Last updated: 6 December 2004
Subject: Observation logs for November (from rainy Manchester, UK !) Sent: Saturday, December 4, 2004 16:08:55 From: Mark and Alison Kudlowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) The weather in the UK for November had, believe it or not, been rather better than in October, and I'd managed to use the ETX on five nights, taking in several winter groups. SESSION 1: Cassiopeia & Perseus OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : 10 Nov 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.8 Time (UT) : 2115 2315 (local same) Lim. Mag. (low south) : 4.1 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 6-7 Weather : Clear but with some high cloud 3C Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: Powers used: Low Power: 48x (40mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) Standard Power: 73x (26mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) High Power: 146x (above + barlow) OR 173x (11mm TeleVue Plossl) Maximum Power: 345x (11mm TeleVue + barlow) Standard power used throughout the session unless otherwise stated. A SECOND ROYAL VISIT After a month of observing conditions which could only be described as evil, even by Northern English standards, I finally struck lucky as a cold front earlier today cleared much of the clouds and mists from the sky. I thus spent this evening looking at previously-unseen targets in the 'Royal Family' of autumn. 21:15 Aligned manually on Vega and Markab (Alpha Pegasi) 21:20 I identified the blue disk of NGC 7662, the Blue Snowball planetary in Andromeda, forming a neat 'Y' with three field stars. Barlowing to high power made the identification clearer, but I could not find the central star. 21:30 I continued with a tour of DSOs in Cassiopeia, sticking to standard power throughout, as it was difficult to change eyepieces and alter the focus, with the targets so near the zenith. *NGC 7789 was a fine gathering of stardust, with about a dozen points of light visible inside, rather like a somewhat fainter version of M37 in Auriga. *NGC 225 was a coarser grouping, shaped like a 'euro' symbol (or a capsized sailboat). *NGC 559, 654 and 659 were tight glows with only a few stars visible. *NGC 663 was a more impressive, comprising of two overlapping arcs, one bright and one faint looking like a well-known fast food trademark. *NGC 1027 was a crooked line of five brighter stars surrounded by the glow of fainter ones. 22:15 I examined four doubles, again in Cassiopeia. STF 65 was a rather tough but well-matched yellow pair at high power, whilst standard power revealed 35 Cas to be a wide bluish / reddish pair, and STF 163 as light orange and blue. I could split the main yellow and blue components of Psi Cas, but could not split the blue component again, even at high power. 22:35 I looked at the list of deep-sky targets in western Perseus. *NGC 744 was a small triangle of stars with a few fainter ones nearby. *NGC 957 was likewise a rather poor linear grouping of fairly bright stars in a faint glow. I then dialled in supposedly the faintest object in Messier's catalogue, the Little Dumbbell, M76, and EUREKA ! There it was just in the standard-power FOV, like a ghostly champagne cork, easily seen even with direct vision. I find the published figure of 12.2 to be rather deceptive, as it was certainly an easier target than M74 in Pisces or M110 in Andromeda. I then looked at the fine double of Eta Persei (gold and blue), followed by M34 and the Double Cluster (superb as usual, especially at low power). 23:05 My last attempt at a deep-sky object was NGC 891 in Andromeda, said to be a difficult target. I viewed it tentatively as a cigar-shaped smudge with averted vision, but after trying to confirm, could not repeat the observation. There was some high cloud around, and it was thickening slightly. 23:15 I ended the session and parked the scope. SESSION 2: A deep-sky bonanza, including Orion and Saturn ! OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : 12-13 Nov 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 5.1 (moonless !) 7* in Ursa Minor Time (UT) : 22:00 03:00 (local same) Lim. Mag. (low south) : 4.5 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 7, improving to 8 Weather : Easing wind, clear, 0C Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: Powers used: Low Power: 48x (40mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) Standard Power: 73x (26mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) High Power: 146x (above + barlow) OR 173x (11mm TeleVue Plossl) Maximum Power: 345x (11mm TeleVue + barlow) Standard power used throughout the session unless otherwise stated. AUTUMN DOUBLES AND A WINTER OPEN (CLUSTER) SEASON I thought I was getting too lucky, with another cold weather front in the afternoon and another clear night. This time the wind did a more thorough job of clearing the clouds, and transparency was better than two days ago as a result. This looked like a particularly good night for star clusters in the winter Milky Way. 21:00 Brought the ETX out to cool down in the easing wind. 22:00 Wind had eased, so I retrained the Altitude drive on Polaris, as the poor accuracy of the GOTOs on high-altitude targets was becoming a nuisance, often being up to half a finder field radius out, or nearly two degrees. After the training, altitude accuracy on GOTOs improved greatly for most targets. I aligned the ETX manually on Deneb and Hamal (Alpha Arietis). 