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*The Flying Ghost and Fall Stuff*

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#1 David Knisely

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 02:39 AM

DS090413 . . . . . RECENT OBSERVATIONS . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . by David Knisely . . . . . . . . . . . .

DATE: September 4th, 2013, 0230 to 0900 hrs UTC.
LOCATION: Rockford Lake State Recreation Area (40.222N, 96.579W, 418m elev.)
INSTRUMENTS: "The Black Mamba": 14 inch f/4.6 Dobsonian, 52x, 72x, 105x, 135x, 188x, 238x, 314x, 384x, 595x, 628x
"The Mortar" 8 inch f/5 Dobsonian: 32x, 45x, 90x, 195x,
FILTERS: DGM Optics NPB (narrow-band), Orion Skyglow (broad-band), Lumicon UHC (narrow-band), Lumicon OIII, and Lumicon H-Beta line filters.
CONDITIONS: Mostly Clear, Temp. 78F, wind calm.
SEEING (above 45 deg. altitude): 0.4" to 1" arc (Antoniadi II)

OBJECTS OBSERVED: M8, M20, M24, M16, M17, M22, M11, M13, M27, M15, M57, M31, M33, M45, M42, M74, Sh2-54, PK 80-6.1 (the "Egg" nebula), IC 1613, NGC 6712 (the "Weird" Globular), NGC 6822, NGC 6818 (the Little Gem), NGC 6992-6979-6960 (Veil complex), NGC 7000 (North America Nebula), NGC 520 (ARP 157, "Flying Ghost" Galaxy??), NGC 772, NGC 770, NGC 7009, NGC 7293, NGC 246, NGC 253, NGC 7789, NGC 7635 (Bubble Nebula), NGC 281 (Pac Man Nebula), NGC 869/884 (Double Cluster), NGC 891, AGC 426 (Perseus Galaxy Cluster), NGC 1499, NGC 1893/IC 410,

OBSERVATIONS: Last month was fairly frustrating, with only limited observing time, so while I did have some specific things I wanted to go after, the clear skies presented on this night would mean that a lot of the time, I would just be sight-seeing or evaluating various targets with different filters and eyepieces. I wasn't certain that the conditions would hold, so I watched TV for a while until after sunset. It looked clear, but I wanted an opinion from a little further west, so I called my friend John Lammers in nearby Fairbury to see what he thought. His response was that it looked good out there, and he said he could join me, so I started packing things in the van for what would turn out to be a very long and productive night.

I arrived at my alternate site in a low loop near the shores of Rockford Lake and began to set up. I had my "replaced" Nexus 7 tablet out for a more in-depth evaluation of the app Sky Safari Pro, which would end up getting a lot of use. I panned around in Scutum and took a quick look at M11, which was its usual spectacular self before going on to the "Weird" globular, NGC 6712 about two and a half degrees further south. I call it that due to its sort of "off-center core" appearance that makes it look like the whole thing is maybe just a bit odd. This time, the cluster looked a lot more symmetric in the 14 inch than it had in my smaller scopes, probably because of the larger aperture picking up more of its faint stars. Not long after I got "the Black Mamba" set up, I saw car lights approaching and sure enough, it was John. We did some limited observing before he went and pulled out his "Mortar" and we got more serious.

John had brought his two newest eyepiece acquisitions: the 3-6 mm Nagler Zoom, and the 26 mm Tele Vue Nagler. We tried the zoom out on Polaris and to my surprise, at the 3mm setting, Polaris was showing a clear diffraction disk and several rings (628x). With a 14 inch, that would mean seeing approaching 0.3 arc seconds, although it didn't last long. However, it allowed me to do a slight tweak of the Black Mamba's collimation and then go on to other things. We started with M8 and then worked our way up the Milky Way. With the NPB filter, we could see faint pinkish hues in some of the brighter portions of the Nebula, while the OIII filter showed greater contrast and sharpness of the detail, but the outer parts of the nebula were fainter. I put the scope on M20 briefly and we could easily see the radial dark lanes and reflection nebulosity next to the main section even without a filter. We looks at M17 with the NPB filter and saw its swan-like form with the huge arch of nebulosity that extends to the south to form the "Omega" formation easily visible. Next stop was M16 and while the NPB showed the larger area of nebulosity, the Lumicon OIII filter at 135x just brought out the dark finger-like interior detail in a way that is difficult to describe.

