Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Close Site And Short Nite (Only A Northern Sky)

When one is handed a lemon.....

Well, I had planned on a full three nights at CalStar this year, but circumstances dictated otherwise.  In retrospect, probably a good thing.  I'm not up to 110 degree heat, as a survivor of the infamous Shingletown Star Party bake-a-thon (is that place still there after the fires?) many of us recall.  So, on Saturday I looked at the options of closer (but brighter) observing sites, and eventually settled on joining the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club at Bonny Doon Airport in 40 minutes from my home south of Aptos.  It had been a nice day on the coast, with dinner on the Municipal Wharf,  followed by the quick drive past ocean and redwoods to the observing site.

Arriving at sunset, I found a few other observers present.  John Pierce, Ron Yelton, Bill Seiler, a newbie woman named Terri, and off in the dark distance... Dean.  I quickly removed my 18" Obsession from the back of the Fit, set it up on my Equatorial Platform, collimated, aligned finders, got my laptop and battery set up on a collapsible table... pork rinds and water in place, and before you could say "hey... there's the Milky Way", I was observing.

Bonny Doon is great for its convenience to those of us on the coast.  I had considered Coe, but it was twice the drive, and I thought the skies only marginally better.  I'd really be interested in determining a mag-limit difference between the places on average nights.  I do know that when the fog is in, over Santa Cruz, BD can be dark.  But last night there was significant glow to the south over Santa Cruz, and to the northeast over San Jose.  The Milky Way never showed the sugary granularity we so enjoy on the best nights.  But... 40 minute drive, wide open sky.... I'm not complaining.  In fact, thanks to the SCAC for making this available!

So, all that said, I will report that I observed until about 12:15 a.m., and concentrated on part of the 140+ targets I had identified for the three nights of CalStar (no, I didn't expect to observe them all).  I worked only a northern sky - curious what I could see from this location.  I was pleasantly surprised!

I had commented to Dean, who is traversing the Herschel 400-II, that my days (and I suspect his) of logging 50 objects a night, are done.  These tend to be tough, but doable, requiring exercising the eye and patience, and swapping eyepieces and filters.  My telescope is an 18" f/4.5 Obsession, I track using an Equatorial Platform.  Finders are a Rigel Quickfinder and ancient Celestron 10x70.  All filter views were using an NPB.  Eyepieces were all Nagler type II - 20mm/103x, 12mm/171x and 7mm/294x.  Total observing time was on the order of 3-1/2 hours.

When I was driving home afterward, the fog was coming in... and at 10 a.m. here, as I write this, it is still in.  Fog means, dark skies.

For those interested in Bonny Doon

Next month, on new moon, I plan on joining the SJAA at Coe, and help out at that club's Half Messier Marathon.  Sounds like fun. 

Here are the dozen targets I tracked down last night...

Abell 81 PK 117+18.1 = IC 1454 = PN G117.5+18.9    22 42 25.0    80 26 32    34"x31"    14.4    Cep
7mm NPB - Easily visible, annular with averted vision, thick ring elongated E/W.  Noticeable without a filter.


Abell 86 PK 118+8.2 = PN G118.7+08.2    00 01 31.2    70 42 29    70"        Cep
12mm NPB - Suspected large annular, or perhaps just a large part of the edge but not complete - mostly the thick western 2/3rds.  With time, haze shows.


NGC 7023    21h 01'    68° 00'    8        Cep
12mm NPB - Nebulosity most noticeable surrounding mag 7.3 SAO19158.  Surrounding area shows much dim nebulosity, and bright knot surrounding 3 dim stars about 34 arcminutes west of bright star.


 NGC 7129    21h 41'    65° 50    2    9.3    Cep      
7mm -NPB - Ended up looking at very nearby NGC 7133 - much more interesting. Containes three IC objects, and four distinct glows.  Three brightest are surrounding stars, fourth glow has a very dim star involved and is identified as LBN 497.  Very pleasing view.


S 170    23h 59'    64° 23    20        Cas      
12mm NPB - Nebulosity is involved dimly throughout region mostly involving three stars of nearly equal magnitude, and a fourth dimmer star much removed to the south, out of line in what otherwise would form a parallelogram.  The north eastern star is most involved, with the brightest and most extensive glow.


