Thursday, October 19, 2000

Observing report from La Caja de Los Gatos Observatory

I was very surprised to find a cloudless night upon returning home from dinner out with my family. I had not had a good night to use my new observing area (the observatory) since building it... big moon, clouds, work, etc. So tonight (10/19) I took my 10" f/5.6 Dob outside, with a laptop computer and Herschel 400 list and set up about 8:30 p.m. The sky was clear, but it felt chilly and dew was on my table from the start.

All observations are with a 20mm Nagler Type 2 unless otherwise noted.

I began in Camelopardalis, to my north in the light dome of San Jose. NGC 1501 is a large planetary nebula I last observed at Pacheco State Park a few years ago... actually, I was looking for a nearby open cluster when Richard Navarrete looked in my eyepiece while I was at the computer, and asked "what planetary is that?" ... NGC 1501 had unexpectedly drifted in. Big and bright. Tonight it would not show up until I put in a 2" OIII filter. It was definitely there with the OIII, but at only about 30 degrees elevation, it was not in a good observing position. The planetary was about 1/2 the field of view west of the brightest star in the field.

Next, NGC 1502 (what I was looking for at Pacheco) was wonderful. Also known as Kemble's Cascade, this small bright open cluster is a jewel. A tight pair of bright stars stand out in the middle of the group, with other pairs running mostly east to west on either side of the bright pair. The cluster occupied about 1/5 the FOV, and was visible in my 11x70 finder. This one is worth a look.

NGC 1513 is a dim open cluster, at least in the bright San Jose sky. I had to put in a 12mm Nagler to bring it out of the skyglow. There are many stars in the cluster, with just a few bright ones involved. I looked at this while chasing Mimi through her Herschel 400 list at Lake San Antonio. It sits in a nice "hook" chain of stars, very noticeable. The brightest star in the hook is at the "bottom." The cluster sits 1/2 the FOV from the bright star and occupies 1/3 the FOV. With the 20 Nagler, it was barely noticeable after knowing where to look.

NGC 1528 is in an easy location, and easy to find the my 11x70 finder. It is a very attractive open cluster with may bright stars. Two distinct chains extend west from the center of the group in a northeast to southwest direction, and a distinct condensation of stars sits southeast of the chains. The entire group occupied a quarter to a third of the FOV. This is a very nice group!

NGC 1545 is another open cluster in an easy location. It is a deceiving cluster, at first one thinks there is nothing there but 4 bright stars. After looking a bit, many dim components begin to appear. The cluster is large with 2 very bright stars in the FOV.

The last NGC I went after was 1444. This cluster was exceedingly faint even with the darkened background using the 12m Nagler. It is not visible at all in the 20. The group is a tough in town find, but a bright star very close by to the WNW of the cluster gives a good clue where to look.

I finished by observing M33, a large hazy faint glow. M74 was not visible. NGC 891, forget it. I did have a wonderful view of M110, easy to see, large, distinct. M31 and M32 were, of course, quite easy.

I was cold with the heavy dew on my neck. It was 11 p.m. and I was out of Herschel until the winter nebulae and opens, or the spring galaxies. I packed it in and headed for the warmth indoors.

LocationLa Caja de Los Gatos Observatory
37:13:36N 121:58:25W
Time8:30 p.m. PDT
Conditionshigh humidity, mediocre transparancy below 45 degrees, good above.
Templow 60s to high 50s (F).

No comments: