Observing Session, January 27th 2012

On Friday, January 27th, 2012, I decided to head out on my own to FR 006 for an evening of observing. The sky was clear, blue and terrific as I headed out after work. I got to the site around 5:15p.m. and set up with no issues and collimation went well. I then waited for the transition of evening to night to come along and enjoyed some views of the crescent moon and of Venus during this time.

As dark came on, the owlet that my friend Mat and I had encountered started chirping again and sure enough, a parent came along with some food. That quieted it down and though I did see the parent fly out and in a couple of times, they left me alone. Rather cool to be honest. No one else was out here this cold night, and it did get cold, down to around 10 degrees and the humidity was higher this night, but not high enough to cause any issues with the equipment.

My observing this night took a new tack. I had a list of Herschel 400 II objects to hunt down on my long, long quest of the H2500 but I also decided to add something to the evening. For Christmas I had received a copy of Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders book. Since I had time prior to the crescent moon getting out of the way at 10:30p.m. or so, I decided to add some of her items to my observing list for the night. I will offer a quick review here and then move on of the book. A more extensive review is coming. Quickly, if you like Sue French's column in Sky & Telescope, you'll like this book. It covers items by season, beginning with winter and has a variety of objects to cover in an observing session. Some of the objects are easily covered from a backyard, some are better seen at a dark site and I have to admit I don't like the back of the book cover where it says "100 Tours for the Backyard Telescope." Again, some objects are seen great from the backyard, some are not capable of being seen or to only be glimpsed at. I've seen claims of observers seeing things from the backyard that I have never seen (and in some cases know I wouldn't try) and I live in the 2nd driest state of the country, Utah! I think editors need to be careful of what they put on books and make a distinction between what can definitely been seen, what could be glimpsed and what is just near impossible to be seen. Sue French does a good job overall on distinguishing some of the harder objects, but I think the observing list could have had an asterisk next to harder to see objects from a urban backyard. The asterisk could also be for going to a dark site to see some of these.

The book is Sue's style and I will openly admit here that overall I really like Sue French's style. Her article is perhaps one of the only reasons I purchase a copy of S&T each month. Finder charts like in S&T are in place as are mainly images and some sketches. Where the book shines is just like where the article shines, in sharing some tidbits on the objects from an astronomical historical perspective, little tidbits that most observers would not know if they didn't read her article or research on their own. Overall, I would highly recommend Deep-Sky Wonders for those who are not tackling the Messier, H400, H400 II or the H2500. Even if you are, you'll find objects there to supplement your observing of those other objects and bring a variety in to one's observing. I'll be doing that moving forward.

One of the things I really like about this site, and we'll see how it changes as the weather warms, is the stillness of the air and just how quiet it is. Outside of the owl family, there was nothing there. No cars or trucks came up the road in the distance heading to the Vernon Reservoir which is to the east a good ways. At one point I almost hooked up my iPad to play either a couple of lectures or talks by Alex Flippenko's or a series of lectures by Richard Pogge out of Ohio State University. This night, I didn't want to. It felt good to be in the quiet. Snow wasn't too bad of an issue, about half of it had melted away and at the observing site, all of it had. Mud wasn't an issue either though the wetness of the previous week's snow storms had cut down on the dust.

I begun by going after the objects in Deep-Sky Wonder's chapter called Hodierna's Auriga which is all open clusters and a double star. I visited Messier 38, NGC 1907, Messier 36, E737 (the E is sigma), Sei 350 (double star) B226 a dark nebula (looked at this later after the moon was almost gone), and Messier 37 (the ones not listing what they are are the open clusters). I've seen most of these before but it made for a nice visit to some old friends, a visit to a couple of new ones and a good way to start off the evening.

Here is my sketch of NGC 1907. Again, I am working on finding a method to give a hint of stars that are popping out in the background. I may decide to just describe it and not try to sketch it in.

Next I used Deep-Sky Wonder's chapter called Hazy Gleams and Starry Streams. These are some wonderful objects in southern Perseus. NGC 1499 (California Nebula) an Emission Nebula was terrific (didn't see all of it of course but more this time than the last time I had tried and again, after the moon was out of the way), as was NGC 1579 a Nebulous complex, done just after the moon set. NGC 1579 is known as the Winter's Trifid and I did do a sketch here. I am combining here the black paper with pastels and trying to transfer that sketch into GIMP on template. It worked okay, but the rest of my sketches I'll go back to the old way. I'd recommend anyone who is at a dark site to give this one a view. I enjoyed it.

Here is NGC 1579:

NGC 1342 is an open cluster I've seen before but was nice to revisit and Zeta Persei a multiple star was a good view. 40 Persei is a nice blue/white pair with good separation. Sigma425 is another double star and B4 & B5 are Dark Nebula well worth the investigation. If you go for B4 & B5 wait for the moon to get out of the way, I saw them better without the moon. One item I am facing is in sketching dark nebula and I am still processing my sketches from that night on these objects because I am not sure if I like how they came out. I may have to go back and redo them.

IC 348 is on the north end of B4 and is a nice little open cluster. Sigma439 is a triple star system with A&B close together but the 14 split them while the C component is easily seen (the system is only 0.5" apart). Sigma437 is a double star are a pair of 10th magnitude stars that were a fun split. Finally NGC 1333 is a hazy oval Reflection Nebula that was fun to chase down, again after the moon was out of the way.

The rest of the evening I spent with my Herschel 400 II in Orion and in Monoceros. I have sketches but I will post them up later as I need to purchase a new camera (the old one died). Of course I took at look at Jupiter, Mars and before I left, Saturn though Saturn was still relatively low.