OR: DARC Observatory, 8/14/2010: Prison escapees enjoy dark and steady skies

When I showed up at the entrance of the Hollister BLM access road, off of Little Panoche Rd, around 7pm, I saw Dr. Lee Hoglan, Craig Scull, Peter Nastcher, Tony Hurtado and Mark Johnston fiddling with the gate. Apparently, a land owner had added their own combo lock in addition to the existing lock, and nobody knew the combination code! As I was privately entertaining the idea of setting up my equipment on the gravel area in front of the gate, Lee decided to cut off the chain with a hack saw blade. At first, I didn’t think that it was going to work, but apparently, Lee had learned quite a few tricks while at Folsom, and managed to cut off one of the links in about 10 minutes (thank God for soft steel chains!). Using a pair of pliers, I then twisted the link and managed to open the gate. Victory!

We proceeded to setup on the large flat area in front of the observatory. It was a bit breezy early on, but the wind died down after sunset as it is often the case in that area. It was quite warm all night, and I was observing in nothing more than a pair of shorts and a thin long sleeve shirt.

After collimating, we looked at Venus, Saturn and the Moon, which were all pretty low over the western horizon, and noticed that the seeing was quite good! Antares’ companion was readily visible in my 12″ scope. Always a good sign!

In the middle of the night, Peter noticed that his scope was out of collimation. We later found out that it was due to the support of his secondary mirror getting loose. This incident prompted me to check my own collimation since I, too, was starting to see more coma than I am used to. Indeed, my collimation was a little off, and after adjusting the mirrors, everything became crisper. I don’t know what caused that shift on my scope, but I decided not to worry about it for now.

After midnight, the seeing went from good to spectacular. Peter was showing off Jupiter through his 24″ StarMaster telescope armed with a binoviewer and a neutral density filter. This was the best view of Jupiter I have ever had. A lot of very fine details could be seen within the bands. The satellites were seen as tiny little discs of varying diameters and colors, making it easy to identify them. The GRS was crossing Jupiter’s meridian, followed by a long thin dark band (maybe signaling the reapparition of the SEB?)

Lyra’s double-double was showing a very clean split, and Peter suggested to try 72 Peg, which members are separated by only 0.5″. Sure enough, using my 12″ scope, two tiny Airy discs touching each other were intermittently visible.

The transparency was good but not great. Jupiter was showing a tiny halo, and my NELM estimate was around 6.6, which is slightly below what the site is capable of. Nevertheless, M33 was fairly easily visible using averted vision, which I consider a good test for darkness and transparency.

As far as my observing log, this was not a night for the record books. I only logged the following 5 (new to me) objects:

M1-92 (Minkowski’s Footprint) PN Cyg 19 36 46 +29 34 28 11.0 2010-08-14 09:35pm
Appears as a fairly bright fuzzy star at 305x, confirmed at 610x. It seemed extremely slightly elongated WNW-ESE with tiny faint extensions in the same direction (?) Forms a small triangle with two field stars of relatively comparable brightness. I did not try using a narrow band filter since I knew in advance that it would not help.

HP 1 (Haute-Provence 1) GC Oph 17 31 47 -29 59 26 12.5 2010-08-14 10:15pm
Very pale round glow 45″ in diameter. Confirmed the location with Mark Johnston’s 18″ StarMaster telescope. In that scope, a tiny (10″) core, only very slightly brighter than the surrounding glow, was suspected (?)

Djorgovski 2 GC Sgr 18 02 31 -27 49 34 9.9 2010-08-14 11:00pm
Faint round glow 1.5′ in diameter located 20′ W of the famous ink spot (B86) and its neighboring open cluster NGC 6520. Positioned in the center of a keystone shaped asterism formed by 4 fairly bright stars. Another small (unnamed?) dark nebula is located 5′ WNW. A very faint superimposed star was detected at the northern end of the cluster, and another one was also seen intermittently at the western end. Not sure whether these belong to the cluster or are simply field stars.

NGC 6412 (Arp 38) GX Dra 17 29 16 +75 42 06 12.4 2010-08-14 11:15pm
Bright stellar nucleus surrounded by a diffuse featureless halo measuring 1.5′ in diameter. A faint smudge was spotted 10′ NW (?)

NGC 6621 (Arp 81) GX Dra 18 12 54 +68 22 15 13.3 2010-08-15 12:05am
Faint diffuse glow 1.5’x30″ elongated NW-SE containing two small condensations. The slightly larger and brighter one to the NW is the core of galaxy NGC 6621, while the other one is the core of its companion galaxy NGC 6622. A faint (mag. 15.3) star is located just 30″ E of the core of NGC 6622.

I also tried to look at a number of tough objects, including Djorgovski 1 and the Aquarius Dwarf, but was not able to see them.

I finished the night with a quick look at a couple of galaxy groups in Pegasus using one of Alvin’s observing guides. I also looked at some of my favorites, including Stephan’s quintet, the Deer Lick group and M33.

OR: GSSP 2010

GSSP 2010 turned out to be a terrific star party, and I would like to start this report by personally thanking our hosts, the Albaugh family, as well as all the volunteers who made this event such a great success!

The conditions were good all 4 nights. The NELM hovered in the 6.8/7.0 range. Given the amount of haze that was clearly visible during the day, and especially shortly after sunset, I feel that the site used for GSSP could easily yield mag. 7.2 or better skies when the air is drier. The seeing was average most of the time, although a bit off on the first and the last night.

I had prepared a list of 58 objects drawn mostly from the Herschel II, DeepMap 600 and Tac Eye Candy lists. I also added a few Palomar globular clusters and obscure summer time planetaries, just for the heck of it. I ended up logging 48 new objects. Below is my log for all 4 nights. See you at GSSP 2011!

