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

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 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 issue of Astronomy Now’s Drawn To The Universe column.

Friday, September 18

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.