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Have you ever observed Pluto?

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#1 AstroDan2015

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 01:38 PM

Hi,

 

Has anybody here observed the dwarf planet Pluto? If so then you are in a very elite club, one that I wish to join. During my 40 some years of observing I still have not had the pleasure of viewing Clyde Tombaugh's grand and historic (1930) discovery.  frown.gif  What size scope is needed? I think my Meade 14" LX200 is large enough but very dark skies are probably required, along with high magnification. How many nights have to pass before you can actually see it change position in the field of view?


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#2 Starman47

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 01:49 PM

Looking forward to more info on this topic.



#3 Jim Davis

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 01:50 PM

I have observed it with a Meade 14. It didn't require particularly dark sky. The hardest part was figuring out which dot was it, since it is currently located toward the center of the Milky Way. Even after we knew it was in the field of view, we spent over an hour trying to figure out which star was actually the planet.


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#4 highfnum

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 01:56 PM

once

thru another scope

they had star charts

pointed to a dot 

i saw the dot

i assume they were correct



#5 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 02:09 PM

I've observed Pluto quite a few times over the years through a number of different telescopes.  It has grown increasingly more faint over the past two decades, however.  Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, some very experienced observers were able to detect it through very small apertures.  

http://astro.pietro....lutoCurrent.htm

 

http://astro.pietro....toVisualLog.htm

 

Dave Mitsky


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#6 hcf

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 02:12 PM

Not quite, it is beyond the range of my 8" Dob in my skies.

 

So, I "imaged to see" it with my Meade Adventure 80 on a ES EXOS Nano EQ mount with DIY RA Guiding. 5x 5 min subs stacked shows it as a speck. Only recommended for the desperate ! 


Edited by hcf, 04 March 2019 - 02:42 PM.


#7 Richard O'Neill

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 02:23 PM

A speck is a speck, the sky is full of them.


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#8 AstroDan2015

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 02:50 PM

A speck is a speck, the sky is full of them.

You are right, Richard. A speck is a speck is a speck, just like every grain of sand is basically the same. However, the one we live on seems a little better than all the rest. Sight is just 5% physical, the other 95% of seeing is with our; mind, imagination, heart and soul. Plus you have to factor in your feelings and emotions along with; age, IQ (a smart person usually sees more), time, temperature the season and surrounding sounds along with a number of other senses that make us human. All of which greatly enhance our observing experience, making life wondrous and I would say downright enjoyable!


Edited by AstroDan2015, 04 March 2019 - 03:26 PM.

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#9 Sketcher

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 02:54 PM

Pluto use to be a bit closer, brighter, and easier to see and identify.  I've observed Pluto a few times with 4-inch, 5-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch apertures -- all from dark skies.

 

A pair of careful sketches separated by 24 hours should be sufficient to reveal a noticeable change in position -- assuming an "appropriate" magnification is being used.  I've usually started with one sketch, with Pluto off-centered in such a manner as to allow for additional plottings as the object changes position from night to night.  One cannot always count on the 2nd night to be clear.

 

The currently required aperture depends heavily on the observer and their skies -- among other factors.  The only way to know for sure is to give it a try.

 

I've observed nine planets (one being Pluto) and two dwarf-planets (one being Pluto).  I find it "interesting" that some professionals are searching for the "ninth planet" when I've already seen the "ninth planet"! smile.gif


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#10 goodricke1

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 03:37 PM

I've observed nine planets (one being Pluto) and two dwarf-planets (one being Pluto).  I find it "interesting" that some professionals are searching for the "ninth planet" when I've already seen the "ninth planet"! smile.gif

 

Nearly all the professional literature no longer refers to Pluto as the 9th planet. If you're going to ignore that, you'll just be left behind I'm afraid.



#11 Sketcher

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 03:49 PM

Nearly all the professional literature no longer refers to Pluto as the 9th planet. If you're going to ignore that, you'll just be left behind I'm afraid.

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.  My point being that I observed Pluto before it was classified as a dwarf-planet (at a time when it was looked upon as the ninth planet) and also after it was classified as a dwarf-planet.


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#12 The Ardent

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 03:55 PM

A few years ago with a friends 25” dob. Had a hard time at first - wasn’t seeing it at all. He had Skytools time set wrong. Once we updated the chart, it was easy to find and see.
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#13 mvas

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 04:21 PM

Hi,

 

Has anybody here observed the dwarf planet Pluto? If so then you are in a very elite club, one that I wish to join. During my 40 some years of observing I still have not had the pleasure of viewing Clyde Tombaugh's grand and historic (1930) discovery.  frown.gif  What size scope is needed? I think my Meade 14" LX200 is large enough but very dark skies are probably required, along with high magnification. How many nights have to pass before you can actually see it change position in the field of view?

