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Thread: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

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    Default Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night



    Oh boy, here we go again. The sky looked pretty good early on, but by the time I was able to get out the march of the clouds was in full swing per usual. But being the glutton for punishment that I am, I brought the gear out yet again to see if I could extract something, anything out of the sky. My desperation to pick up new objects and the sky’s desire to keep me at bay, make for strange bedfellows. Somehow I think I am being tested to see if I will break. The sky will tease and cajole me, permitting a crumb or two, but only once this trip has it actually allowed me to experience a largely productive outing. More times than not, it has taken my time and energy while offering little to nothing in return. It does indeed become comical at times as I smile and throw the sky half of a peace sign frequently during each session.

    So, later in the evening, just after midnight I stepped out and noticed that Delta Velorum (mag 2.2) had finally cleared the big tree to my south. So I turned to chart 95-right, with Delta just off the bottom edge of the chart. My main interest at the beginning of the session was to grab a quick look at an old friend just NNW of the star. So with that, let’s begin.


    IC 2391 (Vela, open cluster, mag=2.5, size=60.0’):

    Having spotted Delta clear of the tree, I could also pick up this bright cluster just to its NNW as a round diffuse glow. Aiming the scope at Delta I quickly located this pretty cluster and settled in to have a little bit of a look since it’s been a couple of years since I last observed it. Known informally as the Omicron Velorum Cluster, it is dominated by this mag 3.6 star which lies about 7’ NNW of the field center.

    While not a particularly dense cluster, its large field is nonetheless bright and richly populated by several bright stars. There are 13 stars that range from 3rd to 7th mag, with numerous others progressively dimmer. So while not compact, visually it does stand out boldly in the eyepiece. Observing with 20x and 54x it was beautifully bright. Because of the nature of the flipped view of a newtonian, its main stars immediately gave the impression of a “frowny face”, with a pair of bright wide-set eyes and four bright stars forming a downturned mouth, with Omicron at its eastern end. The eastern “eye” was actually the bright optical double of two variable stars, mag 4.9 HY Vel and 5.5 KT Vel. So this was a fine way to start the evening, but it was not without interruption from the clouds!

    Originally discovered by al-Sufi circa 964 AD as a “nebulous star”, it was later re-discovered by LaCaille in 1752 at the Cape of Good Hope and catalogued as Lac II.5. In his half-inch scope he described it as “a small heap of stars.” Interestingly it seems that credit within the Index Catalogue is given to Solon Bailey, who found it on a photographic plate in 1896. So that goes to show it’s not always the early bird that gets the worm of discovery!


    NGC 2997 (Antlia, barred spiral galaxy, mag=9.5, size=8.9’x6.8’, SBr=13.7 mag/arcmin2):

    The celestial air pump was nicely elevated by this time and so I left IC 2391 and quickly aimed the scope at mag 2.2 Lambda Vel. Next I slid just over 5° to mag 3.6 Psi Vel next to the southwestern corner of Antlia, then northward 8.5° to the wide pair of Zeta1 and Zeta2 Ant (mag 5.7 and 5.9 respectively). This long hop took me over and past Epsilon Ant (4.5) which lies in the field of the gigantic 3° diameter cluster, Turner 5, which I observed a couple of years ago.

    Following the point of the Zeta stars just over 3° to the ENE, I swept up a small triangle of three stars (7th and 8th) that would serve as my landmark for trying to pin down this galaxy in the little newt. This would require patience as thin and sometimes not so thin clouds would repeatedly overspill the field of view. This of course caused me to pull back from the eyepiece and wait for them to move on before continuing with my attempts to discern its diffuse light. This took over 10 minutes of constantly moving between direct and averted vision, a little tube tapping, dark cloth over the head and moving back and forth between 74x and 106x. But in the end, I detected an elongated homogenous oval of dim light intermittently. It could never be held continuously, rather wafting in and out of view as conditions changed rapidly. Oh to have my 12 inch dob here! I do need to give this one another try from our dark site with one of the bigger scopes though since this one was discovered by William Herschel (1793) way up north.


