Messier 45, Jupiter, Hyades, Venus in the Eastern Sky from Forest Road 006 by my friend Jorge (yes, that is the Sun starting to come up near the horizon).
Well, I called the window this last week that the best days to observe would be from Tuesday through Thursday, and then the weekend wouldn't be so good. I've had some email questions on how I predict the weather and it is really a variety of tools that I use. My first tool is of course, Clear Sky Clock and the one for the area I want to observe. If the forecast there is mixed, I click on the box for example, the 16 h box for clouds and then look at the track for clouds that evening. I then move to a Skippy Sky Astronomy where I go to the Northwest tab up in the upper left and then remembering that UTC is six hours (Daylight Saves, 7 for Standard) ahead, I adjust the windows for the times when I am observing. Here I check more than just clouds, but seeing, transparency, dew, jet stream, temperature, wind speed etc. Finally I go to the local NWS for SLC and check the Forecast Discusion, the Local Forecast and the Activity Planner for a city near where I am observing. These are located on the left. Finally I check the Jet Stream and I put it together. It is important to know the impact and the weather the Jet Stream brings in each season, at least here in Utah where we do have all four seasons in the north. The result is that for the last 2 years I have about a 90% accuracy for when to observe. It's not hard, but to maximize your time observing, you have to follow the weather. If you have further questions, email, post a comment or post on the Utah Astronomy Forum to the right.
So last week I got out 3 times and by the weekend I was exhausted. If the weather had been good I would have gone on Saturday as well but it just did not cooperate. I felt bad about that because there were a couple of people I would have like to have met. Anyway, this observing was about challenges, some Herschels but not many and helping some newer guys learn the ropes and then waiting for the sky to clear again on Friday. Overall, it was a very fun and enjoyable week.
One thing I really like about this hobby is the many varied and wonderful people I've met in it. Each is unique and an individual and I enjoy their company and what they bring to an observing session. Its fun to go to a dark site with others, to view the universe in such a way that you never can under light pollution and to enjoy the views together and each other's conversation. So, if you are a friend, a fellow observing companion, or someone that has just come out, or someone I have yet to meet, thank you for your impact on my life, my observing and for our continued and on going observing time together. May we have clear skies and many sessions left!
So here we go. I have a few more to add but life is going to get hectic here over the next week so it may be a few days before I add the other sketches. Here are these.
1. NGC 4656 & NGC 4657, The Hockey Stick; Galaxies in Canes Venatici; June 17th, 2012; 11:09pm MDT; Antoniadi III, Clear and Mild; FR006 Site 1, Owl Haven; XX14i and 10mm Pentax XW.
Okay, before I mention my notes, prior to this I need to remind you that at this spot in January, my friend Mat and I were observing when two owl parents were feeding their owlets in a nearby Juniper. This evening for a good period of time at twilight, 5 owls flew over us and examined us as they chased insects and we think some bats. It was rather cool to have them fly 2 to 3 feet over our head.
NGC 4656 is a wonderful galaxy, very bright and is elongated SW to NE. It has a bright inner core and with averted vision a stellar nucleus seems to pop out. Seems to be merging with NGC 4657 though there is debate that NGC 4657 may just be part of NGC 4656. Photos will show a tidal tail from NGC 4657. Cool object and one I recommend viewing.
2. NGC 4631, The Whale, Edge on Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venaticic; vMag. 9.1; Size: 15.5' x 2.7'; July 17th, 2012; 11:30pm MDT; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi II-III, clear and mild; XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW;
2a NGC 4627 Galaxy in Canes Venatici with v. Mag 12.0, Size: 2.6' x 1.8'; conditions and instruments per above.
This is a very elongated galaxy with knots of brightness to each side of the core. Mottling is highly evident in this galaxy along the axis bringing out detail on this tremendous view. NGC 4627 is also visible and included in the sketch. This were two Herschel 400 sketches I missed so I wanted to include them.
3. PK356-4.1 Planetary Nebula in Messier 7 in Scorpius; 7/17/2012; 10:45pm MDT; Antoniadi II, Clear, Cool; FR006 Site 1; XX14i 20mm ES 68 degree finder, 10mm Pentax XW sketch; Ultrablock NB and OIII Filters;
This is a very dim PN, and one you will not see in light polluted skies, it needs a dark site and a filter. In reality this is a small fuzziness that was aided by using averted vision which brought out the shape. This object would pop, hold, fade, then pop, hold, fade. Nice challenge for those who want it.
4. Hoffleit 2-1 or Hf 2.1 or PN G255.4-04.0, a planetary nebula in Messier 7 in Scorpius; July 17, 2012; Antoniadi II, clear, mild; FR006 Site 1; 7mm Pentax XW with XX14i, OIII Filter.
