Wednesday, 6 January 2010

No observing last night!

Because of a hefty amount of some unfamiliar white stuff landing on the UK. Usually the Isle of Wight escapes and we get murk and rain. Not this time. We got some unforecast (as far as the island was concerned) snow. It is 5 inches deep this evening and it looks like tomorrow will be another unscheduled day off work as it is due to freeze, making driving even more treacherous than just the snow by itself.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Life - and observing - in the freezer

Or 'Christ, it's cold!' could be a subtitle. The UK, unusually, has been in the grip of subzero temperatures for a couple of weeks now, with daytime temperatures barely getting above zero and night-time ones plummeting down to minus ten or colder. A lot of the country has got snow - except us on the South Coast, fortunately (or is that 'unfortunately'? If you have to have precipitation of some form, at least let it be of the picturesque-but-not-a-chance-of-getting-to-work-today type), instead we have had sleet, freezing rain and black ice making lethal driving conditions...and a few clear nights. In fact, 2010 is off to a flying start and out of four nights I have had three observing sessions, two binocular and one telescopic.
Tonight was the telescopic night. The Moon, which is 77% of Full, wasn't to rise until 2131 GMT so when I arrived home from work, via a doctor's appointment, I set my scope up and left it to cool for an hour.

Very cold -6C, No wind, icy underfoot (frozen dog pee!)

No Moon (rose at 2131 GMT)
Seeing Ant III-IV, transparency II
NELM 6.2
Instrument: 12 inch (30 cm) f5 Dobsonian

I will update this post when I get home from work tomorrow, with the objects I observed, except for Abell 12 which I'll mention now. I reobserved it this evening and this time it DID pop out with the OIII filter, as described by numerous people. I know, such a doubting Thomas...
Other objects I did observe were NGC 1514, a planetary nebula in Taurus, NGC 1980, NGC 1981 and NGC 2024 (a poorer view than the one I had a couple of weeks ago - if the Flame's crap, don't even bother looking for the Horsehead). I also looked for Abell 4 in Perseus and didn't find it, although it is fairly near the bright open cluster M34, but I really need to download some charts with that in, as it wasn't on my Sky Atlas 2000.0 (didn't try Uranometria, though). Not a hefty return from an evening's observing, admittedly, but I wasn't out there that long, too bloody cold.

NGC 1514, planetary nebula in Taurus. This was a piece of cake to find. At low power, and at first glance it looks like a bright, if fuzzy, star - indeed this is the 9th magnitude central star - but with averted vision a halo of fuzz pops out at you. Popping in the OIII filter really brings it out. At a higher power (190x), I could see darker areas between the outer halo and the central star and there are brighter areas in the halo itself. Slightly elliptical. As well as the central star, there is a much fainter, smaller, star next to it probably a foreground star. 61x, 190x + OIII

NGC 1980, open cluster in Orion. North of M42 this is a nice open cluster which is richer than nearby NGC 1981. I counted around 31 stars of which 10 are fairly bright, All the stars are white. 38x

NGC 1981, open cluster in Orion. Beautiful but sparse. Dominated by very bright white star plus a slightly fainter double which is also white, plus 17 other, much fainter, stars. 61x

I couldn't track down Jonckheere 320 again, but as I was having problems with the icing up of my finders I will give that another go before the end of the winter. I have read reports of it being seen in a 10 inch under comparable sky so there's no reason I shouldn't see it.

It was 'one of those' sessions again - my OIII filter fell to bits, a retaining ring-type object dropped out of it and the thing just fell apart. Fortunately I screwed it back together again, only to drop it onto the concrete of the patio five minutes later with, luckily, no harm done. I also dropped eyepieces, charts and gloves, but that's because, despite gloves, my hands were a bit cold. I was definitely fortunate in that nothing actually broke; fell apart yes, but actually broke as in completely destroyed, no.

I packed up just after 9pm, and after bending over the eyepiece (my final objects of this short session were in southern Orion) I couldn't straighten up properly, a combination of lower back pain and stiffness due to cold and bad posture from being hunched over the eyepiece meant that I shuffled indoors to warm up looking like the Missing Link between humans and apes - that almost-knuckle-dragging stance of something that can't quite walk upright... Once the Missing Link phase had passed I carted everything back in, pleased I had done some observing, but not too pleased that I didn't do as much as I had intended.

I'll chuck in the descriptions tomorrow and maybe a drawing or two, if I get them tarted up and scanned in, which is a tad unlikely as I don't get in from work until nearly 6pm and if it is clear again I'll be observing.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Binocular observing session 3rd January 2010

Another nice clear night, 2010 is off to a decent start, may it continue, but again I decided to use the binoculars for a short session instead of the scope.

