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7/15/2016

Uncle Al Starwheel Free Planisphere from UC Berkeley Hall of Science






Above, following the links I provide in this post, is an Uncle Al's Star Wheel, or free planisphere. It helps you to learn the constellations and find out more about the night sky. A great activity or two is to make one, or several, and go in the backyard and see with yourself and perhaps your family or friends, how many constellations you can make out. You may need to move around little in your yard, if you have one.

You could also do the same activity, but highlight the constellations you can see, or put a dot next to their name, and then make another one, and go into the country or remote area and highlight or better, put that dot next to the constellations you can see from there. Then compare the planispheres!

Many, MANY great recommendations that are all viable and great! Here is a free one online. Warning, the LINK will take you directly to the PDF which is of Uncle Al's Star Wheel. The wheel will not automatically download, but it only shows one wheel, with one option.  It is a planisphere that is free, you download and print out and put together, like the one in the picture above.  I have it saved, printed, and I copied it unto mild card stock and laminated it to give out.  The first link is to the northern hemisphere. Want to check it out? It is from the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley and this second LINK takes you to where you have the option to download the northern hemisphere, or the southern hemisphere. You can choose in the northern hemisphere, English, Japanese or Icelandic (not sure why) and a wheel for Alaska. The southern hemisphere has English, Spanish and Portuguese available.  The southern hemisphere also has a pulsar locator according to the constellation on a star wheel. LOTS of info here for free and pretty basic.

I recommend you print for the northern latitude the wheel with and without lines and decide which one is easier to use. Some find the one without lines easier to use at first. This YouTube Video LINK gives a good visual presentation on how to use this or any planisphere.

There you go. A great way to get started in astronomy, to get others interested in astronomy or to just have a free planisphere if that is what you want! Enjoy!

7/14/2016

Review of Agena Astro Dual ED StarGuider Eyepieces 1.25 inch 12mm and 25mm


Okay, on a whim I was reading over on CloudyNights and found a solid and excellent recommendation for these two eyepieces.  I looked them up, and for $60 I figured, why not? If they are good I need some outreach eyepieces or loaners when I am at a dark site if someone shows up and needs some additional eyepieces.  I used them last night in the backyard with my AR102 and my 14" dob.  Below comes the review after the specs.

25mm StarGuider ED  LINK
1.25 inch
60 degree FOV
20mm Eye Relief
Filter Threads 1.25
Fully Multi-Coated
5 Lens Elements
3 Lens Groups
Blackened Lens Edge: Yes
There is an undercut for safety but no problems with it.
Rubber Eye Guard: Yes/Twist Up
Weight: 5.9oz/167g
Made in China


Below you can see the two eyepieces and they come with the bolt cases below them. The 25mm is on the right, the 12mm is on the left.



In this image below, you can see the 12mm with the eye guard twisted up to wear I need it to observe with my glasses on and to provide the images I want.



The images below show the eyepiece looking right down the barrel on the 25mm. 









I have to admit that I was not just pleasantly surprised, but stunned by how well the 25mm performed in both the AR102 and in the 14" dob.  Images were sharp across the FOV, and I did not need to adjust the eye guard using the twist up.  I wore my glasses and the view was fantastic.  Alberio was sharp, color for both stars was clearly evident as yellow/orange and blue.  The presentation of both the object, Alberio, and the FOV was extremely pleasant.  I was impressed at this point.  I had used my DeLite's early that night and my Pentax XW's, 10mm and 20mm, and though not quite up to that level, this eyepiece by Agena is a keeper. It provided a much better view than the Orion Stratus or Baader Hyperion eyepieces that I had started out with. For the cost, this is a winner.

I went on to view Messier 22 and that provided a small fuzz of light in the AR102, with a nice wide field presentation. The 14" showed more of Messier 22 here, larger, more stars resolved and a very wonderful sight. I liked it! Great as a finder eyepiece!  From Messier 22 I went up to the Lagoon Nebula and here the view was again, sharp and crisp across the FOV, the contrast was very dark behind allowing the stars and objects to pop.  This was true both the AR102 and the 14" In the AR102 some nebulosity was observed, especially by the two bright stars in this OC and Nebula as they lit up the nebulosity.  The 14" showed more contrast thanks to the Zambuto and thus more of the nebula.

I tried at Messier 51 with the AR102 for the challenge, and between the light pollution and moon two days past first quarter, that extra light just about drowned it out. Since I know where this wonderful galaxy lays, I could detect a hint of the main galaxy in the 25mm StarGuider ED.  The 14" showed the galaxies better, hints of bright cores in both,

My last view this night in the test was Luna itself. Here again the 25mm was sharp, details popping, a good contrast between the lunar features and the varying layers of gray around them. The AR102 showed only a small hint of purple around the edge of the moon, but in truth, I didn't notice because I was focused on the view. The 14" loved teasing out detail with its Zambuto mirror on various craters, and the items in them.

