CalStar XVII was even more fun than expected. After getting smoked out the year before and still having plenty of fun, this year we had 3 really good nights in a row. Limiting magnitude for me was 6.2, 6.3 and 6.3, solidly dark, with seeing starting at 4/5, good, each night and steadying out to 5/5, excellent. Marko, Carter, Rozerman and I formed a mini-ghetto toward the north end of the field.
We did miss the people who weren’t there and you know who you are.
Here’s the hard astro science part of the weekend:
On Saturday, I pulled out of my notes a set of instructions from Steve Gottlieb for an HII starforming region in IC 10 in Cassiopeia, one of the little dwarf galaxies in our Local Group. Have been carrying around this 2-paragraph guide for years, finally decided to go for it. IC 10 itself isn’t very hard to identify, but it’s a subtle glow. The Astro Animal’s directions made for an easy unambiguous hop. The starforming region itself was a distinct glow in direct vision.
These were all with Johannes, an Albert Highe made 13" f/4.5 grab and go scope. Was using a 24mm Panoptic, 16mm UO Koenig, 16mm Brandon, 9 and 7mm type 6 Naglers.
So for incidental contrast on Thursday night, Marko and I were studying HII regions in ngc 55, much bigger and brighter than IC 10. Whiisssper Canyon has good southern horizons. I was sitting gazing at Ankaa, the alpha star in Phoenix, decided to go look at 55, just up from there in Sculptor. It’s a splashy long lanky galaxy that I hadn’t seen in years.
Both in Marko’s 17.5 and my 13, it looked assymetrical, like a flattened comet, with a bright nucleus on the western end and a long halo extending to the east. There’s a bright knot to the east of the core, and another toward the far eastern end.
Next day, with the reference books at home, we had The Animal right there to ask. Steve said sure those are both starforming regions. Interesting conceptual and visual contrast between a little Local Group dwarf at ca 2.15 million lightyears away, and a major spiral, brightest of its own group, some 4 mly from here.
While poking around in Sculptor, certainly stopped and gawked at 253, the Sculptor Galaxy Itself, one of the most spectacular things we get to see in a telescope. And not far from there, following SkyAtlas for something I hadn’t seen before, I got onto ngc 134, a very pretty, interesting galaxy. What I saw was a “bright nucleus, stellar core, bright star just west of the nucleus, raggedy long pennant with tapered ends. Lots of lanes and mottling across the whole halo.” Worth the trip and a fun surprise. Never know what you’re gonna run into in this big zoo of galaxies.
Speaking of which, just off 134, I caught 131, a little slash, not in SkyAtlas but sure enough in Uranometria. Always fun to “discover” an object you didn’t know to look for.
Carter on Thursday night had been studying Abell 116, a busy cluster of galaxies in Cetus. I’d seen one of ‘em, ngc 530, years ago without suspecting it had neighbors. No idea how I missed 547 and 545 in the same half degree field, a very close pair and brighter than 530. Carter had made one of his cool zooming-in findercharts that features a labelled DSS image of the cluster. In a first visit on Saturday night I could count 8 galaxies in that close half-degree field. This is gonna be fun.
For the 17th time, CalStar was a blast. The food, the people, the place were all unassailable. Very glad we have Whiisssper Canyon for the starparty. Larry and Jennifer are gracious and funny. My only issue was that 2 of 3 people who brought guitars left them in their cars. We need better live music discipline next year.