Skies and Stars
Andromeda (12/11/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 11 December 2015 23:37

ome from work, out to dinner, then had a look about 8-ish. Looked clear, damned clear. Confirmed it on Clear Sky - 4+ in all categories. No cloud, no haze, no high-altitude winds. Good seeing night. So out came the scope.

The goal tonight was the Andromeda galaxy. This took a bit of doing since it was passing right overhead when I started, and a vertical scope is damned hard to aim. Still, managed to sweep north from Cassiopeia to Pegasus and back, looking for that white stain I'd seen recently in binoculars. And there it was!

Okay, for you non-sky people, it wasn't like a flat disk with spirals plumbing out in clockwheel fashion. It was kinda a white on-end blob, hazy but nearly distinguishable as a galaxy. But it was cool all the same. I tried hitting it with different lenses and filters and got some good views, up until the scope hit the stops. I tried to swing it around to the other side but I couldn't find it after that. But, yes, I'd had it in my hand for a while there.

Went after old favorites - caught the Pleiades as they came over grandfather pine. Hit Betelgeuse and marveled at its pulsing. Checked out my nebula-in-the-back-pocket, Orion (M42). Then got ambitious and looked for M52 (the Scorpion Cluster). While I can say openly that I didn't find shit, I did get more comfortable with blind searching (I've stopped using the gears, disengaging the scope to swing it free-form - much easier to aim). I put about an hour into that project and didn't come up with anything that looked like a cluster - lots of Milky Way background but no M52 - I probably tracked through it a couple of times without spotting it. Maybe next time.

Tomorrow night, there is a meteor shower (according to CFAS) so JB and I will grab a couple of deck chairs and sit out for an hour or so after midnight, hoping to catch a falling star. Please, no clouds!

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Last Updated on Friday, 11 December 2015 23:59
 
Orion Nebula - filtered (12/6/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 December 2015 01:45

ll evening it's been broken clouds. I finished writing the third section to my book (all done - landmark) then went outside at 12:45am and saw that everything was clear, that Orion was up, and that I had that new light filter I wanted to try.

The good news was that Orion was visible right off the back porch, so that's where I set the scope up at, right on the porch. Nice to work on boards for a change. However, I managed to dislodge (i.e. drop) the spotter scope twice. So now I was cursing a blue streak. Everything was bunged up. After remounting the spotter, I aimed at the biggest thing out there - Sirius. Bullseyed it and then managed to get the scope (on lowest mag) to agree. Then I went after Orion and that flashy nebula.

Someone told me that overhead sighting sucks. I can agree with that - the scope is directly up and I'm having to sit on my knees (on a deck) trying to get a good look. Anyway, after a lot of effort, I managed to get the nebula in range on the x25 scope. Played with filter, on and off, and like it. Not much difference - I'm not suddenly out in the middle of space - but it helps. Stepped up with my stronger lens combo and managed to locate and focus on the nebula at 120x. And while it's neat to see it that close (I could distinctly view that box of four stars in its center, backing down to 60x or even 25x gives a better viewing. Still, I swapped out the lenses and burned and hour marveling at the cloud.

And here's where setting up on a tight deck isn't such a hot idea - the Pleiades were up but sinking into a pine tree. Since my wife was out with me and she'd never seen it, I tried to drop the power to 25x (best viewing) and get lined up but by then they were gone. So, lesson learned, set up with the widest sky overhead since you might want to look at other things.

Andromeda is my next target. Saw it through the noks the other night and want to line the scope on it. The pursuit continues...

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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 December 2015 02:01
 
NGC 869/884 (11/23/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 23 November 2015 22:41

ver at the train club rather late with friends, putting the finishing touches on a falling-down barn I've been building for the sectional layout, a rustic structure that required the placement of individual shingles on the roof (and took six weeks to complete). When we got home, the wife pointed out that the moon was full and the sky clear. Dammit - great. It's going on 10 and I've got a bike ride tomorrow morning. Gotta get up early.

Still, the binoculars will give me a good look.

Stayed out longer than I thought. Moved to one part of the grounds and looked at the Pleiades, my old friends. Took a bit to find them, what with the full moon and my unadjusted eyes, but finally there they were. Moved to another section of ground and there was Cassiopeia, the big W (give it your best Jimmy Durante). Had my star wheel out and found something named the double cluster, just above and a touch to the right. Locked on the tail of Cassie and rolled up and there it was - two seemingly (through 'noks, at least) clusters of stars against the milky way. Like all my other sightings, I got the feel for them quickly and could find them reliably - located them three more times while poking about for M52 (which eluded me). Anyway, looked them up on my larger planosphere and found them officially named NGC 869 and 884, so howdy boys!

Since tomorrow is my birthday, I decided to dip around a bit. Back to the Pleiades, then since Orion was still low and I had the nok-brace on, I locked onto M42, that hazy nebula, my first love. Looked at it for long minutes. Then ended the night (burning out my night vision) looking up at the full moon. How nice of her to come out for my birthday and give me a full show, with all my favorite craters and seas, all visible.

So a great night with a set of noks and a brace in the backyard while two different parties were going on to either side (noisy buggers). I'm pretty excited - I just ordered a light pollution filter for my ST 120. I can't wait to see what that does for some of my casual off-the-deck viewing.

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Last Updated on Monday, 23 November 2015 22:59
 
Pleiades (11/16/2015) PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 16 November 2015 22:24

ith a braced telescope, I finally got a good look at the Pleiades (or M45), the closest cluster to us (at a mere 445 light years out). It was amazing - a set of hot binaries burning blue, and a number of other stars in a more orange range. I didn't see the nebula that is supposed to be around them but I'll probably be able to see it with the scope in a few evenings.

Also lowered the brace and picked up Orion coming over the horizon, making out its nebula (one of my favorite sights).

Its amazing - this is my second Messier object, and I found it without trying too hard with the binocs. But I gotta say that the brace really helps - just sat in my chair with the nocks braced against the inside of my knee and it worked just fine.

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Last Updated on Monday, 16 November 2015 22:29
 
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