My overall impression of this eyepiece is it is an instant winner. There is some slight field curvature to the eyepiece, but not enough to ruin the view. Use it for outreach or as a night loaner at a dark site? Yep, works awesome for that. Use myself, maybe, if I want to stay in the 60 degree range in a 1 1/4 (sorry, it is an wonderful eyepiece but not my 22mmNaglerT4 or my 26mmNagler T5).  If I was new to the hobby and looking to upgrade in a budget from plossls, this is the eyepiece! No problem on my end recommending this eyepiece as the poster on CloudyNights also recommended. It did very, VERY well in the AR102 and the 14" dob. No doubt either on the 20mm of eye relief on this eyepiece. I observed as I said with my glasses on, and with my glasses off with no problem (lazy on my part. I need my glasses to see the sky but not for observing). Finally the weight of these will not unbalance any scope that I own or have ever owned or used.


12mm Agena StarGuider ED LINK
1.25 inch
60 degree FOV
20mm Eye Relief*
Filter Threads 1.25
Fully Multi-Coated
6 Lens Elements
4 Lens Groups
Blackened Lens Edge: Yes
There is an undercut for safety but no problems with it.
Rubber Eye Guard: Yes/Twist Up
Weight: 6.1oz/173g
Made in China

I have to say at first, when I swapped the 25mm out with the 12mm, it was like WHAT! The stars would not come to a complete focus and be pin points of light. My first reaction here is to think and I remembered the eye guard and I hadn't twisted it up. So I adjusted the eye guard and the stars come to their pin points. Alberio was better for me with no glasses using this eyepiece. Closer with the increase magnification, the sky background was slightly lighter but not a lot.  I like this eyepiece. It was pleasing on Alberio in both the AR102 and the 14" dob.  I think I preferred at this point the 25mm more, as my notes record.

From Alberio, I went to Messier 22 and here I saw a major difference. Even in the light pollution and the light of a moon two days past first quarter, the globular popped out. With the AR102  I could discern several, three chain of stars on M22. The core had a slightly brighter appearance then the outer edge, not much but enough that I could pick it up, especially in the 14" but the AR102 did quite well with this. The 14" of course showed far more stars and chains, and it was fun to see M22 in this light through this eyepiece. Sharp and crisp and the 12mm was starting to grow on me.

The Lagoon Nebula in the AR102 with the 12mm was very nice, sharp, the nebula was quite evident with structure also evident in it. The 14" showed the nebula in this eyepiece quite well, and the stars popped. Now I was really liking the 12mm.

On M51 the AR102 showed with the 12mm a little hint of where it is located and in the 14" I could both see the inner core regions and the companion.

On Luna in the AR102 with the 12mm showed crisp and excellent views. There were structures seen in the craters and contrasts of the white and gray's was excellent. In the 14" this eyepiece was extremely pleasing.

Final judgement on the 12mm is I like the 25mm overall a little better, but the 12mm was an extremely solid eyepiece. I actually prefer it also to the 13mm Stratus and Hyperion, though those have a slightly wider FOV by 8 degrees if I remember correctly.

Here is an image of the bolt cases that come free with them.



I am not going to rate this in a quick reference guide as I think there is too much to consider, and each observer varies in what they think and view of an eyepiece.  Having said that, if you are a beginner looking to upgrade from say Plossls and what a solid to very good eyepiece, these are the ones.  Thee come in 3.2mm, 5mm, 8mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm and 25mm.  The 25mm is outstanding, and I really liked the 12mm, and will be keeping both. They cost $60.00 each and for that cost, you are getting a bargain and a steal, at least for the 25mm and for the 12mm also. You may find each of them here, at this LINK to Agena Astro.  Again, solid to excellent eyepieces from excellent contrast, very good color, sharp and crisp images and light weight to boot.  Sometimes it is nice to find something of very good quality that doesn't cost over $200.00. For that matter, even if you've been in the hobby for awhile and want to try these out, do, I think you'll like em.

Edit: I forgot to mention. I tried these out with the Orion 2x shorty barlow, worked great. I tried them with the Explore Scientific 2x extender and a TeleVue Powermate 2x, worked great! I cannot reiterate that these would make an excellent set of eyepieces to have if your not ready to invest $300 per eyepiece, or even to spend $99 to $130 on the Explore Scientific line per eyepiece.  So here is how I would rate these.

TeleVue Eyepieces/Pentax XW Eyepieces
Explore Scientific 100, 82 and 68 degree eyepieces
Agena Astro StarGuider 60 degree ED eyepieces
Baader Hyperion's (not a huge fan of these)
Orion Stratus (again not a huge fan).

