Home Forums RAC Main Forum General Discussion Observing tonight?

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    Dean Johnson

      Hearing of Scott seeing the Milky Way from Rochester is very excellent news. It is also great to hear of more RAC members journaling their observations and going for observing certificates. I think that it makes observing more rewarding as it adds to an amateur's understanding of the night sky.

      I got out for 3 and al half hours last Friday night and bagged six Herschel 400 objects, pushing me to the halfway mark of 200. I observed NGC 6624 (globular cluster in Sagittarius), a nice object that stands out well. NGC 6629 (planetary nebular in Sagittarius) a very challenging object that requires starhopping and increased magnification to pin down. NGC 5982 (ellipitcal galaxy in Draco) appears in the same FOV with NGC 5985, a spiral galaxy which is not a Herschel 400 object. I thought that they were both very cool to look at. NGC 720 (elliptical galaxy in Cetus) is another faint fuzzy in an obscure starfield, but still pleasing to the eye. NGC 613 in Sculptor was the toughest find of the night. This barred spiral galaxy had me starhopping from NGC 253 to 288 and then east to a group of eight stars where I had to search north of. Very faint and challenging. I finished the night with NGC 908, a spiral galaxy in Cetus that looks like a big faint streak and took some starhopping.

      I got observations on Jupiter (which started out with 3 moons and finished with four) but it got so cold, I didn't get observations on Neptune and Uranus. I definitely could have used gloves and chemical hand warmers. I was very tired, I've had lots to do lately. But all in all, AGNFA! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Dean Johnson

        Hello astronomy fans! I had a very good night tonight. I got a nice observation of Venus in, and then took in a long observation of Jupiter.

        Jupiter had all four of the Galliean moons to the west of the planet, (the inner two very close and no moon was more than 3 Jupiter planet widths away). It was amazing!

        I had an unsuccessfull search for NGC 6118, the "Blinking Galaxy" in Serpens Caput, and NGC 6959, a globular cluster in Sagittarius, (Both were too low to bag).

        I did nail NGC 1513, an open star cluster in Perserus for the Herschel 400 quest. It is an obscure little star cluster, and took some careful starhopping to get to. It looks like a little circle of stars that has about 10 or 11 members at 80X. If you crank it up, you can get more, but it still remainds a very challenging object.

        The Moon rose at that time, and while the coyotes were howling to beat hell, I got my second observation on the Moon risisng on consecutive months (while the Moon was 4 days past full – 1st observation on Sept. 19th and the second on Oct. 18th).  The Moon must be in a stable part of its orbit this time of year because it rose nearly over the same spot of the only cluster of trees to the NE horizon.

        I finished the night with a Lunar II observation of Promontarium Archerusiusm. It is the prominent range of mountains that borders the Sea of Serenity on its southern edge.
        It is a very cool feature of the Moon.

        It got to be cold, but all in all, it was a glorious night for astronomy!

        Dean Johnson

          Hello astronomy fans!  ;D  I got out there for four and a half hours tonight, and it was pretty special.

          I started out the night with a Jupiter observation and could see Io just clearing Jupiter to the west. I could see the Great Red Spot, but the wind kept shaking the scope and could not tell for sure if Io had a shadow transit or not. (I  think it did).

          After that I caught NGC 1528, an open star cluster in Perseus, one of the better objects for the Herschel 400. It really is a beautiful, rich group of stars. Highly recommended.

          After that I did my observations on Uranus and Neptune. They are well worth going after and it is really fun to be able to pick them out of the sky easily. These observations will only help when I send in my stuff for the Planetary Observers award.

          I did binocular observations on Aldebaran and the Hyades, open star clusters M38, M36 and M37 in Auriga, looked at the Alpha Persei association, and checked out Algol, (was it at minima tonight? It looked dimmer that usual) and Epsilon Auriga. I hope that everyone remembers that this star will be undergoing its eclipse by whatever binary companion that causes it to dim for months.

          I journaled galaxies NGC's 1052, 1055, 1022 and 936 in Cetus. NGC 1055 is a ghost! 1052 and 1055 are really tough star hops. These objects of the Herschel 400 almost amounted to work.

          I finished the night with binocular views of Orions Belt and telescopic views of the Great Orion Nebula. What fun! I also caught three nice meteors tonight. 2 in Perseus (1st one at 8:18:58 p.m., 2d mag, short streak, white in color, fast mover, half second duration zipping straight down to the left of Mirfak, Delta and the Alpha Persei association.) The 2d was 3rd/4th mag., white in color, another fast mover diving into the same spot as the first meteor at 8:23:18 p,m.

          The 3rd meteor of the night came at 10:32;15. That one was sensational!

          It is time to go to bed, but I will sleep in peace. It was A Glorious Night For Astronomy!!!!

          Dean Johnson

            Hello astronomy fans! Duane and I got out for three and a half hours tonight at Eagle Bluff and WOW! the sky was spectacular.

            I put in a half an hour with my 15X70 binoculars when I got there just to check out the sky. Orions Belt, Orions Sword, M35 in Gemini, Aldebaran and the Hyades, M38,37, 36 in Auriga, Rigel, Sigma Orionis, and even M81, M82 in Ursa Major were all plainly visible.

            Duane showed up and we put in a hard search for the Horsehead Nebula, but could not quite pull it in. The Flame Nebula was very clear. Then we caught M1 the Crab Nebula, I tried the Witch Head Nebula near Rigel, but while I could see the nebulosity, I couldn't make out the features.

            Duane nabbed the Owl Nebula, and M81 in Ursa Major, while I got NGC 1545 (open cluster in Perseus) and NGC 1664 in Auriga for my Herschel search. We both saw two faint meteors apiece and just had a great time checking out the starry fields of the winter night sky.