If you can see ~14th magnitude stars in your telescope at your site, then you should be able to find Pluto.

 

As you can see the plot below ...

Pluto's relative motion against the stars varies and changes direction twice in 2019

It is possible to notice that Pluto has moved, just one night later.

 

Path of Pluto 2019 ...

http://cdn.simplesit...w1280h1280_.jpg


Edited by mvas, 04 March 2019 - 04:21 PM.

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#14 AstroDan2015

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 04:46 PM

Thanks, great chart. I am posting it here live...

 

i281756464727070850__szw1280h1280_.jpg

 

Please click on the chart to enlarge.

 

 


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#15 mich_al

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 06:16 PM

Tried a couple of Summers ago with a 250 Mewlon.  Many many attempts thru the Summer with constantly updated star charts.  I think I probably might have seen it, maybe.  Sometimes there could have been a speck where the chart said was Pluto, maybe.



#16 Tech Hiker

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:07 PM

I found it in 2015 using blink comparison. Of course I had a huge advantage over Clyde Tombaugh.  I knew which way to look.

pluto-150821-23.gif


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#17 Redbetter

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 12:43 AM

Pluto is not nearly as difficult as it is often made out to be.  The frequent suggestions that it takes enormous aperture or unusually dark sky to see it are probably responsible for most not even attempting to do so.  The other obstacle is a good chart that shows the track among stars in the 14 to 15 mag range.

 

I observed Pluto as a newbie with an 8" SCT decades ago when it was still in the high 13 mag range and didn't consider it difficult at all.  It is at least half a magnitude dimmer now, but I have observed it with a 110ED refractor from a dark site in the past 2 years.  I have not succeeded with an 80ED so far, but haven't had a night of steady seeing during the attempt.  I suspect I could manage it with a 90mm.  I have also seen it through the 20" stopped down to 6".  My novice son was able to locate it in only a few minutes with his 10" Dob. 

 

The common denominator in all instances has been a good finder chart to sort out the 14th mag field stars.  I use S&T's annual chart.  I have not had any difficulty identifying the movement across the busy field the next night or subsequent nights.  It shouldn't be too difficult with a 14" if you have skies & eyes that let you see stars past about 14.5 mag. 

 

Ceres is a dwarf planet that you can detect at times naked eye.

 

The other two "certified" dwarf planets I have observed are Haumea and Makemake.  These were targets for the 20" in dark sky.  I manually plotted their positions on some hand drawn fields based on Wikisky images and MPC ephemerides for each.  I was able to observe them over several nights and see their movement against the star field.  The only one missing from my dwarf planet set is Eris.  It is simply too dim for the 20" by eye.


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#18 Starhunter249

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 11:00 PM

I have found Pluto only once. This was 9 years ago when I first got my 8 inch goto scope. I used the goto capabilites to get close to Pluto and then manually slew the scope to correct grouping of stars that it should be in. I used stellarium to make sure I was looking at the correct faint dot in respect to the orientation of the stars that were near Pluto. I found Pluto again the next night but I couldn't tell if it moved much, the scope's computer and stellarium is telling me I am looking at this far way ice planet. I guess I cheated in respect to the old school astronomers who have to use their star hopping skills to find something like that. Even with the GOTO, I wouldnt say it was easy to locate because it was so faint and GOTO isn't 100 percent precise. I still had to slew around to find the right star pattern. Then there it was. I didn't need averted vision to see pluto, it was dim but my eyes had no trouble directly looking at this point of light. It was something I crossed off my bucket list but wasn't all that exciting to observe. I tried again the following years to locate pluto and did not have any success. I would find where Pluto should be but couldn't see it.  My skies in my backyard were much darker the first time. But my small little town has gotten a lot brighter in the past nine years and haven't seen it since. Today I am limited to Moon, Planets minus pluto, bright DSOs, and the occasional brighter comets in the backyard. Good thing is I don't have to drive far to get really good dark skies. Bad thing is they aren't on public lands and have to hide myself and my quicker grab and go setup behind a farmer's silo after dark.


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#19 Sketcher

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Posted 06 March 2019 - 10:56 AM

The common denominator in all instances has been a good finder chart to sort out the 14th mag field stars.  I use S&T's annual chart.  I have not had any difficulty identifying the movement across the busy field the next night or subsequent nights.  It shouldn't be too difficult with a 14" if you have skies & eyes that let you see stars past about 14.5 mag. 

