Saturday, December 15, 2001

Cold bones and warm friends at Dino!

Yesterday afternoon was one of those winter crap-shoots. The skies in Los Gatos began beautifully clear and very promising, and the initial plan was to go to Henry Coe. The night prior had been very cold and the seeing was, even naked eye, obviously poor... the stars were twinkling and the cold breeze made standing outside not a very good idea. By morning everything had a layer of frost or ice. But, the sky looked great.

Plans to go observing went along fine until about 2 p.m. by which time crud began moving in from the north and west. Dice in hand, it was time to roll 'em. Looking at the weather loop on the net, it seemed to me we had just as much chance to skirt the southern limits of the clouds as we did getting skunked. So, the old adage "you don't know if you don't go" won me over. A few conversations with friends and the decision was Dinosaur Point, where several other TACos were known to be heading.

Other than the normal accident related bottleneck at 85 and 101, the drive to Dino was by itself worth getting out. I took 152 east from Gilroy and thoroughly enjoyed the vineyards, horse stables, towering eucalyptus trees lining the route. The greening hills to the east, the pointed peaks ahead of me to the south, coast range hills across the yellow-green valley floor to my west. Clarity, tranquility, peace. This is when driving is near meditation. Soon I was entering a new gate on the Dinosaur Point Road leading down to our parking lot observing location. The gate, two miles from the parking lot, would be locked at night. Our group, known to the rangers for our years of good record, now has its own lock in-line on the gate. On a good night a more ideal situation for safety, quiet and location would be difficult to find. A word of thanks is in order to Albert Highe for his capable efforts with the rangers to provide for this arrangement!

By the time I pulled into the parking lot, clouds were threatening to the north and west. During the night we'd have long period of clear skies broken by bands of crud coming through. It was dark enough that it was difficult to see other observers easily, only dark outlines. The transparency was excellent except, of course, when a band of cloud passed though. I don't know how cold it got, but my fingers were chilled (fingerless gloves). I left at 1 a.m. after six hours of solid observing. When clouds passed through I visited with the others. As the subject line says, it was a night for cold bones and warm friends.

I feel very fortunate to have friends that ask interesting questions. A few months ago Richard Navarrete asked me how many objects I had left on the Herschel 400, and on the second Herschel 400. One night I sat down and figured it out, looking through my list of Herschel 2500+ that I had been using for an observing program. I had no idea how many on the smaller subsets remained. It turned out to be 30 of the first 400 and 100 of the second 400. I printed them out as a list which I am not completing.

It should have come as no surprise to me that these objects would be fun! Many of the larger 2500+ list are truly faint smudges that have little detail and are more of a challenge to find than they are a pleasing visual. But the 130 objects I have left contain many interesting targets. I took my time last night looking at each object and trying to see just how much detail I could pick out.

My tools were an 18" f/4.5 Dobsonian, 20mm and 12mm Nagler eyepieces, UHC and OIII filters, Rigel Quikfinder and a laptop computer running The Sky. My 10x70 finder threw off the balance of the scope, must have gotten some wax on the bearings when cleaning up the mirror box a few weeks ago, so I left it off.


NGC 896
Other description Nebula low brightness.
Constellation Cas
Dreyer description Extremely faint, pretty large, irregular figure.
RA 02h 24m 53.2s Dec: +61 54'33"
RA 02h 24m 48.0s Dec: +61 54'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 29 01'50" Alt: +58 06'58"
Size 27.0'

I began by looking for NGC 896. I had on a few very good nights in my backyard detected some nebulosity in this area, but the view from Dinosaur Point was spectacular. Both 896, neighboring IC 1795 and the larger IC 1805 were visible. It was this area that showed me we'd have a good night! Here is an image showing the area:

Make sure to follow the link on the bottom of that page to the telens photo of the area!
NGC 1514
Other description Planetary nebula disc with central star.
Constellation Tau
Dreyer description 9th magnitude star in nebula 3' diameter.
Magnitude 10.0
RA 04h 09m 16.9s Dec: +30 47'15"
RA 04h 09m 12.0s Dec: +30 47'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 79 18'12" Alt: +41 24'45"
Size 1.9'

