Observing Report May 19th to May 20th, 2012; Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah

This new moon coincided with the annular eclipse and due to weather, I only was able to get one night out under the stars.  So last Saturday, May 19th, after driving for 5 hours on a round trip trip for a family event, I then took a one hour nap, loaded up the Pathfinder and headed out to Pit n Pole.  After setting up and getting collimated, I enjoyed the companionship of my friend Mat and my friend Jorge. Mat was using his 16 inch truss dob and Jorge was doing astrophotography.  I had the steady 14 inch XX14i with me. 

I should have known right from the start that something wasn't working right.  I have to admit that about an hour into observing, I stopped, looked up at the sky and just started chuckling at myself.  I had made a very novice and rookie mistake with star hopping.  I wasn't finding any of the objects I was after, though I did find some and sketch them.  I'll include them in this report.  What I realized is that I was using the wrong set up.  Here is an image from Starry Night Pro to help explain it:

I had begun the night looking at Venus which was a lovely crescent and very thin, and then moving over to Arcturus to do a final star test for collimation and then over to Saturn.  Here is where my fatigue hit me.  I never moved off of Saturn.  Instead of focusing on the Porrima, Auva and Vindemiatrix three stars in a row, I used Spica, Saturn and Heze as my three stars in a row.  I really needed to be working off of Vindemiatrix and as soon as I got done laughing at my own mistake (at least I realized it!), I moved the scope and got right on to the objects I had wanted to see.  I ended up with 16 objects, many NGC and Herschel items and those I'll not put down here.  I will include the faint NGC's I found and sketched in my wandering this night, and the Herschel 400's I sketched.  So, if your tired and not finding stuff visually as you move around the sky, remember to always make sure you are where you really should be.  I shared that with Mat who was gracious and with Jorge but I sure felt very foolish at that time.  On the other side if you hear someone being frustrated, give them a gentle reminder to make sure  they are in the right part of the sky and as Mat told me, take a break.  Taking a break when frustrated at anything is good advice, in terms of star hopping it can be great advice.  Mat's advice help me to realize what I was doing wrong and is advice I usually heed to myself. This night I was tired and felt rush because I didn't want to be out too late with having to drive to see the eclipse the next day.

1.   (ARP 240): NGC 5257 a spiral galaxy in Virgo (it is the fainter of the two); Mag. 12.9; Size: 1.8' x 0.9'; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Antoniadi II, clear, cool; Date: 5/19/2012: Time 10:20pm MDT or 5/20/12 @ 0420UT;  XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW and Type I Paracorr;
This is a very faint galaxy, really a smudge with a low surface brightness and no other details evident.  It is interacting with NGC 5258 though.  Both NGC 5258 and 5257 are distorted by the gravitational interaction with each other, and both are connected by a tidal bridge which is not evident at the eyepiece, though in the image it is.  Visually, we are just seeing the brighter portions of the galaxies.

1b.   NGC 5258 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Same conditions, location, and instrument as NGC 5257.  Mag. 12.9; Size: 1.7' x 1.1';
This is the brighter of the two galaxies and is still pretty faint and small.  Elongated in a SSW to NNE direction.  It has a slightly higher surface brightness than NGC 5257.

2.  NGC 5184 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo; Size: 1.9' x 1.1';  Mag. 12.6; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Date: May 19th, 2012 @ 10:40pm MDT or 5/20/12 @ 0440 UT;  Antoniadi II with clear and cool conditions; XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW and Type I Paracorr;
This is a rather faint galaxy though it is rather large.  In the eyepiece it looks like a smudge or a faint fuzzy object.  No other details.

NGC 5183 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo;  Size: 1.9' x 0.8';  mag. 12.7; Same conditions, location, and instruments as NGC 5184.
Faint galaxy with a diffused halo and a brightening of the core region.  No nucleus observed. 

3. NGC 4866 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Date: May 20th, 2012; Time: 12:50 a.m. MDT or 0650 UT; Size: 6.3' x 1.3'; Mag. 11.2; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II clear and cold; XX14i with 27mm Panoptic with Type I Paracorr;
Elongated west to east and it is bright and rather large.  Bright core region with a stellar nucleus.  Nucleus appears offset somewhat. 

4. NGC 4698 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo; Size: 3.9' x 2.6'; Mag: 10.6; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi I, clear and cold; Date: 5/20/12 @ 12:35am MDT or 0635 UT;  XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr I;
Very bright galaxy and it is irregular in its roundness.  Mottling of a possible arm on the NW side.  Bright core region with a stellar nucleus.   West is to the upper left corner.

5. NGC 4535  Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Size: 6.8' x 5.0'; Mag. 10.0; Date: 5/20/2012; Time: 01:20am MDT or 0720 UT; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi I with clear and cold conditions; XX14i with 14mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr.
This by far was my favorite observation and sketch of the night.  It gave more detail while observing it than any of the other objects this night.  I used a combination of averted vision, direct vision and a couple of magnifications to get the details to come out.  This is a large and somewhat faint galaxy at first, that brightens over time observing it.  It has a bright nucleus and that is followed by diffusion that is fainter then that brightens.  This is the space between the arms.  Mottling of the arms is present and averted vision will pop the arm with good conditions.  There are stars embedded within the galaxy.  A worthy object of study for an observer in the area.

6. NGC 4526 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo: Date: 5/20/2012; Time: 01:30am MDT or 0730 UT; Size: 7.2' x 2.4'; Mag. 9.7; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi I with clear and cold conditions; XX14i with 14mm Pentax XW and Type I Paracorr;
Bright galaxy with a bright core region and a stellar nucleus.  Elongated and WNW to ESE. This galaxy is another that if your in the area you want to take the time to take a look.

7. NGC 4570 Spiral Galaxy in Virgo;  Date: May 20th, 2012 @ 01:45am MDT or 0745 UT; Location: Pit n Pole, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II clear and cold conditions; Size: 3.8' x 1.2'; Mag. 10.4; XX14i with 14mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr;
Elongated galaxy NNW to SSE and rather large.  Pretty bright overall with a brightening in the core region and a stellar nucleus.  Worth a stop by. 

I only sketched 7 items so that is what I will share here.  I had wanted to sketch the Black Eye Galaxy but that may have to wait.  One thing that I noticed is how quickly the summer constellations and Milky Way are coming out.  I am done teaching as of Friday for this school year, and though I have volunteered to take 5 days of a class with my grade level peers, I am excited about all the observing opportunities I hope to have if the weather cooperates.  I am planning on several camp overs for multiple days at some extended sites.