There are a lot of other eyepieces I could fit in there, but I think this makes the point. The top line is premium, la creme de creme. The Explore Scientific are excellent eyepieces. The Agena StarGuider ED eyepieces are solid, middle of the road eyepieces that could offer someone satisfying viewing at an excellent cost.

Observing July 7th pm; July 8th am 2016 FR006 Juniper Grove


     Well, I opted not to go to Wolf Creek Tonight. My friend Alan was going to FR006 on the Wasatch/Cache National Forest Land south of Vernon, Utah, so I opted to go there. I love observing with my friend Alan. We get along great, we get observing, he on his beloved double stars and me on my deep sky. I enjoy being Alan's goto scope, where I find the objects and he comes an take a good look at the objects.  Alan can confirm that my 17.5 is dialed in, motions are great and easy to use, and the views are wonderful in that scope.

So this night I actually got out before Alan, and set up.  As always here are the pics from that setup. I was interested that the mountains and the site, while turning into the summer brown, still had quite a bit of green to them from our extra wet spring.  Here are the pictures.  First comes the telescope, my 17.5" which has the nickname of Star Catcher, though in the blog I refer to her as my 17.5."  I guess I need to start adding Star Catcher to it as I like that nickname.  I grew up in the era of WWII being something in my comics and the books I read, and my Dad was an avaiation nut, so besides flying, he made sure I knew a lot of the air campaigns of WWII, the planes, their squardrons and their naming of their aircraft. I guess that is where my naming of my scopes comes from. I'll show the Star Catcher 17.5" from a variety of angles.


Looking SE 


Looking SE moved in closer to the Star Catcher 


Closer view of Star Catcher looking  SE - S


Looking West at Star Catcher, the 17.5's" left side. 


Looking N and front on view of Star Catcher; primary cooling, secondary open


Looking E - SE at Star Catcher's upper ring; secondary mirror, Telrad on 4" riser; Green Moonlite Focuser and Stellarvue Finderscope 


Looking S at Star Catcher and the rear view. 



Looking S at my set up. Outback, hauler, camper, table to hold Pelican cases with Eyepieces, battery, CPAP machine, 2 inch memory foam, air mattress underneath; pillow, safety items. Then my portable red table, atlas, sketching material, books in waterproof bag, both next to a rear leg of the table; portable Levono Notepad on table running SkyTools 3 with rubylith and acrylic clear red screen; 15-70 binoculars (review coming) on Tripod; Alan's green chair, my chair is at my table; step ladder 3 steps for Star Catcher, 17.5" f/4.4 dob; homemade astronomy chair made out of Red Oak, and Star Catcher. Hanging on the driver door of the Outback is my duck hunting bibs and coat. I didn't need them on this warm summer night but you never know in the West Desert of Utah. 




Here is my friend's Alan set up for going after doubles. He had pretty good success this night. The dark skies sure help! 



Click on the Pan to view it. Shows from the view east on the far left, to the south view which dominates the how hills just left of center to the western sky over the Sheeprock Mountains and toward the lone Juniper, which heads toward the grove of Juniper's, thus the name for this site. You can see the ground and vegetation moving to a more summer view here. 


Looking N center to NE to the right edge of the photo. 




Looking E from the observing site. 


Looking SE from the observing site 



Looking S from the observing site


Looking S - SE from the observing site. 


Looking W from the observing site. 

Sorry that you have to endure my images of the site. I am actually trying to document it for several reasons.  

So I did observe this night, and I actually sketched every object I observed. So here we go. 

1. Messier 4 Globular Cluster in Scorpius; July 7th, 2016; 11:20pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi II, SQM:-L: 21.8; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mmNaglerT4, Paracorr Type II; 

Rich globular cluster with a bright lane in the center of stars.  The bright lane leans to the right in the sketch.  Many stars in evidence and to be honest, one of the best views I have had of this globular. Raw sketch from the field. 


2. NGC 6818 Little Gem Planetary Nebula in Sagittarius; July 7th, 2016, 11:55pm MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, conditions are beginning to degrade with slight wind increasing, mild 70 degrees F;  17.5" Star Catcher Dob with 22mm NaglerT4, 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II, OIII and NB Thousand Oaks Filters; 

Little Gem has a bluish color to it, round in shape and with magnification more detail is evident. Inner structure with outer halo clearly observed.  Fun object as always. 



3. NGC 6822 Barnard's Galaxy in Sagittarius; July 8th, 2016, 12:15am MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, low 70's F for temperature; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler Type4, 20mm Pentax XW, 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II; OIII Filter Thousand Oaks; 

Rather faint galaxy and large, spread out, with an uneven surface brightness.  OIII shows HII knots in the galaxy which is cool.  Diffused appearance with some brightening in the core region. Averted vision helps with this. I was in the area so I garnered a look and I think did my best sketch of the night here, I like how this came out. 