I moved next to a planetary nebula, NGC 1514, in Taurus. What a pleasant surprise! The planetary had a bright central star with a dimmer star embedded to the west inside the shell. I felt there were possibly multiple shells that had a bright outer ring or eastern edge. It appeared asymetrical in brightness across the large circular surface. The western edge also seemed bright, but less so than the eastern portion. With the 12mm Nagler I easily saw the brighter outer shell with a dimmer central portion, the planetary being clearly round. The brighter sections at the east and west were more pronounced, and a dim star was involved in the brighter eastern edge. When I first glanced at this at 100x with the 20 Nagler I immediately thought of the great Hubble shot of the Egg Nebula. The OIII filter was a big plus on this object.

Also called the Dew Nebula, here is an image that gives a good idea of the details:
NGC 1579
Other description Reflection nebula bright.
Constellation Per
Dreyer description Pretty bright, very large, irregularly round, much brighter middle, 8th magnitude star 350 , 2'.
RA 04h 30m 17.2s Dec: +35 16'14"
RA 04h 30m 12.0s Dec: +35 16'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 71 36'52" Alt: +39 09'29"
Size 12.0'

I moved on to NCG 1579 - a reflection nebula in Perseus. This too was a surprising and interesting object, offering a wonderful change from the usual galaxies and open clusters found throughout the Herschel list. The nebula had a very obvious "hard" south east edge at first glance. A dimmer extent to the nebula appeared to show in a triangular shape, large, and enclosing two bright stars in the northeastern part of the brightest area. Continued viewing revealed an almost circular glow, like a planetary nebula at the "tip" of the triangle. Another dim circular area shown at the away form the brighter section across what now appeared to be a black gulf of dark nebula. I think this image gives a good idea of the dark gulf and extent of the nebulosity:
NGC 1587
Other description Round galaxy close companion.
Constellation Tau
Dreyer description Faint, pretty small, round, resolvable, but mottled, westward of double nebula.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 04h 30m 46.1s Dec: +00 40'04"
RA 04h 30m 42.0s Dec: +00 40'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 105 37'35" Alt: +20 29'29"
Size 0.6'

NGC 1587 was another surprise. A galaxy in Taurus, and with two other obvious galaxies in the field, it formed a nice trio! Close and to the west of 1587 is NGC 1588, both roundish galaxies in the mag 13 range. They are both small. About 22' north is a larger edge on, NGC 1589. The close pair of galaxies are just north of a dense field of bright stars, making a nice view and an easy landmark with which to locate the dimmer targets.
NGC 1663
Other description Open cluster.
Constellation Ori
Dreyer description Cluster, little rich in stars, stars large & small.
RA 04h 48m 40.5s Dec: +13 10'06"
RA 04h 48m 36.0s Dec: +13 10'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 91 58'10" Alt: +24 37'16"

I was finding a lot of variety in targets, which made the observing session even more interesting. I moved next to NGC 1663, a rather non-discript and difficult open cluster in Orion near the Taurus border. A pentagon of stars to the south-southwest just past a wide pair of bright stars running north-west/southe-east helped determine the correct position. Without a very detailed chart, mine is on my laptop, I would not have found this grouping. Whereas the references describe NGC 1663 as small, I saw what seems a group of brighter stars over a fairly large and rich dim fields. There were several bright stars to the south-east and north with a dim grouping at the north end and further east. I felt there was another larger cluster interspersed with a few bright stars to the east. NGC 1663 does not display in The Sky, although it has a location.
NGC 1788
Other description Reflection nebula bright.
Constellation Ori
Dreyer description Bright, considerably large, round, brighter middle triple star; 10th magnitude star involved in the nebulosity.
RA 05h 06m 58.2s Dec: -03 21'00"
RA 05h 06m 54.0s Dec: -03 21'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 102 51'24" Alt: +10 57'31"
Size 8.0'

