Last updated: 10 November 2004
Subject: User Observations for October Sent: Sunday, November 7, 2004 11:03:35 From: Mark and Alison Kudlowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) Here are two observing reports from October. The weather really has been that terrible in England ! OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : 8 Oct 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.8, improving to 5.1 as night progressed Time (UT) : 2100 0140 (9th) Lim. Mag. (low south) : 4.3 improving to 4.6 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 8-9, slightly worsening as night progressed Weather : Clear spells but broken cloud early on Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: AUTUMNAL TARGETS AND A 'ROYAL VISIT' This looked to be another promising night, with long clear spells forecast. It proved to be quite fruitful, with a good look at the cast of the Andromeda legend. 21.00 UT (22.00 local) The first target to determine the night's seeing was Delta Cygni. I suspected the companion at 146x, but a slight increase to 173x made it definite, and barlowing to 345x (70x per inch !) revealed a textbook image, with a white primary and a steel-blue companion at 8-9 o'clock, easily past the first diffraction ring. This had the hallmarks of a very good evening's viewing. 21.05 UT (22.05 local) My next choice was one of the most insignificant of the 'original' groups, the dim triangle of Equuleus. 1 Equ was a pale yellow / bluish pair, easy at 73x, but 2 Equ needed the barlow with the same eyepiece it looked like a dim Zeta Aquarii, but slightly wider. STF 2786 was a rather tough white pair, again at 146x. 21.15 UT (22.15 local) Time for another scout around Aquarius, where I revisited the favourites of M2, the Saturn Nebula, doubles Zeta and 94 Aqr, and Uranus. I also observed the doubles S808 (white and reddish) and 41 Aqr (yellow and blue), at 146x, reducing to 73x for the wider orange and bluish optical double of Tau. 21.35 UT (22.35 local) I went for a quick look at M15 and NGC 7331 in Pegasus before going for the doubles in that group. Epsilon was very wide at 73x (yellow-orange and bluish), despite the 6 mag difference, and 1 Peg was another very wide pair. STF 2841 was yellow and greenish, again easy, and STF 2877 was yellowish and bluish, but with a faint companion. STF 2799 was much closer and needed 173x to split it. The session was interrupted by cloud at 2155 UT, but it passed away from the area within ten minutes. I continued with the white pair STF 2878, but 173x was barely enough, and I had to barlow it up to 345x to get a clean split. Much easier was STF 2978, a yellow / orange pair split at 73x. 57 Peg was also easily split at the same power as an orange / blue pair, although the companion was faint at mag 10. I had to barlow up to 146x again for STF 3007, a yellow / orange pair with a faint companion. 22.20 UT (23.35 local) I revisited Cepheus, having a casual sweep around the southern part, with its rich Milky Way fields and the 'Garnet Star' Mu. I then followed up with NGC 7243 in Lacerta, before looking at some multiples in the same small group. 8 Lac revealed its two brightest components at 73x, whilst HJ 1823 revealed a triple system. I would have aimed at more targets in this group, but the GOTO accuracy was failing badly on near-zenith objects, making identification in the finderscope difficult. 22.40 UT (23.40 local) After a quick look at the 'King', I thought, it's time for the 'Queen'. I revisited the best cluster in Cassiopeia, NGC 457 (the 'ET' or 'mini-Aquila'), before looking at four top doubles. Eta was yellowish and mauve, easy at 73x, whereas the fine triple Iota (yellow / bluish / bluish) needed 173x to split it, particularly the closer pair. Sigma was another yellowish / bluish pair split at 173x, in a very rich region. I have found that the Meade 26mm and the Televue 11mm were practically parfocal, which was a great help for viewing near-zenith targets. 23:00 UT (00.00 local) Having explored 'Mum' and 'Dad', it's time to examine the 'Princess' in detail before her husband-to-be rises to the zenith ! The Andromeda Spiral at 73x and its two companions were again impressive, though maybe slightly less clear than two weeks ago. Gamma was still to come into view, but Pi was a fine white / blue pair, STF 2985 was all-white, and STF 40 was an attractive pale orange pair, again at low power. I needed 173x (11mm) to split STF 3050 (all-yellow), STT 514 (companion faint at 10th mag) and STF 24 (white). 23:35 UT (00.35 local) I was waiting for the eastern part of Andromeda to come into view, so I tried my luck with two targets in Pisces. Alpha Psc, said to be challenging, just revealed its dual nature at 173x, with bluish-white components. Barlowing to 345x made it even clearer. Having tried with M74 two weeks ago and being unsure, I had another stab at this elusive galaxy, to be found halfway between a line joining Eta and 105 Psc. This time, using spiral search and averting my gaze, I noticed a very faint glow beneath a trapezium of 10th and 11th mag stars. I put the light pollution filter in and the glow was slightly more obvious, due to darkening of the sky background . I therefore drew a sketch of the field stars and galaxy for future checking. 23.55 UT (00.55 local) The GOTO accuracy was beginning to wane, so I re-aligned the scope and would you believe it ! apart from Vega, all the chosen Easy Guide stars were in the wrong part of the sky, so I had to do a two-star align on Vega and Markab (Alpha Pegasi), which worked well. I returned to Andromeda to tour the doubles in the eastern part of the constellation, and that included the orange and blue showpiece, Gamma, which showed up brilliantly at 73x. The same power also easily showed the white and reddish 59 Andromedae, the yellow / bluish STF 79 and the all-white STF 245. Higher power (173x) was needed to show the faint reddish companion to the yellowish STF 108. 00:20 UT (01.20 local) Is it the ferocious sea-monster sent to gobble up Andromeda, or has it been re-invented as a benign whale? My next target was another large but rather dim group Cetus. I I tried to find the 9th-magnitude galaxy NGC 247, one finder field radius from Beta Ceti, but the search failed, mainly due to the target's low altitude. The western part of Cetus was host to several interesting doubles. 