 Abell 6     PK 136+4.1 = PN G136.1+04.9    02 58 41.9    64 30     188"x174"    15    Cas
12mm NPB - Fairly large undifferentiated glow, very dim stars involved, and occasional knottiness.


Abell 3 PK 131+2.1 = Sh 2-189 = PN G131.5+02.6    02 12 06.6    64 09     60"    16    Cas
20mm NPB - Only suspected a glow.  12mm NPB glow appears to involve several dim stars, but no detail.  7mm NPB reveals the suspected glow as three dim stars, but these are involved in a half arc of nebulosity extending from those three stars to the west, then around to a one dim star to the south.  Appears planetary may be annular with a missing eastern edge.


Abell 75 PK 101+8.1 = NGC 7076 = PN G101.8+08.7    21 26 23.6    62 53     67"x47"    14.5    Cep
20mm NPB - Easily visible with averted vision as a mostly round glow.  With 7mm NPB, appears mostly round but eastern half is much brighter and more well defined.  Somewhat annular and with a thin but complete western "strand" that completes the disk.


NGC 7538    23h 12'    61° 13    7        Cep    Sh2-158  
7mm NPB - Nice glow around a pair of brighter stars, at first appears to just be localized to the stars, but with averted vision more and brighter nebulosity appears throught the region immediately to the NNE.  Suspected much larger plume to the E of the bright area and curving around to the S, as if mirroring the N but much more dimly.


NGC 7635    23h 18'    60° 55    8        Cas    sh2-162  
20mm NPB - Easily visible especially around SAO20575.  Extends noticably NE/SE across the bright star, and away to the SE in a large dim glow.  7mm defines area SE of brighter area as the Bubble, a fairly even mostly round glow somewhat elongated NE/SW, with several dim stars involved.  Mostly even brightness across Bubble, but with a less well defined ESE edge.


NGC 7380    22h 45'    57° 45    20    7.2    Cep      
20mm NPB - Nice open cluster with nebulosity.  Glow encompasses entire cluster, with nicely defined eastern edge, a line of stars running N/S.  A lesser chain defines the N edge of the nebulosity, which appears mostly triangular in its brightest section.  A dimmer section, also large, appears to be brokien off to the south, as if separated by a dark lane.  Nice object.


Abell 2 PK 122-4.1 = PN G122.1-04.9    00 45 36    57 57.    33"x29"    14.5    Cas
12MM NPB - Easy location and easy to see.  This small round glow is 7 arc minutes south of mag 8.3 SAO21680.  With 7mm and NPB, it appears at times annular and elongated slightly NE/SW.  This is a farily obvious Abell planetary.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Grand View of the Ancients

I'd been talking about a trip like this for maybe a dozen years.  Always put off by the distance.  Then a group of friends, led by Steve Gottlieb and Paul Alsing, decided to do it.  Paul has been numerous times, Steve, not since the 90's.  The destination, Grandview Campground at 8600 feet on the western flank of White Mountain.  Driving time estimated at 8 hours, but with stops and Yosemite traffic, closer to 9,

The weather forecasts were not very promising, and I was very reluctant.  But I had convinced my buddy Richard Navarrete that this was the best opportunity I could think of, to do it, and even with my thinking of backing out, he was in.  How could I not go?

So, at 10 a.m. on Wednesday August 15th, I found myself on the road, 18" scope, observing and camping gear, all packed into a little Honda Fit.  The drive was long, up till I got into the eastern reaches of Yosemite, heading for Tioga Pass.  Then the drive became pleasurable - with unmatched scenery - all the way to the campsite on White Mountain.

White Mountain is a great place to observe.  The fact that it had been a finalist for locating the Keck Telescope, and you know there is dark, and steady seeing.  And in addition, there lived up top, the oldest living things in North America - the Bristlecone Pine.  I had always wanted to see them.

So, soon I was unpacked, and camp set up.

At the end of this narrative, I'll list a few of the targets I observed through the telescope.  Ancient light.  But the weather indeed turned out to be pretty poor for observing, so that time was limited.  But, the trip was great anyway - the views of the ancients in the Patriarch Grove, and the scenery at 11,000 feet on the dirt road leading to it, was easily worth the 18 hours driving over three days and two sleepless nights.

Here are a few photos...