Location: Adin, CA [Elevation 4200 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)

Log format: [designation(s)] [type] [constellation] [RA] [Dec] [magnitude] [date and local time (PDT)]

NGC 6070 GX Ser 16 10 33 +00 40 55 12.4 2010-07-10 10:40pm
Fairly faint, relatively uniform, diffuse halo about 3’x1.5′ ENE-WSW. Faint stellar nucleus glimpsed using averted vision. Located 8′ SSE of a bright (mag. 6.7) yellow star. Two moderately faint stars were seen just outside the eastern end of the halo. PGC 57350 was detected as a small and very faint smudge 5′ ENE.

NGC 6106 GX Her 16 19 20 +07 23 10 12.8 2010-07-10 10:55pm
1’x45″ NNW-SSE, fairly faint, relatively uniform, very slightly brighter core, faint stellar nucleus or superimposed star glimpsed using averted vision. Extremely faint star (mag. 14.4!) at the northern end, just outside the halo. Slightly brighter star (mag. 14.6!) located 1′ S. The difference in the appreciation of their brightness is probably due to the fact that the first one is actually superimposed over the halo. Two fairly bright field stars are 10′ SSW and SW.

NGC 6181 GX Her 16 32 50 +19 48 22 12.2 2010-07-10 11:05pm
1.5’x1′ NNE-SSW. Fairly bright small core or stellar nucleus. Moderately faint diffuse halo which appears uneven. Traces of a spiral arm extending NNE, and possibly a smaller and dimmer symmetrical one. Extremely faint superimposed star at the northern end (about 45′ N of nucleus)

B 92 (Black Hole) DN Sgr 18 16 09 -18 10 45 O6 2010-07-11 12:10am
Superimposed over the Small Sagitarius Star Cloud (M24) and visible in the same field of view of the Televue Panoptic 27mm with B93 and NGC 6603, this dark nebula measures 15’x8′, is oriented roughly N-S, and features a single fairly bright superimposed star located just E of the center.

Palomar 8 GC Sgr 18 42 10 -19 48 56 10.9 2010-07-11 12:20am
Round, about 1.5′ in diameter, moderately faint, uniform and unresolved smudge. Moderately faint star just south (?). 3 or 4 stars, either superimposed field stars or physically belonging to the cluster, were detected.

IC 1295 PN Sct 18 55 14 -08 48 46 12.7 2010-07-11 12:45am
Visible at 95x without filter and with globular cluster NGC 6712 in the same field of view. At 217x + OIII filter, I see a faint roundish disk about 2′ in diameter, relatively uniform with traces of annularity.

NGC 6717 (Palomar 9) GC Sgr 18 55 46 -22 41 13 8.4 2010-07-11 01:00am
About 45″x30″ E-W, moderately faint. Half a dozen stars are resolved. Located 2′ S of a bright yellow/orange star.

NGC 6814 GX Aql 19 43 17 -10 17 48 12.1 2010-07-11 01:35am
Moderately bright almost stellar core. Faint, round, diffuse halo, about 2′ in diameter, showing hints of mottling. Faint superimposed star 30″ W.

Palomar 11 GC Aql 19 45 50 -07 58 45 9.8 2010-07-11 01:45am
Very faint round haze with a dozen superimposed field stars extending over an area roughly 5′ in diameter. Located just 6′ SSE of a fairly bright (mag. 8.6) field star.

NGC 6907 GX Cap 20 25 46 -24 46 17 11.9 2010-07-11 01:50am
Moderately faint core, about 30″ in diameter. Faint halo, about 2’x1.2′ extending E-W. A small and faint detached knot is visible just NE of the core. Using averted vision, it’s pretty clear that it’s a spiral arm.

NGC 6991 OC Cyg 20 55 17 +47 27 25 2010-07-11 02:15am
Roughly 60 fairly bright stars of similar brightness within an area 30′ in diameter. A couple of chains, each made up of 5 or 6 stars, are visible in the western half. A bright, slightly yellow star is located at the eastern end of the cluster.

M 2-9 (Minkowski’s Butterfly) PN Oph 17 06 15 -10 09 26 13.2 2010-07-11 10:40pm
Extremely faint nebulosity, extending approximately 30″x10″ N-S. The central star is moderately faint. For some reason, the use of an O-III filter did not seem to help much.

NGC 6309 (Box Nebula) PN Oph 17 14 42 -12 55 22 11.6 2010-07-11 10:50pm
Appears as an out of focus star at 95x. Blinks well using an O-III filter. Best seen at 305x. Measures roughly 20″x12″ extending NNW-SSE. Fairly uniform. The northern half seems a bit brighter. A moderately faint (mag. 11.5) star is located 15″ NNW. A very faint (mag. 15.0) star is 45″ E. Finally, an extremely faint star is located just 5″ W (?)

NGC 6340 GX Dra 17 10 17 +72 17 38 12.0 2010-07-11 11:05pm
Moderately bright stellar nucleus. Gradually fainter round diffuse halo about 1.5′ in diameter. Faint galaxy (IC 1251) about 7′ NNW seen easily. Another one (IC 1254), just barely seen, is located 10′ NE.

NGC 6507 OC Sgr 18 00 29 -17 27 01 9.6 2010-07-11 11:30pm
Sparse group of two dozen moderately bright to fairly faint stars in an area measuring roughly 10′ in diameter.

IC 1276 (Palomar 7) GC Ser 18 11 21 -07 12 37 10.3 2010-07-11 11:35pm
Extremely faint round smudge, about 2′ in diameter, seen using averted vision only, and surrounding two fairly faint stars separated by about 45″ on an E-W line. An extremely faint star is located 1.2′ E. Two moderately bright stars are roughly 3.5′ N and NNE respectively.

NGC 6596 OC Sgr 18 18 12 -16 38 43 2010-07-11 11:45pm
Two dozen fairly bright to moderately faint stars within an area 10′ in diameter. Not very well detached from that part of the Milky Way. A dozen stars are arranged in a “C” shape.