22:05 After all the attention lavished on the rest of the 'Royal Family', I felt that poor old Cepheus had been rather neglected in recent weeks. I started with the fine triple STF 2816 (white / bluish / bluish), and spotted a yellow / cyan pair (STF 2819) in the same field. Standard power was also sufficient to reveal STF 2840 (white and blue), STF 2873 (yellow and blue) and the whitish and bluish STF 2883. High power was needed for the orange/yellow pair STF 320 and the yellow pair STF 2903. I tried to split the red dwarf pair Kruger 60 under high power, and identified it correctly, but could only see it as single. I then aimed for some less well-known targets in the same group. The open cluster NGC 6939 was a faint glow with a few stars inside a kite- shaped asterism, and another, NGC 7510, was a wedge of about ten faint stars. Yet another cluster, NGC 188, famous for its 'old age', showed only a couple of very dim points of light in a faint glow. My last target in Cepheus was the faint greyish disk of the planetary NGC 40, which I picked up using averted vision. 22:35 I revisited some more multiples in the faint little group of Lacerta, near Cepheus. STF 2894 showed up as a white/pewter pair, and I could nake outw four stars in the Roe 47 system, but STF 2902 (yellow / white) and STF 2942 (all-white) were better seen under high power. 22:50 My next port of call was the eastern part of Aries. I was able to see two components of Pi at high power, but was unable to see the companions of 41 Ari. STF 326 was an orange and reddish pair seen at high power, and STF 394 was another nicely-contrasted pair, this time yellowish and bluish. Epsilon was a toughie, but it revealed its white components at maximum power evidently the scope had cooled down to optimum performance, or the seeing had improved. Returning to standard power, I suspected the presence of galaxy NGC 772 after slewing to it, but after a spiral search, I could not confirm it any further. 23:05 I then continued with the tour of deep-sky objects in Perseus, but this time in the eastern half. I took a look at four open clusters: * NGC 1342 was a loose group 20 stars shaped like a cooking-pot, framed inside a pentagonal 'Cepheus'. * NGC 1528 revealed several arcs of faint stars (30 +) with two brighter stars west of centre giving it the look of a distorted 'Gemini'. * NGC 1545 was a rather poor arrowhead of 4 stars in a faint glow. * NGC 1582 was again a rather poor gathering, with 10 brighter stars forming a wave or a reversed lazy 'S'. 23:25 I then diverted the ETX southward, to look at another oft-neglected group, especially for Northern observers. The dim sprawling group of Eridanus was host to some fine doubles. I was able to split the yellow / blue pair of 32 Eri, and the orange / cyan 39 Eri, but the seeing and the faintness of the companion prevented me from splitting Rho-2, even at high power. Tau-4 was wider, but the companion was only tentatively visible due to low altitude. I had more luck in seeing the two main components of Omicron-2 (yellow / reddish), as well as the bluish pair of STF 570 and the yellow / bluish pair of 55 Eri. 23:45 I took a short break for a cup of hot chocolate before looking at some less well-known deep sky objects in Taurus. *NGC 1647 was a shield-shaped gathering of some 30 stars, not unlike a miniature Hyades. *NGC 1746 was a rather poor jumble incorporating about a dozen stars. (This cluster was in the same line of sight as two loose groups, NGC 1750 and 1758). *NGC 1807 was a poor line of three brighter stars in a hazy glow. *NGC 1817 was a tight zigzag of 4 stars, again in a hazy glow, though slightly richer than the previous cluster. *NGC 1514 was a planetary with a bright central star surrounded by a round bluish glow, best seen in averted vision. I was again able to discern the amorphous glow of M1, the Crab Nebula, but could not see any further detail. 