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  • #4041
    macastronomer
    Participant

    Not an official event or anything… but Dean and I are planning on heading to Eagle Bluff tonight. Of course everybody is welcome…the more the merrier.

    I called Eagle Bluff. There is a small group there staying overnight and I offered that they can come peek through our scopes if they want.

    The clear sky clock is looking very good for tonight and the Moon doesn't come up until after 3:00am. Clear Sailing!

    If anybody is interested in carpooling in the van, please let me know ahead of time, otherwise I'll take my car.

    Duane

    #4112
    Jeff Newland
    Participant

    Duane and Dean, how did it go last night?  Reports, reports.  inquiring minds want to know.  :)
    I didn't go out and observe, but I see it was clear last evening.

    Jeff

    #4113
    macastronomer
    Participant

    It ranged from good to not so good throughout the night ( Maybe 6-4 on a scale of 10 ). I have to note the adjustment that a 4 at Eagle bluff would be like a 6 in my back yard and a 6 at Eagle bluff is like an 8 in my back yard—still a pretty good night.

    Kirk carpooled with me in the Van and we met Dean there.

    It was cold, but not too bad. Not as cold as the lunar eclipse night. For most of the night the seeing made it worth while. Saturn was very nice with the Moons all pulled close in (even Titan). We spent a bit of time observing M35 and a little open cluster hugging up next to it but much farther away. NGC4565, an edge on galaxy that I can't resist looking at every time it's available. I used that to compare two eyepieces that I picked up this winter. One is an Orion edge-on 27mm and another Orion eyepiece (made by Vixen) a 22mm lanthanum. I do like the lanthanum very much and the edge on still has a place next to it, as it gives a slightly larger field of view but has a little too much edge glow for my liking. I also compared them on M104, the Sombrero galaxy. The Vixen did a nicer job here as well, then I put in my 12mm Nagler T4 and I realize how much and why I really love that eyepiece. The Sombrero showed it's dust lanes all the way across and the glow from the core was visible on both sides, I think more so than usual.

    I quick tabbed M3 and M13 through the Lanthanum as well.

    A thin, localized cloud cover passed over us giving us the opportunity to hop in Dean's van and warm up while he journalized and we put a Planetary Radio podcast on. It didn't take long and the cloud cover passed. From this point on we had varying degrees of clarity.

    I continued to compare these eyepieces on galaxies M81 and 82 and the Leo Triplet. M82 was particularly nice as the mottled appearance of the dust was prominent. M51, the whirlpool was nice but definitely not the best I've seen it at Eagle bluff. I could make out some structure in the disk but it just didn't stand out. This was probably due to the sky clarity getting worse. We ended the visual part with a very nice look at the Owl nebula and M108.

    Throughout the night we spotted some meteors, Dean being the only one to catch a very nice, long and bright one.

    We then got in the big van and warmed up as we discussed the night and some other RAC topics and perused Starry Night software to check a dark spot we thought we saw on Saturn (no idea what it was or if it was). We also used Starry Night to look up some upcoming events like the Moon occulting Venus and on another date the Beehive.

    It was a very worth while trip although I was surprised how bad some areas on HWY52 and CR8 were. Most of it was bone dry but it makes for dangerous driving when patches of the road are covered with snow and ice. We drove slow.

    I was starving for some deep sky sights, so I'm glad I got them in even though sky-wise it ranked in the bottom third of my Eagle Bluff visits. We'll see what next week brings. Hopefully it has really clear skies, safe roads and brilliant meteors in store for us!

    Duane

    #4114
    Dean Johnson
    Participant

    That was a great report by Duane. I really don't have much to add except that it was very fun to be out with other members of the RAC and catching up on everything that's happening with the club. Hopefully next Fri (or Sat) night will be very good to us with even clearer skies and warmer temps.

    #4115
    Jeff Newland
    Participant

    Sounds like you guys had a great time and you got some practice in for the marathon, an excellent report Duane.

    Early forecast has 19 for a high on Friday, partly cloudy. May be a bit cooler than this past Friday.

    Was a little worried about you all.  News on Friday was talking about a few accidents because of the snow blowing across the roads.  Wasn't planning on heading down there, but that definitely turned against any possibility of heading that way.

    Jeff

    #4116
    Dean Johnson
    Participant

    Having that nice big van and a chance to get in, warm up and listen to a cool astronomy podcast was a real blessing to take the edge off the cold. I don't know if the club or Duane or whoever gets that van, but it's a great “warming shack” for a winter star party.

    Let's hope for a great Friday night!  ;D

    #4117
    Dean Johnson
    Participant

    I took advantage of another cold clear night. I bagged NGC's 2281 in Auriga and 2343 in Monoceros for Binocular Deep Sky Objects and did the same two plus NGC's 2335 and 2253 in Monoceros for my Herschel list. I have three more BDSO's in Puppis to get, then I'll have to either wait for a few months, or try the remaining 15 objects I need before dawn sometime.

