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First Night Out. Q's.

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#1 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 07:31 AM

For the first time in my life I was thankful to be woken up by my aging, ever more insistent bladder. The clock read 6am. I peaked out the window and instantly saw something other than overcast skies which have dogged me every night for days since getting "started". I popped outside and saw about five stars and the moon. Of course, within about 10 minutes I was aware of stars all around me as my eyes adjusted. Time was short. I grabbed the Nikon 10x50 Acular binoculars and the tripod. I felt like a kid in a candy store for the first time in decades. I propped up the tripod with the glasses on them and realized that my body doesn't bend in any way the tripod (which is about 5' tall fully extended) wanted me to maneuver. I grabbed a stool. Still not right. I grabbed a folding chair. Better, but still not great. I ended up just unscrewing the binoculars.

 

I then realized I had no idea where to really look. I have about five sky apps on my phone, but also decided to take another look at SkySafari and much to my surprise the Pro version was on sale for $27.99. I grabbed it, but it would be of no use this time as it needed to download 2GB of additional data. Wow. More to investigate later.

 

I picked the most obvious spot in the sky just above me. My phone says it was Vega. I believe I was looking somewhat north. It was pretty high in the sky, but not directly overhead. I then noticed two very close stars lower and left of it. Not sure what they were.

 

Spica (so I found out) then jumped out to my right and lower than the moon. I'm not sure why, but even though the moon surface looked better than ever I just skipped right past it. I suspect my instinct was that there'd be plenty of time later to see the moon. I wanted to see something different.

 

I then ended up at Ursa Major and a point of confusion on charts. My phone app said I was looking at Benetnasch, Alcor & Mizar, Alioth (with 78 Zuma) and Megrez. Pocket Sky Atlas and "Guide to the Stars" (A large round plastic circle atlas that you spin to the month/day/time) both said the first star at the end of the handle is Alkaid. So what the heck is Benetnasch? Hmm.

 

I kept looking around the sky. What to focus on?  Back to Vega. Close to it, but lower and left where two stars very close to each other. Maybe Altair and something? Much higher up my phone said I was looking at Deneb. I then oddly bounced around this "summer" triangle (said the charts) noticing less bright stars for a surprising amount of time.

 

Then I decided to swing back to Ursa Major and, as I was looking at Alkaid/Benetnasch, something strange happened that I wasn't expecting. A star moved. What? Okay. Stars don't move so something moved from my right to left. It flew at an immense speed. A solid white light from the direction of Alcor straight across Alkaid and continued off to the South on a very specific path. It was gone in roughly 10 seconds. Then, moments later I noticed a second object following in nearly, but not quite the same path. Same speed, same look. I assumed perhaps planes, but I've seen planes as high as 37,000 feet in the sky and they're bigger than this. Did I just see my first satellites perhaps? Is there a way to know, and if so, which ones? This was at roughly 6:15am.

 

I then kept looking for more such moving targets, but that was all I found. I finished off by just taking in everything I was seeing. Frankly, it was oddly (for me) overwhelming. I realized at once how completely lost I was. I had no idea where to really look, what might be fun to find, etc. I just bounced from object to object surprised at how many I absolutely could not see with my eyes, but that appeared with the binoculars. Fascinating.

 

One disappointment is that no planets seemed to be out. I later saw that Mars, Jupiter, Saturn (and Pluto hiding near Saturn) should have been in my lower sky right of Vega, but I never saw them. I believe they must have been below my horizon and in low clouds. The other disappointment was that I saw nothing .... out of the ordinary. Everything I saw was essentially a white dot of varying degree in the sky. Nothing I could say was anything other than a star aside from the obvious Moon and the possible satellites/planes.

 

And then it was all over. Far too fast. Neighbors began to pop out (I was in my driveway looking, I'm sure, fairly disheveled). I got a number of what I expect were the first of many quizzical looks. They're just going to have to adjust to this new normal.


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#2 desertstars

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 07:58 AM

 

I picked the most obvious spot in the sky just above me. My phone says it was Vega. I believe I was looking somewhat north. It was pretty high in the sky, but not directly overhead.

That sounds right for Vega in the early morning, this time of year. That's where I've been seeing it recently. I'm usually out just before the sun rises, these days, seeing my wife off to work.

 

 

I'm not sure why, but even though the moon surface looked better than ever I just skipped right past it. I suspect my instinct was that there'd be plenty of time later to see the moon.

