSE. Fairly bright core region surrounding a bright stellar nucleus visible at 217x and 305x during brief moments of better seeing. The halo is rather dim compared to the core. It extends about 6′ along its major axis. The western half of the galaxy looks darker, due to the presence of a dark lane. Very faint superimposed star about 2′ SSE of nucleus. NGC 7335, NGC 7337 and NGC 7340 were easily detected. NGC 7336 was not detected. I did not search for nearby NGC 7325 and NGC 7326.

NGC 6210 (Turtle Nebula) PN Her 16h44m54.4s +23°47’05″ 9.7 mag 09:25pm
At 95x, this planetary nebula appears bright, almost stellar, and exhibits an obvious blue color. At 217x and 305x, the color is a bit washed out. At those magnifications, this planetary nebula appears round and very uniform, about 10 to 15″ in diameter, and seems to be surrounded by a slightly larger and rather faint envelope (unless this is scattered light). I did not detect a central star.

NGC 6572 (Blue Racquetball) PN Oph 18h12m35.8s +06°51’28″ 8.0 mag 09:40pm
At 95x, this planetary nebula appears bright, stellar, and exhibits an obvious blue color. At 217x and 305x, the color is a bit washed out. At those magnifications, this planetary nebula appears very uniform, roughly 10″ in diameter, and seems surrounded by a very faint envelope about 3 times the size of the nebula (unless this is scattered light). I did not detect a central star. There is a faint group of a dozen stars 10′ west.

NGC 7217 GX Peg 22h08m20.6s +31°24’39″ 11.1 mag 10:35pm
Bright, round non stellar core surrounded by a larger, relatively bright uniform halo. Faint superimposed star less than 1′ NNE of the core.

NGC 7814 GX Peg 00h03m47.1s +16°12’11″ 11.6 mag 10:50pm
Moderately bright and large. Appears roundish at first, progressively brighter toward its center. At higher magnification and with careful examination, a faint halo extending NW-SE can be detected. The bisecting dust lane obvious on photographs was not seen.

NGC 7448 GX Peg 23h00m34.6s +16°02’10″ 12.1 mag 11:00pm
Pretty small, moderately bright, elongated 2×1 NNW-SSE, faint nucleus seen intermittently at high magnification. Suspected the detached segment that makes this galaxy peculiar to be at the northern tip of the galaxy.

Mayall II (M31-G1) GC And 00h33m20.0s +39°38’04″ 13.7 mag 12:20am
Appears faint and stellar, thus requiring a very detailed chart to find! Forms a very tight triangle with two field stars. In order to confirm the observation, I sketched a few field stars along with the position of the presumed globular. The result is very close to the sketch published by Sue French in the December 2005 issue of Sky & Telescope’s Deep Sky Wonder column. I believe that excellent seeing and high magnification are essential to see the non-stellar nature of this target.

NGC 205 (M 110) GX And 00h40m56.5s +41°44’30″ 8.9 mag 12:30am
Fairly large and bright, elongated 2×1 NW-SE, gradually brighter to a stellar nucleus.

NGC 891 GX And 02h23m12.6s +42°23’30″ 10.9 mag 12:45am
Moderately faint, elongated roughly 6×1 NNE-SSW, about 12′ along its major axis. The dust lane splitting this galaxy in half is clearly visible only through the central bulge. Several fairly bright stars are superimposed. Peter Natscher’s 24″ scope showed the bisecting dust lane much more clearly, along with some mottling.

NGC 7293 (Helix) PN Aqr 22h30m12.6s -20°47’05″ 6.3 mag 12:55am
Large, fairly dim, best seen using a UHC filter at low power. The ring structure, very slightly elongated NW-SE, can easily be seen. The NW and SE portions of the rim are clearly dimmer. A few superimposed stars, including what appears to be the central star, can be seen inside the ring over a faint background.

NGC 7662 (Blue Snowball) PN And 23h26m24.4s +42°35’30″ 8.6 mag 01:30am
At 95x, this planetary nebula appears bright, stellar, and looks slightly bluish. At 217x and 305x, the center region of the nebula appears darker, and an elliptical ring oriented roughly E-W can be detected. What I failed to see is the lumpy texture of the ring, beautifully documented in the October 2009 issue of Astronomy Now’s Drawn To The Universe column.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NGC 6822 (Barnard’s Galaxy) GX Sgr 19h45m32.4s -14°46’43″ 9.4 mag 08:30pm
Large (roughly 15′ x 10′), elongated NNE-SSW, extremely pale, very easy to miss when sweeping the area, which is probably why this galaxy was missed by Herschel and was discovered so late (Barnard, 1881). There are a few superimposed stars throughout. A couple of small knots (probably HII regions) were seen using a UHC filter (although I did not note their position) This galaxy is part of the Local Group of galaxies.

NGC 7027 PN Cyg 21h07m25.2s +42°16’47″ 9.6 mag 08:50pm
Small, bright, exhibiting an obvious blue color, elongated 3:2 NW-SE, rectangular in shape, slightly wider on the NW side. A faint outer envelope, about twice the size of the nebula, was suspected (unless it could be scattered light)

NGC 6503 GX Dra 17h49m20.4s +70°08’46″ 10.8 mag 09:15pm
Fairly bright, moderately large, elongated 3×1 WNW-ESE, fairly uniform with only a slight brightening of the core region. Detected a very weak nucleus or superimposed star.

