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Thread: Old friends and new

  1. #1
    rocdoc's Avatar
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    Default Old friends and new



    The air is often breathable, running feels less like death, agencies are rushing to spend the rest of their budgets, everyone is preparing for potential government closures. The signs are clear: it’s Fall in DC!

    I stepped out into what felt like a surprisingly pleasant evening, and grabbed the binoculars to check seeing. I took a look at M31, The Andromeda Galaxy, which promptly offered a fuzzy puff, and then, in the neighborhood, NGC 869 and NGC 884, The Double Cluster – small gatherings visible, as the brighter central stars in both, with a bit of nebulosity around them. The Moon was also peeking between the trees, and made for a nice view of the terminator in a waxing gibbous position. This was enough to get me excited, so I went and set up my dob right behind my car, in front of the house. Lots of lights in my eyes, from the street lights and the houses, but I made do.

    For targets, I have been creating an observing list, building on the “111 Objects for Light Polluted Skies” list in SkySafari, and adding to it from various other sources, including doubles from the AL lists. So I perused some of them, focusing mainly around Cassiopeia, but with a couple of hops elsewhere in the sky.

    I first went back to M31, The Andromeda Galaxy. Light pollution still doesn’t allow much beyond the (bright and obvious) core, but still always a nice sight. M32, elliptical galaxy in Andromeda, was easily visible South of that core. I looked again for M110 and failed to ferret it out. I definitely found the right location, based on the stars in the field, but my conclusion is that its surface brightness is lower than the LP background in this sky. I was too lazy to try an LP filter, but I don’t think that would do it – it may just wash it off too. On the list for darker skies…

    Then back to the aforementioned NGC 869 and NGC 884, The Double Cluster. Very nice view, each individual cluster is probably not that spectacular if compared to serious competition, but the view of two large clusters in the field is certainly special.
    I went back up to Ruchbach (Delta Cas), and NE of it went to M103, open cluster in Cassiopeia. Lovely view, it’s the first time I’m looking at it with the 8” dob. The brightest stars make a pattern useful to confirm position, and then a dense sprinkling of fainter stars is visible, more showing up as the eyes adjust.
    To the NNE I tried to find Tr 1, but I did not see much of it, it’s a much fainter and less defined target.

    I went farther East instead, and found NGC 663, open cluster in Cassiopeia, new. Nice, relatively bright, pleasant cluster. The brighter members again form a helpful pattern, with two pairs of brighter stars particularly distinct, North of the center of the structure.
    I tried NGC 654 North of the last target, but again, I did not get much, so will have to return.

    Continuing the downward march, I moved ESE to Stock 2, open cluster in Cassiopeia, new. This is very large (a full degree across), spread out, with variability in brightness of members, but none too bright. They seemed to segregate into a brighter and a fainter population, spreading out relatively uniformly.

    Then I moved back up in Cassiopeia, to Caph, Beta Cas, and SW of it I finally found something I had hunted for a long time: NGC 7789, Caroline’s Rose, open cluster in Cassiopeia, new. Sits on the line between Rho and Sigma Cas, a beautiful, delicate swirl of faint stars. It requires patience to explore visually, and rewards it with a really beautiful image.

    Moving towards Zenith, I wanted to explore some of the doubles around Lacerta. I used the Pegasus stars for guidance, and moved from Beta to Eta to Pi (a wide double), and North of this I found 1 Lac, which was my anchor, with targets flanking it East and West. First, to the East, Struve 2894, or HR 8510, double star in Lacerta, new. Magnitude 6-ish and 9-ish pair, easily split. On the other side, West of 1 Lac, is Struve 2876, or HD 210772, double star in Lacerta, new. Fainter, but similar magnitude difference, another nice double.

    Lower in the sky but not too far, I looked for another target on my list for a while, Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces, new. It sits as a fourth corner of a diamond formed with Gamma Peg, Alpha And, and Beta And (but there are other stars of similar brightness in its neighborhood and one needs to be aware of their patterns). It’s an easy double, similar stars in a pretty pair.

    Swinging to the Southern skies, I looked for the old friend M11, the Wild Duck Cluster, open cluster in Scutum, pointed at by the “hook” formed by Lambda Aql, i Aql, and Eta Sct. Definitely one of my all-time favorites. It feels like watching an animated target, first showing up as nebulosity with a couple of brighter stars, and then, as you watch it, slowly resolving into myriad small stars crowded together.

    Since I was there, I took a peek between tree branches at Mars. It’s still very bright, but diminished in size by an impressive amount. I have tried a range of magnifications, including a very ambitious 267x with my recently acquired Meade HD-60 4.5mm EP. Unfortunately there was a lot of interference from the branches close by too, so I could only see an impressively orange ball. For a few moments I saw just a hint of contrast, which upon reviewing SkySafari was likely the dark contours of Terra Sabaea.

    I ended the night with a swing around back North, where I looked at both Nu Draconis (Kuma), and Mu Draconis (Arrakis), the latter new. Arrakis is a great, tight double. It looks like somebody took the components of Kuma and smashed them tightly together. At about 185x it looks beautiful, and when swinging back up to Kuma it’s nice to see how striking the two “snake eyes” are, starting you down through the EP.


    That was it, a fast run through the sky, that satisfied my long denied desire for some stellar diversion. Thanks for reading it, clear skies!
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    Nice report Doc. You're doing better than I have since moving.
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    Excellent report. Your skies are probably close to mine Bortle 6/7. I can see M110 most of the time, but not always and it is an averted vision object in the Z10.
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    Very nice session Roc! This is what I've been doing lately, as opposed to pre-selecting specific targets.
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    Beautiful night out, Codrin! Nice variety of excellent targets observed, and a great report!

    If you get a chance, look for variable double Iota Cassiopeiae and let me know what you see. Look very closely.
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    What a great session Rocdoc. Nice veraety of targets and I appreciate a few nice doubles in the mix.
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    Thanks everyone, for the kind comments. Yes, it feels nice to just explore beyond the Messier catalog. I'll keep building my favorites lists in SkySafari. I'm always on the lookout for more extensive looks of lists that include objects across types (DSOs, doubles, etc.) since I usually like a mix when I go out.
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    Other instruments: Skyline 8" Dobsonian; Celestron Omni XLT 120 w upgraded focuser and diagonal on Stellarvue M2C mount; Oberwerk 25x100 IF; Celestron SkyMaster 8x56. Main EPs: ES 82 24mm and 11mm, Celestron Luminos 19mm, Meade UWA 14mm, Meade HD-60 6.5mm. Filters: UHC, 13%, blue. Finders: RACI, Telrad, RDF, reticle.

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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    Quote Originally Posted by rocdoc View Post
    (...)Yes, it feels nice to just explore beyond the Messier catalog. (...) I'm always on the lookout for more extensive looks of lists that include objects across types (DSOs, doubles, etc.) since I usually like a mix when I go out.
    It is nice to know for our starting amateurs that the Messier-list is not the only way of starting, since the M-list has some dark and disappointing objects. More people should be aware of that! Thanks for your insights!

    And your clear report!
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    Default Re: Old friends and new

    A late read of your report Doc, but better late thsn...
    I enjoy your wandering eye aporoach. :-)
    Thank you for sharing you pleasure.
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