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Topics - mccarthymark

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TAC Astro Classifieds / Want to buy: Argo Navis
« on: November 15, 2017, 02:29:21 PM »
Would like to buy your good condition Argo Navis, firmware version 3.0.1, including the CD & serial cable; plus the cradle if you have it.

Also shopping for 32k encoders for alt/az mount (Obsession 20-inch classic)

PM me to let me know what you have, thanks

Observing Reports / Some recent ! and !! doubles, and a question
« on: October 28, 2017, 01:32:22 PM »
Over the last couple of months I’ve made many dozens of double star observations from my light polluted back yard, with my 12.5 f/7 reflector.  There have been several nights of very good (Pickering 7 to 9) seeing, and I tried going after close and faint pairings.  Of the numerous observations I’ve selected the ones I noted with “!” or “!!”, which denote my excitement on observing the particular pair.  These are fast setting in the west now, but I hope others will have a look.

STF 2606: Hair split to clean split when seeing stills and there is only an airy disk.  Near equal, half a delta mag. 0.8" [Good catch! 0.66"! 1.2" at discovery, so old Wilhelm could see it in his 9-inch]
19H 58M 32.66S +33° 16' 38.8"
P.A. 146.8 SEP 0.66” MAG 7.74/8.43
SP F5IV DIST. 78.43 PC (255.84 L.Y.)

STT 398: B is very faint, appears as a brightening or pin-prick in A's diffraction.  2-3 delta mag, 1"
20H 07M 23.69S +35° 43' 05.9"
P.A. 82 SEP 1” MAG 7.45/9.20
SP B0IV DIST. 628.93 PC (2051.57 L.Y.)

STT 386: Tight near equal, nice, split with seeing, 1"
19H 48M 16.51S +37° 09' 37.5"
P.A. 70 SEP 0.9” MAG 8.52/8.61
SP A1III DIST. 2222.22 PC (7248.88 L.Y.)

BU 155: Clean split, nice disks, 1 delta mag, 1".  Pale yellow and pale Easter egg blue! [AB seen, 4 stars visible.]
20H 51M 05.41S +51° 25' 01.7"
P.A. 38 SEP 0.7” MAG 7.36/8.13
SP A9IV DIST. 124.53 PC (406.22 L.Y.)

AC 17: !! Wow.  Pretty orange-yellow and much fainter 3 delta mag B, resolves into view with seeing, just appears then vanishes if seeing quavers.  ~4".  [AB seen.  5 stars in system.]
20H 12M 31.73S +51° 27' 49.0"
P.A. 83 SEP 4.3” MAG 6.17/10.55
SP K2.5III DIST. 106.16 PC (346.29 L.Y.)

STT 420: ! Light yellow A and reddish B, very faint, very wide, 3 delta mag.
20H 54M 22.25S +40° 42' 10.6"
P.A. 2 SEP 5.5” MAG 6.69/10.50
SP B8VNNE DIST. 248.14 PC (809.43 L.Y.)

STT 419: ! Tough, needed to wait for a while for right seeing.  Bright yellowish A with brightening in diffraction which stays put and recedes to a fine point momentarily with the seeing.
20H 54M 42.00S +37° 04' 25.3"
P.A. 23 SEP 1.6” MAG 7.20/9.97
SP A0 DIST. 193.8 PC (632.18 L.Y.)

Lambda Cyg = STT 413: !! 1.5 delta mag, blue-white.  Bright mess resolves to two disks 0.8-1.0”, with seeing. [AB seen, there are six stars in the system]
20H 47M 24.53S +36° 29' 26.7"
P.A. 359.3 SEP 0.92” MAG 4.73/6.26
SP B5VE DIST. 235.85 PC (769.34 L.Y.)
BU 445: !! Orange-red with exceptionally fainter B, only when seeing stills, else it is lost in the diffraction.  Pinpoint.  2”, 4 delta mag.  [AB seen.  There are six stars in the system]
21H 03M 29.53S +29° 05' 33.0"
P.A. 109 SEP 4.8” MAG 7.00/11.14
SP G8III DIST. 197.24 PC (643.4 L.Y.)
BU 67: ! Pale blue A and 3 delta mag B, ~2”.  In the middle of the Cygnus Loop.
20H 50M 36.05S +30° 54' 45.7"
P.A. 311 SEP 1.5” MAG 6.85/9.87
SP A8III DIST. 120.05 PC (391.6 L.Y.)
Ary 48: !! A beautiful split in finder, just equal pair, wide separation, white with red tint.
20H 37M 45.00S +32° 23' 42.9"
P.A. 41 SEP 53.3” MAG 8.23/8.76

STT 408: ! Very fine dull white A and pinpoint B, split well with seeing, ~2”
20H 34M 01.96S +34° 40' 44.4"
P.A. 193 SEP 1.6” MAG 6.75/9.37
SP B7V DIST. 332.23 PC (1083.73 L.Y.)

HO 603: !!  Very wide 2 delta mag, but B has a fainter close pair to it, seen with averted vision, about 3” separation. [AB 7.53/9.82 80.5"; BC 9.82/11.30 3.6"
21H 32M 04.61S +34° 12' 06.1"
P.A. 251 SEP 80.5” MAG 7.53/9.82
SP F0 DIST. 96.9 PC (316.09 L.Y.)

STF 2422: 553x.  !! Very tight, <0.8", equal light orange, pretty faint.
18H 57M 07.83S +26° 05' 45.1"
P.A. 69 SEP 0.8” MAG 7.93/8.25
SP A2IV DIST. 156.25 PC (509.69 L.Y.)

STF 2406: 553x. !! Bright white, 3-4 delta mag, B is averted vision only and delicate, with seeing.  Wow!
18H 49M 55.77S +26° 25' 30.6"
P.A. 5 SEP 4.8” MAG 7.12/11.21
SP A3V DIST. 118.34 PC (386.03 L.Y.)

STF 2358: 553x.  !! Faint near equal <2", another brighter / wider pair nearby.  Nice!
18H 38M 35.04S +30° 43' 20.1"
P.A. 223 SEP 2.5” MAG 9.81/10.19

BU 1206: 553x.  !! Very much fainter B, 2", 3-4 delta mag.  Pinpoint when seeing stills.
20H 19M 07.08S +36° 45' 07.6"
P.A. 348 SEP 1.7” MAG 7.53,10.70

WEI 35: 553x.  Double-double!  Ah!  Near equal 3", and closeby a wider pair, 5", 1 delta mag. [AB is first, CD might be second?  4 stars visible in system]
20H 29M 13.54S +37° 30' 45.8"
P.A. 213 SEP 4.1” MAG 8.35/8.81
SP F5 DIST. 305.81 PC (997.55 L.Y.)

STT 403: 553x.  Dramatic near equal white, just split, 1", with a third in the system 2x fainter and wide separation [Indeed a triple, as described.]
20H 14M 21.53S +42° 06' 15.6"
P.A. 172 SEP 0.9” MAG 7.31/7.64
SP B9IV-V DIST. 581.4 PC (1896.53 L.Y.)

UV Cyg = A 598: 553x.  !! Orange-red with fainter blue 1", 1 delta mag.  Seeing must still -- and it does.  A a perfect round disk the color of the setting sun.  Very special.  [AB seen, AC 50" did not notice]
19H 36M 29.82S +41° 24' 08.6"
P.A. 193 SEP 1” MAG 9.91/10.15

STF 2496: 553x.  !! Very much fainter B, a pin prick when seeing stills.  3 delta mag, 2" [AB seen, AC super wide sep]
19H 15M 19.18S +50° 04' 16.0"
P.A. 80 SEP 2.1” MAG 6.46/10.00
SP G8III DIST. 134.59 PC (439.03 L.Y.)

ES 1651:   Challenging!  Faint elongated star with direct vision.  With averted vision it flashes a split, half delta mag, just split.
18H 15M 49.67S +41° 06' 37.8"
P.A. 5 SEP 2.4” MAG 11.19/12.36
SP F5V DIST. 225.73 PC (736.33 L.Y.)

STT 365:   Very fine but no mistake, white and blue stars, ~4", 3 delta mag.  Nice! [AB, C seen.  AB is 0.4" and would have shown elongation if the seeing was better and/or I was looking carefully.  AB,D a very wide separation.]
18H 55M 57.14S +44° 13' 41.9"
P.A. 258 SEP 2.7” MAG 6.97/10.52
SP A2 DIST. 186.57 PC (608.59 L.Y.)

