Well, I got out last night from around 7:00p.m. Mountain Daylight Time or 02:00 UT until 11:00p.m. Mountain Daylight Time or 06:00 UT. At 06:00 UT the clouds streamed in ending what had been an excellent night.
I began the night setting up my XT10. Since doing several main mods I have enjoyed using the scope. A friend Craig and I tightened up the altitude bolts and I have made several other mods over the last month. One was to add Scope Gripps to the unit, replacing the spring tension that came with the scope. I also added some Scope Totes to the scope and now I don't have an issue with slippage in the altitude of the scope. I can tilt the tube to around 45 degrees and using the totes the tube comes right out from the base. Great mods to the scope and in another post I discuss what else I have done and post some pictures.
Tonight my task was to catch up on some Herschels that I haven't been able to see because of the weather. My goal tonight was to hopefully stay out til 5:00a.m. local time in order to get caught up on as many objects on the list because I have had so few days to observe.
I began tonight by checking collimation. I picked Mars and the planet showed nicely in the 21mm, 13mm Stratus EP's, but not so good at 200x. 133x looked okay so I checked the collimation which was good and figured the seeing was impacting my view.
The first object tonight was NGC 1857, an open cluster in Auriga. This is a very faint cluster of stars that lies about 45' south-southwest of Lambda Aurigae. This is a poor open cluster, that is small and tight. Using averted vision is a must on this OC in order to see the stars wanting to peep our. When I put in my 13mm Stratus some of these stars came out, with others hinting that they wanted to come out. The cluster surrounds a bright seventh or so magnitude star. I did not sketch this Open Cluster.
The next object I went after was NGC 1907, another Open Cluster in Auriga. The open cluster is located south of M38. It is again a very tine open cluster and very compact. It is a poor cluster made up of a variety ranges of magnitudes of stars. Averted vision reveals a hint of stars that want to peep out also. No sketch was made of this item.
I then returned to another object I viewed on 2/1/09, NGC 1931. This is an Emission and Reflection Nebula located in Auriga. The easiest way was to go to M38 and then head south to south-east and you'll run into it. There are four stars that seem to make a nice square and the bottom left one has nebulosity around it that sticks out. It can look kinda of like a planetary nebula in my opinion but it is not. While examining it NGCZ 1931 looks like a nebulous cloud with a stellar core. Averted vision shows the cloud of nebulosity larger than with direct vision. Some people call this a miniature of M42 from photographs taken of it. I did sketch this one and though it does not look like the photograph, it is representative of what I saw in the eyepiece. A fun object to go after when looking at M38.
My next object was NGC 2281, another open cluster in Auriga. This open cluster has a diamond shape asterism near the core of the cluster. The cluster itself is very loose and I felt pretty bright. The stars around the core make up various asterisms around it. Looking at it overall I also see a U pattern around the cluster. A nice open cluster to take a look at right now.
My next object is NGC 2169 in the constellation of Orion. I used my XT10 with the 21mm and 13mm Stratus. Very easy to find. Go to Xi and Nu Orionis (completes Orion's right hand) now go to the midpoint between the two stars and go down, you'll see it easily in 10x50 binoculars or in a finder scope. This is a poor open cluster because of star count but don't let that stop you from seeing this open cluster. Positioned right in a refractor it can look like the number 37. My sketch being done in a reflector won't show that. It is divided into two parts with a lane in between them. O'Meara says both part look like a modified Greek letter Lambda or inverted Y and I can agree with that. This one gave me a wow factor, not a huge wow, but it was the wow for the evening so go see this one this winter season!
The next Open Cluster is NGC 2194 in the constellation of Orion. I used the XT10, with a 13mm Stratus at 92X with seeing at 8/10 and Transparency at IV. To find this you need 73 and 74 Orionis. NGC 2194 is about 30' to the northwest. O'Meara's map and directions are really good. Go slow, and sweep gently and you get it. NGC 2194 is a very faint open cluster that you can scan just pass if your not looking. It has a definite halo around it hinting of more stars wanting to peep out. I can see some strands of the halo sticking out also and some mottling (captured in the actual sketch but not in the digital). Averted vision pops this cluster out. In considering the night, I actually think this open cluster gave me fun than any other because the cluster allowed me to work it to get details out of it. I will return to this one and hit it hard with some magnification. So if you want a fun but overly hard challenge, check this one out also. I failed to label west but it is in the left top part of the sketch as it is with the other sketches from this observation.
My last object was NGC 2186, an open cluster in Orion. I followed O'Meara's directions which worked the best though I had to use the 21mm Stratus needing the larger FOV that EP offered. This is another challenging open cluster and you have to really be slow and deliberate in finding it. Thankfully O'Meara's small map made this one so much easier to locate. Thanks! It is a poor open cluster in terms of number of stars. The cluster is elliptical in shape and if you use averted vision you'll see another dozen or so stars scattered around the center of the cluster. Fun challenge, okay looking but not a wow. The fun here is in finding it. No sketch was done as the clouds were starting to cover up the sky.
Nice to have a night out and nice to get some of my objects I wanted to see off the list. It looks like I should get three or four nights next week but one never knows about the weather of late! Here's hoping your skies are good.