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Thread: StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters

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    Post StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters



    I wasn't really planning on an observing session tonight, but at sunset, the skies were clear and the wind had died down to only a slight breeze. To tempt me even more, the temperature was still in the upper 60s, meaning I wasn't even needing a jacket.

    As darkness descended, I was disappointed in the sky conditions. Sure, it remained clear, but the sky was bright, never getting darker than a steel blue hue. To confirm my suspicions, I pointed my telescope at several bright Messier galaxies. I could not detect any of them. The night was too beautiful to waste, however. I would concentrate on a few more open clusters.


    NGC 2331 | Open Cluster | Gemini | 8:20pm CST - NEW!

    When discovered by William Herschel in 1785, he described this open cluster as "clustering, large scattered stars, many of equal size." Not exactly an awe-inspiring description, but then, this isn't exactly an awe-inspiring star cluster. Still, it has a few points of interest.

    This cluster is somewhat large and sparse, with about 15 stars in all. They are scattered loosely and most of them are of similar magnitude. At one end of the cluster is a little circular knot of fainter stars. Large and unimpressive. The best view was at 100X.


    Most of the rest of the open clusters left on my observing list are in the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn), but none of those stars are visible from my back yard except with averted vision, making finding them difficult. Further, the clusters are interspersed within the dense Milky Way, so it would be hard to tell one from the other without detailed finder charts. So I had to skip those for tonight.

    Not to worry, there were several other wonderful clusters within reach of my urban skies. I turned first to the constellation of Hydra.

    M48 | Open Cluster | Hydra | 9:15pm CST

    It has been a long time since I last viewed this star cluster. At 100X, this cluster fills the FOV. Several dozen stars of varying brightness make this a showpiece.


    M44 (Beehive) | Open Cluster | Cancer | 9:20pm CST

    With my 30mm, I can't quite fit the entire cluster into the field of view. The familiar house-shaped beehive is in the middle. Many bright and several much fainter stars make it almost 3D. A few members appear bluish-white, although most are yellow or white.


    Iota Cancri | Double Star | Cancer | 9:25pm CST

    While in Cancer, I wanted to take another look at this fine double star. At 100X, this pair is nicely separated and looks similar to Albireo, except the colors are less intense. The brighter star is pale yellow and the companion is a very pale blue.


    Looking around again, the darkest part of the sky was back in Gemini, where I had started tonight. Looking at my star charts, I decided to see how well my telescope could make out the Eskimo Nebula.

    NGC 2392 (Eskimo Nebula) | Planetary Nebula | Gemini | 9:45pm CST

    The central star is nearly as bright as a nearby field star. At 250X with direct vision, I could detect nebulosity around the central star, but no distinct shape. Using averted vision, the nebulosity was wide and circular, forming two intensities of rings, with the brighter ring near the center.


    I noticed the sky seemed to be getting brighter. Looking up from my telescope, large banks of clouds had begun moving in, scattering the city lights even more. Time to call it a night.

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    Default Re: StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters

    Hah! A fine surprise session! And a nice, well presented report too sir.

    Yeah, Tom, kinda yucked up here, high thin hazy clouds. Bright sky glow too, so I decided to stay inside. Been working on a spreadsheet (since you released me from yours ) with a few galaxies on it. Getting ready to post that one for everyone's use.

    Anyway, I'm glad you caught a few good OC's, a double, and a fun planetary. The Eskimo is quite a blinker, almost like a light switch. Makes me giggle.

    Well done!
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    Default Re: StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters

    Hi Tom. A very nice session and report. Some open clusters and getting the Eskimo Nebula sounds pretty good to me. The sky was fairly good during the day here, but the white (and some gray) clouds starting rolling in from the northwest this evening. Thanks for your latest well written StarLog report Tom, and keep looking up.
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    Default Re: StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters

    Nice session, glad someone finally got some clear weather! I'm going on a month of nothing but cloudy nights!
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    Default Re: StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters

    Glad that you were able to get out and enjoy the skies, you picked up some notable objects. I'd call the session a success!
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    Default Re: StarLog OR - 1/31/2016 - Open Season on Some Open Clusters

    Tom, my urban skies doesn't allow me to see Monoceros with my naked eyes either, so I start off by pointing my scope at one of the bright stars of Orion and star-hop my way eastward using my 32mm Plossl star-hopping eyepiece and my detailed star charts. Picked up 5 OCs in Monoceros tonight despite the light-polluted conditions I'm working from at home (using only a 4.5" F/7.9 Newt).
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