Observing Session November 26th, 2011 Pit n Pole

Well this night was extremely interesting night. I learned quickly that I needed to adjust to cold weather observing because I made some simple mistakes. These are mistakes I know better but ones that I made anyway because a clear sky got me too excited. So I'll start by sharing my mistakes from this night and then I'll get into the observing.

The forecast on Skippy Sky and Clear Sky Clock and the National Weather Service all called for a clear but cold night. Cold I can handle, the influx of clouds I can't control unfortunately. If someone out there learns how to control the weather patterns around new moon please let me know. Anyway, I loaded up the old Pathfinder this night and after checking everything in my mind, I was ready to go so I loaded up and drove away. Here is my first mistake. As someone who this next spring in April will turn 47 and will claim the title of being in my late forties then, I have noticed that IF I don't make a list (and I have never had to do this in my life. I pride myself that I have an outstanding memory) I tend to forget something if multiple things should be taken.

Well, I was going to Pit n Pole, a location in fall and winter and even spring can have problems with frost on the equipment. After I had set up I went to get my dew controller and bands out and doh! I had left the box at home. So I would face this frosty, frozen desert location without any dew aids, ouch! That would come back to get me later this night.

The next thing I did was when setting up I put on my glove liners because the temperature was already dropping. Well, after setting up I simply left the liners on after putting on the rest of my winter clothes. The result is that in about an hour and a half my hands were quite cold and it took time at the heater to get them warmed to the point that I could put on my outer gloves on top of the liners and put in a hand warmer on each hand to help keep them warm. My mistake here is I should have done the gloves and the hand warmers when I had finished setting up. I lost about forty minutes to an hour of observing time because my hands got cold and needed to be warmed up. Doh two!

So two basic mistakes that I made here and ones I'll remember as I can observe this winter (I hope). As a result I am going to make a loading check list, one for winter and one for summer. The winter one I'll use in winter, fall and spring since I'll want those items during those seasons. Summer means I can leave some items at home that I won't need due to changes in overall conditions. I'll post those as I get them done in the next week and blank form that others can use to create their own checklist

Well my observing session was quite an interesting one. I love late fall and winter because you can set up and start observing by 6:00p.m. That means that by midnight you've had a good six hours of observing. Stay latter if conditions allow and the most peaceful time for observing comes, that magic time between 1:00a.m. and 4:00a.m. Secretly these are my favorite times to observe, be it in the backyard or at a dark sky location. The world truly changes during these times, becoming an enchantment for amateur and professional astronomers a like. It reminds me that if I get a break during the Christmas break, say the 26th, and the night is clear, it is time for an all night session.

This night my observing began by heading down Pisces and viewing a couple of objects down there. I am mainly done with the H-400, minus 45 spring galaxies and an object here or there (about four of them; well, minus one so now only 3). So I needed to get NGC 936 off of my list for November so I headed there. Not sure why I missed it the first time.

Before heading to NGC 936 I went over and stopped by a galaxy I haven't seen for at least three to four years, NGC 628 or Messier 74 as most will know it as. It was an excellent treat to go after.

Object: NGC 628 or Messier 74, Spiral Galaxy in Pisces; Mag. 9.5; Size: 10.5' x 9.5'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece: 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Date: November 26th, 2011;

Notes: Very bright stellar core on this galaxy, surrounded by a brighter halo and then a round, large diffusion of light. At first I didn't detect any structure as I was focusing on the core. Then using both averted and direct vision I was able to detect an arm coming out of the galaxy on the eastern side, and then sweeping west across the southern portion of the galaxy and showing a separation of from the galaxy with blackness in between them as it got to the western side of the galaxy. In the sketch north is orientated up. Feel free to click on any of the images for a larger version. Overall I was very happy with how this sketch turned out.

Object: NGC 936 Spiral Galaxy in Pisces; Date: November 26th, 2011; Time: approx. 07:22p.m. MST; Location: Pit n Pole, Tooele Co. Utah; Conditions: Clear & Cold; Seeing: Antoniadi I; Mag. 10.0; Size: 4.7' x 4.1'; Instruments: XX14i; 10mm Pentax XW;

Notes: Bright stellar core with bright nucleus that is somewhat elongated due to a bar. Lies NW to SE just off the E -W line. Inner core region is surrounded by an elongated diffused core. Core is wonderful to study. No other details observed.

