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]Binocular Universe: Songs of the Deep South

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#1 Charlie Hein

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 04:48 PM

Binocular Universe: Songs of the Deep South

By Phil Harrington

#2 darthwyll



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Posted 03 May 2013 - 09:46 AM

Great article, Phil. I've always loved Omega. The sheer size and brightness is amazing. I live in south Texas so it gets fairly high in the sky this time of year. I've done some astrophotography of it in the past but I can't seem to recreate the sensation of seeing it in bino's or a telescope. It can be overwhelming sometimes too!

#3 David A Rodger

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 11:40 AM

Alas, I will never see Omega Centauri from my latitude (49.5 north), although I did have great views of it in Chile many years ago. However, it has been seen from southern Ontario by a group of keen observers from London, Ontario. Their latitude is 42.3 north, which is about the same as that of southern Oregon. Their observations were written in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. More recently, another such team actually photographed it, even though Omega was practically on the horizon. This was written, and the photo published, in SkyNews, Canada's astronomical magazine.

All of which reminds us that while we often refer to the 49th parallel as marking the boundary between the USA and Canada, in fact, it only does so from British Columbia to northwestern Ontario. From that point east, the boundary wanders through the great lakes and along northern Maine to the Atlantic. Ironically, the majority of Canadians actually live south of the 49th parallel in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.


#4 Sarkikos



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Posted 03 May 2013 - 12:33 PM

I've seen Omega Centauri from 39 degrees. In fact the first - and only - time I've ever seen it was this past March from my dark site on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The site is adjacent to a large rectangular field. The southern horizon there is pretty low, but I still had to walk way back toward the north end of the field to catch it with my 7x42 binoculars.

I bagged Omega a few minutes before culmination. By the time it actually culminated, it had already passed behind a slightly taller row of trees. That's all it takes to block an object so close to the horizon. By the time I got back to where my 10" Dob was set up farther south along the field, Omega was already hidden by trees. But at least I did get to see it in binos.

For those at about 40 degrees, take a good look at the southern horizon where you're going to try to catch Omega Centauri. Higher altitude or a vantage point looking south over a large body of water would be advantageous. I had neither at my site.

Think about where the meridian meets the horizon, and if you might have better luck snagging Omega a little before or after it culminates. Also, keep in mind that Zeta Centauri is at about the same declination as Omega. If you can see Zeta, you should be able to see Omega.

There are stars and asterisms that can help lead you to Omega. Go south from Spica to a south-pointing triangle (nw of Menkent). Go farther south to an east-pointing triangle. Directly south from this triangle is Zeta Centauri. Now go west to Omega.

Good luck,

#5 Peter D.

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 12:43 PM

I also saw Omega Centauri, at 43N latitude, from a rental Cessna 10,000 ft over Jamesville, NY (just South of Syracuse). I had rented the Cessna for the express purpose of viewing Halley, and although I failed to see Halley I did identify Omega Centauri through 7x50 binoculars, right on the horizon. The next time I saw it was one year ago at the East Coast Star Party in North Carolina through a 12 inch Dob; what an awesome sight!

#6 PhilH


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Posted 04 May 2013 - 07:16 AM

Thanks for the relies! Great stuff. I've always enjoyed this sort of thing, looking for low-lying southern objects. One of the few observing benefits of living on Long Island is that we have the Atlantic due south of us. So, from that vantage point, we can see targets that often go unobserved by "inlanders."

As I said in the column, I've seen the star Zeta Cen from Fire Island (a barrier island along LI's south shore), but never Omega itself. Zeta is just about the same declination as Omega, but because the latter is much more diffuse, it's always eluded me. I'll have to give it a try again this year.

#7 PhilH


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Posted 07 May 2013 - 04:32 AM

Well, I have my work cut out for me. I received the following e-mail and photo from a friend at work, Steve Bellavia:

The evening started with an outreach at Riverhead Middle School, arranged by Jeff Norwood, with great help from Sue Rose and the Riverhead science teachers. Annette and myself were the "Custer representatives" and we shared views of the Sun and Venus, and as it got dark, using the 12-inch Dob, Jupiter, Saturn, M3, M37 and Mizar-Alcor. After that Annette, and I headed to Ponquogue beach, where we were met by Dave Phillips, who recommended this nice dark, ocean front area.

From there we viewed and photographed Omega Centauri!
Normally this is a Sourthern Hemisphere object, a globular cluster the size of the full moon in the sky, but thanks to Dr. Elias Bonaros and Dr. Sean McCorkle, who guided us on how to see this elusive object, we got to see it, just one degree above the horizon.

Then we enjoyed M27, M13, M3, M81-M82, M65-M66, M104, M57 and Albireo, all with my little 80mm short tube refractor (also used for the attached photograph).

It was a very nice night.

You all may not know the names of those involved, but the point is that my buddy not only saw Omega from Long Island, he also photographed it through a ShortTube 80 refractor.

Like I say, I now have my assignment!

#8 Ed D

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 07:48 PM

Phil, I really enjoyed this month's article, and agree with you that Omega Centauri is the finest globular. Living in Miami I get a wonderful view of Omega from my back yard over the roof of my home, even with the horrendous light pollution. From Everglades National Park our view to the South is unobstructed. All I can say is WOOOW, and I hope that observers living down here take full advantage of the wonderful observing opportunities.

I attached a sketch of Omega I did last year from my back yard using my 8x56 binos, tripod mounted. Thanks for a great article.

Ed D

Attached Files

#9 PhilH


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Posted 08 May 2013 - 04:32 AM

Very nice sketch, Ed! Thank you for sharing it here.

#10 Bakes


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Posted 14 May 2013 - 10:19 AM

Great sketch Ed! I'll be in West Palm Beach next week. If the weather cooperates, I am looking forward to seeing it.

The Long Island observations got me interested in trying here at home. Last night I tried from the Long Island Sound shore in Stratford, CT. The beach is at 41N 8' 55".

At 11PM EDT is was able to positively identify Zeta Centauri a few degrees over the medical center at Stony Brook. I shifted my binoculars 8 degrees to the west and briefly saw a brightening in the haze at the same declination. But it faded before I could positively track any sidereal motion.

I'll be watching for a night with minimal haze to the south and try again.

#11 PhilH


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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:14 AM

Some great comments and observations in this thread! I wanted to add another in the form of a photo taken by a friend here on Long Island. Steve Bellavia (not on CN to my knowledge) caught Omega from a beach along Dune Rd near Quogue, NY, about 10 days ago. His shot here was taken through an Orion ST80. Sorry, can't recall all the photo stats, but now I have to meet his challenge and see it for myself! Hope I will get a chance! :confused:

#12 Starkid2u


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Posted 15 May 2013 - 11:00 PM

Hey, Phil. I've seen Omega Centauri from a dark sky site in Mobile, Alabama and I was absolutely blown away! It was the size of the full Moon and thick with stars! When I looked at it through my 15 X 70 binocs, it looked like the Moon exploded! I was also very fortunate to have a chance to compare it to M13 and it was nooooooooo contest. Maybe you'll get the same chance to compare the next time you take a shot at trying to see it!
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