BU 641: 553x.  !! Extraordinary!  Moderately bright A and much fainter B, 2 delta mag, <1" separation.  Seeing needs to still.
18H 21M 48.44S +21° 30' 27.9"
P.A. 341 SEP 0.8” MAG 7.03/8.66
SP B9.5II DIST. 264.55 PC (862.96 L.Y.)

STF 2315: 553x.  Near contact / overlapping disks, 0.5 delta mag.  [AB seen: a very good catch considering 0.6" separation.  5 stars in system, faint and far.]
18H 24M 58.46S +27° 23' 41.3"
P.A. 116.2 SEP 0.61” MAG 6.57/7.77
SP A0V+A4V DIST. 117.51 PC (383.32 L.Y.)


My question is about whether faint very close B stars can be noticed as an out of roundness in the A star.  There are a few times (a couple examples below) when I suspect seeing a not round airy disk but I would assume this would only be the case if the B star was near the same brightness as A, to effect the brightness and therefore its shape.  If the B is too faint, say more than 2 delta mag, I think it would probably be too weak an influence and simply be lost in A’s glare.  I’m interested to know of others’ experiences.

47 Cyg: Carbon yellow-orange disk, maybe not round.  Many faint companions. [WRH 34 is AB, 0.3 4.84/7.30.  Not sure it could be seen as out of roundness.  BU 1490 is AC, 115.1" and 4.82/11.87]
20H 33M 54.19S +35° 15' 03.1"
P.A. 278 SEP 0.3” MAG 4.84/7.30
SP K2IB+B3V DIST. 847.46 PC (2764.41 L.Y.)

HO 137: Needs more resolving power.  At 553x some out of roundness to the disk, but not certain.  Used 885x with apodizing mask some lumpiness to dusk but it dances around.  The companion is too faint to show up as out of roundness anyway.
20H 40M 36.26S +29° 48' 19.6"
P.A. 352 SEP 0.7” MAG 6.13/9.26
SP A2V DIST. 74.24 PC (242.17 L.Y.)

Observing Reports / OR from Pinnacles 10/14
« on: October 17, 2017, 11:09:58 PM »
Fearing the Bay Area would be a loss for smoke, I started driving south on 101, intending to get to Lake San Antonio or maybe Williams Hill, thinking it would be far enough south to avoid the worst of the smoke.  But as I approached Soledad, I saw thick smoke haze on the horizon which would surely impede any views--apparently from another fire in the central valley.  So I turned off and headed up Route 146 to the Pinnacles, which had some blue sky above it.

I had read that the moon was to occult Regulus in the early hours of the 15th, and that at 3:10am local time (or Burbank time, from the occultation timing list I saw online—which made me assume I would be able to see it), the star would emerge from behind the moon, briefly revealing the 12th magnitude white dwarf companion star.  This was something I wanted to see!  But where could I set up the scope with a view to the east?  The visitor center parking is fronted by a hill to the east; the Chaparral parking lot has the hoodoos in the way, and the overflow lot is ringed with trees.  I drove back to the visitor center lot and decided to wheel my 20-inch scope to the small circular amphitheatre on the east patio of the visitor center building.  It was the only view to the east to be had but was still blocked by the Pinnacles.

SJAA was running a public viewing event and I hosted the few guests who wandered over to my area, showing M11, M31, M57, and so on.  Sometimes a guest came by while I was looking at something obscure, and they gamely gave it a look.

Conditions seemed to vary a great deal through the night.  OK seeing early on, but after 1am it turned poor.  SQML was 21.3.  Light dome from Soledad washing out much of the west.  Nevertheless my notes show it was a respectable session, with these highlights:

UGC 12476: Floats to south of mag 7.8 star HD 219627; oval, gradually brighter to middle, diffuse edges, moderately large, moderately faint.  [S0a, 1.1”x0.68, 14.1b].  I showed this to a couple of guests, and they were able to see it after I sketched the field for them; not the typical public star party object!  205x

SN 2017glx in NGC 6824 Cygnus: Galaxy an oval 3:2 NE-SW elliptical glow, slightly brighter core [Sab, 12.2v].  SN briefly appears as a brightening to the core but is uncertain, and not held.    Type Ia-91T (z=0.011).  Discovery mag 14.0 on 20 Sept, but may have faded or is too close to the core to see well – seeing not supporting 333x well. Double star with yellow A, blue B is close to the north.

Hickson 16 in Cetus: Stopped to view this while star hopping to NGC 988.  A string of 4 galaxies arrayed in an arc to the south of a star.
a = NGC 835, is brightest, a moderately large round glow with brighter core region [SBab/P, 12.1v]. 
Almost connected to it and just to the west is b = NGC 833, fainter and smaller 3:2 elliptical glow E-W with relatively brighter core [Sa/P, 12.7v]. 
c = NGC 838 is to the ESE, small, faint, and round glow [S0, 13.0v]. 
d = NGC 839 completes the arc, small, very faint 4:1 glow E-W with slightly brighter core [S0/P, 13.1v]. 
NGC 848 nearby, but not part of the Hickson group.  Faint, small, 4:1 NW-SE, brighter core area and faded tips.  SBab, 13.0v

SN 2017gmr in NGC 988 in Cetus: Galaxy sprouts to the SE as a “comet tail” from 7.2 magnitude star 79 Ceti.  Long, 4:1 SE-NW, with some mottling in the halo.  This would be a spectacular galaxy if the star were not in the way [SBc, 11.0v].  The SN is a faint point on the N rim of the SE tip of the galaxy’s halo, easily held but quite faint.  Mag 14.0 at discovery 18 Sept., Type II.
Comet C/2017 01 ASASSN: 121x: Large half a FOV (0.4°) round diffuse coma, greenish color, what I presume to be the psudonucleus and not a centrally placed star seen momentarily with averted vision.  Comet filter enhanced coma showing more variation in coma density and brightness through the amorphous round glow.

NGC 507 Group:  In Perseus.  Area speckled with galaxies, most small and needing averted vision to brighten, but many seen direct vision and lying only 1° of each other.  Did not see all group members, and these are what I got down – there were more!
   NGC 507 = Arp 209: Bright, large, round, very bright core and diffuse halo.  E-S0, 11.2v
   NGC 508: Immediately to north of N507, appears as a second core: Small, fairly bright and round, on the outer mist of N507’s halo.  E0, 13.1v
   IC 1687: very faint and small, round, glimpsed with AV next to a star just to its west.  13.6v
   NGC 503: To the NE of N508, N503 is small, very faint, slightly elongated NE-SW, faint.  E-S0, 14.1v
   NGC 501: To N of N303, N501 is very faint, very small, round with a brighter center.  E0, 14.5v
    NGC 499: Northern part of N507 Group.  N409 is brightest in this area, elongated 3:2 W-E, with a fairly bright core and thin diffuse halo.  E-S0, 12.1v.  Forms a triangle with N496 to N (very faint, 3:1 NE-SW; Sbc, 13.4v) , N495 to W (very faint and small, 3-1 N-S; S0-a, 12.9v) , and N498 (extremely small, faint, round, needed AV; S0, 14.3v) in between N499 & N496
   NGC 483: NW from center of Group, precedes two stars: Bright, small, mostly round to slight oval, bright small core.  S, 13.2v.
   IC 1682: Very small, extremely faint, needed AV to see, elongated 3:1 NW-SE; bright star to SW.  14.0v.
   NGC 494: SW of Group center.  Pretty large glow elongated E-W, 4:1, bright core and diffuse halo.  Sab, 12.9v.
   NGC 504: rather bright but small, bright core, diffuse halo tips, elongated NE-SW 3:1.  S0, 13.0v
   IC 1690: Excessively faint, needed AV to see and could not hold DV.  Very small oval NW-SE.  13.9v

Hickson 10: Andromeda. 
a = NGC 536: Stellar nucleus, 3:1 W-E diffuse halo.  Photos show widely warped and swept out spiral arms.  SBb, 12.4v
b = NGC 529: Bright small nucleus, bright core, oval, even surface brightness.  E-S0, 12.1v.
c = NGC 531: Near star to NE; need AV to notice but can hold DV, stellar nucleus, very faint, small, elongated 3:1 NE-SW.  SB0-a, 13.8v.
d = NGC 542: Very small, extremely faint, need AV to see; slight elongation NW-SE.  Sb, 14.8v

NGC 1186: 3:1 elongated NW-SE, moderately bright and large.  Bright nucleus and core with a superimposed star on the SW rim of the core.  Averted vision brightens the core and lengthens the diffuse fading tips.  SBbc, 11.4v

NGC 1193: Pretty faint, small condensed open cluster with some dozen stars resolved over a milky glow of unresolved stars.  II3m.  Near bright star pair to the NW.  Rather pretty!  The cluster is old, 4.2 billion years.