4. NGC 5928 Galaxy in Serpens; July 8th, 2016; 12:30am MDT; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, low 70's F temperature, wind increasing; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler T4, 10mm Pentax XW, Parcorr Type II; 


Galaxy is faint, oval in shape, elongated slightly E to W.  It has a small bright core region associated with it. 






5. NGC 5996 Spiral Galaxy & NGC 5994 Galaxy in Serpens Caput; Arp 72; July 7th, 2016; 11:10pm; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler T4, 10mm Pentax XW; 7mm DeLite; Type II Paracorr; 

This galaxy is moderately large in size (NGC 5996), elongated N-S with a bright inner core and a faint stellar nucleus that is evident with direct and averted vision.  I can hold the core with averted vision.  Some structure hinted at here.  NGC 5994 is very faint, small and roundish, a knot next to its interacting companion, no structure is seen in NGC 5994.  Fun! NGC 5996 is the large of the two galaxies in the sketch. NGC 5994 is the small round one. 






6. NGC 5954 a spiral galaxy & NGC 5953 a lenticular galaxy in Serpens Caput. NGC 5954 is the one on top, elongated, NGC 5953 is the round one underneath with the bright core. Arp 92; July 8th, 2016; FR006 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi III, wind increasing, warm; 17.5" Star Catcher Dob; 22mm Nagler T4, 10mm Pentax XW, 12mm Delos; Type II Paracorr;

Interacting galaxies. NGC 5953 is oval, elongated slightly E-W, with an even surface brightness and sharp define edge with brightening near the core. 
NGC 5954 is oval in shape and lays N-S, even surface brightness with some brightening on the southern side of the galaxy where it connects to NGC 5953. Small in size for both overall. Interesting pair. 




Due to conditions, the wind began to gust after this to around 20mph, steady wind at 10mph to 15mph so with the scopes shaking we closed up shop around 1:45a.m. MDT that night. Shame, because outside of the wind, it was a wonderfully clear night.  Conditions continued to degrade from there, so it was a good thing. Some observing is better than no observing, and connecting with a friend is always a good thing.  


7/06/2016

Backyard Summer Observing July


     Well, as promised based on the information I have gathered from a survey and a question asked over at CloudyNights, First, this is not for experience users. If you've been around for a while, these objects are old friends, kinda of like summer comfort food for amateur or hobbyist astronomers. I do hope the following helps some of you who observe from your backyards, in a range of light polluted skies and are new to the hobby or newer.  This is not to say you can't observe these from a dark sky site, you can and should if you have that opportunity. However, I believe that the fast majority of amateur or hobbyist astronomers observe from their backyards as I covered in my last post. So this is my effort to twice a month or so, bring you a post about what you can observe in your backyard.

I will break this up to deep sky objects, DSO's; double stars or DS; Lunar Objects.  On the lunar objects I am going to use a couple of sources, but the main one is Moonwalk with Your Eyes; A Pocket Field Guide by Tammy Pletner. She has specific objects for specific days of the lunar cycle so you should try to observe those objects if possible, near the day of the lunar cycle I give. For example, on Day Four of the Lunar cycle, there are two craters, Messier and Messier A that are visible and offer a nice view. That observation should be done around Day Four or Five of the Lunar cycle before the brightness of the moon limits your contrasting view of them. I am hoping after the next couple of days (I am hoping if the weather clears here to get a night in at a dark site before the moon gets too big) to sketch each of these items and include a copy of the sketch in the post. I'll be updating the post when I do that. That should give a novice an example of what you look for. Until then, I will link to a sketch or two to aid in that. So here we go.

DSO's

1. Messier 22, Globular Cluster in Sagittarius

Facts & Info: From Wikipedia LINK: M22 is an elliptical globular cluster in the constellation Sagittarius, near the Galactic bulge region. It is one of the brightest globulars that is visible in the night sky. M22 was one of the first globulars to be discovered, on August 26, 1665 by Abraham Ihle and it was included in Charles Messier's catalog of comet-like objects on June 5, 1764.
It was one of the first globular clusters to be carefully studied first by Harlow Shapley in 1930. He discovered roughly 70,000 stars and found it had a dense core. M22 is one of the nearer globular clusters to Earth at a distance of about 10,600 light-years away. It spans 32' on the sky which translates to a spatial diameter of 99 ± 9 light-years. 32 variable stars have been recorded in M22. It is projected in front of the galactic bulge and is therefore useful for its microlensing effect on the background stars in the bulge.