With that little sight-seeing out of the way, next stop was one of my two "designated" targets for the night, the very faint large diffuse emission nebula Sh2-54 in Serpens. It is in a very rich area of the Milky Way, so can be difficult to determine whether the glow is due to faint stars or nebulosity unless filters are used. With the NPB filter, I could see that there was some faint very diffuse and somewhat irregular patchy nebulosity around and to the northeast of the small open cluster NGC 6604, extending over a degree in size. The other filters helped a little, but the best overall view of this large faint nebula came with the narrow-band NPB filter, probably due to its faintness. It isn't a spectacular object, but at least I could see it.

With this major hurdle out of my way, I showed John M27 with the various filter combinations I have. In particular, we duplicated an experiment we did last year when we used the Lumicon OIII filter on the Dumbell at 238x. With that combination, the faint internal filamentary detail in the main dumbell portion was fairly easy to see, including the dual arcs of "the claw" on the northern edge. The NPB filter showed the outer "wings" of the Dumbell Nebula better making the whole nebula appear somewhat larger. However, for the contrast in the internal detail of the main hourglass portion, the OIII was the filter to use, which just goes to show that one generally needs more than one type of nebula filter.

We spent quite a bit of time on the Veil Nebula complex, mostly using the OIII filter in my 14 inch, although quite frankly, the NPB filter also did a very good job of showing most of the nebulosity. However, we both agreed that the OIII filter provided superior contrast and sharpness for many of the filaments that make up the nebula. In particular, extending south from "Pickering's Triangle" is a very narrow ribbon of nebulosity that we could see for over a degree or so before it faded out. John's 8 inch f/5 in particular showed the entire eastern arc (NGC 6992) with a lot of room to spare at 32x using the OIII filter. I then moved John's 8 inch to the North America Nebula and got it well positioned in the field. It was almost photographic in appearance with the brighter "spine" in the "Mexico" portion fairly prominent. John's 26mm Nagler really stole the show with its fine outer field performance at 45x, and sort of "hopped" from his scope to mine repeatedly over the evening.

My second "designated" target for detailed observation was the proto-planetary object PK 80-6.1 (the "Egg" Nebula), only a few degrees north of the Veil. This one was shockingly easy in the 14 inch at 135x, appearing with direct vision as an easy to see closely-separated double star with slightly fuzzy components. Higher power revealed the faint narrower "spike" of haze extending north from the brighter northern section, as well as the dark space between the northern and southern sections.

With my "chores" done, I moved the Black Mamba back down into Sagittarius to show John Barnard's Galaxy (NGC 6822). I got the Telrad on the right spot and looked in only to be greeted by a nice bluish-green disk: the "Little Gem" (planetary nebula NGC 6818). Well, obviously I was a little off, so with a gentle nudge to the south, the dim glow of NGC 6822 came into view. However, at 135x, I was startled to see the object as a somewhat granular elongated glow with a moderate number of very faint stars in it rather than the usual diffuse appearance I had seen in smaller scopes. It is kind of startling to see quite a number of stars that are actually part of an object 1.6 million light years away.

John still likes globulars, so it was on to M22 with the Black Mamba. The cluster was nice in the 20mm Nagler, but really showed its stuff when John put the 2x Powermate in. The field was simply filled with perhaps several thousand stars framed nicely at 188x. We then went back up to M13 to try out his 3-6mm Nagler zoom. It gave *very* nice sharp star images (sharper than many fixed focal length eyepieces), but its limited apparent field (50 degrees) made it a little less easy to use in an un-driven scope at those high magnifications than my 5-8mm Speers Waler. Indeed, we put in on the Ring Nebula and the 3-6mm Nagler zoom revealed it with very nice sharp light and dark detail, about as sharp as I have ever seen it. At something over 377x, the central star popped out a few times (once for about five very steady seconds), so seeing was pretty decent.