00:10 The brilliant kite-shape of Auriga was now approaching the zenith, so I pointed the ETX to the harvest of open clusters there. *NGC 1664 was a dim semicircle (or inverted trident) of 10 stars north of an 8th magnitude field star. *NGC 1778 was a sail-shaped quadrilateral (a 'mini-Corvus') in a glow. *NGC 1857 was an unresolved glow in the middle of a diamond of 8th magnitude stars. *NGC 1893 looked like two clusters, with a wedge-shaped group of 10 stars in the west and a T-shaped asterism to its east. The clusters above were only a starter for the real thing in Auriga, as I aimed the ETX at the three Messier objects in the group. *M36 was an attractive gathering of some 25 stars, but rather difficult to distinguish from the general Milky Way background. It looked better in low power. *M38 was a striking cruciform gathering, with fainter stars than M36, but more of them, about 40. *M37 was the richest and finest of the three, with over fifty 10th and 11th magnitude individual stars in an oval frame, and dozens more on the threshold of resolution. 00:45 Part of Gemini had come into view from the garden, so I took a look at three clusters in that group. NGC 2129 was a nondescript glow to the east of a small group of stars highlighted by a triangle. Was this group a foreground asterism ? I had to turn the ETX onto something rather better - M35 did very nicely, with about 60 stars filling the field, with the brightest stars arranged in the shape of a saxophone ! Again, I could clearly see the more distant NGC 2158 as a hazy patch to its southwest. 00:50 I slewed the ETX south again to look at a variety of targets in Orion, which by now was high in the south-east. The blue companion of Rigel was clearly visible at high power (much better than on September 24), but standard power was more striking all four hot white stars of Theta-1, the Trapezium. Another splendid multiple was Sigma, with four components clearly separated in the ETX, the faintest being of magnitude 10. I was able to see the green glow of the reflection nebula M78 surrounding a pair of 10th-magnitude stars, and the curious pattern of the open cluster NGC 2169. The layout of that cluster has been said to look like the number '37', but in the ETX it looked more like the Greek capital letters Gamma and Sigma ! I returned to M42 and M43 for a feelgood look before slewing south again to another difficult Messier target, the globular M79 in Lepus, south of Orion. The ETX revealed it fairly easily despite the low altitude a pleasant surprise. 01:20 I slewed the ETX back to the north-east for a tour of Monoceros, a somewhat 'invisible' group to naked-eye observers, but a treasure-trove for the ETX. I chose five notable targets for this session. *Open cluster: NGC 2244 was a bright gathering of some 25 stars in a rectangular pattern, highlighted by the yellowish star 12 Mon, best seen at low power. I could not see any visible wisps of the Rosette nebula around it, but it was still a fine sight in the ETX. *Open cluster: NGC 2264 was a large, bright, conical group of some 20 stars south of the star 15 Mon, again best seen at low power. This cluster has been nicknamed the Christmas Tree, but the erect view in the ETX was more reminiscent of a bunch of grapes or a pine-cone ! I could not see the Cone Nebula or Hubble's Variable Nebula nearby, though. *Open cluster: M50 was a pleasant rectangular grouping of about 30 stars, surrounded by a background glow, well seen at standard power. *Triple Star: Beta Monocerotis was a fine bluish-white triple system, appearing double at medium power, but with the fainter component again double at high power. *Triple Star: STF 939 was fainter than Beta, but formed an intriguing near-equilateral triangle, well seen at standard power. 01:40 I took feelgood glimpses of the Pleiades and Hyades (in finder) whilst waiting for M41 in Canis Major to appear. 01:45 The open cluster M41 was a very fine sight in the ETX, despite low altitude and light pollution. I could discern about 40 stars (with an orange one near the centre), with two prominent arcs highlighting an 'X' shape. 01:50 The long viewing session was taking its toll, so I took a well-deserved coffee break to warm up whilst waiting for Saturn to appear from my garden vantage-point. 02:35 The final viewing of the night, well worth waiting for ! Saturn was over 50 degrees up in the south-east, so this was the best viewing chance so far with the ETX. The globe and rings were razor-sharp at 73x, and Titan was clearly seen to the north-west of Saturn, and another moon (Rhea ?) again due north-west but closer in. I thought, let's raise the power for a better view. Raising the power to 173x revealed the shadow of the globe on the rings plus some cloud bands, and hints of Cassini's Division. I thus decided to go for broke and stick in the barlow for maximum power of 345x. This time there was no doubt about it Cassini's Division was visible for periods of calm lasting several seconds at a time, without the image of the planet breaking down. I could have stared all night at this magnificent view, but all good things must come to an end, and I had to admit tiredness after twenty minutes and close down for the night. 