Log, Sep 25, 2005

16 people. What happens on a clear, crisp moonless night with good to excellent seeing and almost no visitors after the first hour or two? Need you ask? We play - and play - and play some more. We would have pulled an all nighter if several of didn't have to work and I have only limited stamina. Are question is - where was everyone?

I arrived and got everything up and running without incident and parked the scope on Venus waiting for visitors. A few folks stopped by early and they looked at the most featureless bright thing in the sky. It was about 64% illuminated and at magnitude -4.2 painfully bright in the eyepiece. But it is a planet and until later, the only show in town for some kids. After Venus but before it really got dark I turned the scope on Antares and did my spiel about red giants.

It was getting decently dark by now and the sky was clear (and very cold). We went to M13 - the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. While it was wonderful in the 25mm, it was the best I have ever seen it in the 12mm Nagler. Joe isn't a great fan of the 12mm (although I rather like it) but I nearly had a convert last night. At least I won't have much difficulty getting him to try it on good targets in the future. At nearly 400 diameters, the individual stars of the cluster were simple too many to count and literally like crystals glinting. You could make out colors in individual stars. We swung over to Lyrae and looked at Epsilon Lyrae and the Ring Nebula (M57). We could make out the central star with averted vision.

Swinging south into Sagittarius we looked at the Lagoon (M22) which had the actual Lagoon (a dark central region in an emission nebula background) clearly distinguished. The Trifid Nebula M20 was less exciting but partially because we were trying to look at it through an OIII filter. Frankly, the OIII filter causes two of the three lobes to be suppressed partially.

We looked at M22 and M54 which are two other globular clusters we tend to visit frequently in the late summer and early fall. Outside the dome we were getting a substantial number of meteors. It is early for the Orionids which are an early morning shower late in October and very late for Perseids. However they were there on and off all night.

I have looked at M31 perhaps a thousand times in my lifetime or more. Simply put, last night was the best I have ever seen it. I could make out traces of the arms of the Great Andromeda Galaxy in 9 by 63 binoculars handheld. Inside we could see all sorts of detail including arm structure and a crisp nucleus in the huge 54mm eyepiece. Except that it lacked color, the image was much like the photographs that adorn so many planetariums. We could easily see the two large satellite galaxies (M110 and M32), but even with the wide angle of the 54mm eyepiece running at about 56 diameters, we had to pan across the Great Galaxy to find them. I was struck by how bright the core of M32 was last night. The Andromeda Galaxy is huge. As good as M31, M110 and M32 were, the Pinwheel (M33 in Triangulum) was a great disappointment. Oh we could see it but it started us revving up the "Smudge of the Week" award. It was quickly displaced by Ernie's NGC 891 (another galaxy in Andromeda) which in turn finally gave up to the true Smudge of the Week - Barnard's Galaxy NGC6822 in Sagittarius which was one of Les' less scintillating targets.

We were by no means exhausted for targets and we looked at NGC 6595 which is a nice open cluster with faint nebulosity in Serpens. We also visited M16 (the Eagle Nebula) while we were in Serpens. Nice crisp stars. Just below Serpens (in Sagittarius) we looked at the planetary nebula NGC 6567 and NGC 6818 (the Little Gem Nebula).

We went to Aquarius to see the globular cluster M72 and we spent a lot of time on the Helix nebula NGC 7293. The OIII filter makes a huge difference in the ability to see detail in the Helix. Try as I might, I simply don't see anything that really looks like a helix. To me the Helix appears to be a roiling storm cloud in structure.

We started off the night with Venus. We had shown visitors Mars about 9:15 but frankly the turbulence over the ocean was enough to make it rather blah. Later we spotted Neptune with a surprisingly easy to spot Triton. We tried Uranus hoping to catch some of its moons. We may have spotted one or two fleetingly but to be honest I doubt it. We tried a bewildering array of colored filters on Mars just before wrapping up. I think I liked the dark red filter for detail even if the color it left Mars was very garish, the orange filer was ok but I got less out of the pale blue filter than unfiltered light. We could see

Outside the Milky Way Galaxy was still bright and well defined. We could easily make out Nix Olympica (Olympus Mons) from clouds which hang about the area. The large southern area called Mare Sirenum (kind of a soft elongated S curve) was impossible to miss as was the polar cap.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Sep 25, 2005
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
Subscribe to Leslie Coleman's Log RSS Feed