Tuckahoe, 13 May 2001...
Tuckahoe, 13 May 2001...
Sunday, 13 May 2001
This was yet again another night for the record books. The importance of being prepared for a night of observing cannot be stressed enough. Friday night was not much of an observing session for me because I hadn’t had enough time to prepare. But I spent most of the day Saturday preparing for the next time I went out. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. My goal was to hunt down many of the globular clusters in Sagittarius and a few planetaries around Hydra and a globular or two around Virgo. Most of those objects didn’t rise until later in the evening so I had a list of doubles to hunt down as well as reobserving a few other objects.
The weather was amazing. The very early evening twilight showed a few high clouds coming in from the West but they moved over very quickly and gave way to one of the best nights in recent times. I’m amazed that we have had three such spectacular nights in as many weeks. The other nights being the 26th and 29th of April. I was surprised that anyone showed up for the Sunday observing session because most were there Friday as well. I threw the email out there and four people showed up. Tim Milligan, Joe Wojtecki, Paul Gray and myself. The weather was cold and there was absolutely no dew. It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of May.
Tim had his 17.5” Discovery with him this time. We were all glad to see he brought it after all of the bad press it had gotten lately. But it proved to be a performer. M51 looked like creamer being stirred in a cup of coffee. That’s one of the best images of the Whirlpool Galaxy I have seen. Tim was quiet most of the night and Paul and I were wondering if he was still over there. The only other object I know he was looking for was the globular cluster NGC5053 in Coma Berenices. I don’t think he found it. It’s a tough one.
Paul was hunting down the supernova from Friday night and the quasar 3C 273 again because of the better night. The supernova really stood out this time and 3C 273 was easier to locate. Very nice. Paul kept me running back and forth all night. He ran me ragged. I think I saw more through his scope than I did through mine. But there was a lot to see. Sometimes I think Paul likes to test my visual acuity. Every once in a while he’ll just say, “Hey Doug, look in the eyepiece and tell me what you see”. And I think “Oh Lord, it’s gonna be faint!” And it usually is. But it’s the best way to confirm that he actually is seeing what he thinks he’s seeing. Of course I do the same thing to him all the time too. Throughout the night Paul found many great objects. Now that Cygnus has started coming up in the east, and Paul is finding these faint quasars and such, I want to find another fancy object too. I want to find the star that is home to Cygnus X-1. That will be a neat challenge.
Joe was hunting down double stars in Cancer this time. He found some rather pretty and close ones. He really pushes his refractor to the limit. Also he found a really red carbon star. X Cancer. It definitely had a red color to it and was pretty among all the surrounding stars.
My observing session was very fruitful, finding 21 new objects throughout the sky. I first started out by reobserving M102. I wanted to see how it looked under a pristine sky. But right next to it was the edge on galaxy NGC5907. This was a very elongated sister to NGC4565. There was a hint of a tiny core, and a hint of a dust lane. The best view was in the 40mm Wide Field. Outstanding object!!! One I will return to often.
The next object was NGC3242 in Hydra. This planetary nebula is known as the Ghost of Jupiter. It is a fairly large planetary. It’s a very bright ball of green light. The 11mm Nagler has the best view showing uniform brightness across the disk. It appears very green and has a disk resembling Jupiter in size and shape. Beautiful object!!!
Now I was going for the globular cluster that’s down in the bottom of Virgo. NGC5634 is a very tiny globular inside a triangle of three stars. The best view was in the 13mm Nagler. No resolvable stars. A faint halo. A tough object. The next globular was NGC5897. I had no idea what to expect but my chart showed that it should fill about a quarter of the field in my 40mm WF eyepiece. So that told me it would be spread out and faint. And indeed it was. My notes say “Wow!!! Another twin globular of NGC5053. In Libra. Huge size and extremely faint. 40 WF shows faint halo with very few brighter members peeking through. 20 Nagler shows great contrast and many fainter members speckled across disk. 11 Nagler shows field full of faint specks.” This was a very neat object.
But my favorite objects of the entire night lay in Scutum. NGC6712 and IC1295 are a very nice contrasting pair of objects. NGC6712 is a globular cluster and IC1295 is a planetary nebula and both lay in the same field of view even at high power. The trick is seeing them at the same time. Without a nebula filter only the globular shows itself. With a UHC nebula filter the planetary pops out plain as day and the globular is almost gone. I could see both easily but the effect is more extreme when using an O-III filter. The globular is actually gone from the scene leaving only the planetary. This is a very neat pair of objects that have been favorites of mine for a long time. There were many more planetaries and globulars but I will just list them on my web page and you can read the descriptions I made at the eyepiece.
Other highlights of the observing night include Mercury early in the evening right after the sun set. It was so close to Jupiter that they were in the same finder scope field. I got a good look at that before it sunk too low into the trees. There wasn’t much to it but a red disk but it sure beat the last time I saw it last summer. And it was bright! There were several slow bright meteors. We saw a formation of three satellites in the shape of a triangle. Joe and Paul seemed convinced they were a formation of airplanes but I still believe they were satellites. Who knows? Also Mars rose high above the trees and showed itself outrageously. It was showing extreme detail and I stared at it for quite a while. Lots of detail on the surface including dark patches, polar ice caps and lots of red across the disk. The Milky Way was almost too much to stand. The Scutum Star Cloud was unbelievably bright. The Great Rift and the Cygnus arm looked like a cloud front coming in from the east. Joe and Paul cut out about an hour before Tim and I did. I left shortly after Tim around 2:30am. But before I left I sat on the back of my truck and looked at the myriad of different objects all placed together in the southeast. Scorpius and Sagittarius were so brilliant and the Milky Way was right behind them with Mars as a bright red beacon signaling the coming of summer. And when the moon rose into the sky it covered the range of objects all in one tiny area of sky. First the moon was the closest neighbor with Mars coming in behind it. Then we moved out to the stars of the constellations and then behind them lay the great open cluster M7 at the tail of the scorpion. And housing all of these wonders was the great Milky Way. A family portrait so to speak. It was hard to leave the field that night.