NGC 7023 BN Cep 21h01m45.3s +68°12’26″ mag 09:40pm
Fairly dim nebulosity, roughly 2′ in diameter, around V380 Cep (mag 7.4). Dim patch around 2 to 3′ south of V380 Cep (photographs confirm the presence of this extension). A UHC filter makes the nebula disappear, confirming its reflective nature.

NGC 7479 GX Peg 23h05m28.0s +12°22’45″ 11.7 mag 10:20pm
Moderately bright, fairly small, elongated 5:2 N-S, weak fairly large core. Moderately bright (mag 12.9) superimposed star at the northern end, slightly dimmer (mag 13.7) star about 1′ SW of the center. Suspected some mottling in the core. This galaxy is actually a barred spiral. The arms should be visible under better conditions and with a slightly larger scope.

NGC 7078 (M 15) GC Peg 21h30m28.0s +12°12’47″ 6.3 mag 10:25pm
Fairly large, very bright, very intense core, resolved throughout. Located about 7′ SW of a bright (mag 7.6) star.

NGC 7099 (M 30) GC Cap 21h40m57.3s -23°07’56″ 6.9 mag 10:35pm
Moderately large and bright, well defined core, well resolved throughout. The SE region looks darker. Quite a few brighter stars are visible in the halo.

NGC 404 (Mirach’s Ghost) GX And 01h10m01.9s +35°46’21″ 11.2 mag 11:00pm
Located about 7′ NW of Mirach (Beta And), a mag 2.0 star exhibiting a beautiful golden color. Moderately bright and small, round, gradually brighter to a fairly bright stellar nucleus best seen at high magnification.

NGC 628 (M 74) GX Psc 01h37m15.2s +15°50’11″ 9.7 mag 11:35pm
Fairly bright and small core embedded inside a large round faint halo showing hints of mottling at higher magnification. Very faint superimposed star within 1′ ESE of the center, slightly brighter one about 1.5′ ENE. Spiral structure better seen in Peter Natscher’s 24″ scope.

NGC 7606 GX Aqr 23h19m37.3s -08°25’42″ 11.7 mag 12:10am
Moderately large and bright, elongated 2×1 NNW-SSE, fairly bright stellar core, uniform halo.

NGC 7727 GX Aqr 23h40m26.2s -12°14’02″ 11.6 mag 12:20am
Fairly small and bright, small round intense core, round uniform halo. NGC 7723 and NGC 7724 nearby.

NGC 7723 GX Aqr 23h39m29.4s -12°54’15″ 11.9 mag 12:25am
Fairly small, moderately faint, moderately bright stellar nucleus surrounded by a fairly uniform halo elongated 3:2 NE-SW. Located about 20′ ENE of a bright yellow double star. NGC 7727 and NGC 7724 nearby.

NGC 253 (Sculptor Galaxy) GX Scl 00h48m04.1s -25°13’53″ 7.9 mag 12:45am
Very easily seen along globular cluster NGC 288 in 9×50 finder scope. Very large and bright, elongated 6×1 NE-SW. The core region is large, bright, and shows some obvious mottling (seen even better in Peter Natscher’s 24″ scope). Numerous fairly bright field stars are superimposed.

NGC 247 GX Cet 00h47m39.8s -20°42’11″ 9.7 mag 12:55am
Pretty large, moderately faint, elongated 6×1 N-S, very weak central condensation. Fairly bright (mag 9.5) star at the southern tip, moderately bright (mag 11.6) superimposed star about 7′ S.

NGC 288 GC Scl 00h53m15.8s -26°31’34″ 8.1 mag 01:00am
Very easily seen along galaxy NGC 253 in 9×50 finder scope. Fairly large and bright, fairly uniform, well resolved throughout.

NGC 613 GX Scl 01h34m47.8s -29°21’46″ 10.7 mag 01:10am
Moderately large and bright, elongated 3×1 NW-SE, fairly bright small round core. Hints of two spiral arms, one starting at the NW end, bending towards the W, and a symmetrical arm starting at the SE end, bending towards the E.

NGC 7793 GX Scl 23h58m22.3s -32°32’00″ 9.7 mag 01:15am
Moderately large, fairly faint, elongated 4:3 E-W, faint almost stellar core.

NGC 524 GX Psc 01h25m20.5s +09°35’35″ 11.4 mag 01:30am
Bright, fairly small. Intense core surrounding an almost stellar nucleus. Fairly bright round halo. Brightest member of the Shakhbazian 40 group.

NGC 1023 GX Per 02h41m02.8s +39°06’23″ 9.6 mag 01:35am
Moderately large, fairly bright, small bright round core, halo elongated 2×1 E-W. Two faint superimposed stars about 1′ W of the center, and one faint superimposed star about 1′ E. The companion NGC 1023A was not seen.

NGC 488 GX Psc 01h22m19.2s +05°18’41″ 11.1 mag 02:00am
Fairly small and bright, bright round core surrounded by a halo very slightly elongated N-S.

NGC 185 GX Cas 00h39m32.8s +48°23’36″ 10.2 mag 02:15am
This is a satellite of M31. Fairly large, pretty uniform, large faint core surrounded by a halo elongated 4:3 NNE-SSE. Located in a crowded region of the milky way. Could not detect the dust patch seen on photographs.

NGC 278 GX Cas 00h52m39.9s +47°36’20″ 11.5 mag 02:30am
Fairly small, pretty bright, fairly bright stellar nucleus, round uniform halo. Located about 3′ S of a bright (mag 8.8) field star.