NGC 6604 OC Ser 18 18 40 -12 14 12 7.5 2010-07-12 12:00am
5 fairly bright stars arranged in a trapezoidal shape roughly 2’x1′ E-W, the brightest member being slightly yellow. A few slightly dimmer stars are spread out within a few arc minutes.

NGC 6631 OC Sct 18 27 48 -12 01 21 11.7 2010-07-12 12:05am
About 20 fairly faint stars within 5′. Another small group is located about 10′ SE. Is it part of the same cluster?

NGC 6819 OC Cyg 19 41 42 +40 12 45 9.5 2010-07-12 01:10am
About 25 moderately faint stars over a milky background within an area 4′ in diameter. A round dark region about 2′ in diameter is very obvious in the northern half of the cluster. A bright (mag. 6.2) yellow star is located 10′ ENE while a bright (mag. 6.9) white star is only 14′ SSE.

NGC 6857 PN Cyg 20 02 16 +33 34 13 11.4 2010-07-12 01:20am
Faint round nebulosity about 30″ in diameter, relatively uniform, very slightly brighter in its center. Without an O-III filter, the nebula is not very obvious, but a fairly faint superimposed star, slightly offset to the north, is visible. Is this the central star? Two moderately faint stars are located on either sides of the nebula on a NE-SW line. At 217x with an O-III filter, the nebula gives the impression of having an odd triangular shape, the northern side being flat…

NGC 6894 PN Cyg 20 16 51 +30 35 54 14.4 2010-07-12 01:35am
Round, about 45″ in diameter, fairly faint. Shows traces of ring structure, the central region, about 10″ in diameter, being slightly darker. A knot is visible on the ring in the NNE direction. Since it almost completely disappears when using an O-III filter, it most likely is a superimposed star.

Abell 70 PN Aql 20 32 09 -07 03 01 14.3 2010-07-12 01:45am
Ghostly smudge, barely visible using averted vision and an O-III filter. Seems round and uniform. It is also visible without a filter once you know exactly where to look. A moderately bright (mag. 11.1) star is located 3.5′ E.

NGC 7129 OC Cep 21 43 16 +66 09 38 11.5 2010-07-12 02:35am
5 moderately bright stars and 2 faint stars within an area measuring 5′. Some nebulosity can be seen around the brightest stars. Since that nebulosity seems to disappear entirely when using an O-III or UHC filter, it probably is a reflection nebula associated with this young cluster.

NGC 7139 PN Cep 21 46 28 +63 50 21 13.5 2010-07-12 02:45am
Faint, round and uniform nebulosity about 1′ in diameter. A moderately faint (mag.. 14.4) lies just outside the nebula in the SSE direction.

NGC 6530 OC Sgr 18 05 12 -24 21 27 5.1 2010-07-12 11:00pm
Roughly 40 stars, most of which are fairly bright, within an area 10′ in diameter. This cluster is embedded inside M8, the famous Lagoon Nebula, and is likely physically related. There is a tight double on the eastern side.

NGC 6546 OC Sgr 18 08 03 -23 17 42 8.2 2010-07-12 11:10pm
Seen as a faint smudge in 9×50 finder scope. Fairly inconspicuous, round, measuring about 15′ in diameter, this cluster contains two dozen moderately bright stars and at least as many faint stars over a milky background. There is a tight double at the western end.

IC 4634 PN Oph 17 02 13 -21 50 30 12.0 2010-07-12 11:40pm
Appears as an out of focus star, even at 305x. Blinks well using an O-III filter. Roundish, about 10″ in diameter, extremely slightly elongated N-S, fairly bright and uniform. Possible sighting of an extremely faint envelope extending 25″ in diameter (although this may just be scattering).

NGC 6548 GX Her 18 06 29 +18 35 23 12.7 2010-07-12 11:40pm
Very faint round diffuse halo, about 1.5′ in diameter. Moderately bright core 30″x20″ elongated NNW-SSE – this galaxy appears to be a face on barred spiral. An extremely faint superimposed star is located 1′ ESE, and another one is 1.2′ ENE. Very faint NGC 6549 is visible in the same field of view.

NGC 6058 PN Her 16 04 50 +40 39 21 13.0 2010-07-13 12:10am
Moderately bright, uniform, very slightly elongated N-S, about 25″ in diameter. Fairly bright central star. Located inside an equilateral triangle formed by 3 fairly bright stars.

NGC 6155 GX Her 16 26 28 +48 20 46 13.2 2010-07-13 12:25am
1.2’x50″ elongated NW-SE. Fairly faint and uniform, only slightly and gradually brighter towards the center.

Palomar 6 GC Oph 17 44 24 -26 13 42 11.6 2010-07-13 12:30am
Not seen with 12″ scope. Using Mark Johnston’s 18″ F/3.7 StarMaster telescope at 216x, this globular cluster shows as an extremely pale glow.

NGC 6804 PN Aql 19 32 07 +09 14 58 12.4 2010-07-13 12:50am
Faint round glow about 1′ in diameter. 3 superimposed stars are visible on an E-W line. I suspect the one in the center to be the central star that gave birth to this planetary nebula. Using an O-III filter, traces of annularity seem to be visible, especially in the northern region (?)

NGC 6793 OC Vul 19 23 43 +22 09 49 2010-07-13 01:00am
I counted 35 stars within an area 8′ in diameter, 20 of which are fairly bright. Slightly elongated NNE-SSW.

NGC 6800 OC Vul 19 27 35 +25 09 46 2010-07-13 01:05am
30 fairly bright stars and at least as many faint stars located within 14′. Pretty sparse with large areas free of stars. This cluster is also named the “Sea Turtle” cluster.

