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What a Great Night!

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#1 Fuzzyguy

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 03:20 AM

After a winter of cold when it was clear, cloudy when the moon was gone and generally poor seeing, I've had two great nights out of the last four! Skies were dark and transparent and the seeing was very good. Time to take my new IPad mini (birthday present) armed with Sky Safari (thanks to many who recommended it on these forums) and put them to a test.

I think after I get used to it, this will be my "at the scope" star chart. The mini is about the same size as a S&T Pocket Sky Atlas, but with zoom, more objects and dimmer stars. One problem, I had to cover my viewing eye when looking at it or it ruined my night vision.

The first object I looked at was M33. I'm starting to see a lot more details in some objects and this was no exception. I was seeing the arms fairly well through both the 40mm plossl and the ES 20mm. Sky Safari showed the location of some objects within the galaxy and it didn't take long to find NGC 604 north east of the core. I'd seen a super nova last summer in another galaxy, but this is the first time I'd seen a nebula outside of our own Milky Way! I was already stoked and there was more to come.

The next object was NGC 2392, the Clown or Eskimo Nebula. I'd seen this one last spring at our club star party in a 10" dob, but I hadn't logged it at home. I quickly moved up to 222X with my 9mm. The central star was very bright and easy to see with direct vision. I noticed that when I looked at the star just north of it, the PN seemed to get a little bigger. I started looking all around it and with averted vision, sometimes I could see part of a ring around the brighter, central portion. The longer I looked the better it got.

After about 20 minutes, I decided to try a UHC filter and my first impression was that it was not a great improvement over no filter. But I gave it some time and kept looking and it started to get better. With the central star knocked back quite a bit, I could start to see some structure in the nebula and I could kind of see the "clown face". Again, the longer I looked, the better I saw it. I couldn't see the outer ring though.

I put on my OIII and again, the first look wasn't as good as the UHC had been at the end, but I decided to give it some time too. It didn't take long and some of the structure really started looking good! The central star was pretty much gone and I could see a couple filaments running around the central part of the nebula. Now that's cool! Again, I couldn't see the outer ring with the OIII, but the stuff in the center was impressive.

All together, I looked at the clown for over an hour and I enjoyed every minute!

I looked at M78 in Orion for a little while, just because I'd been reading about it in another thread and I was "in the area". I'd already logged it, but it looked a lot better (bigger) tonight that I remember it the first time I found it.

Then on to the Flame since I had seen it for the first time just a couple of nights ago. I was pretty impressed with myself for finally seeing it until others said they found it to be pretty easy in an 8" scope with similar skies. (my excuse for not seeing it better before, is that I didn't spend enough time looking at! LOL) Tonight though, I looked at it for over 30 minutes and yes, it was pretty easy to see the "maple leaf". It was a little difficult with the 40mm because I couldn't get rid of the flare from Alnitak, but with the 16mm at 127X, it looked very impressive with the major dark lane and two side lanes easily seen. Like all the other objects I looked at tonight, the longer I looked, the more I saw. I think I'm starting to see a pattern here. ;)

Finally I decided to look at a few open clusters. I started with M41. It's one of my personal favorites because it's the first object I "star hopped" to instead of "point and search". Then M47 and M46.

M47 was a nice little cluster that was nicely framed in my 20mm at 100X. I didn't spend much time here and quickly moved to M46. As I was looking at it, I noticed a little gray "smudge" among the stars. A quick zoom of Sky Safari revealed it's the planetary nebula NGC 2438. Back to the shed to fetch my OIII and the 9mm. After about 10 minutes of looking with the filter, the PN looked a lot like a dim M57. It was a nice little donut in the middle of a nice little cluster. The OIII did knock the stars back, but the brighter ones were still visible. A very cool 14 arcminute piece of tonight's sky!

It was a blast being out there tonight, but alas, about 11:30, I started to get cold, so everything went back in the shed and I came in to warm up. It's been months since I've had a night under the stars I enjoyed as much as tonight. I hope with spring coming, will be more. I got spoiled last summer. With the draught, it seemed like I could go out almost any time and have decent and often excellent skies.

#2 RonUwood

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:59 PM

That sounds exactly like the night I just had, even down to the smudge in M46, which I had to check to make sure of what I was seeing. It was the best night this year.

Ron

#3 stevecoe

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:12 PM

Larry;

Always fun to hear from someone out enjoying themselves under clear skies. I am hoping to do the same tonight. Yes the planetary in M 46 is very interresting, lots of great detail at high power. I also dearly love M 41, the stars shows some color and there is an excellent star chain involved within the cluster.

Have fun;
Steve Coe

#4 Astrodj

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 07:56 PM

Sounds like you had a great night out. Getting totally absorbed with one object for an hour or more is really relaxing and rewarding. Doing it several times in one night can keep me refreshed for a long time. Nice report!

#5 rinalmj

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:56 PM

Thanks for sharing this great report, sounds like you had a good night indeed. I haven't seen the Flame yet, but your other targets are some of my favorites. Clear skies

#6 Fuzzyguy

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 02:12 AM

Thanks Guys,

Steve,

I saw your other post and it sounds like you are having a great time too under dark skies!

Ron,

Awesome stuff! I really like using Sky Safari at the scope.

Tonight was another great one here. I started off with M74 in Pisces and M77 in Cetus. M74 showed more detail that M77.

Then I went over to Monoceros and NGC 2264, the Christmas Tree Cluster in the Cone Nebula. The Christmas Tree was framed perfectly in my 40mm Plossl and I could easily see nebulosity around 15 Mon, the pair of stars SW of 15 Mon and the pair on the south side of my FoV.

From there, it was a short hop down to NGC 2261, Hubble's Variable Nebula. It reminded me of Comet C/2012 K5 Linear. The star that excites the nebula looks like a coma and the nebula itself, a fan shaped tail. Small but nice!

On south to the Rosette Nebula NGC 2237. This is way larger than the FoV of my 40mm Plossl, but panning around, I saw most of the nebula. I spent most of my time on the cluster NGC 2244. I put on the UHC filter and it helped to bring out the nebulosity around the edge of my FoV.

I looked at a few of the open clusters in Monoceros including NGC 2251 and NGC 2254, Colinder's 97, 104, 106 & 107. I could tell on most, but a couple I wasn't sure I actually saw a cluster. The ones I could see, were all pretty sparsely populated with a few bright stars.

I finished up with NGC 3190 AND 3193 in Leo. Both were small and faint with no detail, but it was cool seeing them both in the same FoV. I could not see any hint of NGC 3185 or 3187, but I was getting pretty cold, so I didn't look too long. :)

The dew shield had frost on the front edge when I packed up and my toes and fingers were tingling. Pretty nice night again though!

#7 kansas skies

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:21 PM

Sounds about like the the nights I've been experiencing lately - very crisp and transparent. Tonight looks like a washout, however. That's alright, since there's supposed to be rain and we really do need the moisture. For the most part, I agree with your comment concerning the decent skies last summer due to the drought. The downside of this, of course, was reduced tranparency caused by debris from Oklahoma and Kansas grass fires.

Bill






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