NGC 1245: Loops of stars in random, intertwining pattern, shot through with dark lanes.  The loops are made of cords of unresolved faint stars with the bright / resolved stars over the cords, leaving dark lanes and gaps in between.  Overall box-like shape to the cluster.  No nebulosity seen.  III1r.  1b year old cluster near the Perseus arm.

HaWe 3 (= Hartl-Dengel-Weinberger 3 / HDW  3): At 87x and using OIII, I suspected an excessively faint large round grey scale change in the plotted area; no central star seen [it turns out to be 17th mag].  A tentative observation, since it was more felt momentarily with averted vision than seen.  Nevertheless it matches other reports I can find online.

NGC 1160: Not too faint, small, elongated 2:1 NE-SW, with a mottled halo hinting of spiral structure.  Seems to be an appendage on north rim of halo above the core – might be superimposed star?  [‘Tis].  Scd, 12.8

By now it was 2:40am.  Gary C. kindly came over to keep me company, and we talked while waiting for the moon to rise.  Gary checked his tablet and found out the moon was still below the horizon, and would only be 2% above the horizon when Regulus was to reappear in a half hour.  There would be no chance for me to see the star in the scope after all.  So feeling like a fool I packed up and went to a dreamless sleep in my van before packing up and leaving before dawn.

Observing Reports / challenging double double in Hercules
« on: August 28, 2017, 01:15:59 PM »
These last few nights have had really good seeing, and I've been chasing doubles in Hercules (my yard has a better view to the west, so that's where I'm usually looking).  12.5-inch f/7, 553x

There were many "wow" objects, of which following is a selection.  I end below with a challenging "double-double" I feel really lucky to have seen:

STF 2107: !! Plotted in Cambridge Double Star Atlas, and I didn't expect it to be special.  Yellow and orange pair, very close ~1.5", 1 delta mag.  Very pretty. [AB seen, AC nearly 12th mag and super wide]
16H 51M 50.10S +28° 39' 58.7" P.A. 106 SEP 1.39 MAG 6.90,8.50 SP F5IV DIST. 58.41 PC (190.53 L.Y.)

STF 2095: Nice!  Yellow and white pair, 2 delta mag, 4"
16H 45M 05.23S +28° 21' 28.9" P.A. 163 SEP 5.2 MAG 7.36,9.16 SP F7III DIST. 215.98 PC (704.53 L.Y.)

STF 2103: Nice! Pretty bright white A, much fainter ~5 delta mag B, well separated, looks like a planet. [AB seen.  AC & AD fainter and wider]
16H 49M 34.67S +13° 15' 40.3" P.A. 44 SEP 5.2 MAG 5.93,10.00 SP A1V DIST. 100.1 PC (326.53 L.Y.)

52 Her = BU 627:  !! Very bright white star with a companion disk 2” out, 4-5 delta mag.  Wow!  B illuminated by A, as if it was a planet.  [A,BC seen.  BC is an equal pair only 0.3” separation – maybe try with the 20-inch.  7 stars total in the system.]
16H 49M 14.21S +45° 58' 59.9" P.A. 39.6 SEP 2.09 MAG 4.84,8.45 SP A1V DIST. 55.25 PC (180.23 L.Y.)

D15: Light orange & elongated with notch, near equal.  [0.9” at discovery, 0.56” now]
16H 43M 56.29S +43° 28' 31.2" P.A. 332.8 SEP 0.56 MAG 9.04,9.27 SP K5 DIST. 27.03 PC (88.17 L.Y.)

HO 557: !! B only visible with averted vision.  As I drift from averted back to direct the star fades and I can only hold direct for a moment before it disappears.  Very interesting effect.  ~5” and 4 delta mag.
17H 13M 57.81S +16° 21' 01.0" P.A. 322 SEP 4.2 MAG 8.57,12.00 SP F8 DIST. 106.27 PC (346.65 L.Y.)

PRY 2: Blue-white and slightly reddish B, 3-4 delta mag, 1.5”.  Not hard at all!
17H 04M 41.34S +19° 35' 56.7" P.A. 227 SEP 1.8 MAG 6.19,9.29 SP A0IV DIST. 176.68 PC (576.33 L.Y.)

BU 822: Bright orange star with a consistent pin-prick point of light, stays still in occasional seeing shimmer.  Fainter than PRY 2's B.  1.5”.  Same PA as PRY 2's.  [AB seen; AC is super-wide & 11th mag]
17H 03M 52.67S +19° 41' 25.8" P.A. 227 SEP 1.4 MAG 6.58,9.89 SP K4III DIST. 229.89 PC (749.9 L.Y.)

These last two are close enough together I tried them as a double-double.  The trick is to maintain enough magnification to be able to keep the splits.  I went down to 277x 0.4° TFOV and could just squeeze the two within the field stop.  PRY 2 remained a very clean / clear split, while BU 822 was more challenging due to B being half magnitude fainter and slightly closer separation than the PRY 2 pair.  I could split BU 822 at 277x when in the center of the field, but I needed to wait for seeing to perfect and to bring it in a little from the field stop to avoid edge distortion.  But, for a few moments, I had these two in view as a double-double.  I'll try this again at CalStar in the 20-inch, it should resolve nicely.  Given the distance between the two pairs, they are just a line of sight double-double, but nice all the same.

Observing Reports / Speaking of subtle...
« on: July 26, 2017, 08:41:33 PM »
There were a couple of other observations the other night at Pinnacles which intrigued me.  I was observing “without a list” and just seeing what I could find on the chart, so I saw these without knowing what they were beforehand:

GN 18.32.5 = PNG 27.0 +1.5, 18 35 11.6 -04 29 06.  Using 333x, the nebula sprouts to the SW of a relatively bright star, but is only seen with averted vision and OIII.  It is a diffuse, extremely faint small cloud which brightens near the star and fades to a round diffuse edge.  Searching the internet, I find one other observation from a German observer using a 27-inch; his sketch shows the object much brighter than what I saw*.  Simbad calls it a reflection nebula but it is plotted as a PN. 

Sherwood 1, PN, = Sd 1 = K 3-77.  Plotted in Interstellarum at the eastern edge of LDN 889, which is is part of the Gamma Cygni nebula complex.  I had to star hop from Gamma around this blank space in the sky to get to Sherwood 1, as it was labeled.  At 333x and only with OIII, a very small, excessively faint round shell with diffuse edges swam into view, held 50% with averted vision.  Very low surface brightness and no central star.  Very close star just to the ESE.  After getting home and searching for the object online, I found the discovery paper by William A. Sherwood who, as a graduate student in 1969, was blinking photographic plates at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.  I precessed the 1950 discovery coordinates and searched the result in Aladin, which confirmed the observation for me as my sketch matched the star field.  Distance: 18000 ly.  17.2 mag, 7.0” size.  Today I received Kent Wallace’s excellent (or better yet, monumental) Visual Observations of Planetary Nebulae book, and I find his observation in a similarly sized telescope revealed a faint stellar object, though I was 100x higher in magnification.  I observed this during the “peak” seeing and transparency period during our time at Pinnacles, so I believe that helped.

J014709+463037 = Andromeda's Parachute.  This object was noted on Deep Sky Forum** earlier in the week, a gravitationally lensed quasar with an incredible red shift z=2.377.  I printed some AAVSO charts and gave it a try.  But, now it was 2am and the good seeing window had closed, and the sky began to haze.  I spent almost a half hour in the field searching.   Unfortunately my charts were confusing, and I could not very well match the star fields with the eyepiece view, though I was very certain my star hop was correct.  In any case, there are better charts available at DSF now, so I hope to try again at CalStar.


Observing Reports / Legitimate Peak observations
« on: June 28, 2017, 10:50:10 PM »
So, to prove I was doing more than just seeing weird things in the sky last Friday night, here’s some of the other observations.  I did mostly free-range observing, just picking an area of the sky and finding what I could from my chart.  Starting out with various DSOs around Vega:

MCG+6-41-6: Small, very faint, slightly elongated with an irregularly bright core. [14.6B, 0.667” x 0.560”, 370mly]

NGC 6685: Very faint, small, stellar nucleus, slightly elongated N-S.  With IC 4772 to the north, extremely faint, round and very small.

NGC 6675: Moderately large and bright, brightens with averted vision, especially the central part.  No distinct core or nucleus.  Oval with diffuse edges.  3-2 NW-SE.

NGC 6663: Very faint, irregularly bright, irregularly shaped oval patch.  Near STT 356.

NGC 6646: Moderately large, fairly bright, round-to-oval, brightens with averted vision.  IC 1288 to NE, small elongated 3:1 N-S, brighter in middle.