M22 is very unusual in that it is one of only four globulars (the others being M15, NGC 6441 and Palomar 6 that are known to contain a planetary nebula. It was discovered using the IRAS satellite by Fred Gillett et al.,in 1986 as a pointlike source (IRAS 18333-2357), and subsequently identified as a planetary nebula in 1989 by Gillett et al. The planetary nebula's central star is a blue star. The planetary nebula (designated GJJC1) is estimated to be a mere ~6,000 years old. I have information on how to observe this planetary nebula.

Two black holes of between 10 and 20 solar masses each have been discovered, initially with the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico, and corroborated by the Chandra X-ray telescope, in 2012. Their detection implies that gravitational ejection of black holes from clusters is not as efficient as was previously thought, and leads to estimates of a total 5 to 100 black holes within M22. Interactions between stars and black holes could explain the unusually large core of the cluster.

To find Messier 22 or M22, you will need to find the constellation of Sagittarius. At the top of the lid for the teapot, is the star Kaus Borealis, and you will need to go there. Here is a wide field view and a zoomed in view with red arrows showing star hops to Messier 22 and to another globular that you may or may not be able to see, depending on how bad your light pollution is, NGC 6626, just above Kaus Borealis.





I know in moderate light polluted skies you will be able to find Messier 22 and hopefull the star charts help.  This is a wonderful object and as you observe it, think of a planetary nebula in it, where a star, like our sun, has lived out its life, blew off its outer layer, leaving that layer as a nebula with a white dwarf in the center that is about the size of the earth, extremely hot, and very dense.  Perhaps you may want to reflect that in the core, stars and smaller size black holes are dancing as gravity from the black hole tries to grasp the star.  Think of what the night sky there would look like if you were on a planet in orbit around one of the thousands of stars there! Remember, this globuar is estimated to be around 12 billion years old!


2. The Grand Summer Tour:

Multiple Objects: Messier 8 or M8 The Lagoon Nebula; Messier 20 or M20 the Trifed Nebula (hard without an OIII or Narrowband Filter in light polluted skies but possible, I did it in my backyard many years ago the first time I saw it): Messier 17 or M17 the Swan Nebula; M16 the Eagle Nebula (again a filter will help you to see this object in light polluted skies) and M11 or Messier 11, the Wild Duck Cluster or as my friend Mat calls it, The Borg Cube from Star Trek.

I am not going to really provide any information on the blog about this objects, just show you how to get to them. If you want the information I will provide the link to Wikipedia for each:

Messier 8 The Lagoon Nebula LINK
Messier 20 The Trifed Nebula LINK 
Messier 17 The Swan Nebula or Greek Omega Nebula: LINK
Messier 16 The Eagle Nebula LINK 
Messier 11 The Wild Duck Open Cluster or the Borg Cube Cluster: LINK

We are going to start our star hops back at Kaus Borealis, the top star in the teapot's lid. This is where we hopped over to Messier 22 (which can be included in the grand summer tour).  I want to let you know from a light polluted back yard, I have seen each of these objects both with and without either a OIII or Narrowband filter. They are faint and difficult. One of those filters will really assist you in seeing the Lagoon Nebula, the Trifed Nebula and the Swan or Omega Nebula and the Eagle Nebula. If you don't have a filter yet, don't give up, give it a try!

 The first map shows you the objects listed above in their constellations. Please feel free to use it as a reference.






The map below shows you how to get to your first to objects, from Kaus Borealis.  Your first object is the Lagoon Nebula or Messier 8. It is up and to the right from Kaus Borealis and if your good at sweeping in a wide field eyepiece or a finderscope you can usually pick it up.  It is an open cluster of stars mixed with milky nebula.





Here is a sketch I did of Messier 8, the Lagoon Nebula from a dark site, using high magnification and wide field magnification as well.  Your view will be smaller and fainter. You should see a cluster to the right, and a dark lane and more nebula on the left, though it will be faint.




Messier 20, the Trifed Nebula

This is a very old and poor sketch of Messier 20, so the good news is its time to redo this sketch! It's kinda close to what you'll see. A double star with 3 lanes of darkness separating the nebula. I highly recommend the use of a OIII and/or Narrowband filter. Speaking of which, I have my preferences on filters on objects, but I am going to leave that ambiguous. I want you to use both filters if you have them and decide for yourself which filter works best for you on an particular object.




Above I show two star hops to get to Messier 17, the Swan Nebula or the Omega Nebula.  You can go from the Trifed and follow the red arrows or go to Gamma Scuti, the bottom star in the constellation of Scutum and then follow that hope to Messier 17. I think the one from Gamma Scuti is the easiest. Note the Sagittarius Star Cloud marked as the Star Cloud on the map. Scan that with your telescope for fun, and then observe it with your finderscope or binoculars. That is often an overlooked treat!

