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Messages - mccarthymark

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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.

TAC Visual / Re: Double Star Epsilon Canis Majoris
« on: March 03, 2017, 12:21:39 PM »
I've not split it myself (though I will try--wish you posted this earlier! I was out the last three nights splitting challenging doubles from my backyard, with the good seeing we've had).  Searching under the common name Adhara turned up plenty of reports of splits, down to 5-6" scopes

Observing Reports / Re: Dinosaur Point what a night, 23 February
« on: March 01, 2017, 11:29:57 AM »
Very nice to get out for a while, even on a weeknight (or especially so, if one's work life is hectic!).  I had no particular plan for observing, so mainly lazed about, sweeping different parts of the sky.

As for sights which stayed in my memory, there are two.  M48 was one.  When I did my Messier survey I used my 50mm finder to record the observation since it was too large to fit comfortably in my 12.5-inch; in the finder it was an unimpressive loose cluster.  At Dino I could just make it out naked eye, so finding it was a snap.  It was very nicely framed in the 10-inch and there was enough aperture to make it shimmer -- spangly bright stars forming a long triangle, with a nice arc of stars through the middle, and many faint stars, many of them doubles, filling out the background.  Enough space around it to reveal it as fairly well detached from its background.  I daresay the view approached the below photo.

A surprise find was NGC 2467, a large HII region & OC grouping in Puppis.  It appeared unfiltered as a large grey round mass with a fainter and larger smear of nebulosity running NW-SW tangentially from it.  Another large and more round cloud sprouted from the brighter mass to the S/SE.  The nebula and field were filled with stars.  The nebula brightened considerably with UHC.  The popular name is Skull and Crossbones Nebula.

Rants and Off Topic / Re: Happy Birthday Jamie Dillon
« on: February 21, 2017, 10:06:48 PM »
Cheers, Jamie! 

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.

TAC Visual / Re: Venus/Neptune conjunction, Mars and 96 Aquarii
« on: January 16, 2017, 12:01:51 PM »
I had a look at 96 Aqr last night using my 12.5” f/7.  I used Mars to aim the scope with my Telrad; it had moved well beyond where it was on New Year’s Day but was still in the 50mm finderscope view with 96 Aqr.  At 277x the pair (aka HJ 5394) was picked up right away.  The B star was faint but easy direct vision, sharpened with the seeing, and was slightly reddish; I estimated PA to the north.  According to Stelle Doppie A mag is 5.62, B is 10.39, separation 11”, PA 20°.  Seeing was 6-7/10 and transparency 3/5.

Later in the night I split doubles in Orion.  A highlight was STF 757: This was marked as a double star in my Cambridge Double Star Atlas but without designation.  It showed as a lovely double-double at 553x: All the stars were near equal magnitude at 8-9.  The pair to the east was well separated but another, to the west, was very tight, about 1 disk separation.  I stayed on this for a while since it was such a beautiful surprise.  After coming in and checking a double star catalog, I found it to be STF 757.  The AB pair is A mag 7.96, B 8.33 with 1.5”.  The other double is in fact two more pairs with A, AC (8.69 mag, 51.3”, PA 87°) and AD (8.52 mag, 41.9”, PA 79°).  There is an AE pair which I didn’t notice, and CD are listed as a pair.  Quite a sight.

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 / Re: Late report on Dino 12/1
« on: January 01, 2017, 06:37:38 PM »
Allowed.  Thanks for the background on the object.  It--and so much more besides--deserves more than the "meh" I so callously gave it.

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.

Observing Reports / Re: Blazar burning bright and other goodies
« on: December 06, 2016, 01:30:53 PM »
How about "Star Trek Insignia" for the IC 329/330/331 group?

Equipment Discussions / Re: Mirror cell design question.
« on: December 04, 2016, 08:56:35 AM »
My logic as a non-engineer and a novice ATM:

Usually the mirror rests, either on the floating support points or silicone.  Its weight keeps it in even contact with the pads / supports during scope movement, holding collimation.  If the supports are springs, each of them presses up on the mirror with its own force, and the mirror would bounce around during scope movement -- probably would not hold collimation.  The springs might also somehow cause astigmatism -- putting uneven forces on the bottom of the mirror, or pressing the mirror against the retaining clips.

Your original cell looks like a great (tried and true) solution. 


Observing Intents / Re: OI - Dinosaur Point, Thursday, December 1st
« on: November 30, 2016, 05:17:21 PM »
I'm still planning to go to Dino 12/1 -- if Jamie will open it.  I have weekend plans so can only get out 12/1.  Will do low power viewing and dress in ski pants & down jacket...

TAC Imaging / Re: Lunar imaging with ZWO ASI120MM camera
« on: October 31, 2016, 03:35:20 PM »
Gorgeous!  I especially liked the shot of the Alpine Valley Rille on your website.  That rille is on my visual observing bucket list.

Equipment Discussions / Re: counterbalancing a truss dob?
« on: October 21, 2016, 02:08:41 PM »
I use the Markless counterweight system ( on the front and back of the box.  Once I received it I realized there could be a way to accomplish the same with parts bought at a hardware store (aluminum T-channel in which you can slide a bolt head, washers, wood plugs for the barbell weights, and threaded knobs).

You could also use a metal bar or a metal pipe filled with sand or BBs strapped to the mirror cell.

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