UGC 11228: Just stellar nucleus and very small faint oval halo [LINEAR type active galaxy nucleus. 14.5B, 1.013”x0.689, 265 mly]

NGC 6703 & 6702: 6703 is Brighter, with bright core and diffuse halo, mostly round -- spiral? in an arc of stars.  6701 is smaller, fainter, round, with a brighter core and elongated halo with averted vision.

NGC 6711: Fairly faint, need averted vision to notice it.  Small. Seems to have two brightenings in the diffuse oval halo SE-NW.  -- it's a face on spiral which accounts for the brightening -- these are the arms.

UGC 11376: Very faint, averted vision needed; small oval glow. [14.3B, 0.84”x0.386” 299 mly]

NGC 6742: PN.  Fairly uniform small smoke orb, a little brighter on the south side.  No central star.  A little better with OIII, 205x

NGC 6732-1 & -2: Two glows.  One to south (-1) is brighter and slightly elongated W-E; other is faint and very diffuse, no core.

Watson 2, open cluster: Seen as a small star clump in the 80mm finder.  In the scope it is a poor group a half a degree large.  Seems a double is in the middle of a group of stars forming a square and some others scattered, all similar brightness and no nebulosity.  Orange star makes the SW corner of the square.  Not listed in Archinal's Star Clusters book

STF 2368: Near equal white, close, ~1.5".  Hair split at 205x, clean at 333x.  To SSE is a faint green-blue star further south. P.A. 320 SEP 1.9 MAG 7.63,7.77

UGC 11292: Extremely faint small glow with star superimposed; oval very diffuse. [14.3B, 0.7” x 0.47”, 379 mly]

UGC 11202: Excessively faint glow, small oval with some stars involved. [14.4B, 1.103”x1.015”. 361 mly]

HU 674: Split with seeing at 333x, near equal white. (!! 0.47", my first double under 0.5" separation, woohoo!) P.A. 208.6 SEP 0.47 MAG 7.68,8.63

After a break I went to Gamma Cygni and have a look around, using the detail star chart in Interstellarum.  A number of very close pairs, and some exotic planetary nebulae.

STF 2606: Close pair 2 delta mag. 333x (!! AB 0.67") P.A. 146.6 SEP 0.67 MAG 7.74,8.43

KjPn 1: PN. Stellar, blinks strongly with OIII.   333x

KjPn 2: PN.  Nearly stellar, blinked with OIII as a bloated green star. 333x

KjPn 3: PN.  Stellar, green with OIII and blinks slowly, very small disk 333x

STF 2663: ~5" equal magnitude white [AB seen, there are 5 visible; P.A. 324 SEP 5.4 MAG 8.2,8.66].  There is another double to the south!!  A very beautiful & delicate pair, dull orange and dull yellow, 3 delta mag, ~3".   Frustratingly I can't find it in Aladin... Does not seem to be part of the STF system

Kro 76: Plotted as an open cluster, but is it just a double?  Orange and very faint 4 delta mag B, PA to the south, ~2-3", plus another extremely faint star due west about 6"

NGC 6874: Large open cluster, fills half degree field, generally triangular shaped, rather rich with a wide range of brightness.  Nice.

And then I came to STF 2609, and the weirdness set in…

Observing Reports / What the heck was that?
« on: June 24, 2017, 09:02:40 AM »
At the risk of bringing ridicule and shame upon my head, I want to relate an observation I made last night while at Fremont Peak, because I can't figure out what it was.

I was using my 20-inch, around 2:30am, with Cygnus at zenith.  I was poking around the Cygnus Cloud observing a variety of objects, when I come to STF 2609.  Instead of the fairly close pairing I expected, I see two streaks of light, each maybe 10" long, each with bright small disks on the ends.  They looked like staples.  They were parallel to each other and N-S, one was a little dimmer and shorter than the other, and each had a dimming along the major axis between the points at the end.

I thought it was some kind of optical defect, but the streaks remained at all powers I tried (205x, 333x, 533x, 667x).  Other stars were points of light, even those of similar magnitudes.  I took a few minutes break and came back to it: the same.  Seeing was very good; just a few minutes before I made a clean split at 333x of B1289, which has a 0.7" separation.  Transparency was average; SQML was 21.2

STF 2609 is 6.69/7.64, 1.9", PA 21°.  I would say the streaks were of similar brightness, separation, and in the correct PA.  But why in the world would they be stretched out so?

TAC Visual / Triple double with Cor Caroli
« on: June 14, 2017, 12:56:46 PM »
While hunting faint and close pairs with my 12.5-inch last night, I realized there is a "triple double" which includes Cor Caroli!  They're not all physically bound to each other, but it was a nice scene all the same.

Cor Caroli = STF 1692 is the well beloved Alpha Canum Venaticorum and was the start of my star hop for the list of pairs I prepared for the session.  About half a degree to the west was STF 1688, a faint pair (9.24/11.06, 14.4", 343°), yellow A and orangish B, which I identified using 340x.  Next on the list was STF 1702, which was about half a degree to the east of Cor Caroli.  It was a wide orange-yellow pair, 8.72/9.41, 36.1", 82°.

It struck me it might be possible to see all three in the same FOV, so I went down to 71x and 1.1° and yes, I could just squeeze all three in the view, the two fainter Struves just within the field stop on either side of the showpiece in the center.  It helped to have already seen STF 1688, since it was the faintest pair to pick out.

It's these little scenes which give me great satisfaction while observing.  Hope you have something new to look for when observing this old favorite.

Observing Reports / Making the most of it from the Peak
« on: May 29, 2017, 01:28:32 PM »
Last Tuesday night the 23rd seemed to be the last possible clear night I could get out to observe, though it was predicted to be cloudy by 2am, and it was a work night.  Nevertheless I hauled my 20-inch up to the Peak.  I packed my primary mirror in a box so it could be in my air-conditioned office during the work day rather than baking in my car.  This was a wise move since it was relatively equilibrated when setting up at the Peak at 8pm.  Unfortunately the sky was not that great – good seeing but a thin haze most of the night.  SQML topped out at 21.1, and after chasing holes since midnight was finally shut down by 1:30am.  Here are some of the notable sights:

NGC 4637:  ! Small, fairly faint, but much elongated streak.  There is a long brighter bar or elongated core along its major axis, which is twisted.  NGC 4638 is just to the west, a bright and larger elliptical.  The pair is near M60/NGC 4647. 

NGC 4571: Bright egg-shaped core with very faint, large diffuse round halo.  Near bright (double?) star to NE.

NGC 4313: Tough hop to find.  Long, faint inclined spiral -- spiral structure hinted by mottling in the halo.  Averted vision brightens the halo and reveals a round core & just stellar nucleus.  5:1 NW-SE.  Nice!

NGC 4299 & 4294: Wow! 4294 moderately large, moderately bright inclined spiral 4:1 NNW-SSE, bright large core diffuse halo to tips.  Star on NW tip. 4299 faint, fairly large, round, very diffuse.  Orientated E-W of each other in same FOV.

NGC 4168: Fairly bright and large elliptical with bright core & stellar nucleus.  Two other smaller, fainter galaxies flank it to the NNW (NGC 4165-- small, fairly faint, stellar nucleus, faint halo elongated 3:1 N-S) and W (NGC 4164 -- small, round, bright small core and diffuse halo).

NGC 4212: Very diffuse halo with even surface brightness, very small stellar nucleus.  Some structure seen with averted vision: it becomes larger, with slightly brighter core, and mottling in the halo, 2:1 WSE-ENE.  Interesting galaxy.

NGC 4298 & 4302: Very remarkable!  4298 is to the west, pretty bright and large, 3:2 NW-SE, pretty much even surface brightness but with a largish bright core and diffuse edges.  4302 is very close to the east, a long edge on 6:1 N-S slightly mottled halo -- photos show a narrow dark lane which I did not see.  Low surface brightness and more diffuse than its companion.  Many stars scattered about...especially one at N tip of 4302 and one on NE rim of 4298.

NGC 4312: Fairly faint 4:1 N-S streak.  Double star following right in line with center of galaxy.  No core, even surface brightness, fading tips. [Did not notice faint galaxy near the double stars].  M100 is nearby, but which I didn't frame in FOV -- I only took a glance at it as I was star hopping to 4312.]

NGC 4340 & 4350: 4340 has a stellar nucleus, bright compact core, round fairly bright halo with diffuse edges; SB0-a.  4350 is bright, has a stellar nucleus, elongated core diffuse halo gradually fading, 4:1 SSW-NNE.

