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Thread: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

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    Post StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream



    Today was a historic day: the New Horizons probe flew past the dwarf planet Pluto this morning and gave us our first real look at this underappreciated world since its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh.


    After what seemed like months of iffy skies at best, tonight was absolutely fantastic outside. For the first time in a long time, I was even able to faintly make out the Milky Way from my back yard. Where I used to live in rural Kansas, I could see the Milky Way easily and often, but now that I live in an urban area, I will take what I can get!


    Amazingly, there also was no wind, just an occasional slight breeze. Let's see: clear night, no Moon, no wind... what could be better? Well, I could do without the mosquitos, but feast away, fellas! I'm going observing and nothing can stop me!




    Saturn
    9:50pm CDT. The best view is at 305x. It is gorgeous tonight! The four brightest moons (Titan, Rhea, Dione, and Tethys) were visible, and I could see the Cassini Division easily, as well as the innermost C ring. The disc itself showed off several variations in color in its bands and cast its shadow on the far side of the ring system. I wasn't able to detect the Encke Division but it was still the best view of Saturn I've had in a long time.


    Epsilon Lyrae (Double Double)
    10:20pm CDT. At 305x, both pairs could be easily split. They appeared as two sets of glowing eyes that were perpendicular to each other. All four stars were bright white, with 3 of them being of similar magnitude and the fourth member a bit fainter. The gap between the sets of doubles is so wide, I could see 3 field stars between the pairs.


    M13 (Hercules)
    10:30pm CDT. This is a beautiful globular - one of my favorites. It is big and bright and easy to find in the night sky. The best view tonight was at 204x where it fits easily into the field. Stars are resolved to the core, with streams and arcs of stars spreading out from the center like a galactic starfish. This also gives the cluster a spiky appearance.


    Albireo (Cygnus)
    10:35pm CDT. This is a nice, wide double star. I mentioned it to someone the other day, so I decided to take another peek at it while waiting for the sky to finish darkening. It is as beautiful as ever, with the brighter component appearing to be lemony yellow and the slightly fainter component a medium to pale blue. The best view is at lower power, where they can be seen gleaming in front of the backdrop of the Milky Way.


    M7 (Ptolemy's Cluster) (Scorpius)
    10:40pm CDT. At 50x, the cluster barely fits into the field of view. There are a myriad of bright stars going in arcs and streams in several directions. Near the center of the cluster is a pair of concave and convex arcs facing each other with a double star between them, forming a simplistic butterfly or stylized 'H'. For some reason, the shape of the entire cluster reminds me of the constellation Hercules, but I'm not sure why.


    NGC 6441 (Scorpius) - !NEW!
    10:45pm CDT. This is a tiny globular cluster, but it's easy to find because it is very close to the bright yellow star G Sco. It's fairly bright, but very difficult to resolve because of its small size. It looks like a small fuzzy puff of light. I can tell it's a globular cluster because it's brighter in the middle and fades out quickly to the edges. The core was non-stellar and diffuse. A comparable magnitude field star is right next to the cluster, making focusing easier.


    M6 (Butterfly Cluster) (Scorpius)
    10:50pm CDT. I've looked at this dozens of times, but never was really able to make out the butterfly shape. I asked about this yesterday and Raymondhow gave me some pointers on what to look for to see the shape better (Thanks, Ray!). With this in mind, I could finally make out the butterfly shape. It has somewhat squarish wings. At one end of one wing is a bright yellow star, easily the brightest member of the cluster. The other stars appear blue-white, so perhaps the yellow star is just a foreground star. There are 20-30 brighter stars and a smattering of fainter stars. Some of the fainter stars make a little V pattern like the butterfly's antennae.


    M4 (Scorpius)
    10:55pm CDT. This cluster is large, but still needs a bit of magnification for contrast purposes, due to its fainter stars and low altitude in the sky. I found the best view at 120x. The cluster is oval shaped. Some of the brightest stars form a straight line going almost exactly across the major axis of the cluster, with the rest of the cluster appearing as a fuzzy patch of light behind it. Beyond the oval are several other stars of similar magnitude to the line of stars. Beautiful, but I wish it was higher in the sky.