02:55 End of session parked the scope. SESSION 3 - Main targets Perseus and Taurus OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : 13 Nov 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.9 (moonless !)_ Time (UT) : 20:00 00:45 next day (local same) Lim. Mag. (low south) : 4.2 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 8, improving to 9 Weather : Clear, -1C Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: Powers used: Low Power: 48x (40mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) Standard Power: 73x (26mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) High Power: 146x (above + barlow) OR 173x (11mm TeleVue Plossl) Maximum Power: 345x (11mm TeleVue + barlow) Standard power used throughout the session unless otherwise stated. FROM AUTUMN TO WINTER THE HERO AND THE BULL This was to be another good viewing session, with better seeing but slightly lower transparency than last night. This was more a night for close double stars. Included in the programme were the last highlights of autumn, plus an in-depth double star tour of two splendid early winter constellations; Perseus and Taurus. 20:10 I performed a two-star align the scope on Vega and Markab. 20:15 Last chance attempt at the Helix Nebula in Aquarius, NGC 7293. After searching through medium light pollution and low altitude, I suspected it at low power with the broadband filter as a ghostly grey ring nearly half a Full Moon across. 20:25 Another hard-to-spot planetary in the vicinity was NGC 246 in Cetus, which I did positively identify as a 10th-magnitude greyish disk. 20:35 A casual session of viewing past targets, described in more detail in previous documents. (M31, 32, 110; M33, M39, Gamma And, Gamma Ari, NGC 457, and a fast-descending Albireo). The 'Summer Triangle' is sinking along with the outside temperature ! 21:15 Tested the seeing with Zeta Aquarii showed clearly in 11mm at high power, with no image breakdown at maximum power. This bade well for the evening's double-viewing session. 22:00 I began my double star tour of Perseus from west to east. This was not the easiest of tasks as the constellation was practically at the zenith, with its two main problems: a) turning my head at awkward angles to see anything and b) difficulty in focusing when changing eyepieces, especially in this frosty weather. The white pair STF 162 was just resolved at high power, as were the contrasting pair STF 268 and STF 270. Both pairs shared the same high-power field, and were yellowish, but the former was much tighter and rather more closely-matched. Still at high power, STF 314 was barely split, though barlowing to maximum confirmed it as a well-matched white pair. Slewing the ETX south and changing down a power to high, I observed STF 369 as a white / bluish pairing. Changing down again to standard, Theta was a fine gold and bluish pair, despite the faintness of the companion, but not as striking as the more deeply-coloured gold and blue Eta. STF 392 was a fainter orange / bluish pairing, whilst STF 331 was a fine white / bluish pair. 22:45 Eastern Perseus was still waiting to clear, so I looked at M34 and the Double Cluster again. 22:55 I made a start on my doubles list in western Taurus, with less of the awkward contortions as the group was at a more user-friendly altitude ! The Pleiades cluster itself had a fine white / violet double in 19 Tau or Taygete, in a glorious setting at low power the perfect start for a tour of the Bull. I used standard power to split STF 401 (white/yellow), with the wide pair STF 7 north of it in the same field. This 'double-double' was followed by STF 422 (yellow/blue), STF 452 (unusual blue / reddish), and the white and orange STF 479. The next trio were all neatly grouped north to south in the finder, and all wide and easy. The northernmost (Phi) was yellow and blue; the middle one (Chi) was white and blue, and 62 Tau was white and yellowish. The remaining targets in western Taurus required high power. They were the yellow pair STF 495, the white pair STF 494 and the pale yellow pair STF 572. The area of the Hyades cluster included the pairs of STT 82 (yellowish / white, only just split), STF 546 (yellow / bluish) and STF 559 (both bluish). Slewing south, I tried to split the yellow pair 47 Tau, but I could only make out a 'bump' off the Airy disk, even at maximum power. 23:40 Return to finish off eastern Perseus. At least the stars there were more southerly, making changing eyepieces and focusing easier. I tried to split Omicron at high power, but was unable to do so even at maximum. The last five pairs were all well seen at high power; STT 531 (yellow and bluish) was rather difficult, but 56 Per (orange / yellow) and STF 552 (white pair) were easier. Epsilon was a fine white / blue pair despite the five magnitudes difference, and Zeta was wider but tougher due to its seven-magnitude difference, like a fainter Rigel. 