NGC 4260: Bright nucleus and core, elongated 3:1 SW-NE.  Near bright star with two small, faint round galaxies next to it [NGC 4269/IC 3155].

NGC 4264 & 4261: 4261 is large and bright oval shape, 3:1 NNW-SSE, very bright core and stellar nucleus.  Following it is its little brother 4264, fairly faint, small, slightly elongated.  Following it wherever it goes and looking like its big brother too.  There are many other galaxies in the area I did not note down.

NGC 4270: 4270 is fairly bright with a bright round core and elongated 3:1 NW-SE.  Four more galaxies in the field: NGC 4273, 4277, NGC 4259, and NGC 4281.

NGC 4339: Brightest of three galaxies in field.  Fairly bright and small, it has a stellar nucleus, and diffuse round halo.  Two others in FOV to SW: 4333 (small, faint, round) and 4326 (small, fairly faint, round).  All three form a right triangle.

NGC 4343: Brightest and furthest south of four forming a misshapen kite in the field.  Pretty bright and large, has a bright core 4:1 NW-SE.  Others are: NGC 4342 to north (fairly bright, small, stellar nucleus, elongated NNW-SSE); NGC 4341 farther to NE (small, faint, elongated 3:1 NW-SE), IC 3267 to the ENE (very faint, averted vision needed to see but can hold all the time, small, round diffuse halo).

NGC 4612: Near string of stars.  Bright, small, stellar nucleus, round core, diffuse round halo.  It looks like the last star in the string, but one that got smudged or is dissolving.

NGC 4519: Moderately large patch, compact brighter core in center of very diffuse oval.  Globular cluster like, a glow with brighter patches or knots.  [It is a face-on spiral -- did not notice smaller galaxy to NE].

NGC 4359: Not plotted on Interstellarum.  Very faint edge on.  Lovely!  Direct vision but need averted to brighten it up.  Very weakly brighter elongated core. but mostly even surface brightness halo 5:1 WNW-ESE fading imperceptibly at the tips. Very tenuous and hard won!

NGC 4395: Needed to switch to 121x for this one as it is large and spread out.  Brighter almost stellar core area in middle of very faint, diffuse round glow uneven surface brightness.  Probably a face-on spiral.  Don't see any arms, just unevenness. [Turns out those uneven patches are distinct NGC designations, HII knots in the spiral]

LoTr5 (Longmore-Tritton 5): The only Planetary Nebula on the menu.  It is the middle star of an arc of three, which with OIII blinks and shows the faintest of a fairly large irregularly lit shell.

TAC Visual / Asteroid 2014 JO25
« on: April 19, 2017, 12:23:21 PM »
Hoping the weather will hold out long enough to catch this tonight.  At 11pm it makes a close approach to M64 -- maybe same FOV?

Observing Reports / Rustling up some galaxies at the ranch
« on: April 04, 2017, 10:52:57 PM »
Getting out on a Tuesday night was rather a necessity to cure my photon deprivation.  I didn’t mind the resulting sleep deprivation, even at work the next day.  A great variety of objects seen, the ones which left the greatest impression here:

Stone 61, Double star in Pyxis.  Pretty blue and orange pair, PA to south; close but well split, I’d guess 5-6”.  Can't find any online references for this, even in Stelle Doppie.  Close to Minkowsky 3-6 (which showed as a very small green orb with OIII). 

NGC 2818/A, OC and PN in Pyxis: Cluster is large and loose with wide range of brightness; 12 brighter stars scattered over a mist of fainter; moderately rich.  People complain the cluster is too sparse and not detached, but it seemed pretty well detached to me.  The planetary is on the western edge of the cluster and is a foreground object.  No central star, it is rather large with a diffuse halo and slightly out of round N-S.  The halo brightens on the southern rim, and a little less bright brightening on the SW side.   Seeing did not support higher than 205x.

IC 2469: Sc Spiral: 4 degrees north of 2818, a long edge on, large, pretty bright, 12b mag.  Small round nucleus, less bright round and prominent core, with a long halo 4:1 NE-SW which averted vision brightens and lengthens, especially to the north.  Southern extension is shorter and dimmer.  Star in middle of southern arm.  John Herschel missed this one during his South African foray; was discovered by Lewis Swift in 1897.  It's very strange: the image of this galaxy in Aladin doesn't show any other galaxies, even faint ones, nearby; IC 2469 is big, bright, and on its own. 

NGC 2784: Very bright stellar nucleus, bright oval core and long 5:1 E-W faint halo with hints of spiral and is twisted – like the blur of a coin spinning to rest on a table.  Star at the northern tip.

NGC 3132 Eight burst nebula, PN in Vela: Bright central star, oval NE-SW halo with a soft edge, darker central ring around the central star.  OIII gives an impression of spiraling turbulence in the brightened halo.  NBP filter has a better view, with a brighter CS and shows the same halo swirl, which may be brighter sections of an inner ring with a diffuse halo surrounding it.

NGC 3495: Large, lovely tilted spiral.  Strong impression of spiral arms.  Sharp cut-off edge on the east side; the west side of the halo is larger.  Slowly brightening to the middle, to a small bright nucleus.  4:1 NNE-SSW.

Hydra I Cluster / AGC 1060: Steve was working on the Hydra I Cluster and invited me to join with my scope.  He pointed out the 5th magnitude star at the center of the cluster.  If one finds the cup of Crater and follows a straight line through the cup and its holder, there are two bright stars -- the star to the NE is the one to aim at.  Boom! Galaxies everywhere!  I followed the detail chart in my Interstellarum and could find every object I tried.  NGC 3311 / 3309 dominate the space between the two bright stars in the center of the cluster; 3311 had a bright core with a mottled halo, likely spiral, and 3309 was a fairly bright elliptical.  A much fainter and smaller NGC 3307 lay to the west.  They form a string with smaller and fainter NGC 3312, and NGC 3314 and its excessively faint and small companion A.  Off to the east was NGC 3316-1, a relatively bright and large patch.  Steve called out instructions for finding some excessively faint ESOs which were not plotted on the chart, 501-47 & 501-49, which were mere small smudges seen with averted vision only.  One really has to work to find such objects.  I scanned about in the 1 degree circle around this main group, and found a few more NGCs and ESOs and ICs.  The most interesting one was IC 2597, which seemed to be an interacting pair with a smaller galaxy to its south, which I find on Aladin is ESO 501-59; I had the impression that the halos were somehow touching, but this was illusory as the gap in redshifts is too large; likely just overlapping in line of sight.  To really explore these clusters I need larger scale charts but especially a scope that will track, since it was distracting to bump the scope along with the sky, and limited the power I could apply.
NGC 3162: Nice!  Obviously a face on spiral, though small and fairly faint.  Stellar nucleus.  Brighter on the southern rim, which must be an arm.

NGC 3227 / Group: Bright, large, NW-SE 5:2, with a bright core and very small / stellar nucleus.  Mottling in the halo hints of spiral.  Its NE tip touches NGC 3226 on the outer edge of that galaxy's core.  3226 is fainter but about as large and also with a bright core and stellar nucleus, SSW-NNE, 3:2.  Very striking scene.  NGC 3222 is to the west on edge of FOV, faint, small and round.

Arp 291 = UGC 5832 & CGCG 65-90. Pretty faint irregular oval, pops with averted vision. Asymmetrical shape; some brightening glow within the halo with averted vision.  It is a closely paired double galaxy which Arp classified as having "wind effects."

NGC 3501: Very long and thin edge on; 6:1 or more, SSW-NNE.  Faint but brightens and shows a twisted halo with averted vision.  Another galaxy, NGC 3507, faint and round, close to the NE.

Arp 191 = UGC 6175A & B (MCG+3-28-63): Arp classified as "Narrow filaments."  Two glows next to each other, very faint and small, no detail.

NGC 3666: Nice edge on, brightens greatly with averted vision.  Large uniform oval core, no nucleus, long diffuse edges.  Bright star to NE, and a second fainter star very close to W tip.  E-W 4:1.

NGC 3705: Stellar nucleus, very small bright core, diffuse halo.  No end to it; 5:1 NW-SE.  Looks like it has a double nucleus? 
NGC 4742: Small intense stellar nucleus and a very faint & diffuse halo elongated 3:2 E-W.  Pretty bright and small.  To the SE is yellow & blue double star STF 1682, which made a wonderful sight with the galaxy.

My last object was M3, found by Telrad and memory.  Enormous, bright, very well resolved with tiny points for stars; many yellow and red stars seen.  Isn't it a kicker, than my mirror settles down just when I'm too tired to continue.  It was 3am and time to sleep.