Object: NGC 604 Emission Nebula in Messier 33, the Triangulum Galaxy in Triangulum; Date: November 26th, 2011; Time: 08:15p.m. MST; Location: Pit n Pole, Tooele Co. Utah; Conditions: Clear and very cold; Seeing: Antoniadi I to II; Instrument: XX14i, 27mm Panoptic & 21mm Ethos with Paracorr II (thanks Jeff!); Filter: OIII and Ultrablock; 5mm Pentax XW with 2x TV Powermate;

Notes: This is a HII or star cloud in M33 that if it was in our galaxy would be over forty times larger than the visible portion of the Orion Nebula. NGC 604 is over 6300 times more luminous than the Orion Nebula and if it was the same distance as M42 is to us, it would outshine Venus in the night sky. Messier 33 this night was very bright in the 9x50 finder, just sticking out so bright and in the 27mm Panoptic the 2 top arms and the bottom arm was visible. The 21mm Ethos that my friend Jeff Porter put into the XX14i really showed the structure of this galaxy very well. NGC 604 was a very diffused patch of light with what appears to be a bright core in the middle, really this is a brightening of the light I would assume. It really looks like a faint galaxy or a faint globular cluster. I boosted power to 660x and was able to somewhat detect some mottling . Here is my poor man's sketch of Messier 33 and of the region of NGC 604.

Here is NGC 604 based on observations:

Object: NGC 1514 Planetary Nebula in Taurus; Date: November 26th, 2011; Time: 10:00p.m. MST; Location: Pit n Pole, Tooele Co. Utah; Conditions: Clear and Very Cold! Seeing: Antoniadi I to II; Mag. 10.9; Size: 2.3' x 2.0'; Instruments: XX14i, 10mm & 5mm Pentax XW; Filter: Ultrablock and OIII;

Notes: Large planetary and the Ultrablock filter provided the best view for me with a 2x Powermate at 660x this night. Mottling on the planetary nebula was evident with a large concave hole that was dark around the central star. It gave me the appearance of seeing that the nebulosity here is being pushed away from the central star. The west and northwest part of the nebula (west is labeled here) is the brightest region of the planetary. This planetary nebula has a very uneven surface brightness and is a wonderful winter planetary nebula to observe if you haven't seen it.

EDIT: I forgot I had one last sketch to post!

Object: NGC 7635 The Bubble Nebula, a Bright Nebula in Cassiopeia; Date: November 26th, 2011; Time: 10:35p.m. MST; Size: 15.0' x 8.0'; Blue Mag. 11.0; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepieces: 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW w/Paracorr I; Filter: OIII and Ultrablock NB filter;
Notes: Very elusive object tonight, and I can only detect the rim of the bubble, with a hint of some dark lanes to the north and some nebulosity beyond that. Some nebulosity flows to the east also. The OIII and Ultrablock NB filters helped a little, but not much. This bright nebula extends mainly north of star SAO 20575. I have to apologize to my friend Mat on this one. He has been trying for this object and I told him I would show it to him and I didn't. I got on it, sketched it and then the frost was hitting so I forgot to bring him over. Sorry!

At this point frost was forming on the finder, the Telrad, and the secondary. As a dummy I didn't think to get out some rubber bands and some hand warmers and put them next to these items via a rubberband! Another DOH! moment for Jay! I used my friend's Mat 12 volt hair dryer and that provided me time to view M42 and Jupiter but by now the night was frosted over and we called it quits at 11:00p.m. and packed everything up and left.

I had a whole lot of objects that I really wanted to go after and I did see a few more items than I have listed here, but they aren't part of my observing lists and were just familiar Messiers or bright objects that a few others wanted to see. Hopefully, new moon around Christmas will allow me to get out! I've been really sick this week again so I am hoping that is all cleared up by the new moon period.

One other thing that I have decided is that Pit n Pole is being relegated to a secondary position. The dew or frost issue out there is just too much. I am going to switch to the Vernon Reservoir location because it is up out of the muck and out of the humidity, well, if you set up away from the reservoir. There are a couple of areas there that I really like so if I go to Rush Valley, I am heading out there from now on. I'll still use it in the summer but the dew/frost has killed too many session for me now. Another 30 minutes of driving is worth avoiding that issue. I'll probably head to either Vernon or Lakeside come new moon. So a short report, but hopefully an interesting one.