Sunday October 10, 2010 Observations; Comet Hartley

October 10, 2010

I decided to set up close to home this night but I needed to get out. October has been rough on Astronomy between a funeral that took a weekend of great seeing and then a week of clouds of rain at new moon. Now the wonderful crescent moon is up. As of tomorrow, Wednesday, October 13th, I am off from teaching for the next 3 weeks so I plan on getting some time in, probably tomorrow night. The waxing crescent will drop behind the mountains around 11:00p.m. so that will give me an opportunity to do some good winter Herschel hunting which is what I need. I am heading to a location I scouted out in the West Desert Mountains that is up out of the humidity that happens in the valleys out there this time of the year. So I should have another report this week. I also plan to do some lunar observing from the backyard and to enjoy that view and to so some live lunar sketches. So until Saturday the weather should hold just fine and that should make for some fun.

Anyway, on Sunday I actually observe quite a few objects but only sketched a couple. I did a sketch of M-31 from a LP zone but I haven't finished processing it yet. I'll try to do that also over the next several days. One thing that drove me nuts was that on this night my Intelliscope worked fine at first, but then went to a Warp 24. I shut it off and star hopped but I'll need to readjust that so it is working. Did an encoder test and that was fine so I have an idea but we'll see.

The other thing was on this night my son who is 16 joined me. To be quite honest that is why I only got 3 sketches done [I did a 10mm Pentax XW sketch and a 24 Panoptic Sketch (wrote 32, thinking 35, but it was the 24) that I'll post soon]. Despite the lack of sketches it was a wonderful night. We started with M22 and then moved over to the Lagoon Nebula, M8; Trifed Nebula, M20; the Sagittarius Star Cloud, the Swan Nebula, M17; the Eagle Nebula, M16; the Wild Duck Open Cluster, M11; M27 The Dumbbell Nebula; M57 the Ring Nebula; and then over to M31, M31 and M110, and then over to the Double Cluster, NGC 457 and then to Comet Hartley. It was fun to let my son run the 14 inch telescope for the first time and to watch as he visited old friends. We talked as he hunted and I enjoyed the views. My daughter even joined us for about 20 minutes.

Here are the two sketches that I did with Comet Hartley. On the one with the 10mm Pentax XW a stellar core was visible with averted vision, at times with direct and it appeared brighter on the eastern edge though I am not sure why. I would have expected that on the western edge. In the Panoptic 24mm (labeled as the 32 which it wasn't, we had been using that EP to try it out but I did not sketch it to see if I liked it better than the 24) no core was visible, just a nice fuzzy ball.


  1. The comet has fallen a bit short of the predictions, but still a nice object to view. This last Sat I saw it in a C-14, a 12" Obsession and a 4" refractor next to Eta Per. I agree, the core is only visible in the larger apertures and higher power.

  2. Andrew, I agree that this comet has fallen short of the predictions. I did pick it up on Monday night in 10x50 binoculars, though it was very faint. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Jay, I am a relative beginner in astronomy and have a XX14i like you, I note however that you can see far more DSOs than I. I have TV ethos eye peices aswell and a hotech crosshair collimator ... I can see the ring nebula clearly.

    Given the equipment, then my lack of "hits" must be due to either my poor aim (i have not perfected use of the intelliscope warp either) or due to the local light (but i can still see the ring ...).

    Can you suggest other DSOs that i should certainly be able to see, and that way i will know, if its me or the sky.

    Many thanks


  4. Chris,

    Hard to know everything since I don't know your location or when you observe. I usually measure my sky darkness using a Sky Quality Meter but since I assume you don't have one, I'll share a link to the updated Light Pollution Maps:

    I use the one with the Google Map link. Most, 80% of my observing is done from a Gray or Blue zone. My backyard is an orange borderline yellow zone and my other Herriman location is a yellow zone.

    My point is you will see far more from a darker zone than in a more light polluted zone. You'll also see more details and pick up more fainter objects. Let me share an example. NGC 7009 is the Saturn Nebula. This is a good object but at home or in my yellow zone spot I must use either my narrowband or OIII filter to make it pop out. If I go out to a blue or gray zone I don't need the filter to see the object. It looks better than the view at home. If I put in the filter it can add details. So location is a HUGE help in my opinion.

    Your also relative beginner to quote you and I spent 4 years star hopping with either a XT8 or XT10 or binoculars. Get a good star atlas and learn to star hop. Why? Because the intelliscope or digital setting circles may not always work. I have a Telrad on my XX14i and my 20" Obsession and they make star hopping so much easier. I put a bright star in the middle of the inner most circle and then use the finderscope to get me there (not the stock one but a 9x50 Right Angle Correct Image Finderscope). The RACI makes me see the same image as I look at in the sky. Just remember the view is reversed in the eyepiece.

    I'm going to share some objects that you should be able to see at this time of the year easily. I'll also provide links for them as well. Here they are:

    Messier 31 The Andromeda Galaxy. Easy to see.

    Messier 32: Elliptical Galaxy near Messier 31.

    Messier 110: Elliptical Galaxy near Messier 31. If this isn't popping out then light pollution is impacting it and you haven't seen enough faint galaxies yet to bring it out.

    NGC 891 and NGC 869 The Double Cluster (use a wide angle view eyepiece of low power).

    Messier 2 A Globular Cluster

    Messier 72 a Globular Cluster

    NGC 7009 The Saturn Nebula; A Planetary Nebula not far from Messier 72; a narrowband or Oxygen III filter helps to pop it out.

    Messier 15 a Globular Cluster

    Messier 52 Open Cluster. Using the Pocket Sky Atlas I easily star hopped to this one. If you need, I can recreate that hop on a post on my blog. Actually, I think I'll just do that as my next post.

    NGC 457 The Owl or ET Open Cluster.

    NGC 7789 Open Cluster in Cassiopeia

    M76 The Little Dumbbell Nebula; A Planetary Nebula in Perseus. Again, a narrowband or Oxygen III filter helps to have this pop out.

    Early evening which are late summer objects:

    Messier 27 the Dumbbell Nebula; A Planetary Nebula.

    Messier 22 A Globular Cluster in Sagittarius.

    Messier 13 A Globular Cluster in Hercules.

    That should let you get to these objects and see if you can get them. I'll publish maps sometime, I'm on vacation so I don't have access to everything until Tuesday.

    Also, don't go after deep sky objects with the moon up. The moon kills DSO's. I don't observe DSO's after 1st quarter and not until after the wanning gibbous moon is not rising until late in the evening or early morning.

    Here are the links:

    Messier Objects by Season:

    Best of the NGC

    Best of the NGC is not broken out by season. Get a planisphere or use Stellarium to see which constellations are up for the current season (fall).

    Good luck and let me know if you need anything. Feel free to email me.


    Others can offer suggestions too.