I've also often (usually) used S&T's annual charts, though I've also (at times) used custom charts generated by SkyTools.  For use with some telescopes, the S&T charts will need to be mirror-reversed.  I've almost always restricted my Pluto observations to the weeks surrounding opposition and to time frames when Pluto has been near my south meridian (when highest in my sky) -- basically, just "common sense" provisions to make the task easier.

 

An added piece of advice:  Make sure you know the true field of view of your selected "Pluto eyepiece" (as well as where north and west are in your eyepiece field).  I suspect most experienced observers are quite familiar with their eyepiece true fields and can determine eyepiece directions more or less in their sleep.  Such knowledge can be very useful, even indispensable, for many observational purposes -- not just for Pluto.


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#20 BradFran

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Posted 07 March 2019 - 03:50 PM

Several times in several scopes... back in the 90s! The first few times I wasn't sure I had actually seen it, but believed the more experienced amateurs that it was in the field and visible. Consensus was an 8" was enough from a good dark site. I bagged it alone using a printed finding chart in my 10" around 2000 when it was still below mag 14. It doesn't resolve as a disc and appears star like. The 10" can go to 14.5 under ideal conditions.

 

It's orbital period is 248 years with a high eccentricity. Perihelion was 1989, aphelion will be 2114, so It's only getting dimmer year for year. According to NASA it varies between 13.65 and 15.1 visual magnitude.

 

https://nssdc.gsfc.n.../plutofact.html

 

Current Mag: 14.38


Edited by BradFran, 07 March 2019 - 04:41 PM.

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#21 Allan Wade

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Posted 08 March 2019 - 01:05 AM

In 2013 it went right past a Palomar Globular cluster, which made it easy to pin point. I followed it for several nights in a 12” and saw it moving every night. Some of those nights were from my suburban home, so particularly dark skies are not really necessary, unless you’re trying for it in a small scope.

 

These days I use Sky Safari 6 with the optional deep star database. With some stars down to magnitude 17 I find it easy enough to orientate myself in the star field and pick out Pluto. That’s what I did when locating Haumea and Makemake.

 

I spent about 3 hours at the eyepiece last year trying to pick out Charon. I learnt from that experience and have it on my bucket list for this year once the 32” gets elevated off the ground and into the climate controlled observatory. 


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#22 Redbetter

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Posted 08 March 2019 - 01:10 AM

Be aware that the claimed magnitudes for Pluto at opposition are somewhat varied.  That ~14.4 figure is not bad, although it might be a tenth or two low compared to MPC results.  Some software shows values that seem a little low, some a little high.  A few years ago the Minor Planet Center ephemeris was reporting values that were particularly far off on the high side--and some articles or software might be using orbital elements based on the erroneous values from what I have seen.  The unusually high value has been addressed after it was brought to MPC's attention, but the they still run a few tenths higher than earlier sources. 

 

Note that at aphelion in 2114 Pluto is likely to be about ~15.9 mag.  MPC's ephemeris won't allow dates that far out, but it would likely report about 16.2 to 16.3 on that date. 

 

There is some periodic variation of Pluto's apparent magnitude because of albedo differences both on its surface and on that of Charon.  The period is essentially that of Charon's orbit around Pluto and is worth a +/- 0.1 mag or so.  That could be enough to make a difference if a scope is on the bleeding edge of being able to show Pluto.


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#23 JoeInMN

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Posted 08 March 2019 - 09:07 PM

Years ago with a 10" Dob under a dark sky. I will qualify that by saying that I knew that one of the faint specks in the field was Pluto, and that I was about 87% certain that I had correctly identified which of those faint specks actually was Pluto... Were I to do it again, I would sketch the positions and look again a few days later, but I guess I'm satisfied.


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#24 Bill Barlow

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Posted 09 March 2019 - 09:35 PM

I'm pretty sure I found it several years ago when I owned a C14.  I was using a S+T finder chart and manually found the area in the sky above Saggitarius.  The problem was that there were several other dots that were in the area and looked the same.  They must have been stars dimmer than what the finder chart was showing.  So I saw it but couldn't 100% pick out the dot the was Pluto.

 

Bill


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#25 SabiaJD

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Posted 10 March 2019 - 12:23 PM

Have seen Pluto using a friends 24 inch DOB mounted scope.  Confirmed it with images taken on the same nights.

 

Many years previous I search out Pluto with the 9.5" F/15 Clark r scope . After a number of tries Pluto was identified in the correct position in the eyepiece FOV.

My eyes were better then , and a the sky conditions that night were suitable to detect it at 13 magnitude.

 

Have many images of Pluto over the years using  the RC20. Haven't tried to see it visually for many years.


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