This is what Messier 17 looks like, but it is usually inverted in a reflector or dobsonian telescope. Some say it looks like a swan, some say it looks like the Greek letter for Omega. You decide when you observe it!





Above is one star hop from Messier 17 or M17 the Swan or Omega Nebula up to the Eagle Nebula or Messier 16 or M16. At a dark site in my 17.5" dob and my 14" I have seen the pillars of creation. Here is a sample of what you may see of M16 which I did at a dark site. Here you can glimpse the pillars of creation. From a light polluted backyard, you will probably get a circle of milky substance or the eagle shape. Using a OIII and a Narrowband filter can help you a lot on this object.




Above is a star hop to Messier 11, an open cluster called the Wild Duck Cluster as some say the star patterns look like wild ducks lifting off the water and away. As I mentioned, my friend Mat says it looks like the Borg Cube Cluster from Star Trek the Next Generation. I tend to agree with him. However, you have to decide what an object looks like to you, that is the fun of this hobby! Well, one of the fun things to do!

A wonderful sketch of Messier 11 is found at this LINK by John Karlsson.  I will share the image here since I have provided a link to the original article per fair use guidelines. Sorry I don't see the ducks, well, I kinda of do, but it sure looks like a Borg Cube to me!



3. Messier 13 Globular Cluster in Hercules.

Facts & Info from Wikipedia LINK: Messier 13 (M13), also designated NGC 6205 and sometimes called the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules or the Hercules Globular Cluster, is a globular cluster of about 300,000 stars in the constellation of Hercules. M13 was discovered by Edmond Halley in 1714, and catalogued by Charles Messier on June 1, 1764. M13 is about 145 light-years in diameter, and it is composed of several hundred thousand stars, the brightest of which is a red giant, the variable star V11, with an apparent visual magnitude of 11.95. M13 is 25,100 light-years away from Earth.

Star hops: Again a more wide angle view followed by a closer zoomed in view on the star charts. Eta Herculis is the top right star in the keystone, and yes, for those new, the keystone is the oft shape square or near trapezoid in the center of the constellation.  Messier 13 is about 1/3 the way down from Eta Herculis to the bottom right star of the keystone, Zeta Herculis. Again, you need to find the constellation yourself.





4. Messier 57, The Ring Nebula, a Planetary Nebula in the constellation of Lyra.

Facts & Info: Wikipedia LINK:   The Ring Nebula (also catalogued as Messier 57, M57 or NGC 6720) is a planetary nebula in the northern constellation of Lyra. Such objects are formed when a shell of ionized gas is expelled into the surrounding interstellar medium by a red giant star, which was passing through the last stage in its evolution before becoming a white dwarf.

This nebula was discovered by the French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January 1779, who reported that it was "...as large as Jupiter and resembles a planet which is fading". Later the same month, fellow French astronomer Charles Messier independently found the same nebula while searching for comets. It was then entered into his catalogue as the 57th object. Messier and German-born astronomer William Herschel speculated that the nebula was formed by multiple faint stars that were unresolvable with his telescope.

In 1800, German Count Friedrich von Hahn announced that he had discovered the faint central star at the heart of the nebula a few years earlier. He also noted that the interior of the ring had undergone changes, and said he could no longer find the central star. In 1864, English amateur astronomer William Huggins examined the spectra of multiple nebulae, discovering that some of these objects, including M57, displayed the spectra of bright emission lines characteristic of fluorescing glowing gases. Huggins concluded that most planetary nebulae were not composed of unresolved stars, as had been previously suspected, but were nebulosities. The nebula was first photographed by the Hungarian astronomer Eugene von Gothard in 1886.







Messier 57 can be challenging for some the first time they go for it from the backyard. In the third map I showed two possible star hops. The first is from Sheliak, a multiple star on top (take a look while your there) and coming down to 2 a chain of stairs and then to 3, two stars near each other in this case horizontal (not always, this will change as the constellation moves though the sky, the orientation will, the star will stay next to each other) and then move to M57.

If you come from Sulafat, 1a and to to 1, a triangle shape of stars that points to where you want to go, three stars together, and then up from the last star to M57.  Use your own online tools or atlas to find your own way also! An OIII or Narroband filter can help you in light polluted skies to find this object as well.


5. My last object is a double star in the constellation of Cygnus. There are some wonderful objects in Cygnus, and perhaps on another entry I'll share some of the more bright items.  At the head of Cygnus the Swan, is a wonderful and colorful double star called Alberio.  Most objects in telescopes and binoculars will not show color, they are gray or milky smears. This double star shows color, but I'll leave that color up to you, and won't spoil it by including a sketch or image.

