I haven’t written much lately in terms of observing reports, so this post will cover three different nights. First, I’ll briefly give a brief rundown of the night of the Perseids. Then, I’ll cover my observing from August 22nd. Lastly, I’ll give a good recap of the SBAS star party from August 25th.
Night of the Perseids:
So the Perseids visited us from mid to late July on into late August. The peak time to watch was around August 11th and 12th. The club didn’t have an official star party, but several of us went out to the observatory to watch. On the 11th, I only counted seven meteors and on the 12th, I counted around 17 or 18. A club member went to a dark site in Arkansas and observed around 200 meteors. Amazing.
Before the meteor shower picked up, one club member spotted a naked eye satellite traveling just below Vega and into Cygnus. I looked it up in SkySafari and it turned out to be S/B 16 and a second one which followed a similar path was S/B 14.
The meteor shower wasn’t all that active in our sky, so two of us switched from meteor watching to observing. After checking out my usual haunts, I went for something new. The other club member there was doing AP work and had his scope capturing NGC7008, a planetary nebula in Cygnus. It’s also called the Fetus Nebula.
I attempted to find it and was unsuccessful, so I gave my eyes a break and tried again. This time, I picked out the correct pair of stars and using an OIII filter, pulled out some more nebulosity. Without a filter, there was a faint glow around the two stars. With the filter, the kidney bean shape was more noticeable at 92x, but at 150x, the filter wiped out most of the view. It was easier to find hopping from the star Mu Cephei in Cepheus, but I admit I resorted to my setting circle to make sure I was in the right area.
As the night went on, we both realized Orion was on its way up, so after spending some time looking at Jupiter (fantastic views were had) and Venus, I targeted M42. It was still low on the horizon, so the wings were not as prominent as they could’ve been. Clouds started rolling in at that point, so I alternated between viewing the Pleiades and Jupiter. The moon actually popped in and out of the clouds, so I shot some video as it was fading in and out. I particularly enjoy capturing the moon on cloudy nights like that.
On the 22nd, I observed from my home site and spent a lot of time viewing in Cygnus, mainly staring at the Eastern and Western Veil Nebulae. I also had a look at Saturn before it went below the horizon, but there was a lot of turbulence to cope with.
The thing I’ve noticed when viewing the Veil is that the Eastern is easier to see than the Western portion. I spent some time thinking about why that might be. The Eastern Veil is a nice arc covering a significant stretch of sky, whereas the Western Veil is somewhat smaller and comes off of 52 Cyg. It dawned on me that perhaps the brightness of 52 Cyg interferes with my vision, making the faint nebula more difficult to see, even with a filter. One end of the Western Veil is always easier to spot compared to the other, but as long as I can find 52 Cyg, I have no trouble finding the Eastern Veil, even without a filter. Without a filter, it often appears as a dark arc, or rather, a very faint arc against the background.
I’m glad my eyesight is what it is.
M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, was decent and I could make out the four wispy corners, but it required a significant amount of effort and focus to draw all of them out. The view from the Worley on the 12th was much more cloudy and milk-like than at home, so the view wasn’t quite as enjoyable, the notching was easily visible.
I consulted SkySafari next and decided to visit the Blue Snowball, but on my way there, I noticed a tiny glob on the charts, NGC6934. I had my 2″ 38mm SWA eyepiece in because that eyepiece can draw out the Blue Snowball much easier than my 32mm Plossl. From Delphinus, I hopped over to 6934 and immediately found it. This glob was more like the tiny globs in Sagittarius, so unless you’ve got a dark sky, it might not be visible. I chose not to boost the power on it because I didn’t expect to see much, aside from a few resolved stars.
Star Party August 25, 2012: Last Chance to See Saturn
The SBAS hosted a star party on the 25th of August to draw out a crowd to see Saturn before it disappeared into the horizon. We won’t be seeing it again until next March. We ended up having 209 people attend and members had scopes set up to show the moon, saturn, astrophotography, and other objects. We almost canceled the show. Clouds had been rolling through the area all day and rain was in the western sky. By the time the star party began, things had cleared up a little, but the moon was still blotted out and Saturn hadn’t dipped below the clouds yet either.
I was on Saturn duty. In fact, I was the first to find it. How? I have a T-bar I use with a magnetic compass to locate magnetic north. I adjust my setting circle to reflect the 2°E declination. That put me in the ballpark for finding Saturn. I saw it in my finderscope and off we went. Other members followed suit with binoculars, refractors, an SCT, and even a 10″ newt.
Once Saturn dipped low enough to where I was viewing my neighbor’s 10″ dob and the top of his head, he took over Saturn detail and I switched to viewing the moon.
The crowd soon dissipated and I began showing people things like M13, M57, the Veil, Mars, M27, the Double Cluster, and M31/32/110. Later in the night, I also showed off the ET Cluster (Owl Cluster) in Cass.
Before things really shut down, we decided to try to split Antares with someone’s brand new refractor. He was aligned, so the motor moved to put Antares into view. We put in a 3mm eyepiece and split Antares. The second star, to me, had a white color to it, although some people saw shades of blue. Now that I know what I should see, I’m going to attempt to split Antares before it also disappears below the horizon for a while.
As the night progressed, I hit up the Blue Snowball, M103, and M33. I attempted to find the Little Gem Nebula, but could not see anything in that area that even remotely resembled a planetary nebula.
I hit up Jupiter and the Pleiades, but dew started to become a problem on various surfaces and clouds completely wiped out the sky overhead. I ended my night around 3am, packed up, and headed home.