    I tried to find Comet 46P Wirtanen, but I think I got out there too late (8:30 p.m.) Betty taught a class tonight, so I had the kids until then. I think I've got the field down, but I've definately got to get out there earlier. Has anyone spotted Wirtanen yet?

    Those of you who have binoculars, you HAVE to keep track of Mars, because it's starting to make a run at M35, that fabulous open cluster in Gemini. I could just barely fit Mars and M35 together when Duane, Kirk and I were down at Eagle Bluff on Friday night, but tonight they both easily fit in the FOV.

    Saturn was great as always, and the seeing and transparency were getting even better when I packed up at midnight. But I've gotta get some sleep. We finish the eighty acre job in Iowa tomorrow.

    Keep your fingers crossed for Friday night! Get Duane and the RAC warming shack/van down to Eagle Bluff! I'll bring two thermos of coffee and some S.G. pop for those of you that care to indulge. Clear skies!

    #4118
    sregener
    Participant

    I was out for a little over an hour last night and it was one of those “deceptive” nights – looking up with the naked eye, it looked like a good night.  Looking through the telescope was a bit different…

    Saturn was nice, when it was sharp (which was very infrequent.)  At 200X, I could just make out Cassini and a hint of the shadow of Saturn on the rings.  Because of the ring tilt angle, it looked like the rings went all the way around – they ended right where the major band began.  Kind of a neat effect.

    Mars showed just the faintest hint of detail.  Just a little dark ragged line on the southern half.

    It was when I went galaxy hunting that things really went downhill.  After 20 minutes of fruitless searching in Ursa Major for a couple of galaxies (M81 and M82 were easy to spot, as always) that are on the H400 list and finding nothing but mirages (at low power, the objects looked like galaxies, but with some magnification became obviously stellar) I started hunting the sickle of Leo with similar results.  I noticed Cor Caroli peeking up behind my Willow tree and took a gander at it.  Nice to see some color in my urban skies for a change.  I found M94 fairly easily, but couldn't find M63.  Obviously, no other galaxies were showing their faces in Canes Ventari.

    All in all, a very frustrating night for me and I'm finding myself frustrated even today.  I'm seeing problems with all my eyepieces (except maybe the 6mm Orthoscopic) that make me wonder if I have an optical problem in the scope, my collimation or my eyepieces.  Except for something in the dead center of the eyepiece, every star looks like a galaxy to me – a bright core with a scattered halo around it.  Some eyepieces seem to show it worse, but I don't know if that's because they're better or worse eyepieces.  I've seen some incredible views when seeing and transparency are good, but hunting these faint fuzzies down in the city where things aren't so obvious gets tricky.  Advice/Opinions/Offers of Help appreciated at this point.

    #4119
    macastronomer
    Participant

    I looked up for a while when I took the dog out and I was almost ready to grab a scope. There was a bit of twinkling on the bright stars which looked pretty normal for an average sky but when I watched dimmer stars I saw they were completely disappearing—so I went back inside.

    I'm glad you guys got out though. I should'a went out anyway. I hope Friday brings good skies.

    It sounds to me like you had a very slight case of condensation. You might not see it on the mirror (most likely the secondary) but if you can hit it with a blow dryer for half a minute you might see an immediate improvement.

    That would be my first guess. Let us know if all returns to normal when you get out again.

    Duane

    #4120
    Dean Johnson
    Participant

    Hello astronomy fans! I got out there tonight from 7:30 to midnight. I finally made some progress on my Lunar 100 program. I got the craters Endymion and Macrobius for the binocular part and then got the craters Picard, Proclus, Funerius, Messier/Messier A and the Petavius Wall. The wall was really cool. It was so straight and dark that at first I thought it was a scratch on my scope. (Thank the Good Lord it wasn't!)

    I bagged the 3 Binocular Deep Sky Objects in Puppis that have been threatening to ease into the twilight, so now I'm down to getting my last dozen which will have to happen later this year.

    I tried to find Comet Wirtanen back, but that faint elusive comet was not to be seen tonight and I searched for a good half hour. Mars and M35 provided an easy, pleasing view. Too bad Mars won't cruise right through the cluster. That would be an outstanding imaging opportunity.

    I finished with Saturn, and during the moments of good seeing, (it was a little breezy out there) it showed great detail, along with Titan and two smaller moons.

    By the way, it's still COLD out there! See you all tomorrow night!

    #4121
    sregener
    Participant

    I went out around 9 for a half hour.  In spite of the 20+ degree temps, the humidity made it feel pretty cold.  My fingers froze pretty quickly.  Jumping jacks helped some (pumps blood to extremities) but I bagged it after about a half hour.

    Transparency was poor.  Seeing seemed okay, but I only really pushed magnification on Saturn. At 120x, it was very stable, but at 200x, it started to shimmer in and out a little.  I agree with Dean – when it was stable, it was very, very nice.