I went down into Aquarius to look at the planetary nebulae NGC 7009 and NGC 7293. NGC 7009 was its usual tiny emerald-green oval which at 238x showed an irregular inner ring and the faint spike-like ansae with fainter puffs on each end. I then visited the Helix (NGC 7293). This huge planetary is simply a joy to view with filters at both 72x and 135x (it was visible in my 9x50 finderscope). In the main scope, I do like the OIII filter for providing the most contrast, as it darkened the middle and revealed some of the helical nature of the nebula along with some fine-scale dark detail. However, with my 14 inch Newtonian and the NPB, it looked slightly larger with diffuse almost flared ends on the west-northwestern and east-southeastern sides. It also provides hints at some fainter outer detail, like the very faint outer tendril that runs well off the northeastern side of the main doughnut almost six arc minutes off the northern side of the main doughnut formation.

My Nexus 7 tablet had been sitting for a while, so I "woke it up" and started using Sky Safari Pro to see some galaxies kind of at random. I noticed a small chain in Aquarius that looked interesting at one zoom level, but getting in closer revealed that it was made up mostly of rather faint and very scattered galaxies, as the magnitude limit had been set far too faint. I was about to abandon that group for greener (and brighter) pastures when I saw a name label, "The Flying Ghost Galaxy" on the screen. The WHAT??? I had never heard of it in any of the source books or on-line resources I have used, so this one got my interest. It is more properly known as NGC 520, a peculiar spiral in Pisces, and in the 14 inch at low power looked like a fat edge-on spiral with somewhat diffuse ends oriented northwest to southeast, about two arc minutes in length. However, higher power (135x, 188x, and 238x) started to confuse the issue as the object showed its detail. First off, it had an irregular somewhat discontinuous dust lane, with the southeastern end of the galaxy looking almost like it was frayed or split by that lane. Second, extending south from the southern end was a broad slightly curved and very faint plume of light like the hint of a spiral arm. The other end of the galaxy looked rather diffuse and faint as well. I went back to Sky Safari Pro to see if the object had any more identifiers. Sure enough, it was ARP 157! Aha! Now I knew why it looked a little familiar. From my "portable library" I use in the field, I pulled out my book, "THE ARP ATLAS OF PECULIAR GALAXIES" and found the image for Arp 157. It was obviously a colliding pair of galaxies, so that mystery was solved. The name, however, remains elusive, as I still don't know who calls this object, "the Flying Ghost".

Next up was probably the hardest object in the Caldwell "list": the faint dwarf irregular galaxy IC 1613 in Cetus (in the middle of nowhere actually). I had seen this one before in my 10 inch (barely) but I wondered what the 14 inch would do with it. I went down and over to the area, carefully star-hopping to the galaxy's location, but not seeing anything. I repeated the star hop several times, identifying the stars along the way in a systematic fashion, but still, no joy. I kept ending up quite near a 7th magnitude star (HD 6375) each time, but no galaxy. Finally, I zoomed in on the image of IC 1613 in Sky Safari Pro and noted that there was indeed a bright star off the northern edge of the galaxy. I was in exactly the right spot where the galaxy supposedly was, so I started examining the field. Finally, when moving the scope, I noted a very very faint very diffuse roughly oval glow south of that star. BINGO! There was a little haze in parts of the sky that I later saw that probably hurt things a little, but this object still really is a dud and has no business on any supposed "best of" listing like the Caldwells are supposed to be. IC 1613 was definitely harder than Leo-1. The Orion Skyglow Broadband filter did help it a little at my lowest powers, as there was a hint of another fainter diffuse brightening off the northeastern edge of the main oval "cloud" of NGC 1613, but little other detail was present. That darn 7th magnitude star in the field and two 10th magnitude stars almost on top of the galaxy were almost drowning out the object itself! There appeared to be some really faint stars in the galaxy, but at its extreme distance, most were very probably foreground objects. At least now I know the 14 inch won't do much more for this faint object than my 10 inch did.