NGC 6824 GX Cyg 19 43 57 +56 08 07 13.0 2010-07-13 01:35am
Fairly bright core measuring about 30″x20″ elongated NE-SW. Faint halo extending 1’x40″ in the same direction. Very faint superimposed star at the SW end of the halo. Moderately faint field star 30″ N.

NGC 7026 (Cheeseburger Nebula) PN Cyg 21 06 42 +47 53 38 12.0 2010-07-13 02:05am
Best seen at 610x (Nagler 5mm + Barlow 2x). Located 30″ WSW of a moderately bright (mag. 9.6) star, this nebula is composed of 2 moderately bright lobes oriented NE-SW separated by a dark lane, hence the name of “Cheeseburger Nebula”…

NGC 7031 OC Cyg 21 07 35 +50 55 03 11.0 2010-07-13 02:30am
About 20 moderately bright stars within 5′. A nice red star is easily noticeable at the northern end of this cluster.

NGC 7048 PN Cyg 21 14 40 +46 19 55 11.0 2010-07-13 02:40am
Faint uniform disk 1′ in diameter. Faint superimposed star or knot at the NNW boundary. Located just north of a moderately bright (mag. 10.2) star.

NGC 6166 GX Her 16 29 02 +39 31 49 12.9 2010-07-13 10:40pm
Moderately faint, measuring about 45″, very slightly elongated NE-SW, gradually brighter towards its center. This elliptical galaxy is the brightest member of the cluster of galaxies Abell 2199. Many members of that cluster are visible in the same field of view.

NGC 6239 GX Her 16 50 27 +42 43 25 12.9 2010-07-13 10:50pm
1’x30″ E-W, moderately faint, gradually brighter towards its center. Using Tom Osypowski’s 30″ F/3.3 telescope, this galaxy appears much bigger and brighter but fails to show additional details.

IC 4756 OC Ser 18 39 33 +05 27 39 5.4 2010-07-13 11:45pm
Seen naked eye as a faint smudge! Using a Panoptic 27mm (65x, 1.2 deg TFOV), this cluster shows about 40 fairly bright stars in an area measuring roughly 30′ in diameter. A group of stars near the center delimit an oval region measuring 8’x4′ NE-SW that is almost devoid of stars. Half a dozen stars form a chain to the ENE. Finally, there is a small group of 6/7 stars to the WNW that seems to be a region of higher density in this cluster.

NGC 6760 GC Aql 19 11 46 +01 03 02 9.0 2010-07-14 12:00am
This globular cluster measures about 3′ in diameter. The core region is moderately bright and measures about 1′. A few individual stars located in the outer region pop in and out of view.

NGC 6772 PN Aql 19 15 11 -02 41 13 14.0 2010-07-14 12:10am
Best seen using an O-III filter. Very dim, round, about 1′ in diameter, fairly uniform with maybe traces of annularity (?)

NGC 6778 PN Aql 19 19 00 -01 34 32 13.3 2010-07-14 12:20am
Fairly bright, 20″x15″ E-W, uniform. Appears slightly rectangular, with the central section being a little narrower.

NGC 6765 PN Lyr 19 11 33 +30 33 51 12.9 2010-07-14 12:55am
Appears as a fairly bright bar measuring 30″x15″ NE-SW embedded inside a very faint round glow about 35″ in diameter.

B 142 DN Aql 19 40 14 +10 32 33 O5 2010-07-14 01:15am
Best seen using a Panoptic 27mm (65x, 1.2 deg TFOV). Large dark nebula, about 40’x10′ WNW-ESE, located in a moderately dense region of the Milky Way. The eastern half is wider and less dense as a larger number of stars shine through. In particular, two fairly bright stars shine through, one to the NE and one to the SE.

NGC 6811 OC Cyg 19 37 38 +46 24 48 9.0 2010-07-14 01:30am
Detected in 9×50 finder scope. Contains about 50 moderately bright stars within an area 12′ in diameter. Several dark areas/lanes can be seen throughout. Appears fairly conspicuous due to its much higher density than the surrounding area.

OR: D.A.R.C. Observatory, 6/12/2010

A few of us went to the D.A.R.C. observatory last night, including Robert Jardine (aka “Joe Bob”), Al Smith and his wife Annie, Al Howard, Eric Zbinden, Daniel Stefanescu, and of course Dr Lee Hoglan and Dr Bob Caton.

Before it turned dark, Bob Caton organized a short lecture on Kuiper belt objects, some of which he had imaged from his home in Modesto. He also shared a few recent photographs of M101 he had taken from his private observatory, and talked about future plans for the D.A.R.C. observatory, including the installation of a 50″ dobsonian telescope.

Observing conditions were pretty good. There was no wind, except maybe for the occasional light “refreshing” breeze. The seeing was rather mediocre. The dry air, coming from the north, allowed for good transparency (NELM: 6.6). In addition, it was warm enough that it felt comfortable to wear nothing more than a pair of shorts and a light long sleeve shirt.

I spent a couple of hours observing a dozen or so Herschel II objects in Libra and Bootes. Then, I moved on to some eye candy in the Summer milky way, using my newly acquired Lumicon O-III filter. Finally, I got to play with the JMI 16″ binocular telescope. Pretty cool! By the way, I took a quick look at M13 and finally saw the propeller! (thank you, Richard Ozer, for pointing it out to me on a photograph last month!)

Joe Bob and I looked for comet McNaught using our binoculars around 2:30am, but we could not spot it (it was supposed to be right near M34, which was very easily visible in our binoculars in spite of its low elevation)

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)

Log format: [designation(s)] [type] [constellation] [RA] [Dec] [magnitude] [date and local time of observation (Pacific time zone)]

NGC 5595 GX Lib 14 24 49 -16 46 24 12.6 2010-06-12 10:15pm
Dim halo 2’x1′ NE-SW, slightly brighter core about 30″ in diameter. Forms a nice pair with NGC 5597 located 4′ SE.

