The evening of December 18th, 2015 came and there were no clouds in the sky! Miracle of miracles as we are in a very wet and cold pattern with snow, snow and more snow of late. I have snow blowed more the last two weeks than I have the last two years! I hope we get a warm spell in the valleys so a lot of this can melt and dry off for new moon in January.
Anyway, December 18th had my mother turning 77 so I spent time visiting with her on the phone and talking with her. It was good to get caught up with her. She keeps keeping her Danish traditions going and that is wonderful! After a good talk with her, I grabbed my 10x50 Pentax binoculars and headed out to the backyard to see what the night was like. It was okay, not great, not horrible. So I decided to do something that I hadn't done for a while and that was to put my eyepiece case in the back of the Outback, put my Twilight I mount and my AR102 Explore Scientific achromatic refractor and head out to the 5 Mile Pass area and get some observing in. I wore my snow pants from Columbia, my snow boots, of course my layers and my green Cabela Parka that is waterproof and has awesome warmth to it.
The drive out was no biggie. I had done it a lot of times and I listened to Christmas music to put me in the mood of the Holidays. Arriving I set up, then put on my parka and my baklava and in 10 minutes I was observing. You have to love a low mass telescope that lets you get observing with little cool down time!
I was able to actually capture several items with the AR102 and the views in it were wonderful. Messier 35 popped right out and putting in the HBeta filter, I was able to bring in the B33, the Horsehead. The Flame Nebula was visible using the 9mm Explore Scientific 100 degree and the 5mm Pentax XW on these objects.
I also was able to pull in Sirius B this night in the 4 inch! I couldn't believe it but I am sure that it was B in the Dog Star. Alignment matches with where it should be and the key to it was letting A drift in from the east and then B would appear with it for several seconds until the glare took over. Cool! The sketches here are very rough draft, and I had a problem capturing the sketch of M42 due to lighting conditions but I am posting what I have and I have to say, I LOVE using that 4" Explore Scientific AR102 and sketching with it. It's fun to see just how far I can push that scope!
1. NGC 2362 Tau Canis Majoris Open Cluster in Canis Major. Dec. 18th, 2015, 11:45pm MST (545UT on 12/19/15); 5 Mile Pass, Utah; AR102 Explore Scientific with 9mm ES 100 degrees, 10mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi III, slight breeze, cold, 24 degrees F.
Tau is a very bright star and lights up this Open Cluster. The OC has many stars just on the verge of popping out though my picture of my sketch is not as bright as I would want it nor does it reflect the capture of the image. I will most likely re-shot the image to re-post it here. Other stars here pop out in the OC with averted vision and others are easily seen. This is my favorite Open Cluster. I really enjoyed observing this OC with my 4" refractor and it allowed me a new opportunity to view the OC and to push my observing skills.
2. Messier 42 The Orion Nebula or NGC 1962. Great Nebula in Orion. 12/19/15, 12:35am MST or 0635 UT; 5 Mile Pass, UT; Explore Scientific AR102; 9mm Explore Scientific 100 degrees, 10mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi III, breezy and cold, 22 degrees F.
M42 really stuck out in the AR102. It was small but bright with the wing shape easily discerned. I could see birghter parts in the nebula as I sketches it. Trapezium showed nicely with the 4 main stars using both direct and averted vision. M43 is also visible across from the Trapezium.
Best method for getting B which is a tad closer than I sketched, is to place Sirius A on the edge of the FOV (eastern side or right side here) and let it drift west and as A drifts into the edge of the FOV, B would appear for several seconds then the glare of A would take over and B would fade out. Averted vision also seem to help with this observation. Fun.
On this night I also observed Messier 35 and NGC 2158 which is a H400 object but did not sketch them, it was too cold and I had to get back home. I also saw the Flame Nebula and I thought I got a glimpse of B33, the Horsehead but not enough to claim it. I need B33 to climb a little bit more before trying it again and I am sure I'll get it in the AR102. Probably the best thing of this night was I did observe and capture parts of Barnard's Loop and faintly got parts of the Eridanus Bubble. I have started my sketch of those two objects but need one or two more sessions to finish them. That will be its own post.
So a productive, quick and fun night out! I'll be doing more of these as time and situation allows.