NGC 1788 is another hidden treasure! I had no idea this reflection nebula, located between the lower part of Orion and Taurus, was so interesting. In my 12mm Nagler the nebula was small and fuzzy. A bright star sits to the north-west and a dim star is involved directly in the center of the brightest portion of the nebula, and a dim large oval seems to extend to the northwest actually encasing (apparently) the bright star. This was a fine target!
NGC 1977
Other description Nebula bright.
Constellation Ori
Dreyer description Very remarkable!, 42 Ori and nebula.
RA 05h 35m 34.2s Dec: -04 52'03"
RA 05h 35m 30.0s Dec: -04 52'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 99 33'58" Alt: +04 26'12"
Size 20.0'

Welcome to the neighborhood of the most visited nebula in the sky. NGC 1977 is just off of The Great Orion Nebula, M42. So it is quite easy to find! The object sits between M43 and the open cluster NGC 1981, just north of NGC 1977. Two lines of very distinct stars seem to be embedded in the nebulosity comprising this object. It is somewhat like looking at photos of the Merope Nebula in M45... the same kind of wispy haze. The view was so good, I borrowed a 25" Dob to get a better look! The three brightest stars are involved in the brightest section of nebula which is large and round ... the three stars run est-west and to the north of the others. A large part of nebulosity sits across a dark chasm to the east of the three stars. It is a wonderful view!

The Digital Sky Survey image is so burnt in, this little gem is much better:
NGC 1990
Other description Nebula low brightness.
Constellation Ori
Dreyer description A magnificent (or otherwise interesting) object!, extremely large, extended, epsilon Ori involved westward.
RA 05h 36m 16.3s Dec: -01 12'02"
RA 05h 36m 12.0s Dec: -01 12'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 96 33'13" Alt: +06 33'15"
Size 50.0'

Jay Freeman brought pizza to Dinosaur Point. It does not happen all the time, but Jay is known for pizza at star parties. I've seen him do the same thing at Michelle Stone's Plettstone Preserve. So, Jay showed up at Dino last night with to large pizzas, still hot, from Pinnochio's in Gilroy. Jay knows how to make friends! ;-)

I mention Jay in particular because Jay was walking around admonishing Herschel Hunters on the path of NGC 1990 that is does not exist. It is supposed to be around Alnilam, the center star in Orion's belt. When I looked using both my 20 and 12mm Naglers, I saw what I thought was haze extending well way from the star... a round glow. Was that NGC 1990 or is that just on the eyepiece? Hart to tell. But, after looking for a while, I was convincing myself that the glow was brighter to the south with even dimmer extensions of nebulosity extending away even further to the south. It was very difficult to determine anything, since the star was so bright.

But I'll agree with Jay... it does not exist.

Jay knows how to make friends :-)

Here is an image showing Alnilam and the non-existant nebula ;-)
NGC 1999
Other description Nebula bright with dust.
Constellation Ori
Dreyer description Star of magnitude 10 or 11 involved in nebula.
RA 05h 36m 34.2s Dec: -06 42'04"
RA 05h 36m 30.0s Dec: -06 42'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 100 51'27" Alt: +03 06'33"
Size 16.0'

NGC 1999 is indeed a strange looking object. Sitting between the two stars that make the end of Orion's sword, this is a no trouble land on it right way with a finder type object! AT 100x it looks like an irregular nebula with a dim star involved. At 210x it is round looking with a bright star in the center. Looks like a planetary. It seems brighter on the east end where a star is embedded, but a dimmer portion extends in a widening fan shape dimming away from the star to the north-west. There are all sorts fo dark lanes and dim nebulosity around the area. This image shows just how much nebula is in the area:
NGC 2170
Other description Reflection nebula bright.
Constellation Mon
Dreyer description 9th magnitude star in very faint, pretty large nebula, extended 170 .
RA 06h 07m 34.3s Dec: -06 24'06"
RA 06h 07m 30.0s Dec: -06 24'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 95 54'48" Alt: -02 48'09"
Size 2.0'
NGC 2182
Other description Reflection nebula faint.
Constellation Mon
Dreyer description Pretty bright double star, large star nebula, extended 90 +/-.
RA 06h 09m 34.3s Dec: -06 20'06"
RA 06h 09m 30.0s Dec: -06 20'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 95 33'33" Alt: -03 09'28"
Size 3.0'
NGC 2185
Other description Reflection nebula faint.
Constellation Mon
Dreyer description 11th magnitude star and 4 small stars in very faint, large nebula.
RA 06h 11m 10.3s Dec: -06 13'06"
RA 06h 11m 06.0s Dec: -06 13'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 95 13'31" Alt: -03 24'14"
Size 3.0'