NGC 5597 GX Lib 14 25 04 -16 48 47 12.6 2010-06-12 10:20pm
Very dim uniform round halo about 1′ in diameter. Faint stellar nucleus. Forms a nice pair with NGC 5595 located 4′ NW.

NGC 5605 GX Lib 14 25 43 -13 12 46 13.1 2010-06-12 10:30pm
Dim, round, about 45″ in diameter. Very slightly and gradually brighter toward the center.

NGC 5728 GX Lib 14 43 01 -17 18 02 12.3 2010-06-12 10:35pm
Very dim halo, 3’x1′ NE-SW. Round, fairly bright core about 30″ in diameter. Two fairly faint superimposed stars can be seen, one 20″ NE and the other 1′ SW of the core.

NGC 5791 GX Lib 14 59 23 -19 18 42 12.7 2010-06-12 10:50pm
Moderately bright round core, about 30″ in diameter. Gradually fainter diffuse halo 1’x45″ N-S. Faint IC 1081 was detected about 2′ ENE.

NGC 5812 GX Lib 15 01 31 -07 30 02 12.2 2010-06-12 11:00pm
Moderately bright round core, about 30″ in diameter, gradually brighter to a possible stellar nucleus (?) Very faint round halo detected, measuring up to 1′ in diameter. Faint IC 1084 was detected about 4′ E.

NGC 5861 GX Lib 15 09 52 -11 21 48 12.3 2010-06-12 11:10pm
Moderately faint, uniform halo, 2.5’x1′ NNW-SSE. Appears slightly rectangular in shape (?) Forms a pair with NGC 5858 located 9′ NW. Much dimmer IC 1091 can also be seen a little further to the WNW.

NGC 5878 GX Lib 15 14 22 -14 18 36 12.3 2010-06-12 11:20pm
Faint halo, 2’x45″ N-S. Fairly bright, almost stellar core. Faint superimposed star 45″ SSW. Located about 10′ WSW of a bright yellow/orange star.

NGC 5687 GX Boo 14 35 14 +54 25 54 12.6 2010-06-13 12:30am
Moderately bright core, 30″x15″ E-W. Faint halo, 1.5’x45″ E-W, which detection is complicated by the presence of several moderately faint superimposed stars. In particular, the core is framed by two superimposed stars located 30″ E and 30″ W respectively.

NGC 5481 GX Boo 14 07 06 +50 40 31 13.2 2010-06-13 12:45am
Faint halo, very slightly elongated WNW-ESE, about 1′ in diameter, gradually brighter to a moderately bright stellar nucleus. Forms a pair with NGC 5480 located 3′ W.

NGC 5520 GX Boo 14 12 47 +50 18 02 13.1 2010-06-13 12:55am
Fairly faint halo, 1’x30″ WSW-ENE. Moderately bright core, about 20″ in diameter. Two fairly bright field stars just 3′ E.

NGC 5602 GX Boo 14 22 43 +50 27 17 13.2 2010-06-13 01:00am
Very faint halo, 1’x30″ N-S. Moderately bright stellar nucleus.

OR: Lake San Antonio, 5/11/2010, and Herschel 400

I went to Lake San Antonio on Tuesday, May 11, in order to wrap up the Herschel 400 list, which I have been working on for almost a year and a half. I was missing 15 targets, all of them in Virgo. To make the night worth the trip, I added a few interesting targets from the TAC Eye Candy list, which I had installed in SkyTools.

The conditions were actually pretty decent. The sky was perfectly clear and the transparency was good. It was a little windy early on, but it turned calm by 10pm. The seeing was average or slightly below average. The temperature dropped to 38F by 2am. There was very little humidity, and my paper charts and log paper remained pretty dry all night. I was the only person in the overflow parking lot, and I have to admit that it felt a little spooky at times…

After observing all the targets I had planned (around 1am), I decided to celebrate the completion of the Herschel 400 project by observing a few very bright targets (mostly Messier objects), and stared at the rising Summer Milky Way, trying to convince myself that warmer nights are in our near future…

Below is my log for the night. The entire Herschel 400 log can be found at:

http://www.julienlecomte.net/astronomy/herschel400.txt

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)

NGC 4605 GX UMa 12 40 29 +61 33 11 10.8 09:30pm
3’x1′ elongated WNW-ESE. Fairly bright, relatively uniform with some subtle mottling throughout. Moderately faint (mag 15.0) star 1.5′ S.

NGC 4157 GX UMa 12 11 38 +50 25 42 12.1 09:40pm
Fairly faint halo, about 4’x40″ elongated WSW-ENE. Moderately bright elongated core, 1’x30″ (same orientation). A few fairly bright stars are visible in the same field of view.

NGC 4220 GX CVn 12 16 44 +47 49 34 12.2 09:55pm
Faint halo, 2’x45″ elongated NW-SE. Moderately bright core, about 30″ in diameter, very slightly elongated. Moderately faint (mag 14.8) star 1′ WSW. Faint (mag 15.7) star 1.5′ NE.

NGC 4450 GX Com 12 29 02 +17 01 33 10.8 10:05pm
Moderately faint halo, roughly 3’x1.5′ elongated NNE-SSW, with a small bright core. The halo gives extremely subtle hints of mottling. Located just 4′ ENE of a bright (mag 9.2) star.

NGC 4442 GX Vir 12 28 37 +09 44 38 11.4 10:20pm
Faint halo, 3’x45″ E-W. Bright core, 45″x30″ E-W. Moderately bright (mag 14.9) superimposed star at the eastern tip of the halo. Moderately bright star about 45″ SW of the core.

NGC 4526 GX Vir 12 34 36 +07 38 22 10.6 10:30pm
Located between two very bright (mag. 6.8 and 7.0) field stars separated by about 15′. Faint halo estimated to be 4’x1′ NW-SE using averted vision (photographs show that it extends even further). Bright core, about 1′ in diameter, slightly elongated NW-SE. Moderately bright (mag. 13.2) about 1′ SSW of the core.