I went after M74 not far away, and while it was a lot easier than IC 1613, it still wasn't quite a "stirring" sight. John's 26mm Nagler (72x) seemed to proved the best overall view with the hazy outer glow showing hints of the "grand design" spiral structure that is so commonly seen in images. However, the arms were nowhere near as easy to see as in other galaxies like M51. 135x showed extensive mottling with patches and short arc-like features, but they had fairly low contrast and were difficult for the eye to "join" into a full spiral structure. Indeed, the view was not all that worse than that in a 22 inch Dobsonian last month at the Nebraska Star Party, so the 14 inch was still doing pretty well.

Next was the close pair of galaxies NGC 772 and NGC 770, both located in Aires not far east from Gamma (Mesartim). NGC 772 was visible at all powers as a small oval fuzzy spot with a notably small brighter middle, but it took higher power to reveal any detail in that galaxy. 135x revealed a tiny and fairly bright star-like nucleus and a very dim arc-like glow just north and a little west of the core which turned out to be the brighter of the two spiral arms. The other arm was basically just a glow well south of the core that flowed up as an enhancement of the galaxy's eastern and northern edges. NGC 770 was a very tiny faint oval fuzzy spot with no other detail, located about two arc minutes off the southern edge of NGC 772. It took over 100x just to clearly see it.

With Cetus now near the meridian, I decided I had had enough with going after faint stuff and pointed the Black Mamba down at "the Great Sculptor Spiral" NGC 253, putting in John's 26 Nager and 2.5x Powermate to get 144x. WOW!! The galaxy appeared as a gigantic band of nebulosity extending almost from one side of the field to the other, and was littered with light and dark detail all across its span. Although the spiral structure doesn't come out all that discreetly with this object, several long irregular spiral arm segments were easily visible flanked by numerous dust spots and short dark lane-like features, especially along the northwestern side. The galaxy literally "glistened" with fine detail in a way that is just stunning to the eye. The core showed a small slightly brighter spot very near its center and this nucleus-like feature was surrounded by other fainter patches and dark spots. I could have spent days studying this one galaxy, but it was time to move on.

We hit "The Skull" Nebula NGC 246 some distance north, and while we could see it without a filter in the 14 inch, it was vastly better with one. The NPB filter showed it nicely as a nearly circular fuzzy patch with eight or nine stars over it and some brightness variations within its disk. However, the OIII filter brought out the sharpness and inner detail quite a bit better, although the nebula was a little fainter than in the NPB filter. In particular, the dark spots of the interior did look maybe a little like an "eye hole" of a skull, although other than that, the name wasn't all that appealing to me. This object is kind of large for a planetary (between four and five arc minutes across), so it didn't take a lot of power to view it. Our best views came at 72x and 135x with the OIII filter.

We started using John's 26 mm Nagler a lot more, comparing it to our other eyepieces and seeing how it tended to do on some of my "favorites". We hit M31 in Andromeda and noted the dust lanes quite clearly, while on M33 (Triangulum), the amount of detail seen was simply astounding, so I am really starting to like that eyepiece. I had some 9momentary trouble with my next Andromeda target NGC 891 (one I like to call, "The Outer Limits Galaxy" after the image of it in the closing sequences of that 1960's science fiction TV series). However, after switching eyepieces for a larger field, I soon located it, appearing as a very dim highly elongated narrow patch of light slightly broader towards the middle. We could trace the main dust lane and its irregular detail all the way along the galaxy most clearly at 188x, but decided that the overall view was better at only 144x, where it did look more than a little like its photograph.

