Tuckahoe Equestrian Center Friday 12-3-10
- Last Friday, 12-3-10, I arrived at Tuckahoe Equestrian Center about 5pm. I should have waited until about 8 to leave my house, because the sky didn't clear until around 9pm. The sky stayed clear the rest of the night. The transparency was about 3.5/5, the seeing was at least average. I could easily resolve the E and F stars in the Trapezium. I located and observed 34 new objects without goto or DSCs, coincidently the same number of "new" objects for the night I went to Tuckahoe last month. I found 26 "new" open clusters, one galaxy (NGC 1084 in Eri), 6 emission and/or reflection nebulae, and one planetary nebula (NGC 2438 in Pup). For most of the night I used my Baader Hyperion Zoom 24mm-8mm. It was too cold to bother with switching eyepieces in and out. I didn't use my filter wheel, either. I don't like fiddling around with equipment when the temps are around freezing or below. That night it dipped into the mid 20's F. In general, I don't like cold weather astronomy. But at least I could take a break in my vehicle to warm up every hour or so.
Among the OC, I liked 2477 in Pup the best. To me , it had the shape of a Manta Ray. Another observer had written that it looks like a Haystack. The notes in my spreadsheet say that it includes 300 stars to mag 12. According to Shapley, it is the richest of the open clusters.
NGC 1084 was the only "new" galaxy that I looked at Friday night. It was pretty easy to locate and see. NGC 1084 is a spiral galaxy with a bright nucleus and some mottling.
During this session I finally remembered to look for the planetary nebula that is in front of M46 in Pup. I did not use a finder chart or OIII filter to locate or observe the planetary. NGC 2438 was easy to find. It is pretty bright, looks like a gray hazy smoke ring. I did not bother to use higher magnification to try to resolve the central star. I'm not really into that aspect of planetaries.
I also tried to locate and observe the Horsehead Nebula in Orion. The Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) was fairly easy to see, even without a filter, if I pushed Alnitak out of the field of view. But I'd already seen that the last time I was at Tuckahoe. To locate the Horsehead, I screwed a 2" H-Beta filter onto the end of my 1.25"-2"
adapter (I have a couple extensions on the end so no eyepiece will scratche the filter). Then I tried to find it with my Meade 5k SWA 24mm, and then with my Baader Zoom. No luck. I thought I saw a vague slightly darker area, but I wasn't certain so I did not write in my notes that I had actually found the Horsehead. I'll have to try again on a better night or a better site or bigger aperture. Cherry Springs is too far for winter observations, IMHO, and maybe too far for the rest of the year, too. A six hour trip one-way? If I do that, I better stay for a week in a nice motel or at least a cabin. :)