Saturday, February 9, 2002

Observing at Dinosaur Point - 2/9/02

We had a great turnout at Dinosaur Point Saturday, as spring-like conditions brought out many observers, old and new, for late afternoon BBQ and picnic dinners followed by a full night of stars for desert. One of the better winter nights I can recall.

I had my 18" f/4.5 Dob and used a combination of 20mm and 12mm Naglers with an occasional 6.7mm Meade Ultrawide, Rigel Quickfinder and 10x70 finder, TheSky by Software Bisque along with The Webb Society's Atlas Of Galaxy Trios. My main targets for the night were remaining objects on the Herschel 400-I and 400-II.

Since the Herschel targets were in Puppis and points east, I spent the early evening chasing some of the galaxy trios.

My first target was the galaxy trio of IC1534, IC1535 and IC1536 in Andromeda. These are actually in a rather empty part of the sky for starhopping. I began in Cassiopeia making a line from Nevi (the center star in the W) to Shedar and extending twice that distance beyond. The star SAO 36236 was just visible at mag 5.86 and put me within a short hop of the correct location. A nice pair of bright stars, SAO 36148 at mag 6.1 and SAO 36151 close by at mag 7.6 marked the beginning of a chain of stars that led east then south next to the target galaxies. I moved to the bend in the arc and hopped off. Immediately I saw NGC 51 to the northeast of the IC galaxies. Then, sitting just at the end of a NW/SE chain of four stars IC1534 came into view. It was dim and small, elongated in a mostly E/W direction. Stepping across a star just to its NE I quickly found IC1535 also faint but more extended and laying almost due N/S. Almost immediately to the E is an asterism that forms a Y. Sitting atop the open end of the asterism is the third galaxy in the trio, IC1536, the faintest of the three. It seemed mostly round and more compact than the others, but offered no additional detail.

To the north of the IC trio sat the next trio. A real treat, seeing these six galaxies in the same field. The next three were NGC51, NGC48 and NGC49. As already mentioned, NGC51 jumped right out and provided a starting point with which to tease out the other two NGCs. A slight 2' to the W sat the faintest of the three, NGC49, round and diffuse. A short hop further W was NGC48 which appeared extended N/S with some slight hints of structure.

Here is a link to an image of the field:

Next I move to NGC996, NGC999 and NGC1001, a galaxy trio in Perseus. Thank goodness for bright stars! They make navigating the sky so much easier! My target was located almost dead center between the famous variable star Algol in Perseus and the excellent double star Gamma Andromeda. But what really sealed the deal getting dead-on location was using my 10x70 finder. I found a distinct haze at what I thought was the correct location and upon looking in the eyepiece found an outstanding open cluster. This was NGC1039, and was stunning. How could such a treasure be just an obscure NGC number I wondered? Well, it is not obscure. Now I know it is easy to get to the galaxy trio by first locating M34. Just a degree to the SSW the galaxies shimmer into view. But aside from the trio, there were another six galaxies in my 47' field of view. What a great sight! Other objects seen were MCG7-6-53, UGC2111, NGC995, NGC1000, NGC1005 and the toughest of the bunch was UGC2135. Here's the image link:

The last galaxy trio I observed for the night was NGC1024, NGC1029 and NGC1028 in Aries. This target is in another easy to get to area. If you've found M77 in Cetus, you can find this group. The "head" of Cetus is comprised of Alpha, Gamma, Lambda and Mu Ceti. Hopping of Mu opposite Lambda put you in the area. Making it even easier, there is a pair of stars off Mu to the WNW, close by. Cross those and go the same distance beyond that you went from Mu to the pair. Easy stuff! NGC1024 and NGC1029 are easy and bright elongated galaxies capping off the ends of a Mercedes symbol of stars. NGC1028 is misplotted on TheSky 1'50" SW of its actual position and took some work to find... it was very dim and elusive. Here is an image.... I am curious if anyone can comment on the fuzzy double star SW of NGC1029:

Aside from the galaxy trios above, there were a few objects that were notable of the over 60 logged during the night. They were:

NGC2525 - Galaxy in Puppis, large and amorphous with some mottling. Sitting close by an easily identifiable zig-zag string of 4 stars.

NGC2539 - Open cluster in Puppis, gorgeous - large with many stars of almost equal magnitudes, offset by a bright blue and gold double star of differing magnitudes touching the SE perimeter of the cluster. Go see this one, the double is like two jewels atop a rich setting.

NGC2610 - Planetary Nebula in Hydra. This is an unusual object visually. Part of what appears to be a small bright open cluster, the planetary is round and solid with a star touching its eastern boundary. With about 280X the planetary appears to somewhat ragged on its western edge and have a few very dim stars involved. I did not try any filters.

NGC2613 is a bright edge on galaxy with a notable bulged central core in Pyxis. It is a bright galaxy, so even moderate instruments should reveal its shape. I felt as if there was more eastern extension of the arms than western, but the image shows a fine spiral with much dust in its tightly wound arms. I had asked one of the imagers to shoot this thing, but the seeing had softened by then, and especially so in the southern sky. Still, this is a beautiful object, as this image shows:

NGG3073 - Galaxy in Ursa Major. This one provided some eye candy as a bonus. The target was a small but reasonably bright target, but when landing on the field my eye immediately fell onto NGC3079. NGC3079 is a large, thin, long disturbed looking slash of a galaxy. I could hardly believe its appearance. Have a look, and at the same time take in NGC3073 and sitting perpendicular to the major axis of the big galaxy you'll find MGC9-17-9. This is a very interesting field.

NGC3115 - Galaxy in Sextens. A wonderful large elongated galaxy with a stellar core. The DSS images do not do this one justice... another web-site refers to it as the Spindle Galaxy, and their image of it shows why

NGC3158 - Galaxy in group in Leo Minor. This is a wonderful field. I counted 9 galaxies. NGC3158 is easily the brightest of the group and stands alone just NNW of a chain of several other galaxies running E/W in close proximity. Others observed were MGC7-21-19, NGC3159, NGC3161, NGC3163 (four in a line), NGC3151, NGC3150, NGC3152 and NGC3160. The seeing had softened so I did not try for the dimmer ones in the area. Check this out (15 arcminutes wide/tall):

NGC3254 - Galaxy in Leo Minor. This is a large tilted spiral that gave hints of dusty arms. Nice pair of stars off the eastern edge.

NGC3513 - Galaxy in Crater. This one is paired visually with NGC3511. Both are bright and mottled with dust. NGC3513 is a great example of a barred spiral. My notes refer to dark intrusions on NGC3513 from the E and W, which may be the dark areas between the arms and bar. I want to review this one under more magnification. The image is a hands-down winner:

The last object I'll write up is NGC3621, a nice bright galaxy in Hydra. It is large and bright, and framed beautifully by a cross of four stars that surround its core almost at the cardinal points of the compass. The actual extent of the galaxy far overruns the framing stars, but visually, only the core could be seen. The image is another winner:

I don't really know what time we called it a night. I was having a great time. The only thing that stopped me was feeling unsteady walking around. Someone said they heard us talking still at 5 a.m.

Been a long time since I had an observing session like that one!

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