Simple Night, Simple Objects, Simply Wonderful

Well, the skies were clear tonight, and I have been making mods on my XT10 and XT8 so I decided to take them out and do some viewing.

After getting outside and setting up, cooling down I started at Mars. Conditions were not very good but I didn't care since it has been awhile since I had a break to get out. My son and I saw the northern polar cap and that was about it. 200x was too much tonight and the best views were at 57x and 92x and 133x.

After Mars, we went to M42 just to take a look. At 92x the Trapezium was very brilliant and shone like a diamonds mixed in waves of emerald green waves. My son loves M42 and we stayed here for a while.

Next we went down to Sirius and took a look at the Winter diamond, and it was truly beautiful tonight. Sirius was sitting low and twinkling in various colors as we looked on it and it really did seem to be a huge engagement diamond reflecting light back into the night.

After M42 we went to my favorite winter cluster, NGC 2362 in Canis Major. Tau showed very beautiful tonight and I actually sketched this object, even though the Waxing Gibbous Moon was shinning. Conditions really improved while I was sketching, enough to where Sirius who had risen higher actually stopped flickering. I'll post my sketch in the next day or two.

Next, we went up to the Winter Alberio which is an easy jump. My son hadn't seen this before and his remark is "Very cool, and the orange is deeper/richer but the blue companion here is not as blue as Alberio." I would agree with his assessment.

We went up from her to M41 and spent some time here looking at the Little Beehive. Since we live in Utah, also known as the Beehive State my son asked if this or M44 was the official Open Cluster of our state? Actually, in 1996 the legislature made M44 the official state astronomical object of the state and it appears on the state flag. Just wondering if any other state that others live in have a state astronomical symbol?

Next, we went to the Eskimo PN in Gemini. The Eskimo is an easy find and in this case my son and I raced and I hate to admit that a 15, almost 16 year old beat me, but not by much. The Eskimo showed wonderfully at both 92x and at 133x, with the central star visible.

At this point, we had tested everything on both scopes and brought them in. We spent about 2 hours outside and the best part of it, just sharing time with my son and trading off scopes. Sometimes just chasing after some of what we call the eye candy that is out there and enjoying it and each other is what makes this hobby so enjoyable. Clear skies and good seeing to each of you.

Edit: My son reminded me we went and looked at Tu Geminorum, a carbon star in Gemini and not far from M35. The moon hid some of the color I think but a pretty red orange star. There are a couple in Orion I need to hit also after full moon.

Here are my sketches of NGC 2362. The first one is from last year, the next one is from last night and one other night. The first is too loose and the second too tight. I used the 21mm, 13mm Stratus and 9mm Expanse on these.

January 29th, 2009

Enhanced NGC 2362 in GIMP. I like this one, as it shows Tau's influence on the cluster:


Experience with Faulkes and Messier 1

On Friday, January 15th, 2010 I had the wonderful and delightful opportunity to meet with other members of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society in downtown Salt Lake as we met to use the Faulkes North Telescope. The Faulkes North Telescope is located at Haleakala HI, and is a 2m or 2 meter Reflector. Information on the Faulkes Telescope and program can be found here. Arriving there I joined other members of the society as we went through a list of possible targets. We were able to whittle the target base down to a couple objects thinking that less was more. Our first target, and the only target we focused on was Messier 1 (M1), the Crab Nebula. We ended up using our hour and half on the scope taking a variety of images that included a Hydrogen Beta, OIII, Hydrogen Alpha, RGB Composites and Air Exposures. Conditions were really good that night, with 6% humidity, clear skies and great seeing the resulting image is considered very stellar. Tyler Allred, an outstanding imager of astronomical objects (his website is here) complied the image. I'll load it below but you can see it at Tyler's website under under his latest images. Roger Fry, our club Vice-President and Chair of our Faulkes Committee arranged the details and we met at Bob Moore's office. Huge kudos to both Roger and Bob for arranging and hosting, and to Tyler for creating the image.