Cold -3C, very hard frost already on ground adding to that left over from previous night
No wind
Moon not yet risen at start of session (87% full, rises at 2005GMT)
Seeing II-III, transparency II
NELM 6.0 to 6.3
Instrument: 8x42 binoculars (handheld)

Markarian 6, open cluster in Cassiopeia. Six or seven bright stars in a line, surrounded by fainter ones. 1910 GMT

Melotte 15, open cluster in Cassiopeia. Just to the north west of Mark. 6, this is smaller and fainter. Not resolved. Star in foreground. 1915 GMT

Stock 23 (Pazmino's Cluster), open cluster in Camelopardalis. Small clump of stars. At least three are visible with direct vision but hazy look hints at quite a few more. 1925 GMT

NGC 1342, open cluster in Perseus. Another look at this, without moon in the sky. Much better view. Large triangular patch with at least 4 stars resolved and many more unresolved. 1930 GMT.

NGC 253, galaxy in Sculptor. A large, faint, elongated glow south of Deneb Kaitos. The observation of the evening, given the low altitude and murk at that level. 1935 GMT.

NGC 1807, open cluster in Taurus. easy to find, at the top tip of Orion's bow. Oval, dominated by line of 4 bright stars plus fainter ones in background. 1945 GMT.

NGC 1817, open cluster in Taurus. Right next to 1807. Same size, but rounder and not as bright. No bright stars. 1947 GMT.

NGC 1907, open cluster in Auriga. Dominated by its bright neighbour the huge cluster M38, this is a small, round patch immediately next to, and south west of, M38. No stars resolved with direct vision but it looks speckly with averted vision. 1951 GMT.

At 1953 GMT there was a nice fireball which went through south Monoceros and burned out just south of Orion's feet. It was bright orange/yellow and broke up.

NGC 2232, open cluster in Monoceros. Large, sparse-looking cluster. One bright star and five or six others. Slightly interfered with by Moon, which is about to rise. 2000 GMT.

NGC 2244, open cluster in Monoceros. Large, bright open cluster elongated north-south, with nine or ten bright stars visible with direct vision and more with averted vision. Nebula not visible, due to rising Moon. 2005 GMT.

NGC 2251, open cluster in Monoceros. Small, fairly round knot of stars. Patch looks granular but I can't see any individuals in that lot. 2012 GMT.

NGC 2264, open cluster in Monoceros. Much larger than 2251, twice its size. Counted 11 stars, hard to do with the handheld binoculars. 2015 GMT.

NGC 2281, open cluster in Auriga. Elongated hazy patch. Line of four stars surrounded by haze (fainter ones). 2020 GMT.

NGC 2301, open cluster in Monoceros. Faint fuzzy patch. Not well seen as quite low and moonlight washing it out. 2025 GMT.

NGC 2343, open cluster in Monoceros. Not seen. Too low and too much crap in atmosphere to allow me to see it, not to mention the moonlight. Will have to do this one again another night when it's higher and there's no Moon.

NGC 2403, galaxy in Camelopardalis. Faint elongated glow. 2037 GMT.

Packed in at 2040 GMT. I now have only ten more objects left to do on the AL Deep Sky Binocular list. I should get this finished in the spring.

Herschel 400 blog

I have finally got round to updating my Herschel 400 observations on the separate blog created specially for this project. I last updated it in September, so I had a few things to add into it. I was considering deleting that blog, but have decided to keep it going as it helps me keep track of what I have seen and when. I'll eventually do what I do with all my observations, type them out and print them off to put into a ring binder.

Herschel 400 blog

Saturday, 2 January 2010

First session of 2010, 2nd Jan

As the Moon is still very much in the way (2 days past full and 94% illuminated) I decided that, as I wanted to observe but couldn't be bothered to take the 12 inch out as the conditions weren't good, I'd have a little binocular session and knock some more objects off the AL Deep Sky Binocular list - assuming, of course, I could see this stuff in the light of a gibbous moon.

Very cold -4
° Celsius
No wind
Waning gibbous Moon (94% illuminated)
Instrument: handheld 8x42 Leica binoculars with 7.4 degree field of view
Time: 2025 GMT to 2100 GMT

This short session began nicely with a lovely bright orange/yellow fireball which had a nice train, then split in two and vanished just north west of Auriga. Cool. Sadly no more followed it. As with all these things, this was very much a case of looking in the right place at the right time.

NGC 1981, open cluster in Orion. Large hazy patch just north of M42. Direct vision shows 12 stars, with 3 bright ones in a curved line, and with averted vision I can see all these plus a hazy backround which means unresolved stars or nebulosity.

Melotte 25, The Hyades in Taurus. Huge V shaped cluster which fits neatly into my binoculars' 7.4 degree field of view. Dominated by bright orange Aldebaran. I can count 60+ brighter stars, some a magnitude fainter than others and many more fainter stars within the V. All the stars, apart from Aldebaran, are bluish-white.

NGC 752, open cluster in Andromeda. Visible as big faint misty patch. The moon's interfereing with this one.

NGC 2169, open cluster in Orion. Surprisingly easy despite Moon. Small bright knot, with 4 stars seen with averted vision.

NGC 1662, open cluster in Orion. Large, faint, irregular patch. No stars seen with direct vision but with averted vision the cluster looks 'grainier'.

NGC 1582, open cluster in Perseus. Faint misty patch with a couple of stars resolved.

NGC 1342, open cluster in Perseus. Large irregular misty patch. No stars resolved.

Packed up at 2105 GMT as Moon was becoming a real nuisance. 2010's observing is now underway!