Home Forums RAC Main Forum General Discussion Observing tonight? Re: Observing tonight?


    It had been a while since I had been out observing, so I just wondered around the sky lackadaisically, didn't even open my atlas. It was a back to the basics observing session for me.

    I have to concur that the sky was clear and stable. The Trapezium in the GON was made of of perfect little dots, with the E star easily visible. As always, M42 was a sight to behold.

    We had looked at M81-82 in Dean's binos earlier (an excellent way to view them) but I had to put it in my lower power 40mm superwide. When I moved to the spot, I centered NGC 2976 and thought, "OK there's M81, where's M82?" I quickly realized I had happened upon one of the little NGCs nearby and was amazed I could mistake a galaxy nearly 8 x dimmer. That just goes to show how contrasty it was. I thought for sure we'd pull in the horse head, but we couldn't. I'm pretty sure we were looking right at it. I could sort of make out the long patch of light with a nearby a very nebulous star, but just couldn't see any detail of the molecular cloud.

    M1 had some nice shape to it. I don't think I've seen it this well. I couldn't make out filaments but I could see patches of dark in it, hints of structure no a macro level. Most of the time it looks like a tiny little football, tonight it appeared large with faint patchiness.

    The Pleiades were nearly straight up when I aimed at them. Obviously using my lowest power to coral all these stars in a field of view, they lit up the scope like a Fleet Farm parking lot. What I was happy to see was Merope, not just the star ,but the nebulosity. I could see hints of nebulosity around Alcyone and Maia. I can only imagine what this would have looked like in Randy's scope.

    The Double Cluster was awesome. I only used my lowest mag on this, so I was looking at both in the field of view, and could see the tiniest points of stars scattered amongst the bright jewels. I observed this for quite some time, examining the details of these clusters. A less stable sky would have washed away these miniscule points, but tonight I was able to enjoy the detail of a high mag view from a wide angle perspective. It wouldn't be often that I'd exclaim this, but the double cluster was probably my favorite target last night. I couldn't rip myself away from it.

    Tonight was the first time I've looked upon Sigma Ori, which is named as a single star (spectral type B2Vp, massive star) but is also the Sigma Orionis star cluster. Sigma Ori itself is a five star system. Several stars have the same proper motion (hence the star cluster) with a nice double in the group, but the real eye-popper is the stars sharing the Sigma Ori system. Looking at this system is like looking at Jupiter and its moons! Seeing this obvious orbital relationship in a star system is fantastic. Here is a photo I found online, which doesn't do the view any bit of justice, but gives some sort of idea what I'm talking about:

    A,B is the bright one (Sigma Ori) and optically inseparable, at least in my scope. If I understand correctly: C, D, and E all orbit these two (A,B). This is a sight you have to see, and according to Dean, part of the Astronomical League's double star list.

    I also pulled in M108, the Beehive… hmmm, can't remember what else. I did a lot of star swimming through the Milky Way, especially the area around Auriga, and between/above the bulls horns.

    I had to tell Dean how much Taurus, to me, looks like Dog-Cow. Dog-Cow is an old Mac term from the early GUI (graphical user interface) OS days. It was a simple little graphic that was created to represent which direction/orientation your graphic will produce. Graphics and computer memory were pretty limited in those days and although I think it was meant to be a dog, it came out looking rather cow like. If I were to continue the story myself, I would say that Zeus didn't want to give Aphrodite a regular dog as a god would likely hurt a regular puppy, being a god and all. So, he crossed the little mammal with a larger one–one with similar colors and spots. He then placed it amongst the stars and so became the very unknown legend of Dog-Cow (watch for the series coming to cable TV, someday). Here's a pic of DogCow:

    From Taurus to you, "Moof, Moof!"

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!