Upon arrival, I found this was indeed a very astronomy friendly campground!
  There was no problem with room for our campsites or astronomy gear.

We certainly had some memorable views. heading up to the Bristlecones

 This view is east into the Great Basin

This view is west, toward the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada

It is a moonscape at 11,000 feet.

But the trees, anywhere from 15 to 45 feet tall, and incredibly beautiful....
 Made every minute of the drive...

 ...worthwhile.  Never have I seen anything like it!

 Even the drive back home, along highway 395, was spectacular!

But we came for astronomy.  Here, to augment the views of the ancient trees, are reports of some ancient light I took in as well... all observations (raw notes) are using an 18" f/4.5 Dobsonian, all eyepieces are Naglers.  I had a great time, as limited as it was for observing.

Abell 68    Vul    PN    40"x37"    15.2    20 00 10    +21 42 58    PK 60-4.1 = PN G060.0-04.3  
7mm uhc-very slight glow, maybe only one edge away from dim chain of 4 stars, toward brighter one.  Very faint and intermittent.  With NPB, shows better and closer to brighter star, possibly annular with brighter edge toward bright star.

N 6852    Aql    Paul's Picks    28.0"    12.8P    20 00 39    +01 43 41    
Easy to locate, visible as hazy small smudge in 20mm.  7mm no filter reveals dim but certain disk, with hints of annularity.  With NBP filter annularity is striking.  Nebula is nearly round and situated between two very closeby stars.  Dimmer of two stars mauy be involved in very dim elongated extension of nebula.

Sh 2-099    Cyg    BN    5    3    20 00 50    +33 29 34        Problem locating on Megastar, shows Sh2-81.  Check it out!

N 6857    Cyg    EN    1.0x1.0        20 01 47    +33 31 38        With NPB and 7mm, planetary is very bright and obvious..Sh2-100 shows nicely without a filter and at lower power (20mm and 12mm).

NGC 6866    Cyg    OC    6    9    20 03 54    +44 00 00        20mm - scattered, broken cluster of several dozen stars, seemingly stretched in an elongated shape, but with a condensation in the middle.  Many nearly the same magnitude.  Takes up about 23 arc minutes by 5.

NGC 6882    Vul    OC        5.5    20 11 54    +26 33 00        20mm - combination of two clusters, 6822 and 6885.  Very large rich groups, with great magnitude reanges, and strewn over large area.  Overflows 20 Nagler field.

NGC 6885    Vul    OC    20    9.1    20 11 54    +26 29 00        20mm - combination of two clusters, 6822 and 6885.  Very large rich groups, with great magnitude ranges, and strewn over large area.  Overflows 20 Nagler field.

 N 6894    Cyg    PN    44"    12.5    20 16 23    +30 33 55        7mm and NPB, bright, ragged appearance, mostly round, brighter along inner edge of ring, and in two opposite sides.

Sh 2-104        BN    7    2    20 17 44    +36 44 40        20mm and NPB shows nice tight group of stars in Dolidze 5 along with lots of nebulosity surrounding the group, and spread throughout the area around brighter stars.  Worth a visit! IC4996?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Whirlpool's Coils

 A short report from DARC Observatory last night.  DARC is a private property, southeast of the San Francisco bay area, located near Mercy Hot Springs in Little Panoche Valley.  It is dark, remote and desolate.
Below are objects I observed (and tried to observe) with my 18" f/4.5 Dobsonian.  All eyepieces are type II Naglers.  Conditions at DARC could not have been better.  Temperatures must have been in the high 80's at 7pm when I arrived.  During the night, there was no more than the slightest breeze - enough to just help cool us down, as we could have been in t-shirts all night long.


