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Thread: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

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    Default Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky



    This was my first opportunity to observe since the 11th, so a bit of a dry spell. The hiatus was due to a combination of the lunar vacation as the demon orb ruled the sky, and a fairly persistent cloudiness. This evening, though free of the moon prior to midnight, was certainly not free of clouds. The forecast was actually for poor conditions. But, I noticed some bigger sucker holes, with the lower level clouds moving lazily through, with a backdrop of icy fingers from high elevation cirrus clouds above them. This did not bode well, but I thought I would give it a shot nonetheless.

    Setting up the 4.5 inch f/4.4 newt I decided to begin my scavenger hunt in Columba the Dove. With the 25mm Paradigm (20x) in the focuser and the Rigel aimed at mag 2.6 Alpha Columbae (Phact), I turned to chart 85-left in the IDSA. Given my location just south of the equator, Phact achieves an elevation of just over 58° at culmination – much better than at home! So thus began what would be a very short excursion into the night sky this time out.


    NGC 2061 (Columba, open cluster, mag=13.0, size=10.0’):

    My first target for this outing is a most curious object. However, the intriguing factor stems not from its visual appearance, which is poor, rather from the errors found in the plotting for its field. John Herschel discovered it in 1836 with his father’s renovated 18.7 inch reflector. He described it as "Cluster, 8th class, course, loose and filling the field; stars 10...13m.” What I found in my research is that more sources get the plotting incorrect than correct.

    The correct plotting for its field is just 15’ east of a north-south pair of stars that themselves lie about 40’ east of mag 2.6 Alpha Columbae (Phact). This plotting is shared by the software packages Sky Tools 3 and C2A. The online database Deep Sky Observer’s Companion also lists its correct positional data, referencing the seminal source “Star Clusters” by Archinal and Hynes. This book is my normal go-to reference for open clusters. Also a check of an online database containing 2,167 clusters also indicates the correct coordinates.

    However, a larger number of sources contain incorrect positional data. These include the software packages Stellarium, Cartes du Ciel and SkytechX. Even digitalized sky survey’s such as those in Aladin and WikiSky plot the cluster’s location erroneously. These sources all plot it centered just west of the north-south pair of stars I mentioned above that lie 40’ east of Phact. This field is indeed populated by a nice trapezoid of stars oriented north-south. In fact the bright pair of stars lying east of Phact form the base of this figure, with a mag 7.2 star at the northeast corner, one of mag 8.3 at the southeast. They are joined by a pair of 9th mag stars holding down the northwestern corner and another of 9th mag at the southwestern corner of the pattern.

    Though this field is certainly sparse, it contains much brighter stars than those described by Herschel for the cluster he logged (10th to 13th mag). So this all serves to distract observers from the true field that Herschel described and plotted, which is unfortunate. As to its nature, well the Revised New General Catalogue lists it as “non-existent”, based on its appearance in the POSS sky survey plates. Some sources continue to list it as an open cluster, while others merely call it an asterism or a star group. Even the angular size of the cluster has varied sizes, depending upon the source. These can range from 8.0’ up to as much as 18.0’. Personally, I tend to stick with the data provided by Archinal and Hynes based on their research.

    So after all this about its location and appearance, what were my impressions? First let me say that the IDSA does not plot this cluster, so I penciled it into the atlas on chart 85-left using Sky Tools 3 as my template. Starting at Phact using 20x, I quickly slipped east, passing over the bright trapezoid that many plot as the cluster’s field and settled on it position east of that pattern. Beginning with 20x I only picked up its brightest member (mag 9.9) through the soupy sky. Trying at 56x (8.8mm) I added the next two brightest stars, both of mag 10.4. The three formed a triangle pointed to the southwest. Taking a peek at 74x (6.7mm) and 106x (4.7mm), I could only add a couple of dimmer stars (10.9 and 11.1) for a total of five. The constant drift of high thin clouds did little to help the matter, but overall it is not a rich grouping of stars and was visually weak in the small reflector. But I am satisfied that I did observe the correct field, despite what many sources seem to indicate.


    ESO 424-25 (Columba, open cluster, mag=unk, size=8.0’):

    About 2.5° northeast of Phact, and lying just east of a pair of stars (mag 6.9 HD 39148 and mag 7.6 HD 39086) that are tipped to the northwest, I settled on the field for this elusive cluster. Like NGC 2061 it is not plotted in the IDSA, so its position was another self-annotated field (85-left) taken from Sky Tools 3. At 20x I picked up a single stellar ember, it’s brightest at mag 9.4. Using 56x I could only muster up a couple more magnitude 10.7 suns in the field. Trying both 74x and 106x I was able to add a couple more stars of 11th magnitude with the group generally elongated in an east-west flow. However, conditions were simply not allowing me to dig any deeper.

    During my after session research, I did find a visual description by South African observer, Magda Streicher. Using a 16 inch she described it as “A lovely group of around ten stars ranging in magnitude 10-11. What is special about this group is most of the stars display a yellow colour. Elongated in an east to west direction. “ Given her observation was with considerably more aperture and from a dark location, I didn’t feel quite so bad with what little I was able to pin down.