37 Cet was very wide and easy at 73x, and 26 Cet showed a yellow / lilac colour contrast. I was also able to split HJ 2036 with difficulty at 173x (low in the sky), and STF 147 was equally tough for the same reason. 42 Cet was higher up but tighter, and I could only see it as elongated at 173x. I suspect that the seeing had worsened a little in the last half-hour or so. 00:50 UT (01.50 local) I slewed the scope north again to look at two (or should I say three) favourite objects in Perseus, which was very close to the zenith by now. The Double Cluster was awesome again at 48x, but M34 to the south was a fine gathering of some 50 stars, containing a double one (HJ 1123) near its centre. I gave my eyes a rest whilst waiting for the eastern part of Cetus to come into view. 01:20 UT (02.20 local) The next double in Cetus, 66 Ceti, has been described as 'topaz and violet'. My personal interpretation of the colours was more 'orange-yellow and lilac', but it was still very pretty at 73x. Nu required barlowing to 146x to show its faint bluish companion clear of the primary. The same power showed the yellow and reddish 84 Ceti, but Gamma Ceti was like another Delta Cygni. The whitish-lilac companion to the yellowish primary was visible without too much difficulty outside the first diffraction ring at 173x, positioned at about 10 o'clock. 01:35 UT (02:35 local) A quick look at the Pleiades for a feelgood finale. 01:40 UT (02.40 local) The night was getting rather chilly now parking the scope. 02:00 UT (03:00 local) Back home, I checked the sketch of M74 and its neighbouring stars with the SkyMap software, and the two agreed ! OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : Various Oct 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): See notes Time (UT) : Various Lim. Mag. (low south) : See notes Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : See notes Weather : Very fleeting breaks ! Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: The middle and end of October were almost a total wash-out, with the British Isles in the firing-line of vicious Atlantic depressions, gales and foul skies. The observations below were all that was possible with the ETX in the four weeks after October 9 that's how bad it was ! Thursday 22 Oct 20:00 - 20:30 UT (21:00 21:30 local) QUICK LOOK AT LUNA It was too cloudy to align the ETX with any guide stars, and so I thought it a good opportunity have a quick look at the Moon, now 8 days old. The seeing was poor at the Moon's altitude (16), but 73x still gave a reasonable view. Mount Pico and Plato were just emerging into the lunar dawn, and Archimedes and the Apennines provided an impressive view. Further south the eastern wall of Eratosthenes and its central peak were receiving the first rays, giving the appearance of a crescent and star. The Ptolemaeus crater trio was striking, and the Straight Wall's shadow was very long and prominent, with the crater Birt just emerging into the sunlight. The battered south polar region was a splendid sight, with Maginus on the terminator. Tuesday 26 Oct 05:30 - 05:50 UT (06:30 06:50 local) FIRST LOOK AT JUPITER This was my first view of Jupiter in the ETX. I was able to see Europa to the west, Ganymede and Io closer to the west, and Callisto well to the east. The planetary disk was disappointing due to bad seeing in fact it looked like a luminous amoeba most of the time. I could only resolve two cloud belts during fleeting better moments. The low altitude of 10 did not help ! Tuesday 26 Oct 21:00 - 23:15 UT (22:00 00:15 UT next day) BEST OF A BAD JOB A fairly clear evening at times with good seeing but marred by the Moon only 30 hours from Full, and high cirrus cloud. Only Polaris and the Guards were visible in Ursa Minor, so DSOs were an emphatic no-no. I had little choice but to go on a double star hunt in Cassiopeia, Triangulum, Aries and Perseus. My first test double was Zeta Aquarii, now descending in the west. I could not separate it as well as on previous occasions, implying a 2'' resolution limit on the evening. (21:20 UT) Cassiopeia was near the zenith, so I had another look at Eta, Iota and Sigma before trying a few others. STT 254 was very easy at 73x, and appeared reddish and bluish, and STF 3053 was a yellowish / whitish pair, still easy at the same power. Two other doubles, STF 3057 (white) and 3062 (yellow), were also visible in the same eyepiece field at 73x, but the former revealed its duplicity at 173x, whilst the latter still appeared single. Clouds began to obscure the group, so I had to slew south to Aries (22:00 UT) A frustrating hour or so of variable cloud cover, but I still managed to observe some doubles in the western parts of Aries and Triangulum. In Aries, 1 Ari was a fine gold / blue pair at 146x, whilst STF 178 was a fainter all-white even pair. Gamma was a fine all-white pair, again seen well at 73x, and Lambda was very easy, coloured yellow and lilac. On to Triangulum, STF 239 was a yellow / blue pair, again well seen at 73x. Higher power (146x) was needed to bring out the best in the brighter but closer yellow / blue pair of Iota Tri. STF 232 was by contrast evenly-matched and yellowish at 146x. Returning to Aries and lower power revealed 30 Ari to be a wide all-yellowish pair and 33 Ari to be yellowish and bluish, fading in the eyepiece as I was observing. I looked up and saw the reason the thickening cirrus clouds were blotting out all but the brightest stars. It was becoming futile to search for any other targets, so I parked the scope at 23:15 UT after a last glimpse at Gamma Andromedae ! The rest of Cassiopeia, Aries and Perseus had to wait until the next clear night. Looking forward to the lunar eclipse on Thursday morning if the Met Office has got its data wrong ! P.S. Thursday 28 Oct 0330 UT The Met Office had not had its data wrong, more's the pity. I woke up to a 100% overcast sky without hope and promptly went back to sleep again. Mark Kudlowski
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