00:10 I turned the ETX south again to central and eastern Taurus, changing down to standard power. I was able to make out two components of 103 Tau, but not the third. I then aimed for 118 Tau to the east, but our house wall was in the way. Whilst waiting, I slewed the ETX south to the main winter feature, namely a feelgood look at the Great Orion Nebula and its environs. Amazingly, high power did not seem to dim the nebula that much, and, if anything, it revealed even finer detail. 00:30 The last three doubles in Taurus have cleared our wall. I was able to observe them all at high power; STF 730 was easy and all-white, 118 Tau was a white / yellow pair, and STF 742 was yellowish and white. 00:45 The night was getting rather chilly, so I parked the scope and ended the session. I must have been tired as well, as I would have jumped at another viewing of Saturn ! Note: I was using a portable 12V battery pack, and it lasted for five hours and still registered 'FULL' at the end of the session. SESSION 4 - a few unsung targets OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : 18 Nov 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.7 (near moonset) Time (UT) : 22:15 23:15 (local same) Lim. Mag. (low south) : 4.2 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 8 Weather : Clear spells, 0C Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: SOME FIRST-TIME TARGETS This was just a short session to pick off some lesser-known targets as a change from the more 'showy' stuff. 22:15 After aligning on Deneb and Hamal, I tested the seeing with Gamma Ceti it was clearly split at 345x (good) and the transparency with the dreaded Pinwheel Galaxy M33 (visible at 73x with direct vision). 22:25 Having failed on Kruger 60 the previous week, I then tried an easier dwarf, Groombridge 34 in Andromeda. This time, low power (73x) was able to split the 9th magnitude pair easily enough. 22:35 I slewed to the planetary nebula NGC 1535 in Eridanus, and I could easily distinguish it in the FOV. I was able to see both the central star and the blue glow of the nebula clearly at 73x. 22:40 Still in Eridanus at 73x, I tried to find NGC 1300 in the same group, but met with no success. The target was too low in the sky to penetrate the haze and light pollution from Manchester. 22:45 I repeated the observation of M74 from October 9, and despite slightly poorer conditions, was just able to nail it again with averted vision. 22:50 The western parts of Ursa Major were peeping through the gap between our wall and the neighbours'. I reckoned I could just about bag M81 and M82 in the ETX if I was quick enough, so I put the lowest-power eyepiece in (48x), and behold ! both were clearly seen in the same field. 23:05 I slewed the ETX to previously uncharted territory of open cluster NGC 1502, in the obscure and star-poor group of Camelopardalis. At 73x, this was a surprisingly bright and attractive grouping of some15 stars arranged in the shape of an arrowhead or miner's pick. The brightest stars, in the middle of the cluster, were the 7th mag pair STF 485. Had the cluster been in a brighter constellation like Auriga or Perseus, it would have been a Messier candidate. 23:10 Speaking of missed Messier objects, I had a feelgood look at his most blatant omission over the border in Perseus the Double Cluster, always a showstopper. 23:15 I was getting chilly, and work beckoned me for the next day, so I parked the scope and called it a night. SESSION 5 - Moon, Auriga and Orion. OBSERVATIONAL NOTE SHEET Date : 19 Nov 2004 Lim. Mag. (zenithal): 4.6 Time (UT) : 20:00 - 01:40 next day Lim. Mag. (low south) : 4.0 Location : Bury, Lancashire, UK suburban Seeing (out of 10) : 6 (early evening), then 8 9 Weather : Largely clear, but periods of medium-high cloud: -2C Instruments: Meade ETX-125EC Notes: Powers used: Low Power: 48x (40mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) Standard Power: 73x (26mm Meade Series 4000 Plossl) High Power: 146x (above + barlow) OR 173x (11mm TeleVue Plossl) Maximum Power: 345x (11mm TeleVue + barlow) Standard power used throughout the session unless otherwise stated. This session began with a view of the first-quarter Moon, but then turned into a survey of Orion and Auriga, two of winter's grandest constellations. FIRST QUARTER MOON HIGHLIGHTS 20:00 I rough-aligned the scope for a viewing session of the first-quarter Moon, now descending in the southwest. The seeing was rather poor, suited only to standard power with odd chances of higher power. Despite this caveat, the terminator region was full of interest. In the north, the Alpine Valley, and the craters of Autolycus and Aristillus were very prominent, as were the central Apennines, whilst Mount Piton revealed a peak in sunlight. Along the central part of the terminator, the jumbled terrain east of Rhaeticus took on a three-dimensional effect, with Hipparchus and Albategnius both strikingly in shadow. Lunar dawn was only beginning to light the eastern walls of the Ptolemaeus chain. Continuing towards the rugged south, Werner and Aliacensis were well-shown, as was Stoefler. Away from the terminator, the Theophilus chain and the northern crater-pair of Eudoxus and Aristoteles still had some floor-shadow, as did Maurolycus in the south. Proclus, off the west shore of the Mare Crisium, revealed its modest ray-system well. Indeed, this Mare was well-seen due to favourable libration, which also explained why the Ptolemaeus trio were 'off-centre'. 