Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Backyard observing 10/09/01

I set up at dusk out back. That means I put the eyepieces and charts out, and the light blind up. The 14.5" f/5.6 Dob had been outside waiting for a good night. What a nice evening to be out!

I began my session working on Herschel 400-II objects.

First I looked for NGC896 in Cassiopeia. Using Gamma and Delta Cass to draw a line, I moved over to Epsilon and made imagined where another star would be to mimic Delta in relation to Epsilon. This put me immediately in the right field. Using a UHC filter on the 20 Nagler I could detect occasional haze or a subtle change in background contrast. While initially on the object a wobbly satellite tracked drunkenly across the field. There were large areas with few bright stars, in fact, with few stars at all. The contrast differences would at times increase, seeming to cover large areas like the North American Nebula. I wondered if I'd stumbled onto the larger IC 1805. Even in my 11 x 70 finder I thought at times I could detect a glow where the bright nebula was supposed to be. At times, I was quite sure I was seeing some hard edges to the glow through my eyepiece.

Next was the surprise of the night. Very cool, a small bright nebula in Cygnus. I began by hopping off Eta Cygni, which is very easy to locate. Just 1.2 degrees SW is an notable chain of stars that can be counted... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, skip, seven. Once there is an empty spot in the chain, look close to the NE, opposite a double to the SW. An obvious puff only a few minutes in size each direction but glowing more noticeably E to W. Possibly could be just a very bright section of a larger dim bubble encompassing stars to the E, N and S. The bright glow may be just a very bright knot at the W edge of a larger nebula. It is neat! When using the 12 Nagler I found a very dim star embedded in the NE end of the nebula. The UHC was doing a great job on the object. On close inspection there seemed a glow from the bright section extending dimly to a bright star toward the S. Good in town object!

NGC 6991 was near a bright star that seems a double, bright white yellow and dim gold, close to the NNW. The open cluster was just a hazy area with many dim stars to the WSW of the double. This was not very exciting, and is the type of object that makes people not like OCs.

The next object, NGC 6697, was not on my Tirion atlas or Uranometria. But I could see it was located in the North American Nebula. The cluster was fairly large, medium rich and quite distinct. It is most likely a gorgeous object nestled into the big nebula along the edge and embedded. I could also detect a change in contrast to the S and W when using my UHC filter.

NGC 7082 is a nice hop off 76 and 77 Cygni. There are very recognizable chains off these two easy to find stars that lead right to this open cluster. The cluster is elongated SW/NE with many dozen bright components, but the brightest are a pair to the S and a single star to the N bisecting a large haze of very dim stars. I guess the cluster is over 30' in length along its major axis.

NGC 6793 is an open cluster in Vulpecula. I located it by finding the Coathanger (CR 399) easily without optical aid. Following some bright stars off the Coathanger to the N led me to a large open cluster comprised of two chains of at least several dozen stars joined at the S. The E section has more stars but the W side has the brightest ones. A wide bright white double sits NW about 30' away (guess).

On the way to my next object I began on the star Alpha Vulpeculoruilium (whatever). I was struck by how nice this wide gold double appeared!

Hopping off Alpha Vul, close by to the NNW are maybe 2 dozen bright stars with a hazy background. The cluster, NGC 6800, is nice sized and gracefully situated at the end of a nice arc of stars including the pretty double Alpha Vul.

That was it for my Herschel II list for this month, unless I begin observing in the morning a few hours prior to astronomical twilight.

So, I moved on to Pegasus.

The first object was NGC 7331, very familiar to many deep sky observers. It as bright and elongated. In my 20 Nagler I thought it looked rather like the Sombrero (M104), but what I'd expect he Sombrero to look like in my 10" f/5.6 instead of a 14.5" scope. When I put in the 12mm Nagler, the core of 7331 became very bright.

Most of the time I hear someone mention NGC 7332, I figure it must be a dim smudge right next to 7331. Wrong. Mu and Lambda Pegasi are easy naked-eye stars, and 7332 is an easy hop off them just 2 degrees west. The galaxy is bright and elongated. Quite easy to see located between two bright stars to its N and S, but closer to the N star. With my 12mm Nagler I was surprised to unexpectedly run into NGC 7339. 7332 sites NNE/SSW while the dimmer 7339 lies very close by but nearly E/W. 7339 appeared the same size or larger than 7332. This is a nice view!

Not wanting to bun up the sky, or be out too late during busy week, I finished with NGC 7448. This galaxy is in a great field for dark sky observing, but is more of a challenge from the backyard. I found it just NW from Alpha Pegasi (Markab). The galaxy is mag 11.6, but not all that bright compared to the others I'd seen tonight. Its glow was even across the core without a bright nucleus, and the glow evened out gradually toward its edges at the NNW and SSE.

It was nice to be out again. I didn't push too hard. I found myself spending a good amount of time on objects. I especially enjoyed the bright nebula in Cygnus, it was soooo unexpected.

The scope is still out back. I hope to continue tomorrow night. Amazing what one can see just out their back door!