Alberio, Double Star in the Constellation of Cygnus: LINK




The image above shows you one of several ways to get to Alberio. Truly if you have a good eye, a Telrad or red dot finder on your telescope, you can find that end star at the head of Cygnus the Swan, or if you see this as a cross, the bottom of the cross, and go right to it. I am showing a star hope from M57, the Ring Nebula to Alberio.  Personally, whether at a dark site or in my backyard, I simply put my Telrad on the star that is Alberio, a double star and I take a look.




Now as I stated in the beginning, if your experience or done astronomy for some time, these objects are probably old and familiar friends to you. Feel free to revisit them! If your newer to this, you may just find this provides one or two interesting nights in the backyard. Remember to always be amazed at the universe in which we have our being! The heavens are truly amazing!

Addendum: No lunar in this post. That is coming up in about a week I would say.

7/02/2016

Clubs, Star Parties, Observing and Reality


     Over at CloudyNights, one of two astronomy forums I enjoy visiting and participating, I asked a question that continues to gather responses. The question is "What are you? A Lone Wolf, Small, Group, Large Group, Dark Skies, LP?"  Well the vast majority of those answers are the for most of us, we observe alone and I would say that for the most part, most amateurs observe alone and in their backyard. Next to that would come those that are observing alone and at a dark site. There is some that prefer the observing at a dark site with perhaps one or two others for safety. By far and I find this interesting, most did not like observing in large groups at LP sites. It also seems that those on CloudyNights that I would consider serious observers observe alone and at a dark site or the backyard.

What I find interesting about this is for me, is the fact that it shows something that I really believe is true. For most, they observe in the backyard and that experience is done alone. Why? Convenience is probably the most significant reason.  It is easy to come home from work, eat, do your evening items, then set up, and when ready, begin to observe. When your done, you can take down and put away or close up the observatory if that is the avenue you go.  If you have an emergency, your at home so it can be dwelt there, quickly and effectively.  If that emergency isn't a health issue, but an equipment issue (not that it matters, a health issue can be dwelt with at home quickly) issue can be fixed or resolved quickly at home.

So observing from one's backyard usually alone is how I think by far the majority of amateurs observe on their own.  There are plenty of other reasons why the vast majority of amateurs observe from their backyards, but in the end, this is where amateur astronomy is done by the vast majority of its members. For many in this group this means observing from some type of light pollution, most from suburbia level light pollution. A few are lucky and have rural skies in their backyards, but I believe that many amateurs, are like I was, who for a good four or five years limited my observing to my backyard. It is where I observed all the known Messier from. I also began to observe what I call the bright Herschel 400 objects from my backyard as well.  I chased double stars, planetary nebula, bright NGC items.  All I cared about in that time of my observing was getting out in the backyard and going to work and learning how to read an atlas and star hop. How I could record my observations, how I could enjoy my telescope, my eyepieces, improve them and observe.

From that point, the next group are those that observe at a dark site, which for most, requires driving some distance to that location, setting up, and observing through the night. Again, for many this is a solitary or lone wolf activity.  Some prefer to be alone in the boonies or at their dark site locations, enjoying the sounds of nature, coyotes howling, crickets chirping, a slight breeze rustling the branches in trees. This is followed by becoming absorbed in your observing, working a list, or search the sky for objects and then observing and recording what they are and how they look and impact you. For some of this group, listening to a book on tape, or podcast or music when the silence of the night wears on them or they want connection to something more human than nature. There is no right or wrong to this, it is how it is done.

The next group also prefers to go to a dark site to observe, knowing the benefits to their observing and to their instruments when they are used under dark skies. Unlike the group in the previous paragraph though, most of these observers prefer to go in either a small group of say one other person or a few other person, or in a large group.  The reality that at some point ill health could set in (think heart attack or stroke or if they have diabetes an issue with that) or a car could break down and require the help or assistance of another observer.  Again, there are several reasons for observing with a friend or several friends, but this seems to be the next group after observing alone. Another group that would fit here is observing at a dark site with a group of friends. Reasons for this can include sharing views through different scopes and telescopes. The sharing of observing techniques and in sharing observing knowledge are other reasons. There are many other reasons for observing in a larger group, and they are all valid.

The last group, that seems to be small but has its place is outreach astronomy. Most amateurs that responded to my question pointed out that they do not consider outreach to be the same as observing. One member on CloudyNights, Jim, puts outreach into a "teaching" category, not as an observing activity. For some, outreach leads later in that evening to an observing session. So though many amateurs do outreach, that indeed is a "teaching" activity, not an observing activity.