I've had my best views of the Moon on early mornings, when the seeing is often as steady as it can be. And yes, you can rely on the Moon to get back to you. wink.gif

 

 

I then ended up at Ursa Major and a point of confusion on charts. My phone app said I was looking at Benetnasch, Alcor & Mizar, Alioth (with 78 Zuma) and Megrez. Pocket Sky Atlas and "Guide to the Stars" (A large round plastic circle atlas that you spin to the month/day/time) both said the first star at the end of the handle is Alkaid. So what the heck is Benetnasch? Hmm.

Eta Ursae Majoris by any other name... You will often find more than one name or designation for the same star.

 

 

Did I just see my first satellites perhaps? Is there a way to know, and if so, which ones? This was at roughly 6:15am.

That would be my guess.

 

If Jupiter had been clear of obstruction, you'd have known it. Aside from the Moon, it would have been the brightest light in the sky.

 

As for the neighbors, been there, done that. The strange looks stopped after the first time I set up the Three-legged Newt in the driveway to show the Moon to the neighborhood kids on Halloween. grin.gif

 

 



#3 ltj

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:03 AM

Welcome to astronomy! There's a lot to discover out there. Have fun and enjoy the trip. Your neighbors will just have to adjust!

Clear skies! Jeff



#4 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:15 AM

That sounds right for Vega in the early morning, this time of year. That's where I've been seeing it recently. I'm usually out just before the sun rises, these days, seeing my wife off to work.

 

If Jupiter had been clear of obstruction, you'd have known it. Aside from the Moon, it would have been the brightest light in the sky.

 

As for the neighbors, been there, done that. The strange looks stopped after the first time I set up the Three-legged Newt in the driveway to show the Moon to the neighborhood kids on Halloween. grin.gif

I'm now pretty sure the two stars I saw near Vega were Sheliak and Sulafat. I'll need to take a closer look. Jupiter was definitely not visible. I know it by years of seeing it with just my eyes. Spica was probably the brightest thing during this window. 

 

I'll win over the neighbors keeping your lead in mind. 

 

I also notice that Mercury is supposedly up, but not sure if you can see it with binoculars in daylight. The big thing now is that tonight is supposed to be decent viewing so now I'm wondering what I should target. Is there anything that can be seen in binoculars that won't be just a white dot? I'm very curious to see anything other than a planet, star or the moon. 



#5 SeaBee1

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:16 AM

Binoculars are kinda like licorice... most of us either love 'em... or we don't...

 

They are good tools, as they can give you a bit of the big picture... next time out, and your skies are clear, look specifically for M45 (the Pleiades), which is an open star cluster in the constellation Taurus. This object is made for binos... and if your skies are dark enough take a look at M31 (the Andromeda galaxy)... later this year, when Jupiter is visible, try your binos on the Big Guy and see if you can see his moons (4 of them should be visible)... there are many such things to see with a pair of binoculars, but you will need a good guide geared to bino viewing. Visit the Binocular forum on CN for some inspiration.

 

When you do get a scope, binoculars can also be helpful when learning to star hop (if that is the path you decide to take...).

 

As always, YMMV... binoculars are not for everyone...

 

Keep looking up!

 

CB



#6 eyeoftexas

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:29 AM

Oh, happy day of first light!  What to see, what to see.  It is a delight to see new things.  I've been trying to slow down after starting this fun hobby about 10 months ago.  Clouds will (eventually) go away, so take your time and see a few things for long times.  There are many excellent guides on what is visible with binoculars, beyond the points of light.  While waiting for Amazon to deliver them, check out: http://skymaps.com/downloads.html which is updated monthly, and provides a free sky chart download for each month that lists some of the best things to see with the eyes, binoculars, and scopes.  This month it suggests Andromeda galaxy, and numerous open star clusters are visible in the northern skies.  Of course, there's everyone's favorite, the Orion Nebula.

 

Clear Skies!



#7 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:53 AM

Binoculars are kinda like licorice... most of us either love 'em... or we don't...

CB, in my case they're a future tool and something to tide me over for a short period while I decide which type of scope I'm going to go with. Large thread on that elsewhere here. I wanted them for other things as well, so it was a no-brainer to grab them now instead of just going without anything while in this waiting period. 

 

I'll look for M45 tonight. It'll give me a chance to put SkySafari to the test as well. What should it look like? 

 

I was wondering about Andromeda (M31 which you just informed me of). I'm in a B6 area at home so we'll see. Philly 30 minutes NW. 

 

I do own Turn Left at Orion and it seems to be very binocular-friendly. Probably the best recommendation I've gotten so far as it was a wonderful first introduction read. 

 

Thanks for the input. Oh, I do suspect star hopping will be my start, but the Nexus DSC is a rather large bright light drawing my attention....


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#8 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:57 AM

Of course, there's everyone's favorite, the Orion Nebula.