NGC 4535 (Lost Galaxy) GX Vir 12 34 53 +08 08 17 10.5 10:40pm
Dim oval glow, roughly 5’x3′ NNE-SSW. Appears relatively uniform at low power. A few superimposed stars give the galaxy a “powdery” appearance. A small (< 1' diameter) core is barely visible, with a stellar nucleus. At higher magnification, dark patches in the halo are visible, but with great difficulty. NGC 4783 GX Crv 12 55 11 -12 37 05 12.8 10:55pm
Moderately bright round core, about 30″ in diameter. Forms a very tight couple with NGC 4782, located less than 1′ SSW (both galaxies actually share the same halo). A moderately faint superimposed star is visible 30″ WSW.

NGC 4624 GX Vir 12 45 39 +02 59 46 11.5 11:10pm
Also known as NGC 4665. Moderately bright round core, 30″ in diameter. Faint halo 1.5’x45″ N-S. Moderately faint (mag. 15.2) star at the northern tip. Photographs show that what I refer to as the halo is actually a bar, and that this galaxy is a face on spiral.

NGC 4567 (member of the pair known as the “Siamese Twins”) GX Vir 12 37 06 +11 11 55 12.1 11:20pm
Moderately faint, fairly uniform, 2’x1′ E-W, faint stellar nucleus. Forms a very tight pair with NGC 4568 named the “Siamese Twins”. NGC 4564 is visible in the same field of view, just 10′ N.

NGC 4568 (member of the pair known as the “Siamese Twins”) GX Vir 12 37 07 +11 10 45 11.7 11:20pm
Moderately faint, fairly uniform, 3’x45″ NE-SW, small faint core. Forms a very tight pair with NGC 4567 named the “Siamese Twins”. NGC 4564 is visible in the same field of view, just 10′ N.

NGC 4698 GX Vir 12 48 56 +08 25 42 11.6 11:30pm
Faint halo, 2.5’x1′ N-S, gradually brighter to a small and fairly bright round core and a stellar nucleus. Shares the field of view with several fairly bright field stars.

NGC 4754 GX Vir 12 52 50 +11 15 19 11.5 11:40pm
Fairly bright, round, 1′ diameter, stellar nucleus. This is just the core. The halo, visible on photographs, was not detected. NGC 4762 is located just 10′ ESE.

NGC 4762 GX Vir 12 53 29 +11 10 19 11.1 11:45pm
Beautiful edge-on galaxy, moderately bright, 5’x30″ NE-SW, with a small bright core. A dust lane is visible on the SE side (Steve Gottlieb notes that the dust lane is along the W side?) This dust lane does not show on photographs I’ve seen of this object, most of which show the core overexposed. NGC 4754 is located just 10′ WNW.

NGC 4866 GX Vir 12 59 59 +14 06 45 12.0 11:50pm
Faint halo, 3’x45″ E-W. Fairly bright round core, 30″ diameter. Bright stellar nucleus. Moderately bright superimposed star about 1′ WNW of the nucleus.

NGC 5363 GX Vir 13 56 40 +05 12 05 11.1 12:10am
Faint diffuse halo surrounding a bright small core with a stellar nucleus or superimposed star that appears slightly offset to the WSW. Located 4′ WSW of a bright field star (HD 121605)

NGC 5364 GX Vir 13 56 45 +04 57 42 11.1 12:20am
Faint diffuse glow, about 4’x3′ NE-SW. Small (< 1' diameter) round faint core seen at high magnification (217x). Two moderately faint stars delimit the halo's NW boundary. NGC 5360, located 10' WSW, is barely visible in the same field of view. NGC 5566 GX Vir 14 20 53 +03 53 01 11.4 12:30am
Small (30″ diameter) round bright core, surrounded by a faint diffuse halo. Located between a moderately bright (mag. 12.0) and a moderately faint (mag. 14.3) field star. Forms a nice trio with NGC 5560 and very faint NGC 5569.

NGC 5576 GX Vir 14 21 37 +03 13 15 11.8 12:40am
Fairly bright core, 45″x30″ E-W. Faint diffuse halo, maybe 1.5’x1′ E-W. Located just 1′ SE of a moderately faint (mag. 13.4) field star. Forms a nice pair with NGC 5574, located just 3′ SW. NGC 5577 can also be seen further north in the same field of view.

NGC 5746 GX Vir 14 45 29 +01 54 30 11.4 12:50am
Beautiful edge-on galaxy, 6’x30″ NNW-SSE, with a clearly visible central bulge about 1′ diameter. A dust lane is visible along the E edge. A faint (mag. 14.7) superimposed star is visible about 3′ SSE of the core.

NGC 5846 GX Vir 15 07 03 +01 33 47 11.1 01:00am
Faint round halo, maybe 1.5′ in diameter, gradually brighter to a fairly bright round core, 45″ in diameter. Faint superimposed star 45″ N. NGC 5846A is visible just 45″ S, superimposed over the halo of NGC 5846. NGC 5850 is visible just 10′ ESE.

OR: April 6 and 8, 2010: Dinosaur Point and Lake San Antonio

On Tuesday, April 6, I joined Marko, Rogelio, Hans Schulze and Paul Duncan at Dinosaur Point for a night of observing. Conditions were decent with fairly calm winds, average transparency and seeing, temps in the mid to low 40s and low humidity. Dew was not a problem at all, and my paper charts remained mostly dry. We got to observe Mercury shortly after sunset, but it didn’t show any detail due to the strong atmospheric refraction and horrible seeing at such low altitude. After that, I observed Herschel II objects in Leo and a few Herschel 400 objects in Virgo. Marko, who was busy imaging (traitor! :-), let me use his StarMaster 18″ dobsonian. This thing is … sweet! It moves like butter, stays still while focusing, and I was amazed by how much brighter objects looked compared to when observed through my 12″. I can’t wait to resume work on my own 16″ scope. Thanks again Marko!