Bright and very tiny planetary nebula in Messier 7. Required the OIII filter, and averted vision. Somewhat roundish in appearance. This one is hard, very hard.
5. Minkowski 1-30 or M 1-30 or PN G255.9-04.2, planetary nebula in Messier 7 in Scorpius; Antoniadi II, clear, mild; FR006 Site 1; 7mm Pentax XW, XX14i, OIII filter;
Very faint planetary nebula in Messier 7. OIII helps to bring it out and averted vision, and studying the field.
6. IC 4617 Spiral Galaxy in Hercules, next to Messier 13; July 19, 2012; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi I, clear, mild; XX14i, Pentax 7&10mm XW; mag. 15.7 to 15.9;
My finder chart made this an easy find and I will be adding the finder charts I used to this blog in the next few days. Anyway, the finder chart made finding the field of view easy and I used the 7mm Pentax XW i steady skies to observe this faint galaxy. Averted vision is a must to acquire the faint and small nebulosity around a very tiny, but stellar core that was viewable at times.
7. NGC 6453 Globular Cluster in Messier 7 in Scorpius; Antoniadi II, clear, cool; XX14i, 20mm ES 68 degree as the finder, 10mm Pentax XW for the sketch;
This is a rather small but bright globular that is a bulge and on the SW side and with a top leaning to the NE. Some individual stars are evident at 165x. Faint outer halo with bright diffusion next to that and a brighter core region. Good object to hunt down and easy to find with a finder chart. I'l post mine soon.
8. IC 1296 Spiral Galaxy in Lyra (next to the Messier 57, The Ring Nebula); 7/19/2012; Antoniadi I; FR006 Site 1; Mag. 16.9 (?) XX14i with 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW;
This is an EXTREMELY FAINT galaxy near the Ring Nebula. You must have a good finder chart for it, but it isn't hard to located the field of view. It will take time in a intermediate size scope to see the galaxy, at least it did for me. This isn't one for a light polluted site and anyone claiming it in a light polluted site is crazy . . . I'm not sure on this one though two people confirmed it. The galaxy appears to lie between two stars. I could discern the stellar core with a hint of diffusion around it but not the bar or the arms this night Wonderful challenge object though!
9. NGC 6027, NGC 6027A, B & D; Seyferts Sextet; Galaxies in Serpens; July 18th, 2012, 2:07am. MDT; Antoniadi II, clear, cool; XX14i, 20mm ES 68 degrees as the finder (it worked well), 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW; FR006 Site 1;
This was for me, my favorite capture of the observing sessions. I had to star hop two or three times to get to the field, confirm the field and really observe the field. The 20mm Explore Scientific 68 degree eyepiece did a stellar job showing me this group, and I let out a good woop as I discovered them. Again, my finder chart from Starry Night Pro was right on the mark. There is a background of nebulosity associated with them and at first, I immediately saw two of the six with their brightening cores, one with direct vision and one with averted. After acquiring NGC 6027 and I believe D, I kept looking and A came in and then B as well. My friend Alan confirmed the three and the possible fourth first, which made me look again and work the observation and sure enough, the fourth was were he said it was using the clock face. Jorge my other friend also saw this one with his 20 year younger eyes right away and knew right where they were. They are fainter at first then what I sketched, but they do come around with time, effort and patience. A rather wonderful observation and experience, one I recommend. This faint stuff is getting addictive.
10. NGC 6818 Planetary Nebula in Sagittarius, The Little Gem Nebula; July 18, 2012, 12:30a.m. MDT; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi II-III, XX14i 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW, Ultrablock NB and OIII Filters.
My friend Alan had a hard time getting this and mainly Barnard's Galaxy down, so I used the 14 this night and showed him both objects. I did a sketch of Barnard's that I'll post, well, I did a rough sketch and need to finish rounding my stars on that one. I'll include it later as well. This is a round planetary nebula with a light greenish blue or teal color to it. Two faint stars are next to it. Very fun planetary which reminds me I need to do a summer planetary nebula run also!! I hope August skies are better than July's were!
I observed the Swan while out and did a sketch of that, and I am going to use that sketch as a practice so I'll probably pot more than one on here of it as my nebula sketches aren't 3D enough and I need to make them more that way by using shading and other sketching techniques for that affect. Anyway, saw lots of other stuff and I'll post that up in my next post but wanted to get the challenge objects out there. I'm going to also I hope this week get out and practice some lunar for work on my 3D and shading techniques and to do some double star observing and sketching. Lets hope the skies clear for that.