Observing Reports / Some doubles around Gemini
« on: March 05, 2017, 10:08:31 AM »
Last week we had three nights of better than average seeing, so I spent the time splitting doubles with my 12.5-inch f/7.  The perimeter of the mirror is masked down to 11.5-inch to deal with a turned edge, so I suppose it is correctly stated as an 11.5-inch f/7.6.  On such nights I focus primarily on very close and fainter doubles, for which I print out AAVSO finder charts since most of them are not plotted in my Cambridge Double Star Atlas.  I stayed at 553x the whole time; here are some of the highlights, which are my observation followed by the confirming data in brackets (A/B magnitudes, separation, position angle) I retrieved from Stelle Doppie afterward:

Propus (means "forefoot") = Eta Geminorum = B 1008: So cool!  Bright orange star with a very close B, ~1.5", just preceding, ~3 delta mag. B is in diffraction but is well separated & has its own bluish white airy disk.   [3.52, 6.15, 1.6" 252°].  06H 14M 52.69S +22° 30' 24.6"

STF 942: Faint near equal brightness stars, well split, PA W-E.  [10.07/10.1, 3.4", 246°] 06H 37M 40.87S +23° 38' 54.2"

BU 100: !! Pretty orange and blue.  4 delta mag, PA to west.  Wide separation ~3".  B is just seen, a very fine point. [7.34/11.1, 3.2, 143°.  Burnham's discovery in 1873 was at 2.5" separation.  Last WDS observation in 1978 -- deserves another measure now] 07H 00M 56.55S +12° 24' 00.4"

HO 342: ! Yellow-orange and blue stars, PA to the east, 1 delta magnitude; tight but well split ~1".  [7.99/8.71, 1.1", 87°] 07H 02M 50.54S +13° 05' 21.7"

WEI 14: A yellow-orange, B blue, 1 delta mag, PA to south.  Nice!  [7.77/8.91, 2.1", 160°]. 07H 12M 48.16S +15° 10' 41.9"

STF 1068: Pumpkin orange pair, near equal magnitude, PA to north.  Well separated ~4".  Nice.  [AB 9.29/.8, 4", 349°] 07H 19M 49.31S +13° 22' 22.4"

STF 1116: Pretty tight white, near equal magnitude, 2-3", PA to east.  Nice pair.  [7.81/8.5, 1.8" 96°] 07H 34M 32.02S +12° 18' 16.9"

STF 981: Very close orange pair, equal magnitude.  Clean split, ~1".  Worth the hop from Tau Geminorum.  [8.72/8.97, 0.95", 292.3°] 06H 55M 28.54S +30° 09' 42.3"

STF 1014: !! Tough find, faint field.  Very faint near equal brightness pair, ~3", PA to the SW.  [9.91/9.93, 2", 219°] 07H 05M 44.95S +26° 08' 25.3"

A 674: B more a blue haze than a point off the yellow A.  I believe I have it, very close and faint.  PA to SE.  [8.21/9.77, 1.1", 125°] 07H 44M 38.11S +31° 06' 50.1"

STF 1147: Very fine 2", equal magnitude blue - white pair, PA to south, ~2".  [9.66/9.68, 2.2", 174°]. 07H 50M 19.69S +24° 31' 55.8"

STF 1126: !! Wow, very close <1" hair-split, near equal brightness; almost overlapping disks.  [6.55/6.96, 0.8", 175°]  07H 40M 06.99S +05° 13' 51.9"

STT 182: Very close, ~1", near equal brightness white.  [7.82/7.93, 0.8", 11°] 07H 52M 42.12S +03° 23' 02.2"

STF 1210: Pretty wide greenish yellow pair, wide separation, 2 delta mag.  [AB 7.25/9.45, 15.5", 113°.  AC is 13.5 mag and 68", not seen] 08H 15M 48.54S +02° 48' 05.0"

STF 1182: White and reddish, 1 delta mag, PA due east.  [7.48/8.76, 4.7", 74°] 08H 05M 24.43S +05° 49' 38.9"

It struck me that I was having trouble detecting any close pair of more than 10th magnitude when it was close to a brighter star.  Examples of my negative sightings are A 2527: 8.58/11.85, 2.2”; BU 579: 7.95/12.3, 1.1"; and AGC 2: 7.76/9.73, 1".  I wonder if it was due to light pollution?  The SQML from my back yard is 18.60.  Maybe it's just bad timing with the seeing?  I used my full aperture through the session, so perhaps a mask would have helped?  I have a 5-inch off-axis mask but I rarely use it since my impression is it dims the stars too much and I lose resolution.  I’m interested to know what others think.

Observing Reports / Frosti
« on: February 04, 2017, 10:04:34 AM »
Last week I observed at the Chaparral Trailhead parking lot at Pinnacles.  Many curious people asked about my scope as they came back from their hikes.  The lot emptied out after dark, after which a chorus of coyotes started up.  They seemed to be among the High Peaks and were purposely echoing their calls off the rock cliffs.  First one group, then another, until the sky was loud with their calls.

Transparency was poor and dew formed quickly; the shroud on my 20-inch scope was well-soaked.  Around 11pm I noticed it was crinkly -- it had frozen.  There were ice crystals forming on every exposed surface.  I had to scrape ice off the plexiglass window of my chart holder.  I myself was not cold, wearing a down jacket and snow boots.  It was 25°.  It made me think of Bjork's song "Frosti," which I replayed in my head through the night (

NGC 2521: Gx in Lynx: Three galaxies in view.  Brightest is NGC 2521, fairly bright, small, bright core, elongated 2:1 NE-SW.  The other two are UGC 2421 and MCG+10-12-070.  The UGC is small, pretty faint, brighter core with AV, elongated NW-SW 3:1.  The MCG is very faint, small, and round.  These three plus a star, Z Lyn, in the northern corner, form a nearly perfect square.

NGC 2488: Gx in Lynx: Bright core, stellar nucleus, 3:1 edge on NW-SE; overall faint and small.  I see two other galaxies in the field, one to N and another to SW.  Both small round and very faint, though the one to the north (UGC 4164) has a stellar nucleus.  [The one to the SW is a close galaxy pair MCG+09-13-112 & -111, both of which are 17B and ~0.5" square, but perhaps became visible to me with their combined glow.]

NGC 2469: Gx in Lynx.  Four galaxies in a string.  NGC 2469 is brightest and comparatively large (though itself small), elongated 3:2 nearly N-S.  The others -- NGC 2463, NGC 2462, & NGC 2458 --are small, faint and round.  Near a bright star which hinders the view somewhat.  The galaxies have a range of redshift from 0.01 to 0.047, so this is a chance alignment than a cluster If I had panned my scope a little beyond NGC 2469 I could have seen a fifth in this string, NGC 2472, an extremely faint and small item.

NGC 2347 + IC 2179:  Nice.  Both galaxies near stars and look like a double-double but with galaxies as the B components.  NGC is a little brighter and larger, with a bright core enhanced with AV, 3-1 N-S.  The IC has a stellar nucleus and is small, round, fairly faint.

NGC 2517: Gx in Puppis: Bright core, stellar nucleus, small, 3:1 ENE-WSW with tapering tips.  Some mottling in the halo and core.  Very dense field; I'm sure this is highly obscured by the Milky Way.  Did not see nearby PGC.

NGC 2525: Pretty large, diffuse, low surface brightness.  Irregularly oval shape with mottling; in a dense field of stars.  It is an SBc.

IC 2375 / 77 / 79: Three galaxies piled up, in different orientations.  Seen direct vision, brightens with averted -- call them all fairly faint, all of them small.  IC 2375 was noticeably elongated 4:1 E-W. IC 2377, in the middle, was oval, NE-SW.  IC 2379 was also oval but pointed NW-SE, and had a brighter core.

NGC 2881-1 / -2 = Arp 275: Pretty faint, fairly large, irregular tear-drop shape with a wing coming off it to the west -- a double system.  Mottled halo with several superimposed stars.  IC 2782 is to the south, fairly faint, small, with a stellar nucleus and a round diffuse halo.

MCG-2-25-6 = Arp 221: Two faint stellar nuclei with a lopsided, diffuse halo brighter to the east.  Faint -- can see with direct vision but averted brightens.  Used 333x to better resolve the second nucleus.  There is an extremely faint, very small condensation on the west rim of the halo.  Arp classes this under "amorphous spiral arms."

NGC 2993, 2992 = Arp 245: Two galaxies seem to have a connecting bridge.  NGC 2992 is small, elongated NNE-SSW and moderately bright, the brighter of the pair.  NGC 2993 is smaller and round [did not see the streamer whisking from it to the east.  Arp says of these: "Appearance of fission"].