Next, I headed over to "the Bubble" Nebula NGC 7635 in Cassiopeia. This object is one which sits on the "most over-rated" DSO's list, as it isn't much to look at no matter how big the aperture is. The DGM Optics NPB filter seemed to provide the best view overall but even with the filter, there isn't much to see. The brightest portion is a small rather diffuse lens-shaped fuzzy patch centered on a 7th magnitude star. Higher power shows a faint almost claw-shaped curved extension of the main oval to the east curving a little to the south before quickly fading, as well as some very small scale patchyness in the main oval just west of that 7th magnitude star, but little else of the full "bubble" formation can be seen. There is also a fainter puffy "V" shaped patch a little to the north-northeast of the main oval that shows up, along with much much fainter hazy extensions to the northwest and southeast that are visible at very low power.

I decided to show John what the various filters did on the so-called "Pac Man" nebula, NGC 281, about 1.7 degrees due east of Alpha Cas. This one really showed up well in the 26mm Nagler with the NPB filter, looking like a large oval area of mottled haze with a large "hook" extending to the south. The NPB shows it with the largest area and greatest brightness, but with the Lumicon Oxygen III filter, the dark detail really comes out, with numerous inclusions and patches visible. We also looked at, "The Magnificent Cluster NGC 7789 a few degrees to the west of Alpha. It was very nice in the 26mm Nagler, although I preferred the somewhat higher power view (135x) in my 14mm ES100 eyepiece. The 14mm showed a large rich mass of perhaps 200 stars or more with some interesting sinuous dark lane-like features in the group.

John always likes viewing the Double Cluster (NGC 869/884) in his 8 inch f/5 at moderate power, and it is impressive in that scope, but I wondered what the 26mm Nagler would do with the 14 inches of the Black Mamba ahead of it. In a word, WOW!!! It was absolutely the perfect combination of aperture and field, with both clusters nicely filling the 63.9 arc minute true field of the eyepiece. The huge number of very bright stars made the view simply beyond words, and many of the stars showed very visible color, with most being bluish-white and white, along with a couple yellowish-white stars and several very noticeable ones that had vivid reddish-orange hues. This was probably the very best view I have ever gotten of the two clusters, and perhaps the best view of *any* cluster in the night sky.

We spent quite a bit of time with the 14 inch on the very rich galaxy cluster Abell 426, the Perseus Galaxy cluster. We tried a variety of powers and kept jumping from 135x to 188x to see what that would reveal. There were simply a few too many galaxies to easily count, although most of them were quite small and fairly faint. At 188x, the central core group right around NGC's 1275 and 1272 showed probably close to 20 individual galaxies in only a 20 arc minute true field. We also took a look at NGC 1499, the California Nebula. Both our scopes could not cover the whole nebula, but with the H-Beta filter and the 14 inch at 52x, I could see at least two broad filaments as I panned across the nebula with tattered edges and additional finer filamentary structure on the west end easily visible. In fact, I took the H-Beta filter out and held it up to my eye to look at Perseus, and I could see the California Nebula with just the filter and no other optical aid.

It was getting pretty late, so I finally made my last two objects be nebulae. In central Auriga is the nebulous cluster NGC 1893/IC 410. It appears as a modest irregular group of perhaps 50 stars in a rich starfield with an irregular overlay of diffuse haze. With the NPB nebula filter, the haze becomes a very well defined angular almost "U" shaped nebula over the cluster with a notable very dark void in the south-central portion. The OIII further sharpened and defined the edges of the nebula, as well as adding a little irregular dark detail, making the brighter portion of the nebula form an almost right-angle bend around the darker central area. My last stop was M42, and with the NPB, it was very nice, but still fairly low, so I called it quits and started packing things away. This had been the longest observing session I had done since last year's all-nighter at the Nebraska Star Party, and I would have to call it equally successful.

Clear skies to you.

#2 Gil V

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 09:15 AM

You really should consider writing a book. I'm absolutely serious.

I find your descriptions of what can be seen at the eyepiece to be remarkably accurate.

