Sunday, March 17, 2013

not what I had in mind (Blue Mountains)

9:41 PM, March 16, 2013. After birthday break, after reviewing Phil and my digital photos, I added another layer, top and bottom, and went outside.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
9:43 PM. Tony had spotted frost on the corrector and had suggested we cover it. And close the roof a bit. I got the hair dryer out but the frost was gone.

9:55. Millie followed me out. She said she wanted to do The Marathon. Wha? Really? That'd be tough to do. Really? Like to dawn? She seemed keen. I was already tired for lack of sleep. Really? She was serious. I told her my goals for the evening. She started giving me targets. Uh huh.

Went to Messier 42 (M42). Put 18mm in the big 'scope (217 power). I immediately split the Trapezium. Easy. Could easily see the E and F stars. That was interesting... The easiest ever?

9:59. Millie chose Messier 76 (M76) aka The Little Dumbbell. It looked like a large peanut in the SCT; it was a faint smudge in TV101 with 10mm. There was an orange star nearby (HD 10498).

10:05. We discussed what I hadn't seen, a final few Messiers, most of which were in the Virgo, Coma, Leo area.

Chose open cluster M52 before we lost it in the roof line.

10:08. Messier 52 was very tight, er, close-up, with the 18mm in the SCT. Could see individual stars.

10:16. There was an orange star in centre (SAO 20606). And a yellow star. Various blue stars.


Dropped the walls. Installed the dew shield.

10:18. We went to Messier 34 (M34). A very loose cluster. A handful of stars. Obvious in TV101. The SCT view was very magnified. It seemed the stars were all the same colour and brightness.

10:22. Messier 79 (M79). The globular cluster in Lepus. Almost undetectable in the TV. A round fuzzy in the SCT. Progressively bright centre. [Had viewed before, 13 months before, but it was very unsatisfying.]

Used the SQM: 20.50, 20.49. The Moon was still up.

10:35. Viewed Messier 41 (M41). Lovely in the TV. A very large open cluster. It filled the whole field.

Set up the Oberwerk binos. For viewing big objects...

10:36. Just slewed to Messier 93 (M93). It was excellent in the SCT.

10:41. I noticed that Hind's Crimson Star was setting soon.

10:42. Viewed the faint star. Incredible colour. Like a last ember in the camp fire. Pleasing in the TV; a little soft in big 'scope. Forgot to gauge the brightness...

10:53. Kept turning up the ceramic heater.

The mount was working well, again, tonight, like last night. The goto performance was very good.

Messier 46 (M46) was nice. Very large. Faint stars in TV. The SCT showed the planetary nebula (NGC 2438) in the middle.

Panned manually to Messier 47 (M47). Noted the double star in the middle (HD 60997). Very nice in the TV.

[ed: Will need to revisit this... The double star is actually a 10 star system! In rushing, did not note the colour and brightness of the stars...]

10:56. Headed off to Messier 48 (M48). Equally bright stars. Fairly large in the TV; the SCT was, again, too tight/close.

The sky seemed to be better in the east. Not as much light. Had the ski hill closed for the night?

Looked at Leo, Denebola. My targets were rising higher in the sky...

Moon was getting low...

11:01. Went to Messier 50.

11:02. I saw that the humidity had dropped to 88. But the wind was picking up. It made the wind chill -13.6!

11:05. Viewed M50. A wide loose open cluster. In the TV it seemed bird-like. The centre portion was interesting, busy in the SCT.

11:11. Messier 78 (M78) in the TV was obvious but small. Averted vision did not pull much out. In the big SCT the diffuse nebula was great! Especially with averted. It is a huge structure. [Again, an object viewed previously but that I wanted to have another good look at.]

11:14. Decided to try for Messier 1 (M1) now, while still high. 37°.

I saw clouds in the north-east.

Fiddled with TS6's sky appearance settings.

11:21. The Crab Nebula was detectable in the TV. It was very nice in the SCT. It was not round. Could see a number of faint tiny stars.

Clouds persisted in the north-east.

11:22. Went to Messier 38.

Spotted a little smudge below M38 at the edge of the field of view in the wide-field telescope. Was this Herschel H39-7 aka NGC 1907?

TheSky 6 showed a very bright object below, IC 417. We slewed to the IC but couldn't seem to spot anything.

11:34. Still nothing visible or obvious in either telescope. [ed: It is unclear why TS6 shows this. It is a magnitude 30 object!]

11:36. Went to Messier 36. It was smaller and more compact than M38. The stars were uniform.

11:42. Viewed Messier 37 (M37). It seemed bigger than M36. But it was made up of fainter stars.

I proposed a hot chocolate break. I needed to warm up. And regroup. After the break I was going to ask that we depart from the plan to view my targets. Millie wanted to go to Messier 35 first.

11:45. Viewed M35. The stars were brighter. It was fairly wide dispersed.

We headed inside for a snack and to warm up. Tried to stay dark adapted. Chatted with Tony. Wondered where I should sleep if I pulled an all-nighter...

12:30 AM, March 17, 2013. When I stepped outside, I saw no stars! Damn it! The sky was completed clouded over. Suddenly, the evening was done. So much for seeing my last few Messiers... I was upset.

Shut everything down. Did some get-aheads, in fact.


I did not enjoy that. As I suspected. I don't like rushing through objects. I'd rather linger. Absorb photons. Look for details. Concentrate on colours. Did not view any of the Virgo galaxies. But, it couldn't be helped.


Imaged Messier 47 (and the multi-stars within) on 20 Dec '16.

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