NGC 2775, Gx in Cancer: Looks like a more distant version of M31; it is 62mly away.  Bright & large, it has a bright compact round nucleus with brighter elongated core and diffuse, slowly fading halo, 3:2 NW-SE.  I see subtle hints of spiral structure.  The galaxy sits above the bowl of a mini big dipper asterism.  It is a Sa spiral and forms a trio with two other galaxies: NGC 2773 to the NW and NGC 2777 to the NE.  NGC 2773 is a small, fairly faint rice grain of even brightness 3:1 orientated E-W on the edge of the FOV.  NGC 2777 is small, faint, and nearly round but with a small stellar nucleus.

NGC 2936 & 2937 = Arp 142: Small, faint bean shaped glow with two brighter condensations; used 333x to clearly separate the two galaxies.  NGC 2936 is the northern component and is larger, with the brightest part near the NE edge and a faint smudge of a halo trailing to the SW, like a smeared fingerprint.  NGC 2937 is the second component and is small, faint, and round and is tucked underneath the other, like an eye under an eyebrow.

NGC 2291 / 2294 / 2290 / 2288 / 2289: I was attracted to this group as it lies in region near the Gemini-Auriga boarder relatively devoid of DSOs.  Five galaxies in a wedge shape, all more or less the same faintness and smallness, differing in the brightness of the cores and diffuseness of their halos.  Four were in a nice little arc, starting with NGC 2991, small, faint and round.  Next, heading south, NGC 2289 was the brightest, with a round core and very faint halo E-W.  Very close to it was the very small and very faint round glow of NGC 2288.  Last in the string and bright was N2290, with a small brighter core and a very faint diffuse halo 3:1 NE-SW.  NGC 2294 was to the NE, very small and faint patch.  Interstellarum plots IC 2173 as a sixth galaxy in this area, which I could not find (other than suspecting a couple faint round things which were likely threshold magnitude stars).  I found later that NGC 2288 is the same as IC 2173

NGC 2874 / 2782 = Arp 307: The western component, NGC 2872, has a small bright core, with a regular, if diffuse, halo, 3:1 NNW-SSE.  The eastern component, NGC 2874, is larger but fainter, with a stellar nucleus sitting lopsided to the north end of a clearly disrupted halo, which has a bright rim to the south and a very faint arc sprouting from the southern tip and headed toward NGC 2782.  I failed to notice three other NGCs in this field: NGC 2785 a small bright dot at the northern tip of NGC 2874's halo; NGC 2871 a similar point at the NW tip of NGC 2872's halo; and NGC 2873, a small and faint galaxy to the north of the main pair.

NGC 2911: Fairly bright, even surface brightness cloud with a small bright core and quasi-stellar nucleus.  3:1 NW-SE.  There’s something strange about the halo, maybe some spiral or mottling, mirrored on each side of the halo along the major axis.

NGC 3016 / 3024 / 3020: Nice! a trio.  Faint -- can see with direct vision, but averted adds to brightness.  NGC 3020 is to the north, has a bright elongated core and the largest halo of the three, diffuse and elongated 4:1 E-W.  NGC 3024 is to the east and is nearly an edge on, with a quasi-stellar nucleus.  NGC 3016 is to the far SW and is the smallest but with a sharply brighter core.  I did not see NGC 3019 which sits in the middle of the triangle.

UGC 4881 = Arp 55: At 333x, very small, very faint irregular glow, slightly elongated E-W, with a slight brightening in western edge of the glow.

Observing Reports / galaxies galore
« on: January 04, 2017, 12:40:08 PM »
I had the good fortune to get out observing the night of 12/28-29.  I reported on some of my experience here  But I wanted to share some other remarkable observations:

WLM (UGCA 444) & WLM 1: Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte is an irregular dwarf galaxy in the Local Group but far enough away from the others to not feel the exertion of the Group’s gravitational forces. Since it has not been jostled so much, forcing new star birth, it is thought most of its star formation occurred 13 billion years ago. It appeared as a large, ill-defined, low surface brightness oblong glow orientated N-S. There are several faint stars superimposed on the galaxy and around its halo. One of these is actually a globular cluster in the dwarf’s pull, WLM1. Using a finder chart to identify the correct point of light, it popped in and out with averted vision and seeing conditions, I could only hold it a moment or two; at 533x it was non-stellar. According to studies, the metallicity of the globular indicates its age is 15 billion years – which is amazing, if difficult, to comprehend.

NGC 1128-1 & -2: Overlapping halos, very close small round glows, each with bright cores, very small and faint. These are a pair of galaxies and are part of AGC 400. There were two other very small, extremely faint round patches glimpsed with averted vision in the field: to the SW (2MASX J02573365+0558371 15.1B) and to the south (MCG+01-08-028 15.7B). I suspected another one to the NE but not sure. Someday, I need to go into the AGCs better prepared, with finders, and really spend more time tracking components down.

NGC 1218: Fairly faint, round, stellar nucleus and diffuse edge halo. Halo mottled to south and north – could be a spiral? [It is an S0a Seyfert I – 397 mly away!]

IC 302: Fairly faint, fairly large diffuse glow, halo is round and mottled, with a bright small core, 3:1 N-S. Star just off southern tip of halo. [DSS shows a lovely face on spiral, 13.81B, SBc, 2.6:1.1]

IC 315: Very small, very faint, low / even surface brightness glow, brightens overall with averted vision; very slightly elongated NE-SW. Finely split, equal magnitude double star to the NW.

IC 1918: Small, very faint elliptical glow, even brightness, very slightly elongated NW-SE. Near an asterism of six stars shaped like a kite to the west. 427 mly distant – quite far! It must be very intrinsically bright.

I had a look at galaxies in Orion. Naturally most of us view Orion’s nebulae, but I thought I would spend some time with the galaxies to make them less lonely. I took a quick look at M42 then swung slightly west:

NGC 1924: Bright, pretty large, oval NW-SE, slightly mottled – must be a spiral. UHC seemed to lighten up a knot in the northern rim of the halo. Brighter, small core. [It is a lovely face on SBbc spiral, 1.6’x1.2’, 12.5V]

IC 421: Fairly faint, pretty large diffuse glow, mostly even surface brightness. It’s another impressive face on spiral in DSS.

MCG-1-14-12: Very faint, small, round, diffuse glow. Inside a triangle of similar magnitude stars. Another face on spiral, this one with disrupted arms.

UGCA 102 = Mrk 1094: Very small oval, gradually brighter to middle, pretty faint. It’s a blue compact galaxy, which [cribbed from Wikipedia] are often low mass, low metallicity, dust-free objects. Because they are dust-free and contain a large number of hot, young stars, they are often blue in optical and ultraviolet colors – and indeed the DSS image shows a bluish galaxy. They are not necessarily young galaxies; they might have been “well mixed” and thus efficiently used up its dust during its initial star forming period. Many show signs of recent interactions with other galaxies, and in DSS UGCA 102 does show some warping (its morphological classification is not straightforward: SABcd).

HGC 31: Hickson galaxy cluster. Component a/c was seen as a single irregular glow, not split. Component b was clearly seen, though small, very faint, slightly elongated. Component d, 18th magnitude, was not seen.

UGC 3271 = Mrk 1095: Very faint, very diffuse small 3:2 NNE-SSW glow with a small but bright quasi-stellar nucleus. A line of stars runs out from each tip in line with the major axis. It is a Seyfert 1 galaxy, which have quasar-like nuclei—which can be as bright as all the light output from a galaxy like the Milky Way. 444 million light years distant! And such a bright nucleus!

UGC 3258: Small, fairly faint, 3:2 N-S, quasi-stellar nucleus with star on northern tip. SBbc 12.9v. DSS image shows this as almost a ring galaxy, with perhaps a very bright knot on the northern rim?

CGCG-395-16: Lozenge shape 3:2 glow, gradually brighter to middle. I guessed a star was superimposed on the east rim but find in the DSS image it looks like a very bright knot running along this edge. It lies in a triangle of bright stars, one of which is STF 654. This needed to be out of the view for me to pick up the galaxy, but once seen I could hold the galaxy with the 4.62 magnitude STF 654A in view; the double is well split, yellow and yellow orange 8.5 magnitude B, 7”.

IC 413 & 412: at 333x, IC 413 is fairly faint, small, has a bright core & very faint but clearly disrupted halo. IC 412 right next to it [34”], faint and also small, and seems to be an interacting system. Star very near the northern edge. [It is indeed interacting, VV 225 – and tidal tail north of IC 412 might be visible with more concentration – need to revisit].

