Log, Jan 18, 2002

26 people. Earlier in the day, the weather forecast was "Clear tonight, with accumulations of 1 to 3 inches." Armed with this baffling prognostication, the staff of FDO assembled unsure of what implement was required to remove "1 to 3 inches of clear" from the entrance. The actual weather was nearly as befuddling. To the casual observer, it did appear to be clear. Stars abounded and except for a period of about three quarters of an hour, clouds did not noticably interfere. However that insidious 1 to 3 inches of clear was very much in evidence. Even after the 25% Moon had set between 9 and 10, the sky did not get substantially darker. On the FDO scale of 0 to 10, the most you could rate it was a 5 or 6. A sky to bring joy to inner city astronomers but no better than halfway to greatness down on the shores of the Atlantic.

OK, down to brass tacks. We got off to our usual parade of suspects: Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and the Moon for the visitors. They were fine but the lucidity of the air became a concern. All of these objects had a bad case of the "dulls". Contrast wasn't horrible but it wasn't great. This concerned us because we had planned a full court press on adding Himalia and Amalthea to our Meade LX200 16" scope's Life List. These are the two moons of Jupiter which are concievably viewable from with our 16" scope. Himalia is far from Jupiter and in a highly tilted orbit. It is small and dim but in theory we should have little difficulty seeing it, although identifying it will require pateience because until we detect its motion, we will be unsure we aren't seeing a background star. Amalthea is just the opposite problem. It rides only a short distance above Jupiter's Equator, scarcely beyond Jupiter Roche Limit (the point at which Jupiter's tides would shred a Moon into rings). If and when we get these two Moon's only Saturn's Phoebe is remotely possible to see. Of the 22 moons in the solar system visible in our 16" scope at sea level, we have captured 19.

M42 was good in normal viewing, but marvelous with our OXY-III filter. This filter and our polarizing filter saw heavy use tonight. Their success indicated how much sky shine was present. We hit some of last week's targets again for staff who hadn't seen these objects and the visitors. The nearby system omicron Eridani [40 Eri] with itrs normal K, whirte and red dwarves was first. We had a so so attempt at splitting Rigel. The bleary sky made this less than perfect but some people saw it split or at least elongated. R. Leporis [Hind's Crimson Star] is a very red varaible star which we always look at this time of year.

We tackled a whole series of New General Catalog deep space objects (including a number of them on the Messier list as well). The first was NGC1964. The next was NGC2359 [called the Viking's Helmet]. The Viking's Helmet definitely shows a semicircular central nebulosity with two "horns", but this viking must have had an awful encounter with the Black Prince or someone because the helmet was seriously damaged. We tackled NGC1788 next, followed by IC2118 (the Witch's Head). When we got to NGC2261 [Hubble's Variable Nebula], we used a polarizing filter. This nebula has increasing levels of polarization the farther you travel from the center. Les noticed this effect without having been warned. The "comet" section was almost unchanged, but a region to the right changed noticably as we turned the filter 90 degrees. We looked at a galaxy, NGC2360, to see if the filter had any enhancing value here. The general feeling was no, although some galaxies [M33 comes to mind] really benefit by OXY-III or polarizing filters.

We wandered into Monoceros. While there how could we possibly avoid trying for some of the nondiscript, faint, boring and totally ho hum Bochum clusters? We clocked off Bochum 4, 5 (together) and 6 (nearby). Sanity reared its austere head and we returned to the more interesting and complex NGC lists. The next target was M46, a lovely cluster, with NGC2438 (a planetary nebula) embedded in it. NGC2194 in Orion is a small rich open cluster (very fine in spite of its size). NGC2169, NGC2186 and NGC2141 were lackluster and small. NGC2440 is a nice oblong planetary. The open cluster NGC2432 looks for all the world like a miniturized version of the Big Dipper. I hereby name this group the Teeny Weeny Dripper. NGC2421 looks like an oriental fan. We looked next at the pair of galaxies NGC2383 and NGC2384 in the same eyepiece. Nice. The cluster NGC2367 has a nice double star HD57190 embedded in it. An old favorite is NGC3242 [Ghost of Jupiter].

Steve said that he never saw M51 in the 16" so we turned to it expecting the usual spectacular show. Dullsville. The haziness dropped the contrast to disappointing levels. By now it was getting late, and we had put aside all attempts at Himalia and Amalthea, and the rapturous joys of completeing a Bochum Marathon [YAWN!!], so we turned to a series of Messier jewels. M3 was beautiful with individual stars into the core. We looked at M65 and M66 in the same eyepiece view. WE made a momentary detour to the nearby NGC3628 before we moved to M105 and its two satellites NGC3398 and NGC3364. We looked at M98 and M95 and then showed Steve M104 - the famous Sombrero Galaxy in various eyepieces. While I have seen it better on really good nights when it is higher in the sky, it is a great sight. Just before leaving we closed with NGC4361 a planetary nebula.

In spite of missing either Himalia or Amalthea we totaled up an impressive 14 new entries on the Meade LX200 16" Life List plus another 7 items listed below. Really not to bad in spite of an accumulation of 1 to 3 inches of clear "?????".

We are usually fairly careful to log observations, but we certainly miss objects from time to time. While reviewing our Life List for the Meade LX200 16" telescope, Lew Grammer noticed that we had left out an entire cluster of galaxies called Pegasus-1 which lie between Pegasus and Pisces. Doug Stewart confirmed this in a note so I'll add them here. This seems an appropriate weekend to add this group because they collectively look like a field goal viewed from the sidelines. [Go Pats!] We aren't sure of IC5309 but we certainly saw NGC7611, NGC7612, NGC7619, NGC7623, NGC7626 and NGC7631.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jan 18, 2002
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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