#3 IVM



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Posted 20 September 2013 - 10:11 AM

Great observing session, David. I have recently reobserved IC 1613 and the Pacman PN from our club site, where the culminating Cetus is actually in a reasonably dark part of the sky, 21.3 mag/sq acrsec by SQM-L. The IC observation was made in the wake of a cloud front that scoured the sky, and the galaxy just burst in fine detail. I had previously seen only the bar and the diffuse, large NE star cloud in this galaxy, and that from a remote dark site on an exceptional cold, dry night (with 12" though). Below are the notes pertaining to the Pacman and the IC 1613 sketch that I subsequently annotated with the help of the Hodge Atlas of the Local Group. The observations were made with 16".

03:15. PN NGC 246 ("Pacman Nebula") at 45x [Pentax XW40] looks like Pleiades might to the naked eye: a few stars with nebulosity that has a very slight bluish (cool) tint. At 225x [Ethos 8], the S two stars arc free from nebulosity, which forms a broad arc from NE to NW to S, involving 4 other stars, including the acute triangle of the brightest stars. There are 5 enhancements in the ring: NE T-shaped (leg of the “T” directed inwards), two brightest off the NE side of the triangle, and two to the S of its narrow base. The last one (going CW) is round and diffuse S of the star that the “Pacman” is swallowing in photos. The interior of the nebula in the region of the triangle, however, is visually almost as dark as around the last star. The view with OIII is poorer: only enhancements 1, 2, and 3 (CW in the arc visible without the filter) are visible. 03:55.

IC 1613, 16", mostly 225x. A - OB associations, D - dust clouds, H - HII regions. Listed mostly E to W, minor components in brackets. Nysa is a bright asteroid; I did consider the possibility of a supernova ;)

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#4 Sasa



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Posted 20 September 2013 - 04:01 PM

Wonderful report, David. Thanks.

#5 CelestronDaddy



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Posted 20 September 2013 - 05:34 PM

David - Nice report and thanks for the details on the various filters. It is nice to read such detailed reports and even though my largest scope is only a 6" SCT, it still motivates me to push it and get the most I can from it. Thanks :grin:

#6 nytecam


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Posted 24 September 2013 - 02:10 PM

Impressive session David :bow: - I cherry-picked NGC 520 = Arp 157 Sunday night [below] and a weird if bright gxy it is - Sloan DSS shows two or more gxys in collision :o

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#7 Astrodj


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Posted 24 September 2013 - 04:45 PM

A very informative and enjoyable read. Thanks for the report! :grin:

#8 gfeulner


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Posted 24 September 2013 - 06:27 PM

Ditto on writing a book. Beautiful descriptions. Gerry

#9 galaxyman


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Posted 25 September 2013 - 12:45 PM

Yes David, very nice report!


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#10 azure1961p


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Posted 25 September 2013 - 07:44 PM

That was a terrific report that covered a whole lot of great objects...

-The Flying Ghost Galaxy - I had to laugh - maybe someone at Souther Stars made it up! At anyrate your visual description jives well with Nytes Sloane pic.

-5 seconds of M57s central star - nothing beats aperture, a fine mirror and seeing to match.

- Ive never glimpsed stars beyond our own galaxy much less 1.6 million miles. Must have been very satisfying.

- NGC 253 with sparkling detail and dark bars - I'm 52 and Ive still not seen this one visually if only because I tend to write off low altitude objects. I ought to break that habit and give this galaxy a fair shake. You've had great things to say on out this object in your ten - I can imagine the 14 is all the better.

- the double cluster for some reason ends up being the one that closes the show for me at the end of a night. The double blaze of stars is always a startling contrast to the other things of the night. Its s unique pair. While my 8" view is via my 26mm TV plossl - that Nagler view and 14" light has got to be a moving experience. I don't doubt your descriptions at all.

- the egg nebula at such a low-moderate mag and that obvious? I still haven't seen this one yet. I kno it won't be as bright for me but its still an encouraging account. I like that higher powers revealed the more subtle but defining things.

I'm just hitting on a few - I might comment tomorrow as I'm heading out the door. Seriously well written report.


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