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Observations from Down Under, W.A.

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#1 timokarhula

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 01:11 AM

I flew from Stockholm, Sweden, to Perth, Western Australia (my 13th trip Down Under) on October 17. My arrival was not great since the Immigration and Customs control took a whole 1.5 hours and I missed my Greyhound bus connection to Geraldton. On the other hand, my consolation was the e-mail news I read at the domestic airport. I had just been granted the Webb Deep Sky Society award for 2011! :jump:

I was quite jet-lagged the first days and it was mostly varying cloudiness during the nights anyway. The very first evening I spotted Mercury below the young crescent moon and Mars in conjunction with Antares. Like the star's name implies, Antares was really a rival to Mars. The same color but Mars was a bit dimmer. Mercury has been seen high above the horizon every evening since then.

When waking up at 3 o'clock, I could not resisting go outside and admire the Magellanic Clouds, Eta Carinae nebula and the southern Milky Way with naked eyes. My backyard is light polluted from the centre of Geraldton. I measured the sky's brightness as 20.2 magnitudes per square arc-second and stars of magnitude 6.0 can be seen naked eye.

The past two nights have I been observing Deep-Sky after the gibbous moon had set. One of my projects has been to view every galaxy brighter than V=10.0 in both hemispheres. I had seen them all those north of declination -20º. Only a few were missing still. With my Canon 18x50 IS binoculars, I managed to view the rest (NGC1395, 1398, 1532, 1672, 1792) yesterday, except NGC3109 in Hydra. It's huge, 21'x4', that's twice the size of NGC891 in Andromeda (which I could recently glimpse with the same binoculars from Sweden) but has the same total magnitude so has a very low surface brightness.

The next interval will be the galaxies between V=10.0-10.5 and there are about 20 preys left for me. This morning I started with a few of them; NGC1326, 1332, 1344, 1350, 2217 and 2280. The galaxies that I have been logging the past two mornings are situated in Eridanus, Hydra, Fornax, Canis Major and Doradus. Close by was the Fornax galaxy cluster and here I found NGC1316 (Fornax A), NGC1365 and NGC1399 without charts. The galaxies looked only like tiny, faint fuzzies in the binoculars. In some of them, I could make out their elongation. To positively identify them, I was sketching all the nearby field stars that were not in the Uranometria atlas and verifying them afterwards in the Megastar software. With the 18x50 binoculars I could reach down to magnitude 11.6. One benefit of the galaxies mentioned above was that the majority of them were situated practically in zenith! Since the binoculars weigh 1.2 kg, I was getting tired of holding them with free hands after a few minutes. Therefore, I was lying down on the ground on cushions and letting the binoculars rest on my eyes. Together with the stabilization function, the images became extremely steady and sharp.

While star-hopping to the galaxies, I was also viewing some quite "anonymous" open star clusters. These were NGC1891, NGC1963 and NGC2061 in Columba, vdB83 and ESO425-15 in Canis Major, ESO435-9 in Antlia and ESO489-1 in Lepus. With the binoculars I could discern several stars within them and often with some unresolved background glow.

You can obviously make perfectly good and interesting binocular observations from within a city! The first night was windy but this morning was quite calm. It was a sign of warmer weather coming and now the temperature is +32º C and with clear blue skyes. The forecast is +37º C for Saturday.

To be continued...

/Timo Karhula

#2 JakeSaloranta

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 02:13 AM

Congratulations Timo!

#3 Astrojensen

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 04:15 AM

What a report! I thought I was the only one observing galaxies with binoculars! Eagerly awaiting the next report.

Edit: I forgot: Congratulations on the award!


Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

#4 timokarhula

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 05:51 AM

Thanx Jaakko and Thomas. Of course I have larger instruments at my disposal here, but not in my house for the moment. ;) A Vixen 20x100 and a 10-inch SkyWatcher are waiting for me in darker skies at the next New Moon period. (That is, if I don't fly to Cairns to witness the solar eclipse).

/Timo Karhula

#5 Shanmugasundaram

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 01:52 AM

Congratulations on the award and I am quite amazed that one can view galaxies through binoculars, but I am a newbie.

Regards
Shan

#6 IVM

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 11:27 AM

For me also the IS 18x50s are a quintessential “Australian” instrument (although I think of them more as a backup). A Webb Society award can only be a good thing ;), so congratulations! This is a nice all-sky project with the bright galaxies you have. I saw a few of the same galaxies on my trip earlier this year as part of my Dunlop 100 project. Here I have a sketch of NGC 1532 with its interacting dwarf companion, NGC 1531:

http://ivm-deep-sky....100-part-2.html (the galaxy pair is the last sketch in the first scan; the next sketch after that is of NGC 1792, a comparatively unremarkable elongated galaxy with my travel aperture)

And here I have a sketch of NGC 1672 with two arms and an elongated core:

http://ivm-deep-sky....dunlop-100.html (the last sketch in the post)

#7 timokarhula

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 12:26 AM

Last night was very productive and I reached some personal milestones. 4000 DeepSky-objects observed in my career, 300 Magellanic DS-objects, all galaxies brighter than V=10.0 in the heavens and now I had logged at least one DS-object in each of the 88 constellations! I observed from sunset until just before the onset of the astronomical twilight in dawn (8.5 hours).

After sunset (unfortunately no Green Flash) I found the dim Mercury. I had been following it as an evening star for almost 4 weeks now! I could not see it with naked eyes but with my tiny 8x21-binoculars I saw two Mercuries (with 26' separation)!? Megastar showed that the other star was delta Scorpii and they had about the same brightness (Dschubba is variable and seems to be bright now).