    ESO 425-06 (Columba, open cluster, mag=unk, size=5.0’):

    I found it quite interesting that this cluster is plotted in the IDSA on 85-left, but it turned out to be the poorest visually of the three I pursued in Columba this session. Found just over 7° northeast of Phact and about 3.5° WNW of mag 3.0 Zeta Canis Majoris (Furud) on chart 85-left in the IDSA, I had to do a little cloud dodging in order to find the correct field. Studying at magnifications up to 156x (3.2mm), at best I could only confirm its two brightest members at mag 10.4 and 11.5. The brighter of the two lay toward the ESE side of the field with the second star to its WNW. Yet another poor visual treat for the effort expended.

    Again after the fact, I located a report for this cluster by Magda Streicher. Using a 12 inch she described it thusly: “Small string of four 12-magnitude stars in a N-S direction and slightly bend towards the east. Inside this east bend halo a 10.5 magnitude (GSC 6504 813) star can be seen. Fainter stars spray out to the west.” So once more, given the difference in both aperture and observing conditions, I can’t say I was too bummed out about what little I picked up through the murk.


    Apparently the sky decided it has been generous enough with the eyedropper, as more low level clouds over-spilled the area shutting me down. I moved the scope onto the covered porch just in case a rare (for this time of year) rain decided to appear, then retreated indoors to deal with other unrelated issues. I would periodically step out to check conditions over the subsequent three-plus hours, but never found it had improved enough to warrant continuing on for this session.

    So the gear came back in and my meager gathering entered into the logbook. Small steps I suppose. I still live with the hope that things will eventually open up for me this trip, but as always, TBD. Anyway, thanks for coming along, and I hope to see you back out there soon.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Excellent report Alan!
    I do enjoy a good cluster hunt.

    As for NGC 2061 I checked my copy of Skysafari6 and uploaded a screenshot to dropbox, I am wondering if it is plotted correctly.
    I have also added these clusters to an observing list in skysafari for future observations.
    Thanks for also mentioning Magda in your report, her observations and sketches are a useful resource for which she deserves far more recognition. Her contribution to astronomy is SA has been vast.

    Wishing you luck with those skies!


    Dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3hcjrnd3vv...0x960.png?dl=0
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Quote Originally Posted by kingclinton View Post
    Excellent report Alan!
    I do enjoy a good cluster hunt.

    As for NGC 2061 I checked my copy of Skysafari6 and uploaded a screenshot to dropbox, I am wondering if it is plotted correctly.
    I have also added these clusters to an observing list in skysafari for future observations.

    Thanks for also mentioning Magda in your report, her observations and sketches are a useful resource for which she deserves far more recognition. Her contribution to astronomy is SA has been vast.

    Wishing you luck with those skies!


    Dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3hcjrnd3vv...0x960.png?dl=0
    Thank you Clinton. The thing is a lot of people don't know of Magda and certainly not her significant contributions to the hobby. I think that is likely the case because she lives so deeply in the southern hemisphere and a significant portion of what she observes and writes about is not visible (at least easily) to a good number of observers living farther north. But having had the opportunity to observe from a bit farther south than I can at home and studied a lot of the reports of southern observers to gain familiarity, I have gained a strong appreciation of her work in documenting the sky.

    In looking at the image you posted, they seem to have plotted it correctly based on its positional relationship to the two brightest stars in the trapezoid I mentioned east of Phact. Those two stars can be seen left of the "N" in the object label, with the southern most of the two snuggled up against the "N". The correct coordinates are:

    RA: 05h 44m 6s, Dec: -33° 56' 6"
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Thank you again, Alan for this excellent report.
    You're work on this is very helpful.
    And thank you Clinton for your illustrations of the plot in SS.
    Regards.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Quixote View Post
    Thank you again, Alan for this excellent report.
    You're work on this is very helpful.
    And thank you Clinton for your illustrations of the plot in SS.
    Regards.
    Thank you Mark. Glad you enjoyed my meager outing.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Since you only had a little bit of time, quite a good observing session Alan. I enjoyed your description of NGC 2061 and the other objects. Hope good weather is in store for you over the next week.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Quote Originally Posted by helicon64 View Post
    Since you only had a little bit of time, quite a good observing session Alan. I enjoyed your description of NGC 2061 and the other objects. Hope good weather is in store for you over the next week.
    Thank you Michael. Some clearer skies would definitely be a nice to have, but unfortunately that decision is not up to me.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Thank you Alan - enjoyed the read & report.
    NGC 2601 especially will all of the background information you manage to compile - very fascinating.

    If you need info from “Star Clusters” shoot me a message & I'll look it up.

    THX SKE
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    Moving on.......

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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Quote Originally Posted by sketrip View Post
    Thank you Alan - enjoyed the read & report.
    NGC 2601 especially will all of the background information you manage to compile - very fascinating.

    If you need info from “Star Clusters” shoot me a message & I'll look it up.

    THX SKE
    Thank you Steve, glad you enjoyed the abbreviated session.

    Also appreciate the offer for remote research from Star Clusters. I have at times carried it with me, but did not this time. I know you, like myself, sometimes like to research objects to get the bigger picture.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 27 January 2019 - dove droppings from a viscous sky

    Quote Originally Posted by KT4HX View Post
    Also appreciate the offer for remote research from Star Clusters. I have at times carried it with me, but did not this time. I know you, like myself, sometimes like to research objects to get the bigger picture.
    mi biblioteca es su biblioteca.
    Moving on.......

 

 
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