20:25 Wisps of cloud were beginning to cover the lunar disk, making study of finer detail difficult. 20:30 A frustrating period as thickening medium-level cloud obscured everything. Parked the scope and settled to dinner, hoping for another lucky break. 'HUNTING' SEASON WITH A CHARIOTEER. The second part of the evening was set aside for an in-depth survey of multiple stars in Orion and Auriga. 22:45 I returned outside to a cloudless skyRe-aligned the scope accurately on Hamal and Alcyone (Pleiades). I tested the seeing on Epsilon Arietis, and was able to split it at maximum power, which pointed to a 1.5 arcsecond night - the seeing had improved over the last two hours. 22:50 Whilst waiting for the magnificent Orion to come into view to the east of south, I had a quick peek at some previously-documented colourful doubles in Cetus and Pisces, now dropping westward. The targets were 26 Cet, 66 Cet, 35 Psc, 55 Psc, and Alpha Psc. In addition, I was able to split the white pair of 42 Cet at maximum power. 23:15 I was ready to start the tour in the western reaches of Orion, starting with wider pairs and standard power. They included the all-white STF 627 and STF 630, and the yellow / cyan 23 Ori, but Tau was a miss due to the faintness of its companion. High power revealed the blue / white STF 589, the striking orange / cyan Rho, and the white and yellow STF 701. Again, the ETX had no difficulty showing the companion of Rigel, and the blue / red pair of STF 712, but Eta and 33 Ori required barlowing to maximum power to reveal their white and blue components. However, Psi and 31 Ori were again misses, due to faint secondaries and increasing haze. This haze was to nullify the darkening of the sky after moonset ! 23:50 A thin band of cloud stopped me in my tracks. 00:00 I resumed the doubles hunt in Orion, using high power. Lambda was a bright white / blue pair, and STF 757-758 formed a fascinating white/blue/blue triple. High, even maximum, power was also needed to split Alnitak (Zeta), which proved to be a tough pair, as the secondary lay on the first diffraction ring of the primary, like Delta Cygni. I revisited the easy pair of Mintaka (Delta) and the splendid quartet of Sigma at low power, and then proceeded to look at the four doubles in the Sword. Theta-1, the Trapezium, was superb at low power, as was the wider Theta-2. Still in the Sword, the white pairs of Iota and STF 747 both revealed their duplicity, visible in the same low-power field. Higher power also revealed a third component of Iota. 00:25 Interrupted by another band of cloud. 00:35 I had only three stragglers in eastern Orion left to go, and all needed different powers for best viewing. I had to crank up to maximum to split 52 Ori as a matching white pair, whilst STF 853 was wider but fainter, with yellow components, best seen at low power. Another all-yellowish pair was STF 880, which was similar in brightness to STF 853, but closer and best seen at high power. 00:45 I checked the western and northern sky and found it clear enough to continue the doubles hunt in Auriga, now very prominent near the zenith and less affected by the haze than Orion lower to the south. Standard power easily resolved STF 698 (yellow / greenish), STF 764 (white / bluish) and Psi-5 (yellowish and bluish). Nu was very wide with an orange-yellow primary and a relatively faint bluish companion, and 14 Aur was yellowish with an even fainter secondary. STF 872 was a colourful orange / blue pair, whilst the fine yellow / blue / blue isosceles triangle of STT 147 rounded off the low-power viewing in Auriga. The remaining doubles needed high power to split them; Omega (yellow / orange); 5 Aur (yellow / bluish); STF 718 (yellow pair) and Theta (both bluish-white). Finally, STF 644 was a yellowish / bluish pair which required maximum power to confirm its duality. 01:35 After the doubles-hunting, I reverted to standard power and took a quick look at a previously-missed open cluster, NGC 2281, whilst the sky around Auriga was still clear but everywhere west was clouding over. The cluster had some 20 stars in all, the brightest ones arranged like a 'Delphinus' with two arcs of stars to the north. 01:40 Cloud thickening from the west, with no clear trailing edge in sight. I ended the session and parked the scope.
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