The Crab Nebula and the associating Pulsar that is the what is left of the giant star that exploded in 1054 and was first noted by Chinese Astronomers as a guest star in the night sky. it was visible in daylight for 23 days, and 653 days to the naked eye in the night sky. The supernova was visible during the daytime for 23 days and for at least 653 nights to the naked eye. The Anasazi probably recorded the star as found in modern day Arizona and New Mexico and in Chaco Canyon National Park (see this link for more information on the Anasazi drawings and this link). It also needs to say that this is only one view of what this image represents and it is questioned by some experts.

The estimated apparent magnitude was between -7 and -4.5, second only to the moon in brightness. It is estimated to by around 6300 ly away and is expanding at a rate 1500 km/s. The outward velocity of the nebula is increasing because of the pulsar which is feeding its energy into the magnetic field, expanding the nebula and forcing the filiments outward. The pulsar has the mass of the earth but is the size of New York!

At the center of the nebula are two faints stars (visible in the image) and the lower one is the pulsar that is the cause of this object. The pulsar is rotating at a speed of 30.2 revolutions per second (now that's fast!). The pulsar is sending out shock waves and they are visible in the image we captured, and also here, which is a study put together by Olivia Gomez, a student at St David's Catholic 6th Form College, Cardiff, who in the summer of 2007 worked on the Faulkes data to produce this image footage. Look for those shock waves in our image. Also, please note that the lower star (of the two next to each other) is the pulsar and you can see the shock waves coming out from there.

Finally, Dr. Faulkes (his trust site) has to be recognized for his donations and contributions to making this program available. I showed this to my students and I explained the process. They loved the image but what is more telling to me is I had students asking what pulsar is, what was a supernova, and why are they important. From that led to several inquiry engagements where students are now exploring to answer their own questions. Truly, as much fun as we had with this, the deeper impact to me is the inner questions that my students raised. I would hope that some of them will feel a desire to keep asking questions, to keep exploring and that they seek careers involved with science and math. I have to note that I mentioned to them on Tuesday what I had done and would go over it later this week. One of my more inquisitive students took the bull by the horns so to speak, and went home and she began to research. She knew what a pulsar was and that it emitted radiation and spun extremely fast. So those of us with more knowledge due to more experience may use these fine instruments, yet it is to the younger generation that I still look to in hope, that they will take tools like this, and make bold and new discoveries that help to define our knowledge of this universe and our place in it, while improving themselves in every way they can.

So without any further ado, here is the image.


Updated Observing Form

After asking for and receiving some input over at CloudyNights, I have updated my observing form. I left the Conditions portion blank so I or whoever uses it can right down what the conditions are like clouds, humidity, smog/inversion, etc. I moved the seeing to arc seconds and included the Antoniadi Scale, putting in numerals I-V. If you don't know the scale Google Antoniadi Scale and you will learn about this man and the scale he developed. It works like this:
I Perfect Seeing, without a quiver
II Slight undulations, with moments of calm lasting several seconds
III Moderate seeing, with larger tremors
IV Poor Seeing, with constant troublesome undulations
V Very bad seeing, scarcely allowing the making of a rough sketch

I also moved the sketch circle to the right and added a cardinal point/compass rose style so one could label it with the direction of W and N etc on the sketch if one doesn't want to put it on the circle border of the sketch.

I'll be posting my open cluster sketches later today. Weather has been horrible so no visual observing though I did attend a Faulkes Telescope imaging session on M1 Teh Crab Nebula this last Friday and that was a lot of fun.

Observing Form PDF

Observing Form Word 97


Sunday, January 10th 2010 Observation

Yes, I FINALLY got a decent sky with no clouds and took advantage of it. I was able to observe several open clusters; NGC 1647, NGC 1817, 1807 and NGC 1664. NGC 1647 was a pretty open cluster with two bright stars of around ninth magnitude, with many other stars of various magnitudes below them. It was heart shape and I enjoyed it. I'll save the other descriptions for when I post the sketches and descriptions.