 I began by observing NGC 2903, and Ariana Bernal Adreo came over asking to see something in my telescope.  She suggested Venus, but being the Klieg Light that it is, I suggested something less jarring.  So, we went on a little tour.  I began with Saturn, which was nice, but a bit soft.  Then I progressed out to M3, explaining to Ariana that it was still part of our galaxy.  She liked the globular.    Wondering what to show her next, I asked my observing buddy Richard Navarrete for suggestions.  The Whirlpool!  Well placed, it showed great detail.  Ariana easily understood that she was seeing spiral arms.  I suppose some knowledge has rubbed off from her dad.  So, after two galaxies, what else?  Richard?  Ah - the Leo Triplet!  In my 20 Nagler, they sat around the edge of the field.  But Ariana was able to pick them out.  Three galaxies are certainly better than two!  Ten years old, and observing through a big scope - this sounds so familiar to me!  From there, I moved to M84 and M86, the heart of the Virgo Cluster - and asked Ariana to count the galaxies in view - well - four.  Four galaxies in a single view!  Astronishing!  So, I told Ariana about Markarian's Chain, and suggested she tell her dad what she'd seen.  Later, Rogelio came by, and told me these were the first objects his daughter has seen in telescope, that are outside our galaxy.
 I was soon back on my program.  In order to just take it easy, I had copied the Spring Favorites from the Adventures In Deep Space web-page:
I took my time, relaxed, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I think the most interesting "find" for me was the Eight Burst Nebula - it is so far south, I knew none of the star patterns, and there was enough extinction down low that I found myself guessing at where it might be.  After a lot of looking, and scratching my head, I pointed the scope at the horizon, and .... surprise!.... there it was.  I had to hold the front of the scope down in order to see it.  Also very rewarding were the two galaxy clusters, NGC 3158 and 3166.  I hit my mag limit for the night on MCG+7-21-7, which was at the extreme limit of visibility.
In the morning, I woke, and while packing up, lifted my equatorial platform, and found, nicely coiled like The Whirlpool Galaxy, a baby rattlesnake - who was sleeping in the shade of my gear, on this already hot April morning.  I didn't need a cup of coffee, after that....

Thanks to Rogelio Bernal Andreo and Lee Hoglan for hosting our group.  It was an excellent outing, start to finish - a wonderful two hour drive from the Santa Cruz area, out of the domain of man, and I was seeing things, in the dark,  through a telescope (made of glass and wood) - half a billion light years away,   What perspective.

NGC     NAME     TYPE     CON     RA     DEC     VMAG     URA2      

NGC 2903  na     G    LEO     932  2130  8.9 

12mm - bright and elongated 3x2 with strong central condensation across most of the major axis.  Very strong small elongated core that appears round with ansae.  Condensation in arms shows well (NGC 2905).      


Hickson 40  GAL GR  HYA  939    -451 12.8   

7mm - 4 members are obvious, 5th does not show up.  Three brightest all have pinpoint bright stellar nuclei, dimmest member does not.  All members are elongated and at divergent angles to each other.     

Double Quasar    QSO     UMA     1001     5541     16.5   
Negative observation.

NGC 3115 Spindle  G  SEX   1005  -743  8.9 

12mm - very bright extremely compact core.  Arms are very thin and very long.  Stellar nucleus is noticeable inside small but elongated core.  Arms ratio fo at least 10x1, and bright.  Highlight object.     


NGC 3132 8-Burst  PN VEL 1007  -4026 9.2 

7mm - large and bright nebula with bright cental star.  Slightly elongated, with a large number of "stars embedded.     


NGC 3158  GAL GR LMI 013  3846  11.8
7mm - 11 galaxies in close proximity in view - most challenging MCG+7-21-25 and MCG +7-21-27 both on edge of perception.  NGC 3163, 3161, 3159 form a nice compact chain with MCG+7-21-19 at the W end.  Off further west were NGCs 3151 and 3150.  N was NGC 3158 - the most obvious and largest in the group, with NGCs 3160 and 3152 to its north.  Very nice compact group of galaxies.     


NGC 3166   G  SEX  1014  326   10.4

7mm - NGC 3169 appears disrupted with a bright core that is elongated mostly e/w, and a quickly and randomly diffusing halo.  NGC 3166 lies 15' to its w and has a compact non-stellar core elongated slightly e/w, with a diffuse halo slightly elongated in the same direction.  8' to the west of 3166 and past two dim stars is a non-descript faint glow barely visible, without distinct elongation or direction.  Continuing approximately 30' SW is NGC 3156, a moderately bright galaxy with indistinct shape, a brighter compact large core and a feeling of a disrupted portion extending south.


Hickson 44 GAL GR LEO 1018     2150     11

20mm - beautiful grouping of four obvious galaxies - three in a line, forth close by to the nw of the middle member of the linear group.