    Did something completely different last night and hunted variable stars for a change.  The AAVSO has a list of easy ones for beginners (and charts), and I worked off of that.  R Leo, Z Ursa Major, and R Ursa Major were the three I picked.  The last one was quite challenging to see in my urban skies.  I estimated it as mag 12.5.  I could not see the 13.1 magnitude comparison star.  So as close as I was to the zenith, the limiting magnitude for the night was around 12.75.  (I could see the 12.5 star with direct vision, but not the 13.1 even with averted.)  That's in a 10″ scope.  R Leo was very pretty in its own right, with an orange/red color to it.  It was fun for a change to observe without cursing my optics, the light pollution, or the neighbors who turned on their floodlights for a minute to put the dog out.

    #4122
    macastronomer
    Participant

    The straight wall is a neat feature on the Moon, and I know what you mean about it being a stark feature, but it can also totally disappear. I was trying to find it when doing my lunar search, within the time-frame they give, and couldn't spot it for nothing. I went back towards the end of their range and it couldn't be missed. Like you said, it looks like hair on the optics.

    #4123
    Dean Johnson
    Participant

    Hello astronomy fans! ;D I made it out again on a 1st quarter moonlit night, but that's OK because the Moon was what I was after. I have to say that I have a ton of respect for anyone going after the Lunar 100 program. I've found the Moon is a lot tougher object to observe than what I thought it was going to be. With the features changing daily (sometimes hourly) from the shadows, and having to check and recheck my lunar atlases because of shadows and reverse image from my star diagnol, it really takes some time to know you're getting it right.

    I was out for six and a half hours and bagged 13 Lunar 100's. (I'd take them anyday over Marlboro 100's). I've got 58 so far.

    The Moon was very close to Mars tonight. I could see them both together easily in binoculars and even got them in the same field in my telescope at closest approach with a 50mm ocular. (The extreme south polar lunar region and Mars just above the other edge in my FOV)

    After I ran out of Lunar 100's (they only give you so many to light up each night), I checked out Saturn and saw that the air was very stable. Cassini's Division crisp, four moons, atmosphere banding and even a little planet shadow on the rings. Pretty nice.

    I finished by trying some close double stars and was amazed at how easily Epsilon Lyra, Epsilon Bootes and 38 Lynxcis split. I should have tried Gamma Virginis, but didn't think of it till I got home. Oh well, can't think of everything.  :-[

    I saw one nice meteor shoot across the back of Leo's hindquarters about 2:15 a.m. Direction ENE to WSW, color white with a hint of yellow-green, duration a half second and mag. about 2-2.5.

    It was a glorious night for astronomy!

    #4124
    macastronomer
    Participant

    I second what Dean said. The Lunar 100 is tougher than you'd think. Not only do you have the difficulty of finding the object due to shadows (or lack of), you also only have a certain span of time during the Moon's cycle to nab that object. The time frame they give you isn't exact because libration causes the angle of the terminator to shift. If it happens to be cloudy during a specific phase, you have to wait another month to try again. Some targets took me over a year to finally get.

    The Petavius Wall Dean mentioned earlier is a pretty cool feature.

    The toughest objects are the highlands near Tyco and that whole south side where very shallow craters are spattered all over the place. You need an extremely good Moon atlas (or two). It helps to have some of the Clementine photographs at your disposal too.

    If you've got a laptop computer (PC or a Mac that can run Windows… I keep bugging some Mac programmers I know to port this to OS X), Download virtual Moon Atlas Pro. It doesn't make this easy, but it does make it easier. The software allows you to view both Clementine Aerograph and Clementine Photographic, and allows you to zoom in. The software puts the terminator where it should be, so you don't spend a lot of time looking for something that's not visible.

    This is one of the few certificates you can get with the aid of your computer, as the Moon is so darn bright, the computer screen doesn't really hinder you.

    It would be fun to do some lunar observing as a group sometime. Something we could advertise and see how many people show up. It's also something we could do from just about anywhere.

    A good feature for tonight is the Straight Wall (If you look at the wrong time, it's invisible. At the right time, it's so stark you'll mistake it for something on your glass.)

    Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupes_Recta

    Location of it tonight (image from Starry Night)
    Straight_Wall.jpg

    Image from http://www.3towers.com
    015_Straight_Wall(8_61days).jpg

    #4125
    Dean Johnson
    Participant

    Hello astronomy fans! I got out last night (this morning?) from 1 to 5 a.m. It was a beautiful naked eye sky, but the seeing and transparency weren't so good through the telescope.

    I caught Mars near Epsilon Gemini, (sadly far removed from M35), Saturn at 400X, Jupiter, M13, the Moon (three more Lunar 100's down,) and the best was

    Gamma Virginis (Porrima). It is noticably elongated even at low power. At 200X it really looks like a “dog bone”, but at 400X I could split it, but not so I could see dark space between the two components. I could see the separate stars, but there was still too much glare for a clean split.

    Still, very cool!  8)

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