Two days later, on Thursday, April 8, Rogelio and I met at Lake San Antonio. I passed him on Highway 101 shortly after leaving Salinas, and we followed each other from that point on. Conditions were pretty good, with an estimated NELM around 6.7 and average seeing. Humidity was rather high, and my paper charts and log paper were pretty soaked (although interestingly enough, it seemed to come in waves…). Rogelio was imaging and taking naps during exposures while I was busy observing Herschel II objects in UMa and Herschel 400 objects in Virgo. Among other things, I observed 3C 273, a quasar located in the constellation Virgo (the first quasar ever to be identified, it’s located about 2.5 billion light years away from us!). It was pretty cold (not sure how cold it got, but when I woke up in the morning, my car was clocking at 38F) and I had to bail out around 1:30am. I slept like a baby until about 7:30am. On my way out of the Lake San Antonio campgrounds, I was careful not to hit any bunnies or deers when I saw a herd of wild boars. Cool! I was back at work at 11am, with a big smile on my face. Now that’s some serious addiction to dark skies ;-)

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)

The format is object, type, constellation, RA, Dec, magnitude and time of observation (PDT)

Tuesday, April 6, 2009

Location: Dinosaur Point [Elevation 648 ft]

NGC 2655 GX Cam 08 57 03 +78 11 15 11.0 09:00pm
Fairly bright, about 1′ in diameter, very slightly elongated E-W, moderately bright almost stellar nucleus.

NGC 2781 GX Hya 09 11 58 -14 51 47 12.5 09:10pm
Faint, about 45″x30″ elongated E-W, slightly brighter non stellar core.

NGC 2855 GX Hya 09 21 58 -11 57 30 12.6 09:15pm
Faint, round, about 1.5′ in diameter, moderately faint almost stellar core. Located 4′ S of a bright (mag. 9.0) star.

NGC 2889 GX Hya 09 27 44 -11 41 35 12.5 09:20pm
Faint halo, roughly 1.5’x1′ elongated N-S, very slightly brighter stellar nucleus. Located arc minutes away from a few moderately bright field stars.

NGC 3145 GX Hya 10 10 41 -12 29 19 12.4 09:30pm
Faint halo, 2’x1′ elongated NNE-SSW, slightly brighter stellar nucleus. Located 10′ WSW of lambda Hya.

NGC 3162 GX Leo 10 14 07 +22 41 05 12.3 09:55pm
Faint round halo, about 1′ in diameter, slightly brighter stellar nucleus. Moderately faint (mag 14.4) star 1′ SE. Faint superimposed star 40″ E (?)

NGC 3177 GX Leo 10 17 10 +21 04 10 13.0 10:05pm
Round, moderately bright core, 20″ in diameter, surrounded by a very faint diffuse halo roughly 40″ in diameter.

NGC 3254 GX LMi 10 29 56 +29 26 17 12.3 10:15pm
Faint halo, 3’x45″ elongated NE-SW, surrounding a moderately faint core roughly 30″x15″ with the same orientation as the halo. Very faint star 45″ E (?) Very faint star 1′ N (?)

NGC 3274 GX Leo 10 32 53 +27 36 50 13.2 10:20pm
Fairly faint and relatively uniform halo about 45″x30″ elongated E-W.

NGC 3301 GX Leo 10 37 31 +21 49 36 12.3 10:25pm
Moderately faint, about 1’x30″ elongated ENE-WSW. Fairly bright stellar nucleus. The halo, which was not seen here, extends 2.5’x45″.

NGC 3507 GX Leo 11 04 00 +18 04 38 12.0 10:35pm
Small moderately faint core, located just 20″ from a fairly bright (mag 10.8) field star. A very faint halo is visible surrounding the core, but neither its size nor its orientation were noted.

NGC 3599 GX Leo 11 16 01 +18 03 05 12.9 11:00pm
Very faint round halo, about 45″ in diameter, surrounding a moderately faint stellar core.

NGC 3605 GX Leo 11 17 21 +17 57 30 13.2 11:05pm
Moderately faint halo, 45″x30″ elongated NNE-SSW, surrounding a moderately bright almost stellar core. In the same field of view as larger and brighter NGC 3607 and NGC 3608.

NGC 3338 GX Leo 10 42 42 +13 41 25 11.4 11:25pm
Moderately faint halo, 3’x1′ elongated E-W, surrounding a slightly brighter round core, about 1′ in diameter, with a faint almost stellar nucleus.

NGC 3524 GX Leo 11 07 06 +11 19 36 13.1 11:35pm
Moderately faint, about 30″x15″ elongated NNE-SSW, stellar nucleus. Located near two fairly bright field stars.

NGC 3547 GX Leo 11 10 30 +10 39 39 13.2 11:45pm
Faint, about 1’x30″ elongated N-S, fairly uniform.

NGC 3596 GX Leo 11 15 40 +14 43 41 11.8 11:50pm
Faint halo roughly 2’x1.5′ elongated N-S, surrounding a small slightly brighter core that seems elongated E-W (a DSS photograph shows tightly wound spiral arms are the most likely culprit to give the core that elongated appearance)

NGC 4636 GX Vir 12 43 23 +02 37 40 10.4 12:25am
Fairly bright round core 45″ in diameter, surrounded by a faint diffuse halo slightly elongated N-S extending to about 2′.

NGC 4643 GX Vir 12 43 54 +01 55 02 11.6 12:30am
Moderately faint halo 1.5’x45″ elongated NW-SE with a prominent fairly bright round core 30″ in diameter.