Here is my sketch of NGC 1647. I'm having a problem with my scanner so my actual sketch will have to wait until I have time to correct it (next weekend). This Open Cluster is easy to find. Telrad to Aldebaran and go north past 2 vertical stars to the star that is above the vertical pair. That star above the two vertical stars is a double so now go west to the third star that is lying east to west. The third star is actually two stars in the finder or eyepiece and the cluster is right next to those two stars. Major mistake I just caught, I left the cardinal points off. North is about at 190 degrees (just left of the bottom center of the circle) and west is about 280 degrees or just above the left center edge. Hope that helps. To the south are two ninth magnitude stars. Underneath, there appears to some a heart shape here but I see more of the butterfly (wishing for spring and summer as my winter has been terrible for observing?), with an apparent double at the center of the heart as you go north from the middle. A pretty little open cluster and I enjoyed viewing it.

1/10/10 3:30 UT; Member of Herschel 400; Herriman UT; Seeing: III; LM 5.8 to 6.0; XT10 w/21mm Stratus.

Below is my sketch of NGC 1817. Not much of an open cluster but I was able to view it. It has a roundish hook view to it; O'Meara describes it as a bolt of lightning but I didn't see that asterism. NGC 1807 it right next to it. Easy to find by going to the top of Orion's Shield and the two open clusters are right there. These are poor open clusters, especially NGC 1807. NGC 1817 did give a hint of stars wanting to peep out using averted vision and I tried to capture that in the sketch.

Three Herschels and one cluster next to a Herschel cluster wasn't bad. I also got a dim view of M1, the Crab Nebula and M42. I tried using my H-Beta Filter to see the Flame but conditions were too poor by the time I went for it. I did get an excellent view of Mars with good details. I have sketches that I will scan and post here over the next couple of days. I should be able to get out on either Friday or Saturday since it should be clear after a small storm comes through.

Edit: Here is my Mars Sketch in digital format. I'll post the original with the open clusters this weekend.

I did notice and I figured out why the XT10 hasn't been holding its balance no matter what I do. I improved it, but it still was an issue. In bringing it in on Sunday I noticed that my left altitude bearing is very loose and needs to be tighten. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I'll pull the primary mirror cell off and fix the altitude bearing. This has led me to think about flocking the tube which I have decided to do. So I'll have to decide on ScopeStuff or PhotoStar. Not sure what I'll do but I'll research some more. If you have an opinion on flocking or on which material to use, please leave a comment.

Finally, we have a lot of smog around here lately and I'm done going out in it. I started to get some frozen dew on the tube and on my chair and on Monday after I got home from work and had to wipe down the tube and the seat from the dirty dried water. Moving forward, I sure hope the air quality improves with some storms that have a couple of good viewing nights between them, with crisp, clean air. Clear Skies to you!


Observing January 3, 2010 Jupiter only

Well, it looked really promising at 4:30p.m. today so I suited up in my warm weather clothes and starting taking the scope out at 5:15p.m. and then my tables and eyepiece case, and my charts and sketching materials.

After I had set up I realized something that my son had said rang true. He asked me as I was taking out my last trip, my observing chair if I thought I would beat the clouds to the SE? I said, the storm came through on Saturday so the wind should be from the NW. My bad for not paying attention, he was right, I was wrong (and he LOVES when that happens) so by 7:00p.m. I was heading in.

I did not get any Herschels observed but I did swing over at around 6:05p.m. to the King of the Planets, Jupiter. It was low in the sky and transparency was not very good. The northern equatorial band was very evident at both 92x and at 150x. Averted vision brought in two of the southern bands that were lighter in color. What was fun to view in my opinion was not Jupiter though, Io and Europa were dancing tonight, right right next to each other. Ganymede and Callisto were out at a distance, but Io and Europa were right next to each other. First time I had observed that and it has made me more aware of what is going on in planetary observation. Next summer I'll have to pay more attention to what is going on with Jupiter. I'm hopeful to see Mars sometime this month, weather allowing. Happy New Year to each of you!

Edit: Sorry for the blur on the bottom; I forgot to blur the planet and not sure how in GIMP to readjust that. I'll figure that out this week. Also, I have my voice recordings ready to go. Does anyone else use a digital recorder and then upload them into iTunes? I think when I am off in for the last week of January through the first two weeks of February I will upload them to a website I'm going to do. It will be interesting to see if anyone actually listens to them. I may even try to open it up so others can upload their digital recording of their observations to create a share file (I'll approve the uploads though which will mean listening to them but I can do that in the car to and from work). I'm hoping to recruit a few people to help me do this. We'll see.