Monthly Archives: November

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

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, 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.

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OR: Dinosaur Point, 11/14

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!