NGC 4845 GX Vir 12 58 34 +01 30 59 12.1 12:40am
Moderately faint, 4’x1′ elongated ENE-WSW, slightly brighter core 45″x15″ with the same orientation. Faint superimposed star 30″ E of the core.

NGC 4900 GX Vir 13 01 12 +02 26 29 11.9 12:50am
Moderately faint, round, 1.5′ in diameter, very slightly brighter stellar core. Bright superimposed star at the SE edge.

Thursday, April 8, 2009

Location: Lake San Antonio [Elevation 1082 ft]

NGC 2500 GX Lyn 08 02 40 +50 42 39 12.2 09:05pm
Faint, round, 2′ in diameter, fairly uniform, very slightly brighter core. A few moderately bright field stars appear in the same field of view.

NGC 2541 GX Lyn 08 15 26 +49 01 55 12.2 09:15pm
Extremely faint glow of uniform brightness, about 2’x1.5′ elongated N-S, very slightly brighter core.

NGC 2639 GX UMa 08 44 24 +50 10 11 12.6 09:25pm
Fairly bright, 50″x30″ elongated NW-SE, faint brighter stellar nucleus visible at times.

NGC 2756 GX UMa 09 09 47 +53 48 33 12.9 09:40pm
Faint, 1’x45″ elongated N-S, faint stellar nucleus seen intermittently.

NGC 2880 GX UMa 09 30 25 +62 26 51 12.5 09:50pm
Moderately bright core, 45″ in diameter, with a fairly bright almost stellar nucleus. Extremely faint diffuse halo, maybe elongated NW-SE (?)

NGC 3073 GX UMa 10 01 36 +55 34 13 14.1 10:00pm
Very faint, round, 30″ in diameter, with a faint stellar nucleus. Appears in the same field of view as NGC 3079, MCG 9-17-9 (barely seen, mag 15.4) and a few moderately bright field stars.

NGC 3225 GX UMa 10 25 53 +58 05 54 13.5 10:05pm
Very faint, fairly uniform, 1’x30″ elongated NNW-SSE. Located about 1′ SW of a moderately faint (mag 14.5) field star.

NGC 3583 GX UMa 11 14 48 +48 15 41 12.1 10:55pm
Fairly bright core, 1.5’x1′ elongated E-W, faint almost stellar nucleus. Very faint diffuse halo elongated NW-SE. Moderately faint (mag 14.9) field star 2′ SSE. Interestingly enough, I did not notice other (brighter) nearby field stars (?)

NGC 4013 GX UMa 11 59 05 +43 53 16 12.3 11:05pm
Fairly faint, 4’x1′ elongated ENE-WSW. The core region is slightly brighter and measures about 1′. It contains a moderately bright stellar nucleus or superimposed star (?)

NGC 4179 GX Vir 12 13 25 +01 14 19 11.8 11:30pm
Moderately bright, 2’x45″ elongated NW-SE. Fairly bright round core 30″ in diameter. Fairly faint superimposed star 45″ NW.

NGC 4281 (M 61) GX Vir 12 22 28 +04 24 50 10.2 11:40pm
Fairly bright round halo, 3′ in diameter. Bright stellar nucleus. Fairly faint superimposed star 1.5′ W of the nucleus. Attentive examination shows that the halo is of uneven brightness. A bar elongated NNE-SSW crosses the halo. The areas on either side of that bar are slightly darker. A spiral arm delimits the eastern edge of the halo, while another spiral arm starts at the southern tip of the bar and extends west toward the aforementioned superimposed star. A small knot is visible at the northern end of the bar as well. NGC 4303A and NGC 4392 appear in the same field of view.

NGC 4273 GX Vir 12 20 29 +05 17 00 12.3 11:55pm
Moderately bright, 1.5’x1′ elongated N-S, fairly uniform. Faint stellar nucleus. Forms a tight couple with NGC 4277. Part of an interesting group of 6 galaxies visible in the same field of view at medium magnification.

NGC 4281 GX Vir 12 20 55 +05 19 33 12.3 12:00am
Fairly bright, 1’x30″ elongated E-W, bright prominent core about 30″ in diameter, bright stellar nucleus. Part of an interesting group of 6 galaxies visible in the same field of view at medium magnification.

NGC 4527 GX Vir 12 34 42 +02 35 31 11.5 12:05am
Moderately faint halo, 4’x1′ elongated ENE-WSW. Fairly bright core 45″x30″ with the same orientation.

NGC 4536 GX Vir 12 35 00 +02 07 43 11.1 12:15am
Fairly faint halow, 2’x1′ elongated WNW-ESE. Moderately faint almost stellar nucleus. Two far flung spiral arms are barely visible using averted vision.

NGC 4570 GX Vir 12 37 27 +07 11 09 11.7 12:30am
Moderately bright, 3’x1′ elongated NNW-SSE. Fairly bright core 45″ in diameter, fairly bright stellar nucleus.

NGC 4596 GX Vir 12 40 29 +10 06 56 11.4 12:35am
Fairly bright, 2’x1′ elongated E-W. The core measures 30″. A few field stars are visible in the same field of view.

NGC 4654 GX Vir 12 44 29 +13 03 59 11.5 12:45am
Fairly faint halo of uniform brightness, 4’x1.5′ elongated WNW-ESE. Very slight broad concentration if the center.

NGC 4660 GX Vir 12 45 05 +11 07 50 12.1 12:50am
Bright, compact, 1’x45″ elongated E-W. Very bright small core.

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.

O’Reilly Book “High Performance JavaScript” Now Available For Preorder

Last year, I was honored to be asked by Yahoo! engineer Nicholas Zakas whether I would be interested in contributing a chapter to an upcoming book about JavaScript performance. Well, after many months of hard labor by an impressive line up of talented engineers, this book, appropriately titled “High Performance JavaScript”, is now available for preorder on amazon.com (the book will be available on March 15th according to amazon). Here is the list of chapters:


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.