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Thread: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

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    Default StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season



    OPEN SEASON
    MARCH 24, 2015


    Observer: Tom Campbell
    Location: Lubbock, Texas (Long: 101°56'W Lat: 33°47'N)
    Telescope: 8" f/6 Dobsonian
    Eyepieces: 1.25" Plössls - 25mm (49x), 20mm (61x), 15mm (81x), 10mm (122x), 6mm (203x), 4mm (305x)
    2.0" 51.5mm (24x)
    Seeing: Mostly Stable (7/10)
    Transparency:Mostly Clear (8/10)
    Temperature: 70s


    All times are Central Daylight Time (UT +5)



    Observing Summary
    CANIS MAJOR: NGC 2362, NGC 2360
    PUPPIS: M47, M46, NGC 2438




    Tonight was unseasonably warm (in the 70s), and mostly clear. There were a few light clouds sprinkled across the sky, but not really doing any harm to my viewing plans. I took Midnight out to the backyard and waited for it to cool down (warm up?) a bit while I perused Stellarium for my night's prey.


    Even though still in the waxing crescent phase, the Moon was high overhead in Taurus and limited my viewing to high-contrast objects. Late winter and early spring form a season when there are multitudes of open clusters visible, so I decided to go after a few of these. Some are old friends I've seen before, and others are new acquaintances that I hope to revisit often in the future.




    NGC 2362 | Canis Major | Open Cluster | 9:45pm CDT
    Tau CMa Cluster | RA: 7h 18m 36s | Dec: -24° 59' | Mag: 4.1

    Originally discovered before 1654 by Giovanni Hodierna, this cluster has some nebulosity associated with it that I was unable to detect. It is estimated to be only 4-5 million years old and lies about 4800 light years away.


    The cluster is easy to find, located near the hind legs of Canis Major. It contains a bright star near the center, which is visible to the naked eye. The other stars in the cluster are much fainter, and appear almost triangular in shape. Perhaps 15-20 stars are visible in all.


    As a side note, I researched the cluster this morning and found out that Tau Canis Majoris is actually a multiple star system. I will need to revisit it and see if I can split any of the components.




    NGC 2360 | Canis Major | Open Cluster | 10:00pm CDT
    Caroline's Cluster | RA: 7h 17m 43s | Dec: -15° 38' | Mag: 7.2

    Caroline Herschel, sister of famous astronomer William Herschel, discovered this cluster in 1783. She described it as "A beautiful cluster of pretty compressed stars near 1/2 degree in diameter." Her notes were overlooked until her brother included the cluster in his 1786 catalogue and acknowledged her as the discoverer.


    The best view of this is at 203x. The stars appear as several small chains of 3-5 stars in short arcs, giving the appearance of a pinwheel. The center of the cluster have dimmer stars that are difficult to resolve without averted vision. All in all, there are about 30-40 stars visible, making for a fantastic cluster. Thanks, Caroline!




    M 47 | Puppis | Open Cluster | 10:05pm CDT
    NGC 2422 | RA: 7h 36m 36s | Dec: -14° 30' | Mag: 4.2

    This cluster was also originally discovered by Giovanni Hodierna before 1654, and independently rediscovered by Charles Messier on February 19, 1771. (Maybe we should make an observing list of the Hodierna catalog?) However, because Messier inadvertently reversed the signs on his coordinates in his catalog, it was considered "lost." In 1959, Canadian astronomer T.F. Morris realized that if he reversed the signs on the Messier coordinates, it corresponded to NGC 2422. Thanks to his insight, we can now complete our Messier certificates!


    This is a big open cluster, nearly filling the field of view at 49x. It contains several very bright stars in a loose pattern, somewhat reminding me of the overall shape of the United States. One bright star at the edge represents Maine, another bright star at the Texas/Mexico border, some faint stars filling out Florida and California, and a nice tight double somewhere in Missouri. Overall, a great cluster.




    M 46 | Puppis | Open Cluster | 10:10pm CDT
    NGC 2437 | RA: 7h 41m 48s | Dec: -14° 49' | Mag: 6.1

    M46 is a bit farther away than nearby M47, at a distance of about 5500 light years. On February 19, 1771, Charles Messier catalogued it with the following description: "A cluster of very small stars, between the head of the Great Dog and the two hind feet of the Unicorn, [its position] determined by comparing this cluster with the star 2 Navis, of 6th-magnitude, according to Flamsteed; one cannot see these stars but with a good refractor; the cluster contains a bit of nebulosity."


    Since this entry did not get published right away, Caroline Herschel also independently discovered it in March, 1783. Fifty years later, her son John Herschel would discover the planetary nebula within it: "The brightest part of a very fine rich cluster; stars of 10th magnitude; which fills the field. Within the cluster at its northern edge is a fine planetary nebula."


    My own observation of the cluster was as follows: At 49x, it has a nearly globular appearance, with bright stars randomly interspersed. At 81x, it fills the field of view and many more stars can be detected. Using 121x, I could see the faint nebulosity of the planetary nebula NGC 2438 near the edge of the cluster.




    NGC 2438 | Puppis | Planetary Nebula | 10:10pm CDT
    | RA: 7h 41m 48s | Dec: -14° 44' | Mag: 10.8

    Buried within the edges of M46, this planetary is a large, faint gem. At 203x, it appeared ringlike, bright at the edges and dark or transparent at the center. Combined with a large open cluster (M46) in the same field, this was a special treat.




    At this point, the seeing really started degrading, so I packed it in. A short night, but fun, and I managed to see a few new friendly faces.

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    bladekeeper (03-25-2015),ruger4d4 (03-26-2015)

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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for sharing the report... Seems you had a very productive and fun night...


    Francisco
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Fine descriptions and history there Tom. I like the idea of a Hodierna observing list
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Hello Tom! Very nice report. I really enjoyed the facts you've included on each object, especially M47. A lot of fun to read, and educational to boot.

    I think ol' John Herschel was the son of Mary Baldwin and William Herschel, with Caroline being his aunt. My "other" hobby is genealogy.

    Good work Tom and thanks for posting a fine report!
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    I think ol' John Herschel was the son of Mary Baldwin and William Herschel, with Caroline being his aunt. My "other" hobby is genealogy.
    LOL, you are quite right. My mind was saying "nephew" but my fingers were typing "son".
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Very nice, detailed report, Tom. Thanks for sharing the good read.

    Clear, Dark Skies
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Great report! enjoyed the read
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Fantastic report Tom. Great narrative and I too like the bits of history within the story. Can't wait to read more!!
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Thanks for the fine report Tom. I particularly enjoyed reading the history of each discovery. Many times it seems that 'ol Charles was not the discoverer of objects, but that he got a lot of credit as a compiler of his famous list. The thing that strikes me is how many objects he missed that might have been confused for comets.

    Good luck observing and keep up the good reporting!
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    Default Re: StarLog Observing Report - 3/24/15 - Open Season

    Hi Tom. A very nice report from you. And, I like the way that you researched your findings. This is the other half of the fun beyond the actual viewing. It looks like you had a great night, and are very ready for more, the skies be willing. Thanks for your very well written and fun read report Tom, and I hope that you have many more productive nights like this one.
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