    NGC 3087 (Antilia, elliptical galaxy, mag=10.5, size=2.0’x2.0’, SBr=11.7 mag/arcmin2):

    Leaving the little triangle and slipping southeast for nearly 3° I picked up a largish rectangle of four stars anchored by mag 5.8 HD 86267 at its eastern corner. From this star I moved not quite 1.5° further southeast to pick up HD 87099 (mag 7.1). Moving this star to the eastern side of the field of view at 54x I located a mag 9.1 field star (HD 86450) about 52’ to its west.

    Studying the field about 2/3 of the way to the dimmer star, I employed my usual techniques of the dark cloth over the head, alternating between direct and averted vision, and waiting for the clouds to get out of the way! At 54x, I caught a brief glimpse of what seemed to be a small, round diffuse patch of light, but in an instant it was gone. Trying at both 74x and 106x, again, I would get that intermittent sensation of it being in the field at the correct position, but like NGC 2997 it could never be held steady, its visual presence at the mercy of the conditions and clouds.

    ----------

    Having spent about 20 to 30 minutes simply trying to grab a dim bit of light from the two Antlia galaxies, I needed a break. So picking up the 10x50s I started scanning the southeastern sky closer to the horizon and to the left of my big tree. I picked up a bright pattern of stars, so I turned to the Pocket Sky Atlas (for its wider presentation) to find out exactly what I had found. I presumed these were stars in western Centaurus, and I was correct. I had picked up the pretty triangle of Gamma (2.2), Tau (3.9) and HD 110458 (4.7), which is labeled as “w” in the IDSA chart 93-right.

    Seeing where I was now, I scanned ENE of this triangle and found another one with which I am quite familiar. This second eastward pointing triangle consists of Nu (3.4), Mu (2.9) and Phi (3.8) Centauri. I have used this bright pattern as a waypoint for pursuing many objects in eastern Centaurus, including NGC 5139 (Omega Centauri). So you can likely guess where I headed next.

    ----------

    NGC 5139 (Centaurus, globular cluster, mag=3.7, size=36.3’, class=8):

    Seeing this familiar pattern immediately piqued my interest and I scanned southwest of it and tripped over Omega! Granted it was only about 20° elevated in the marine layer, and the thin clouds were also running amok in that part of the sky, but still it was easily seen in the binoculars as a bright and large diffuse blob of light. Certainly no stars were apparent, but if you’ve seen it a few times there is no question as to what you are seeing.

    I next affixed it position relative to a tree branch and aimed my scope at the field and quickly scooped it up. At 20x and 54x it remained more blob than glob, with no stars visible, but it was bright even through the gunk. So I looked at it for a bit and not unexpectedly, saw it disappear, reappear, etc., a few times as clouds continued their march across the sky. I did try briefly for another old friend, NGC 5128 (Centaurus-A), west of my marker triangle, but no dice this time around. While slightly more elevated than NGC 5139, it was not able to push through the cruddy sky as did the glob.


    It had been nearly two years since I last saw Omega and it’s always comforting to find your old acquaintances right where you last left them. So as the clouds continued to devil me, I decided I would conclude on a happy note with NGC 5139, and moved my stuff back inside. While not nearly the best observation of this object I’ve had over the years, it was still a lifting experience. So thanks for tagging along, and hope we can do this again soon – but preferably with clearer, more transparent skies.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Thanks for the report Alan - once more you have made lemonade out of lemons. I'd like to see the constellation Antlia the air pump one day.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Quote Originally Posted by helicon64 View Post
    Thanks for the report Alan - once more you have made lemonade out of lemons. I'd like to see the constellation Antlia the air pump one day.
    Thank you Michael. Sure is taking a lot of squeezing though!