When it got dark, I managed with one of my challenges, the "anonymous" galaxy Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte in Cetus. It was a tough target from within the city and was glimpsed only occasionally with averted vision with my 10-inch Dob and low magnification. The W-L-M system was elongated in N-S direction.

The supernova SN2012fr had brightened to magnitude 11.9 (Nov. 11.59 UT). Now, I could discern the long, beautiful spiral arms of NGC1365.

The two remaining constellations where I had not observed any DS-objects yet were Caelum and Pictor. Now I viewed the galaxies NGC1679, NGC1687 (mag 14.7p) and NGC1705.

Then I went over to the Large Magellanic Cloud for a few hours. Here I logged some 50 star clusters and nebulae. Tarantula is indescribable. A very contrasting pair were the clusters NGC1755 and NGC1749. They are only 1.9 arc-minutes from each other, centre to centre. NGC1755 is very bright and partially resolvable while NGC1749 is pretty faint and diffuse, yet they are about the same size.

Next to NGC1828 and NGC1830 I found a much brighter star cluster not plotted on Uranometria (Vol 2). A comet?! No, for some reason the globular cluster NGC1835 was omitted from Uranometria (Vol 2)! I "discovered" two more nebulosities missing in Urano. These clusters are seen in the Digitized Sky Survey, I checked up this morning.

The last two objects for the night were NGC3078 in Hydra (a Herschel-II object) and last but not least, the huge galaxy which I failed with my Canon 18x50 binoculars a few weeks ago, NGC3109. It was very long and thin and had several faint stars superposed on it. This galaxy was the last one brighter than V=10.0 that I had not been viewing before!

It was very windy tonight so I had to wear a long-sleeve shirt and a coat when the temperature dropped to +12º C. In two days time there is a total solar eclipse in Cairns, Queensland. It has been raining there the last couple of days so let's hope the eclipse chasers have luck. I will stay here in the West for the partial eclipse at sunrise.

/Timo Karhula
Geraldton, W.A.

#8 IVM

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 07:20 PM

This is very impressive, Timo.

About NGC 1749 and 1755 in LMC I recorded the following when observing this spring from an outback campground NW of Alice Spings with my travel 6" at 75-280x:

N of the W end of the bar there are 4 stars in the form of the southern cross, E-most of which is a double. Telescopically, looking in the direction of the companion (E), there stretch a comparatively faint nebula NGC 1736, then Dunlop 167 (open cluster NGC 1755) and large, partially resolved Dunlop 169 (NGC 1770). The much fainter NGC 1749, which should be 2’ from NGC 1755, is not seen even at high power.

#9 timokarhula

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:12 AM

I made an another struggle to watch the southern deep-sky from sunset to morning twilight, two nights in a row. In Sweden, I made a choice between watching the solar eclipse in Cairns or doing some serious DS-observations in W.A. For personal reasons, I chose W.A.

I started last night with a toughie, the globular cluster Palomar 12 in Capricornus. It was going down but was still quite high. With my 10-inch SkyWatcher Dob I could just discern a faint glow NW of three bright stars. The Digitized Sky Survey (DSS) verified my observation.

Then I logged about 10 galaxies in Grus, Aquarius and Eridanus. A few of them are actually Herschel-II objects which I will nail down every one, eventually! :-)

Then started a 4 1/2 hour hunt in the Large Magellanic Cloud. I made notes about every object and those which I was suspicious about did I check in the DSS. Well, now I have seen practically every DS-object in the LMC pages A24 in Uranometria 2000.0 (Volume 2). LMC is bigger than that! It extends to each direction for several degrees so I have plenty of hunting in the future!

/Timo Karhula

#10 timokarhula

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 07:47 PM

This morning I was watching the beautiful sunrise at 5:20 from Wyrngala Lookout point, Moresby Range, east of Geraldton. When the sun was rising above the horizon, I notized that about one fourth of the solar disc (the lowest part) was obscured by the Moon. My 15th solar eclipse! With eclipse glasses, I could easily follow the last 15 minutes of the eclipse.

/Timo Karhula

#11 timokarhula

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 02:59 AM

As a compensation for my missed total solar eclipse on the east coast, I would instead make some serious DS-observations. And I did it beyond my wildest expectations! I have never seen so many new DS-object as in this Down Under trip, about 170 so far! It has been cloud-free skies the whole week this New Moon period so one has to catch the opportunity (carpe noctem)!

The last two nights (and four nights this week) have I taken care of the Magellanic Clouds. I have basically made a "clean house" by observing almost every one of their star clusters and nebulae which are plotted in the Uranometria atlas. Look for yourself how plenty they are! In Volume 2 (2nd edition), they are found on the charts 212, 211, 219, A24, A25 and A26. There were 120+ DS-objects left in the Clouds that I hadn't logged yet before this trip and it took me four dedicated nights from dusk to dawn in order to catch them. About a dozen of them was I not able to see with my 10-inch Dob from within the city of Geraldton. As I mentioned earlier, one can find "anonymous" clusters outside Uranometria and I possess LMC-charts from Mati Morel which go way deeper than U2000.0.

To describe each object would be meaningless here but the last object of the morning was a funny one. When I searched for the cluster NGC1777 in LMC, I saw first nothing. Then I suspected some background glow W of a bright pair of stars. Sure, the cluster was playing "hide and seek" with me. It was well camouflaged behind the stars but the Digitized Sky Survey verified my suspicion.

/Timo Karhula






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