Where am I? I have two modes. I observe at my favorite dark site. That is probably eighty to ninety percent of my observing. I have often observed in small groups, with one to three others and I am selfish to some point with this time. I usually have an observing list, and I like to work those objects in terms of finding and observing. I sketch so I also like to sketch some of these objects.  So when I observe with others, I'll often spend a couple of hours observing, then take a break and visit and look at what they are observing at. I would say over the last year though, I have moved into the solo or lone wolf category when observing at a dark site about seventy percent of the time. Most of this is because of my schedule. I am committed on Tuesday nights and on Saturday's from 12:00pm until 7:00pm (volunteer activity I do each week and that I enjoy doing, a lot).  So this limits a Friday night observing to a location called Pit n Pole which is about 45 minutes from my home, so I can get home that night, and get up mid morning to be ready for my volunteer activity.

With my wonderful job (literally, I love what I do), I can schedule a day off during the week of new moon for a Thursday or Friday, which allows me to observe Wednesday night or Thursday night. That often means others are working so I am observing as a lone wolf.  I actually have grown to like this and find it  rewarding on so many levels. I will admit, I like personally having another person at least, observing with me for safety and for company. However, I find I like my time in nature alone, as it renews me and my soul.  I find that I am reminded of my place in nature, this world and in the universe in which we live. I like hearing the sounds of the night, though I find that once I get into my observing, I am on guarded status, listening to any sounds that are out of place. Sometimes I do play a podcast or to some music as I observe. Sometimes I get in the mood to hear some human noise so I play these softly (audiobooks work too!).

I do my own outreach in my city and mostly in my neighborhood.  Again, I don't consider this outreach but teaching since I like to show others, especially young people (say age 12  and up) to use the equipment and telescope to find and observe objects.

I do observe in my backyard, to view Messier objects, double stars and objects I find interesting. Since the vast majority of amateurs fall into this class, and since I do not find in any of the astronomy magazines or online sources an on going backyard astronomers guide, I am going to share once to twice a month some objects to go and observe in the backyard, and how to find them. I am hoping this will encourage others, probably the vast majority to observe from their backyards, and give them an opportunity to have items to observe. Since my XT10 is loaned out, I will be using my 4 inch refractor until my XT10 comes back this month.  Then I'll share with that as well.

I will still post my own observing sessions, my sketches and pics of those days. I am just going to supplement that with another direction to add and increase my own enjoyment from the hobby from my backyard. I will include Messier Objects, NGC Objects that are bright enough to see, double stars and some lunar targets.  We need more of this I believe as the vast majority of amateurs are in this group, and need something to guide them as they are in the backyard. I am open to suggestions so if you have one, leave a comment.  The new posts will be started with Backyard Observing: _________. The blank will have the area of focus which often will probably be a constellation.  I am excited and hope some of you can be over time. More, I hope it keeps some in the hobby using their telescope and equipment.

Jay

6/25/2016

Supernova in Taurus . . . July 4, 1054


In the early morning of July 4th, 1054 A.D. a guest star was seen in the constellation of Taurus. Chinese government officials recorded the addition of the guest star.  Wikipedia offers a good review of this process. LINK. It is definetly not the right time to go looking for the remains of this supernova, now called Messier 1, The Crab Nebula.  I love the image above since it is a deep desire that I may have the opportunity in my life to witness a supernova that occurs within our galactic neighborhood here in the Milky Way Galaxy that is equally as visible.

We do in the summer have other supernova remnants or SNR's as they are called that we can view. About 30,000 years ago, a massive star reached the ends of its life when it began to make iron in it's core and this resulted in the star exploding into what we would call a supernova. Located just north of the double star Alberio in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan, Sharpless 2-91 or Sh 2-91 is easily seen at a dark site, with a 10 inch or greater dobsonian/reflector telescope using an OIII filter. I have several entries on this object, I have visually seen several components of the SNR. Here is a sketch I did on the main component over on a forum I created for posting sketches that I need to update LINK. Here is the S&T article on Sh 2-91 LINK. More details from Galaxy Map at this LINK. Finally Steve Gottlieb's reports from 2001 LINK. Enjoy going after this one!

Of course the Veil Nebula Complex in Cygnus is one of the best views of a SNR in the summer sky. Comprised of NGC 6979, 6960, 6992, 6995 and other parts, this is perhaps one of those show case items most amateurs visit in the summer sky.  I believe I made a good review of this SNR and of Sh 2-91 in my August 5, 2015 where I proposed a year round SNR Challenge Observing Program for those that want to go for it.  Here is that LINK and findercharts are available there as well.

So just a quick post to get you interested in viewing this stellar remnants and to observe them and see the heavy elements being seeded into the surrounding galactic region that will go into creating new planets and such.  Now, still wishing and looking for that Milky Way Supernova to appear in the NORTHERN Hemisphere.  Sorry my Southern Hemisphere friends. A SN down under won't do me any good except to have to redeem some mileage points and fly south to see it!  I want a good old northern SN to appear! I'm being selfish but yeah, we are over due.