    M22 (Sagittarius)
    11:00pm CDT. This is a huge globular cluster, and looks even better than M13. It has a bit of an oval appearance and hundreds of stars are resolved all the way to the core. The core appears bright and fuzzy. With averted vision, the fuzziness is mottled. The best view is at 305x where it fills most of the field. It is almost 3D in appearance. This has always been my favorite globular cluster - I could stare at it for hours.


    NGC 6642 (Sagittarius)
    11:05pm CDT. This is a faint, small globular cluster. It can barely be seen at 50x, except for a faint smudge among faint stars. Kicking up the power to 200x, it is a bit more obvious that it's a globular, but still appears as a faint fuzzball. With averted vision, I can sometimes detect a stellar core.


    M28 (Sagittarius)
    11:10pm CDT. This globular cluster is near to M28, but not nearly as impressive as its neighbor. The best view was at 120x. It is a bright ball of fuzz with a stellar core, but no individual stars could be resolved.


    NGC 6638 (Sagittarius)
    11:15pm CDT. This globular is small and faint. With averted vision, you can sometimes detect a stellar core. The only thing that sets this apart from a planetary is that the core is brighter than the edges.


    NGC 6624 (Sagittarius)
    11:20pm CDT. This globular isn't too bad for an NGC. It's fairly bright but small. There's a definite stellar core. No stars could be resolved, even at 305x.


    NGC 6528 (Sagittarius) - !NEW!
    11:30pm CDT. This is a very faint and small globular. It is difficult to even see with direct vision. Using averted vision, it appears as a small puff of light with a stellar core.


    NGC 6522 (Sagittarius) - !NEW!
    11:30pm CDT. In the same field of view as NGC 6528, this globular is about twice as big as its companion and a bit brighter. Using 120x, it seems to be on the verge of being resolved. At 204x, it has a fuzzy core and the cluster takes on a mottled appearance. At 305x, there appears to be a star right off the edge of the cluster, of a similar magnitude.


    NGC 6520 (Sagittarius)
    11:35pm CDT. This open cluster is small but obvious. At 204x, it has a couple dozen stars visible. At the center is a roundish group of faint stars with brighter stars smattered throughout the round group as well as outside it. Right in the middle of the circle is another bright star. While scanning it at 305x, a satellite just passed in front of the cluster, even fainter than the member stars.



    I spent some more time trying to track down a few other faint fuzzies, with no success. It was past midnight, so I figured I better pack it up and get ready for work in the morning. All in all, a great night under the stars and 3 new clusters under my belt!

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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Wow! Excellent session Tom! And great descriptions too! A fine tour of sky, especially in the South. Between Sagittarius and Ophiuchus, you're in the middle of Glob City, and it sure doesn't take a lot of scope movement to go from one to another.

    Well done Tom, and congrats on getting a fine sky. I hope you aren't too skeeter et today.
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Great report, wonderful you had a gread night !
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Great report, Tom, looks like you were busy!
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    Well done Tom, and congrats on getting a fine sky. I hope you aren't too skeeter et today.
    Thanks, Bryan! The skeeters around here circle around you and attack like a school of piranhas, and even DEET doesn't scare them off too easily. But luckily the ones around here don't make my skin itch much, so the bites are usually gone the next day. I used to let them take turns at the eyepiece, but they never wrote up reports and they still ended up biting me, so now I just swat the ungrateful buggers.
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Nice session and lots of good targets. Those skeeters are vicious, I still have bites from my Sunday night session that haven't gone away yet!
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Wow! Great report. Last night is wonderful and great night for you.
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    That's a super night, Tom. Your reporting is excellent! Glad to help with the butterfly
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Thanks for the report Tom. You indeed had a great night out there. Congrats!
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    Default Re: StarLog OR: 7/14/15 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

    Fantastic report Tom and great descriptions on all the objects. Sounds like an awesome night for you, except those pesky skeeters. Congratulations on a most excellent session!!
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