This sounds like it should be all over the sky given all the mentions of it, but I didn't trip over it this morning. I'll see if that's in the sky tonight. The list is growing! 



#9 Blackbelt76

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 08:57 AM

Enjoy the clear skies.

They are rare here in Northern Indiana this time of year.

We will have clear skies tonight, but temps expected to be in the single digits...

I love visual with the scope, but at 8 degrees, I'm not yet sure if I love it that much. ;)


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#10 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 09:02 AM

Enjoy the clear skies.

They are rare here in Northern Indiana this time of year.

We will have clear skies tonight, but temps expected to be in the single digits...

I love visual with the scope, but at 8 degrees, I'm not yet sure if I love it that much. wink.gif

Here in South Jersey we haven't really had winter yet. Bummer for ski season at least locally. At 6am it was surprisingly comfortable here, but I think half of that was my complete distraction. 8 degrees, however, I'd have noticed. Ugh.



#11 desertstars

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 09:09 AM

 

Is there anything that can be seen in binoculars that won't be just a white dot?

 

Much of what I'm looking at with the 10x50s I just acquired amounts to collections of white (and sometimes other colors) dots. Wide open clusters such as the Hyades, the Alpha Persei group, and the region around Orion's Belt come immediately to mind.

 

This summer, regardless of what telescope you have by then, slowly scan the Milky Way with that binocular you've been using thus far. Trust me on that one. cool.gif


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#12 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 09:22 AM

Much of what I'm looking at with the 10x50s I just acquired amounts to collections of white (and sometimes other colors) dots. Wide open clusters such as the Hyades, the Alpha Persei group, and the region around Orion's Belt come immediately to mind.

 

This summer, regardless of what telescope you have by then, slowly scan the Milky Way with that binocular you've been using thus far. Trust me on that one. cool.gif

That gives me hope. I was just on http://astronomy.too...field_of_view/ 

 

I set it to the old model of these binos (Nikon Action 10x50) and set it to M31. If I can see ANYTHING remotely like what is shows there, this will be my main hobby for the remainder of my time on this rock. 

 

I'll scan the Milky Way as you suggest. Do you mainly use them just by holding them? 


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#13 whizbang

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 09:57 AM

With binos, you will need to concentrate on large bright objects: m31, m44, m45, double cluster, Mizar, double double.  Research asterisms too: the coat hanger, kremble cascade, etc.



#14 msl615

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 10:00 AM

A great book to help with this is "Turn Right at Orion".....it has excellent background on what you can see when, stories, helpful hints, what is possible at certain times of year, etc.  I have had scopes for decades, and still use this when exploring a new section of sky.  You can read what is visible with binos, small scopes, etc.  

 

BTW, my wife will always come out to look at planets, etc, but my interest in stars mystifies her....through the scope they still "look like little white dots....just more of them".

 

Here in Fairbanks, dark = cold and we never get to have darkness and warmth.  It is -15F at my scope pier right now this AM and I will be out there tonight looking for some of my favorite "little white dots". 

 

Mike



#15 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 10:10 AM

A great book to help with this is "Turn Right at Orion".....

Mike, I own it. It's the best recommendation I've gotten so far. Absolutely a great read. Oh, and you turned the wrong way. It's Turn LEFT at Orion. heheh

 

As far as the cold, I'm an old ice hockey travel team guy (decades back now) and the ability to remain warm in cold weather is still with me, but -15 while just sitting? Ouch. I'd HAVE to have a thermos filled with something hot, some nice layers on and possibly warmers of some sort. Hell, I think I'd get a battery to drive a seat warmer!


Edited by Agrajag, 14 February 2020 - 10:11 AM.


#16 desertstars

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 02:12 PM

That gives me hope. I was just on http://astronomy.too...field_of_view/ 

 

I set it to the old model of these binos (Nikon Action 10x50) and set it to M31. If I can see ANYTHING remotely like what is shows there, this will be my main hobby for the remainder of my time on this rock. 

 

I'll scan the Milky Way as you suggest. Do you mainly use them just by holding them? 

In the past I've used lighter weight binos when exploring the summer Milky Way. This heavier item will need some sort of support. I have a tripod adapter for it, but I'm not finding it as useful as I'd hoped. Elsewhere on the forum someone suggested a zero-gravity lounge chair for comfortable binocular viewing. Haven't made that purchase yet, but I will probably follow that advice.



#17 clearwaterdave

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 03:02 PM

Bino's mounted on a tripod with a tilt/ball head can be very restricting for astro views.,A parellagram type mount is much more user friendly.,

  I built this very simple pipemount for my 15x70's and it is a treat to use.,I put some 12x50's on for a counter weight.,double your pleasure,double your fun.,lol.,

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#18 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 04:16 PM

There's a section on binocular astronomy in my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287

It includes a number of observing lists. 