I then visited three small nebulae in Monoceros, NGC 2170, NGC 2182 and NGC 2185. These are all in close proximity to each other, so I am doing them all at once. They are somewhat out in the middel of nowhere, but using Orion's belt you can travel a line east into Monoceros to gamma and beta Monoceritos. While in the area, look at beta, it is a spectacular triple star! Just back toward Orion from gamma is where our nebulae are located. Ngc 2170 is a smallish and dim nebula glowing around a dim star. It seems to be part of a larger dimmer nebula extending south and east in somewhat of a veil or sheet. These may in fact be only the brighter parts of a much larger nebula around this entire region since a grayed background seems to pervade the area thorugh which stars are seen. This feeling was best achieved at around 100x. NGC 2182 is a dim glow at 100x, surrounding several stars at the north end of a bright chain that leads to it. Travelling further form 2170 then 2182, you arrive at the bright nebula NGC 2185 which seems to enclose six stars in a one, four (box), one configuration.

Here are links:

2170 -

2182 -

2185 -
NGC 2245
Other description Reflection nebula bright.
Constellation Mon
Dreyer description Pretty large, cometary form, much brighter nucleus southeast almost star, 7th magnitude star-8 to northeast.
RA 06h 32m 46.8s Dec: +10 09'54"
RA 06h 32m 42.0s Dec: +10 10'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 78 56'02" Alt: +02 16'05"
Size 5.0'

Another nice reflection nebula in Monoceros is NGC 2245. It is in a very easy star-hopping position relative to south-eastern Gemini. The nebula extends of a dim star extending in a fan shape to the south south-west. There is a bright star to the east and a nebulous area known as NGC 2169 shows around a star to the north. Here's a link to the DSS image of NGC 2245 and NGC 2261
NGC 2261
Other description Nebula bright.
Constellation Mon
Dreyer description Bright, very moderately extended 330 , nucleus cometary form = 11th magnitude star.
RA 06h 39m 16.8s Dec: +08 43'53"
RA 06h 39m 12.0s Dec: +08 44'00" (Epoch 2000)
Azm 79 05'18" Alt: +00 07'24"
Size 2.0'

The next object is NGC 2261. It is also known as Hubble's Variable Nebula, or, locally, as Richard's Comet. I don't look at it often, but when I do it makes me smile, as I recall a very memorable night nearly ten years ago at Fremont Peak, when I first saw this object! I won't go far in describing it any more than what I've already done. There is much literature about this object... if you have not seen it, put it on your list.

No image link. Look at it through an eyepiece first!

By this time of night I had been on my feet over six hours. The temperature was dropping and I was feeling weary. I looked at a few more objects in Orion, then, in the third round of departing observers, I left.

The night had been a pleasant surprise. A lot of observing took place. I'll try to count the scopes... 8" Celestron SCT, 13.1" Dob, 125mm f/5 refractor (?), 14.5" Starmaster, 18" Obsession, 14.5" Starmaster, 8" Meade SCT, 20" StarMaster, I didn't see Baldwin's scope... he can fill us in... 11" Celestron Dob, 12.5" Ultralight Dob, 10" Meade LX-200, 4" Vixen, 8" Meade SCT, another 4" Vixen, imager (Brian?) using an astrograph, 25" Obsession, 12.5" Starsplitter or StarMaster.

Nice collection of scopes. Even better collection of friends. Warmed my bones to be out with them!

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