HGC 34 = Arp 327: The brightest component, a, is NGC 1875 and was round, very faint, very small. After looking at my Hickson guide photo, I tried very hard to see the very small 17-18B mag b-d components; at 553x I still could not make them out; I had a feeling of an excessively faint streak coming off NGC 1875 to the southeast, but this was probably wishful seeing since I had already studied the photo. 419 mly.

After a break I changed directions to the north to take in some galaxies in Ursa Major:

NGC 2805: Astonishing field, and quite a change from viewing many dim objects. NGC 2805 is a large, fairly faint oval, brighter core but without nucleus, mottled – hint of spiral arms [it is an Sc]. 10’ to the NE are three more galaxies: NGC 2820 is a long edge on, pretty bright with a brighter sliver of a core and long tapering tips, ENE-WSW 5:1. At first I thought the SW tip had a hook to it pointed SE, but this is IC 2458, a small, faint elongation, and it overlaps the 2820’s SW tip, like the Hockey Stick galaxy (NGC 4656/57 in Canes Venatici). NGC 2814 is to the west of this pair, small, faint, elongated 3:1 NNE-SSW, with a star just to its SW. All three are interacting with each other, along with NGC 2880 and IC 2458 which I didn’t observe.

NGC 3079 offered up another amazing view. It is a long, lovely bright edge on 6:1 N-S with plainly seen turned up tips: the southern tip lifts east, the northern tip lifts north-east.  This makes it look like the galaxy is descending through space, with the perimeter of the halo being swept upward as it falls.  NGC 3073 was to the west in the same field, and was pretty bright, small, round, with a bright core and hazy fringes.

NGC 2756: Oval, 3:2 N-S. Brighter core, no nucleus. Mottled; seems to be a dark lane running N-S along the eastern hemisphere. [It is an Sb spiral, so this may have been a hint of arms.]

Shakhbazian 98: NGC 2675 was easily visible (pretty faint, small, obround, even surface brightness elliptical) and served, along with a pair of stars to the east, as a finder for the Shk 98 galaxy chain. I searched a while but did not see anything on my own. After checking a finder for the group, which are eight very small and very faint galaxies forming a gentle sickle between the galaxy and pair of stars, I searched again, switching between 333x & 553x. I wish I could say I saw it but no; my eyes were pretty strained at this point in the night.

NGC 3756: Large, 3:2 N-S, fairly bright with a brighter core. The halo is layered like filo dough—striking texture in the halo giving strong impression of wispy thin spiral arms [ScII]. Double star off the northern tip to the north-west.

NGC 3738 = Arp 234: Rather large, moderately bright, 3:2 NW-SE, with a distinctive tear-drop shape—the core appears brighter and rounder to the NW, while the SE tip curves up from the core and tapers off. Is an active galaxy nucleus.

NGC 3733: 5.6 magnitude star SAO 28064 interferes with the view; the galaxy sprouts from the star as a 3:1 elongated glow NNW-SSE with a slightly brighter core. Too bad; the galaxy is Sc spiral and would probably show nice structure if it weren’t for the star being in the way.  Maybe wait a few thousand years for a clearer view!

NGC 3687: Small, pretty bright, 3:2 N-S. Seems to have a dark lane running its major axis. The whole brightens with averted vision. [As a pretty much face on spiral it should be round; I may have not seen some sections of the outer halo to give it an elongated shape; the dark lane may have been hints of spiral structure.]

NGC 3359: Large, generally round diffuse halo, stellar nucleus and a brighter core which runs in a bar NNE-SSW. Halo appears windblown and tattered. It is a SBc II spiral, however I did not discern the arms, only the impression of disarray in the halo.

Observing Reports / Late report on Dino 12/1
« on: December 13, 2016, 04:31:20 PM »
It’s been a while since this session but I finally had some time to do a write up of the visit to Dino on 12/1.

As we waited for dark we were able to pick out Mercury a couple degrees above the horizon, with binoculars (thanks to George for finding it). It formed a long line with Venus and Mars, all about the same distance apart. A very picturesque scene along with the two-day old moon, round with earthshine.  A while later we saw the ISS pass. Joe Bob happened to see it rising from the western horizon. We watched as it rose and were excited to see it transit the earthshine part of the moon. The others began to track it with their binoculars, wondering if they could see any structure. I decided to try tracking it with the 10-inch f3.8 @ 37x, and I was able to fairly easily. It was bright, but appeared boxy. It was very cool to see it barreling through fields of stars -- it was headed for zenith and the Cassiopeia Milky Way region. As it passed zenith it began to slowly dim, and eventually I saw it as a small orange tube. I kept on it as it grew fainter, still able to track it easily with the Springsonian, even as it became fainter than most of the stars. Eventually it disappeared, and my telescope was pointed about 15° from level.

I didn't have any specific plan for observing, and I made few notes. SQML was 21.18, a little low.  While it was a chilly 40°F, there was no dew, and I had dressed for the weather anyhow. I knew I wanted to exploit the scope's wide FOV and to try large scale objects.

I saw Blanco 1, which I wanted to see as a whole for a long time. It was a disappointing, large loose cluster of a dozen or more stars in a triangle pattern. Meh. I started out with this object thinking I would go to the Sculptor Dwarf and then the Fornax Dwarf, but the light dome from the Los Banos Reservoir lights washed out the horizon to 15°. There were light domes all around, sadly. So I abandoned the lower elevations and went high.

George suggested I try the Helix nebula.  He shared the view in his 13-inch, and showed me a good way to find it with a reflex sight: make a right triangle with Fomalhaut and Skat (Delta Aquarius). I found it straight off.  It looked nice with a UHC -- annular, with a large darker round interior.

My next thought was to try IC 342, the notoriously difficult face-on spiral in Camelopardalis. I wanted to start from Kembel's Cascade, an asterism in lower Camelopardalis near Cassiopeia. After some checking of my charts I did succeed in finding the straight line of stars making the asterism, and the small open cluster NGC 1502 at the end of it. Some nice colorful stars in the field. I then carefully star hopped through the eyepiece up the few degrees north to IC 342. I immediately saw an oval glow behind a rather dense field of stars -- if wasn't sure of my star hop I would have assumed this was an open cluster. It was the galaxy's relatively bright small core and nucleus. The arms were not apparent; there was a very subtle change in grayscale around the relatively brighter haze, but nothing certain.  It was like looking for a soluble fish.  I want to try this one again with the 20-inch to see if I can discern any arms.

I did some lazy sweeping around the Milky Way. The North America Nebula filled more than the field, and was billowy and cloud-like. I could see a large chunk of nebulosity hooking away from Mexico to the east. The Pelican Nebula (IC 5067 & 5070) was large and almost bright. And I could see the three condensations beneath the Pelican (IC 5068). The Gamma Cygni area was turbulent with nebulae and dark nebulae, too much for me to describe well. Same with the Mu Cephei area (IC 1396 etc.). And the Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405) -- which was quite astonishing. IC 405 appeared as a wide comma, with IC 410 on the other side of the bright elongated star cluster Mel 31. M38 looked great, and I could see the small faint cluster NGC 1907 at its rim, not unlike the small cluster at the edge of M35.  It was very special to try some comet sweeping, coming across clusters, asterisms, vacancies and crowds of stars in the sky.

I shared a view of the California Nebula (NGC 1499) with the others, with an H-beta filter. In this scope it appears large, bright, with many tendrils. It does not quite fit in the field -- panning east or west reveals the thinly tapering ends. So far this is my favorite object to view in this scope.

Around 11pm I happened to take a rest from the eyepiece and looked up.  I noticed a bright white flash and assumed it was a plane.  I watched it for a minute.  It flashed again but this time it was dimmer, more yellow.  And it seemed to be moving more slowly than a plane would.  Then again the bright flash -- I was sure it was a satellite.  So I asked Jamie and Peter to take a look.  We were wowed by the bright flashes, which came in irregular intervals.  We believed it to be a tumbling satellite or space debris; it was moving below the "W" of Cassiopeia roughly west to east.  I tried to find out what it was next day at the Heaven's Above website, but don't find any matches.

Near midnight some thin clouds moved in from the north. It was time to pack up, but I wanted some more looks through the scope – who knew the next time there would be clear weather? I took a quick look at the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) which was very distinct, even with Alnitak in view. We tried the Horsehead (B33/IC 434), which we could see as a dark thumbprint -- but not very well. I tried for the Witch Head Nebula but only suspected some grayscale changes -- needs a darker and more transparent sky. Finally, George wanted to see M81/M82, so we pointed the scope up there. It was just seen at the edge of some clouds. I could see NGC 3077 hiding out next to a nearby star. Very nice view of the trio and a nice way to end the night.

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