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#19 Agrajag

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 04:25 PM

There's a section on binocular astronomy in my post (#22) at https://www.cloudyni...mers/?p=5184287

It includes a number of observing lists. 

Thanks! This is a lot of great info. Much to prepare for now.



#20 astrochef

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 04:54 PM

Hi Agrajag,

Another suggestion, Have you nosed around the binoculars forum yet?  There is a long running "what did you see last night in your binoculars" thread that is a good place to see what is up and what people are seeing. (Just keep in mind that some of these folks are using really big binos.)

M-45 (Pleiades) is a great target that just screams binoculars.  Also roughly between the Pleiades and the Hyades is a fun asterism known as Davis' Dog.  Your 10x50s will frame it nicely. I'll attach a couple pics.  These were through 15x70s but the cell phone is not the most effective tool for photographing stars. They should give you and idea of what you'll see. But your actual view will be much more pleasing.

Spend some time cruising around Orion.  Tons of great fields all over the "belt" and 'sword" area. It's also a region that you'll want to be familiar with when you get that telescope.  

 

 

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#21 SeaBee1

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 05:19 PM

CB, in my case they're a future tool and something to tide me over for a short period while I decide which type of scope I'm going to go with. Large thread on that elsewhere here. I wanted them for other things as well, so it was a no-brainer to grab them now instead of just going without anything while in this waiting period. 

 

I'll look for M45 tonight. It'll give me a chance to put SkySafari to the test as well. What should it look like? 

 

I was wondering about Andromeda (M31 which you just informed me of). I'm in a B6 area at home so we'll see. Philly 30 minutes NW. 

 

I do own Turn Left at Orion and it seems to be very binocular-friendly. Probably the best recommendation I've gotten so far as it was a wonderful first introduction read. 

 

Thanks for the input. Oh, I do suspect star hopping will be my start, but the Nexus DSC is a rather large bright light drawing my attention....

 

M45 is the open star cluster "poster child"... it looks good even from my Bortle 40 light polluted sky. It should look good from your south Jersey location, and binoculars are preferred by many to view it. To me it looks almost like diamonds on a piece of black velvet... well... OK, grey velvet... It's a worthy target...

 

M31 is going to be a bit tougher in your south Jersey skies... it is mostly a grey haze in my DFW skies and faint at that. It does not like light pollution. It is what I would call an intellectual target... not much to see, but you can say "I saw a galaxy 2.5 million light years away!". We all have to come to terms with light pollution unless we live in a remote location never trod by human feet...

 

Because of my light pollution, I have chosen a path to targets that are, for the most part, immune to light pollution, such as planets, the moon, open clusters (not my favorite, but still...), and double stars. Sometimes planetary nebula. Basically anything that is bright enough to show up to the party...

 

"Turn Left..." is a good place to start since it has the binocular symbol for targets that will be viewable with them.

 

Keep looking up!

 

CB



#22 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 09:12 PM

I was going to mention the ongoing thread in the Binoculars section of Equipment Discussions but astrochef beat me to the punch.

https://www.cloudyni...oculars-part-3/



#23 brentknight

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Posted 14 February 2020 - 11:34 PM

That gives me hope. I was just on http://astronomy.too...field_of_view/ 

 

I set it to the old model of these binos (Nikon Action 10x50) and set it to M31. If I can see ANYTHING remotely like what is shows there, this will be my main hobby for the remainder of my time on this rock. 

 

I'll scan the Milky Way as you suggest. Do you mainly use them just by holding them?

Something like this works very well for binoculars.  Just hand-held with elbows on the arm rests for support.

 

zero-g.jpg

 

I've been able to use my 25x100's using one of these...


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#24 desertstars

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 09:40 AM

Something like this works very well for binoculars.  Just hand-held with elbows on the arm rests for support.

 

attachicon.gifzero-g.jpg

 

I've been able to use my 25x100's using one of these...

How flat do these things go? (No shortage of places in Tucson that'll order one for me, but I have yet to find one on display anywhere to actually check out before buying.) 



#25 vdog

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 10:14 AM

Those two stars near Vega were probably Epsilon Lyrae, also known as the Double Double, as each star reveals itself to be a double at high magnification.
Doubles and triples can be fun bino targets. Look for the colorful triple Omicron Cygni near Vega. Also nearby is Albireo but that's harder to split at 10x.

Edited by vdog, 15 February 2020 - 10:14 AM.



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