    Antlia does rise fully above your southern horizon. But, not significantly. So obviously it would be beneficial to have a dark and flat horizon if you are able to accomplish that.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Nice session Alan! Good work on galaxies. Last spring I picked NGC 2997 from the Anza site, but not the other. Omega Centauri is always a treat. It is amazing how sky conditions affect it's appearance: from unresolved blob to the most impressive glob resolved to the core.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigzmey View Post
    Nice session Alan! Good work on galaxies. Last spring I picked NGC 2997 from the Anza site, but not the other. Omega Centauri is always a treat. It is amazing how sky conditions affect it's appearance: from unresolved blob to the most impressive glob resolved to the core.
    Thank you Andrey. I do want to try NGC 2997 and others at some point from our dark site back home. There are several that should be visible as the horizon is fairly flat, though there is a large tree about 100 feet away from where I typically observe. Just a matter of position.

    Yeah, I have seen Omega be stunning in my 5 inch at about 19N latitude to nothing more than a round blob of light no matter the aperture. my case here I have a marine layer added to the mix. Once it gets higher in the sky and as long as the clouds hold off, it can look pretty good here.
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Thank you for the report Alan -
    It provides comfort during thunder sleet. Yes, thunder sleet. A very interesting sound....
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Good to see you get back out again last night Alan!

    IC 2391 I managed to pick up low on the horizon before clouds rolled in - my final DSO (out of 4) from Melbourne last year. At 40x, 16 stars.

    Antlia I didn't explore until recently (2017) - have NGC 2997 logged, but not NGC 3087 (on my list for a dark site with a good southern horizon).

    NGC 5139 - also saw this last 2 yrs ago from Sydney; placed rather high in the sky, but could not resolve with a 2-inch at 39x, though very bright.

    Hope the skies will get better tonight...
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Thanks for you "dancing with stars".
    As usual it is a nice report. I really like the way you sometimes share your thought with us in your report.
    Thanks!
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Tough but nice grabs, Alan, and a nice cherry on top with 5139!
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    Default Re: Observing Report for 06 February 2019 - yeah, another typical night

    Quote Originally Posted by sketrip View Post
    Thank you for the report Alan -
    It provides comfort during thunder sleet. Yes, thunder sleet. A very interesting sound....
    Thanks Steve. Yeah I would consider that a real curiosity! I was in a not so nice place once where in one day I saw rain, hail, sleet and snow. Talk about a weather system that had identity issues!

    Quote Originally Posted by terrynak View Post
    Good to see you get back out again last night Alan!

    IC 2391 I managed to pick up low on the horizon before clouds rolled in - my final DSO (out of 4) from Melbourne last year. At 40x, 16 stars.

    Antlia I didn't explore until recently (2017) - have NGC 2997 logged, but not NGC 3087 (on my list for a dark site with a good southern horizon).

    NGC 5139 - also saw this last 2 yrs ago from Sydney; placed rather high in the sky, but could not resolve with a 2-inch at 39x, though very bright.

    Hope the skies will get better tonight...
    Thanks Terry. Indeed Antlia is accessible, at least to some degree for a great many. But the kicker is having a low and darker horizon to facilitate the incursion. Though William Herschel discovered NGC 2997, I believe (off the top of my head) it was John who first found NGC 3087. I suspect that N2997 was likely at the bottom of his father's reach from the UK.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Baars View Post
    Thanks for you "dancing with stars".
    As usual it is a nice report. I really like the way you sometimes share your thought with us in your report.
    Thanks!
    Thank you John. I think most of us see things in the stars - and I don't mean UFOs!

    I like to look for familiar patterns, which of course is the main theme of asterisms as well. But often times if we let our eyes wander over an open cluster, our brain will make those little connections. A line here, a line there; a square of triangle, or in the case of IC 2391, a frowny face.

    Quote Originally Posted by bladekeeper View Post
    Tough but nice grabs, Alan, and a nice cherry on top with 5139!
    Thanks Bryan. It was nice to reacquire an old friend after a couple of years. My impression at the eyepiece, though I didn't mention it above was of either a snow ball or popcorn ball. Just a blob of off-white. Sort of like the impression one gets at home at the mid-northern latitudes when they have a flat enough horizon to pick it up skimming the distant tree tops. Just a dollop of mayo!
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    ES 82° 24mm thru 4.7mm
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Astronomers: We look into the past to see our future.

 

 
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