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Log, Oct 8, 2004

Coathanger map

18 people. Coathanger map Usually, I keep a running list of what we accomplished. Last week I lost the list and this week, I simply didn't keep it written down. No good reason, just feeling a bit lazy. I'll try to reconstruct what happened as best I can. If your favorite "dim fuzzy" isn't mentioned but you were among the 18 folks who peered through the 16" at said object please bear with me.

I got there early to install some software to allow us to point at planets. For reasons best known to the system, hardware or application developer, my favorite software crashes when I point at a planet running on Windows/XP if I am connected to the telescope. Picking a star very close to the planet and pointing at it is a work around but I wanted to see if other software would avoid the planet crash problem. It does, so I'll use the other software for finding planets from now on. In any case we saw Uranus and Neptune several times throughout the evening without the usual travail.

There was a layer of thin clouds through most of the night and a great deal of moisture. By the time I drove home, I had to keep the windshield wipers going to remove the collected dampness which obscured vision every quarter mile or so. Our two favorite directions (NOT) to the north (Warwick and Providence) and northwest (casinos and downtown Westerly) were obscured with light reflecting off cloud decks. So much for a moonless night. However for a while the south remained clear and we clocked in the usual set of summer/fall suspects in Scorpio and Sagittarius. At times, old reliables were candidates for the seldom coveted Smudge of the Week Award. I wanted to give the award to M27 (the Dumbbell) but I was outvoted and the award goes to M71, a globular cluster in Sagitta which had so little definition that even seasoned observers were doubtful that we had it centered (we did).

While we were fooling around in the area of Sagitta, I went to an old favorite we haven't visited in perhaps two years - Collinder 399. For those of you who are scratching your heads asking "When if ever did we visit Collinder 399?" I'll give you its other much more familiar name - the Coathanger. The Coathanger is tucked up in the corner between Sagitta (the Arrow) and Vulpecula (the Fox who just dodged the arrow). One of the things that makes the Coathanger unusual is that all its stars about the same brightness (magnitudes 5.5 to 7.1) and there are no other bright or dim stars to confuse the image. Another feature of the Coathanger is that it is MUCH better viewed in binoculars than in a telescope. It is too broad to be seen fully in most eyepieces but too dim to be seen by the unaided eye (usually).

I'd like to thank Keith S. who has been helping me in the dome. Keith is attending high school locally and has an interest in astronomy. It always pleases me to see interest in this area. Keith has another interest and asked if I knew anyone who could help. His school's "Robotics Club" needs about $1500 for equipment. They didn't get organized in time to get on the school budget. Does anyone know a sponsor who might be interested? If so, I'll let Keith know.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Oct 8, 2004
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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