            AGNFA! ;D


              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!


              Dean Johnson

                Hooray! I actually got back into the forum — AND DID IT ALL BY MYSELF ON THE COMPUTER!!!!!!! Please pause while I stagger around, clutch my chest and holler "Hold on Elizabeth, this be the BIG one!" ::)

                Our computer caught a virus and has been down for a good two weeks. It is a pleasure to report my progress on observing this winter. I have gotten out seven times since October 29th (the start of my new observing year) logged 26.5 hours, and have upped my Herschel 400 total to 225, and Lunar II target list to 20 of the 100 needed.

                My latest Herschel 400 objects were NGC's 2232 and 2242, both open clusters in Monoceros, both bright and showy objects. Sinus Amoris (the Bay of Love) was the last Lunar II target aquired. :-*

                Venus, Uranus, Neptune and Saturn have made their way into my journaling, but I have not seen Mercury yet. Every time I've gone out I've had persistant low lying clouds to the southwest. Venus has reached its' quarter phase and will become more interestin week by week. I'd love to either get or look through a UV filter at it because I've heard that with that, an observer can actually see cloud stucture on Venus. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

                Note to Scott – I'd be honored to review your Lunar 100 observations. If they look like they'll pass muster (and I'm sure they will), all you have to do is send them on to Steve Nathan (a Massachuesetts native) and he'll process your certificate very quickly. I got mine in a week! He's a super nice guy. 8)

                My $80 winter Air Force parka is making winter observing a very comfortable experience. Warm boots, long johns, insulated coveralls and chemical heat packs for my gloves don't hurt either. I'm going to be out there every chance I get. Even zero degrees isn't a problem now. ;D

                Hope to stay in touch and see you all soon. Here's to the January meeting and hopefully a third weekend in January star party at Eagle Bluff. May we all have AGNFA! ๐Ÿ™‚

                Dean Johnson

                  Question: Astronomy magazine's '100 Most Spectacular Sky Wonders and how to see them' claims that the Pencil Nebula of the Vela Supernova Remnant is visible from latitude 44 degrees and south. That would put it in range of the Flatin Farm hayfield. ???

                  Is this true? How good would my chances be of actually seeing this? If you look on a star atlas, it would be several degrees SW of NGC 3242 (the Ghost of Jupiter) planetary nebula in Hydra. Could some of you Starry Night Pro's check this out for me?

                  Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

                  Nicole Lindell


                    From my location in Winona it's a few degrees below the horizon even @ the "best" viewing time on Starry Night.  I'm not sure how much of a difference it would make if I changed the location to Flatin Farm…but what is the exact lat & long?

                    Dean Johnson

                      Hi Nicole. Here's the Flatin Farm Lat. & Lon. — Lattitude 43, 29' 52". Longituded 91, 36', 47"


                      Nicole Lindell

                        Dean, I'm pretty sure it's still below the horizon.  Here's a photo, if that helps.

                        [attachment deleted by admin]

                        Dean Johnson

                          Thanks, Nicole. Maybe the folks that put together the article were counting on gravitational lensing. ::)


                            According to Stellarium, it would get about 1/3 degree above the horizon at approximately 1:30AM today from Flatin Farm.  Atmospheric extinction, anyone?

                            Dean Johnson

                              Thanks, Scott. I kind of thought that magazine article was packing a little nebula up my you know where. ;D

                              How far south would an observer have to travel to get a decent look at it?


                                Generally speaking, anything in the first 5 degrees is complete garbage.  Even 10 degrees above the horizon requires a pretty good night as far as seeing goes.  You can check any globe for the latitude that would give it the elevation above the horizon you'd need for what you'd consider a "good" look.  Maybe you should plan a visit to the Texas Star Party?  I'm sure it would be plenty high there…

                                Dean Johnson

                                  Hello astronomy fans! I got out there for six glorious hours tonight. I started with a Venus observation, and then worked my way through five of the Herschel 400 objects, the toughest one being the diffuse nebula in Monoceros (NGC 2158?) I don't have my notes with me, the family is sleeping and I left my stuff locked in the van. At any rate, I spent an hour on that one.

                                  The rest were pretty easy and really nice to look at, including the open clusters for the Christmas Tree cluster and the Rosette Nebula. Wow! The Rosette with an Ultrablock filter is really fun.  ๐Ÿ™‚

                                  About 10:30 I had a skunk try come in on me, twice. I could smell the little Pepe LePue and whipped out my laser pointer twice to sweep the hayfield. Pepe didn't like that and cleared out of the area before he cleaned out my sinuses.  ๐Ÿ˜› Thank you for the laser pointer Duane! I nearly packed up at that point, but stuck it out to get my sixth Herschel object and then got awesome observations on Saturn and Comet Lulin.

                                  I'm glad I did. Saturn is incredible! I haven't seen the rings that flat since I was a teenager. Titan to the west and two of the amateur moons close by to the east. Does anyone know if there were one or two smaller moons above the planet? Especially in the 1 o'clock position? Major atmosphere banding made tonight very special. I can't wait for a Titan shadow transit. 8)

                                  Comet Lulin was the icing on the cake. When Spica got up about 5 to 7 degrees, I took a peek through my binoculars. Sure enough, it was there and plainly visible above and to the left of Spica, comfortably in the same FOV. I waited for it to rise to 15 degrees before I got my telescopic observation in. No distinct tail, but Scott Regener is right when he mentioned movement is visible within 20 minutes. Just think, this baby will travel from Spica to Saturn in just eight or nine days!

                                  We've got to pray for clear skies and an awesome Eagle Bluff event for next weekend. There's a lot to see out there.

                                  It was a glorious night for astronomy!  ;D

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