Monday, December 14, 1998

Little by little, the stars came out...

I waited for my neighbors to turn out their backyard stadium lights before going out again tonight to observe...

Earlier in the evening, I had two scopes set up, the 10" f/5.6 (mine) and a 10" f/4.5 (my daughter's). My daughter wanted to learn to star hop. Made me smile. So, I started her off by recognizing the Great Square of Pegasus, which she already knew, and then "hop" a few stars to Mirach (Beta Andromedae), which is the jumping off point for M31. But, to make it easy and test her ability to detect fainter stuff, I had her stop on Beta. There, she had no trouble finding NGC404. She was jazzed.

"How about another, dad?!!!!" she pleaded. So, up to Saturn we went. I instructed her that we were after M77, in Cetus. So, I showed her how to drop down from Saturn to about 7 o'clock (on an imaginary non-digital clock) to a star, then over to the east to the "bend" described by Alpha, Gamma and Delta Ceti. Soon, she was claiming to see M77 every time she moved the scope around Delta. With a bit of help, she found the fuzzy. She liked doing this.

Meanwhile, I was trying to find NGC615 in Cetus, a too dim object for my backyard. But, it was there! I was amazed, and thought "this will be a great night" once the light-cretins turned off their stupidity out back. Mimi then went on to view M45, several individual bright stars and several passing airplanes, before going in to do piano practice. Her scope is still not balanced properly and will need to be torn apart again to get it right.

I began on my in-town Herschel 400 list again. On to NGC185, one of M31's pals. I couldn't find it. Damn. The light. Damn the light. I went in. I had a special coffee and played on the computer. I watch Allie McBoring, weird show. Finally the lights out back were gone.

I ran out, down jacket and Soviet Ushanka on. My Telrad was fogged. I swapped in a fresh eyepiece and resumed seaching for NGC185. I could now just make out the dim star 22-Omicron Cass, at mag 4.7.... uh.... 4.7? But I can nearly get mag 6 in my backyard on a good night! No NGC185. Over and over, the same swath of stars, no joy.

I turned the scope back on NGC404. Barely there, like a mag 15 glimmer. I'd been moisted out. Sheeeee.... well, never mind.

I turned to M42. Always pretty. Bumped up the power from the 20 to the 10 mm. Trap looked decent, but only 5 stars tonight. The black behind the wide stretch of the Nebula's sweeping arms was like a thick cloak. Stars in the bright part of the nebula were points on grey velvet. Really beautiful to see.

I shot up to M35, which was a trick at higher power with a soaked Telrad. Dropped back to the 20 and got the cluster. A quick peek, then over to it's line-of-sight neighbor NGC2158. The NGC was there, but not bright. I decided to bump up the power and try to "see" this thing. Back in went the 10 mm. I looked for a few minutes, and little by little, the stars came out. It pays to take the time to "see" what you're looking at.

It was not a great observing. But... even a bad night observing is better than a date with Allie McBeal.

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