Saturday, April 30, 2011

Heaven and Earth

It had been an awful winter for astronomy. This was the first night out for Mina and me this year. We arrived at Willow Springs at 3pm and met a local land owner who is selling parcels, and spent three hours looking at land. I'm told there are neighbors who grow organic food - vegetables and herbs, a local nudist, and a few parcels owned by Buddhists. Nudists, Foodists and Buddhists. Hmmm. Anyway, the area looked good, some great places out there, and who knows what might develop. The photo is a view of the peaks where the land is located, looking mostly northwest.

Afterward we set up at Deep Sky Ranch, and were soon joined by Marko Johnston, Richard Navarrete, and finally, Steve Gottlieb. The night turned out to be okay, but not great. I'll take it for a first night out. The sky seemed kind of bright, the SQM reading I overheard seemed to confirm it. Transparency came and went, as did the seeing. In the best moments it was great, in the worst, things I'd expect to be able to see were invisible. One thing I was curios about was Steve's experience observing with Barbarella, Jimi Lowery's 48" telescope near Fort Davis Texas... he promised to post an observing report, which I now see he did.

The night started out with Steve showing a recent supernova. It was very bright, looking much more like a field star than anything I'd take for a supernova. Nice find Steve. In the distance during the night, I could hear Marko taking notes on his recorder. Familiar. Next to me, Richard was observing Hicksons. I spent the night going over a grab-bag of objects, and trying to see the Hicksons in Richard's scope. Marko would join Richard and I picking out Hicksons. Some are quite easy, as the joke goes. Some are a bear. Maybe Richard will comment on them. Steve was busy as usual, observing challenging targets. I asked what was on his list, and he mentioned dwarf galaxies. It sounded so politically incorrect, I asked, and we determined that they should be reclassified as "size differenced" - but that giant galaxies would probably prefer to keep their size classification as is. So, don't call them dwarfs.

Other notable occurrences during the night were various amorous livestock in the area, and temperatures that dropped to 32F leaving ice on car roofs. Next morning we drove out and headed east, instead of the usual way home. The drive back through the Panoche Valley on J1 was desolate beauty . We drove past Mercy Hot Springs, and DARC, which I hear is the new 2nd home of one of our top local imagers. This is a good area for astronomy as all there is there, is - heaven and earth (tenchinage) - I've fallen for it again, and, it was a good, again. A new observing season... just getting out under open dark skies, is good.

Here are my notes. All descriptions are with 18" f/4.5 Obsession, and 7mm Nagler, unless otherwise noted. All images are click-able...

Arp 104 UMa GX 2.9'x1.6' 12.3 13 32 10 62 45 53
Arp 104 UMa GX 2.4'x1.8' 13.6P 13 32 07 62 42 01

NGC 5218 is disrupted, and has swirling arms. Bright bar of a core. NGC 5216 is dimmer, smaller, rounder and has a very compact nearly stellar core.

Arp 238 UMa GX 0.9'x0.7' 14.4 13 15 29 62 07 27
Arp 238 UMa GX 1.0'x0.6' 15.3 13 15 35 62 07 27

With concentration there are two dim galaxies oriented E/W, with brighter galaxy trailing, and has at times a small stellar nucleus. Other galaxy is round and smaller. The two galaxies can be mistaken for haze around stars, as there are a pair to their N with equal separation (and brightness) that are collinear with the galaxies.

N5308 Uma GX 3.7'x0.6' 12.3B 13 47 00 60 58 23

Nice very elongated galaxy SSW/NNE. Somewhat of a bright small round core, with stellar pinpoint nucleus popping in. Disk gradually thins beyond the core, with possible dark lane. Striking galaxy.

NGC 5322 Boo GX 5.9'x3.8' 11.1B 13 49 14 60 11 26

Bright compact core is small and quickly transitions to a slightly dimmer disk, which then dims quickly into large fading oval. Fairly large galaxy is elongated but dominated by the bright core, which makes the rest of the object appear dimmer than it really is. Stars overlay the galaxy on the s and e sides. Nice view!

N5430 Uma GX 2.2'x1.1' 12.7P 14 00 45 59 19 43

No find! Too bad :-(

AGC 1767 UMa GXCL 20.7' 15.7 13 36.00 59 12 00

Too dim for the night.

N5204 UMa GX 5.0'x3.0' 11.7B 13 29 36 58 25 09

Large elongated moderately bright galaxy with large roundish core that is even, losing brightness at the edge of the core through the elongation. Possibly mottled.

HGC066A UMa GX5 0.5'x0.4' 15.8B 13 38 38 57 18 44

One component just detectable, but barely. Sky is bright. No real detail, just a small oval dim glow.

N5585 Uma GX 6.1'x3.8' 11.2B 14 19 47 56 43 45

Large and obvious in 12mm, galaxy has elongated large core that could almost be a bright bar. Dim area around core hints at several long spiral arms. Close inspection shows core to be set asymetrically, with most of the arm structure toward the brightest nearby star.

NGC 5631 Uma GX 1.7' 12.4B 14 26 33 56 35 01

Small dim oval pointing away from nearby dim star. No detail.

N5443 Uma GX 3.2'x1.2' 13.1P 14 02 11 55 48 56

Dim lumpy bumpy elongated galaxy full of dark intrusions and disturbed appearance, Oriented E/W, there is a knot in the w side close to the core, compared to knot in E side, which is further from core. Dark intrusions both sides of core.

Arp 239 UMa GX 0.7'x0.4' 15.0 13 41 43 55 40 23

Dim, two main galaxies NGC 5278 and 5279, just break apart with black space between.