June 2014 Orion Deep Sky Challenge: NGC5907

After noticing a tweet from @oriontelescopes on Twitter about their June Deep Sky Challenge, I looked up NGC5907 on Wikipedia first because it resembled the Needle Galaxy. I soon discovered via SkySafari Pro that it was just below M102, the Spindle Galaxy, located in the constellation Draco.

Around 11pm, I got the scope out and let it briefly adjust to the outside air, allowing time for my eyes to also acquire some dark adaptation. I saw Vega right away and panned over to the head of Draco. I then followed Draco’s body around to Iota Draconis, Edasich. That was my jump point for star hopping.

With my 35mm 2″ AstroTech Titan Type II, I centered Edasich, navigating left to a pair of vertically oriented stars. Moving the scope left again and up slightly, I came across an arch of about four stars. NGC5907 was supposedly to the side of that arch. It took me a moment, but averted vision revealed a thin faint galaxy, but it was too small and thin for that eyepiece.

I switched to a 17mm 1.25″ Plossl. The galaxy was much easier to make out, but still difficult. Moving the galaxy to the edges of the field improved the view, as did averted vision and nudges of the end of the scope.

NGC5907 appeared as a thin galaxy, diagonally oriented, quite dim, with no discernible core or detail. Only with averted vision and nudges of the scope could I visualize a core and any brighter views. The areas on either side of the core became slightly more white with averted vision and the ends were more noticeable. Dark adaptation is absolutely necessary to observe this one, at least for me.

5907-1

5907-2

5907-3

Upcoming Occultation 1/3/2013

In astronomy, there are several kinds of observations to be made. A fellow club member has a particular fascination with asteroid occultations, for example. He sends out email notifications for upcoming occultations, but as of yet, either my schedule has not allowed for my chance to observe one or the weather has clouded me out. On the 3rd of January at 7:25pm CST, I have another shot at observing one of these events.

http://www.asteroidoccultation.com/2014_01/0104_834_32036.htm

For about five seconds, magnitude 10.8 star TYC 1285-00016-1 (HD 286142 in Sky Safari) will become eclipsed by magnitude 15.2 asteroid (834) Burnhamia. Essentially, the star blinks.

To find this star ahead of time, use the charts on the aforementioned page at asteroidoccultation.com. On that page, there are links to star charts to assist in finding the star in question. SkySafari Pro lists the star has having a location of RA 04h57m 23.11s/Dec +17° 34′ 34.7″.

Starting from Aldebaran, I moved down to Omicron Orionis 1 & 2. They form a triangle with another star. To their left on the chart, there is another triangle of stars. From the top left star, move up to a bucket shaped cluster of stars. From the top left star, find the faint double, another faint star, and then two stars spaced apart (the bottom or right star is a faint double). These final steps form a Y shape and the star in question is at the top of that Y.

See arrows below and refer to charts from asteroidoccultation.com:

Image

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Observation log: 8/29-8/30 2013

In the late hours of Thursday night until about 2AM Friday morning, I put my two scopes to work in tandem. I had one main goal of finding two planetary nebulas in Cygnus and a secondary goal of viewing the Veil, both Eastern and Western. Beyond that, it was up to me to decide whether or not to chase down other targets.

In a previous outing I chose not to blog about, I hunted down NGC7026, triggered in part by a photo posted on Instagram of NGC7027. My eyes were not functioning as intended and instead of a 7, I read 6. I found NGC7026 in my new 4.5″ Orion Autotracker, but soon realized I made the mistake of confusing the two. I suspect I am not the first to make this mistake, however.

The first pass on NGC7026 was interesting. I used the opportunity to learn to starhop with the new scope using a 13mm eyepiece that gave approximately one degree field of view. Using the degree circle in SkySafari, I was able to starhop my way down from Deneb to NGC7026. In that observation, the planetary was a faint fuzzy with some less than circular borders surrounded by an arc of stars, the first of which shined orange in color. I could easily discern an adjacent star to the small planetary, but I knew that in order to really get a good look at the thing, I would have to use the 8″ scope.

That brought me to this night. The Clear Sky Chart was decent. Seeing and Transparency values were very good for this kind of hunt. Mag 4.5 to 4.7 stars were my faintest Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude and M31 was visible to the naked eye. I set out around 9pm to find NGC7027 first, making use of the grab-n-go nature of the 4.5″ Autotracker. After about 20 minutes of dark adaptation and casual Veil Nebula watching, I spent a fair amount of time bouncing off of Nu Cygni in the approximate direction of NGC7027. I thought I had the right area, but I couldn’t quite line things up with the star chart in front of me. I found a pair of stars with a triangle next to them, but the chart said 7027 was within a degree of that and a planetary nebula, I did not see. I decided to starhop from Xi Cygni instead. That put me in roughly the same area, but this time, for whatever reason, I picked up on a fuzzy looking star.

I must take a moment to emphasize the value in learning to spot a planetary nebula like this. Once you see one at low power, you’ll never again lack confidence in hunting down small objects like this, even in a small aperture scope at low power. You want to train your eyes to see that halo. It won’t be as obvious as the Eskimo Nebula, for example, but once you learn to spot the halo, you won’t have much trouble spotting a planetary as long as you are searching in the right spot in the sky.

The fuzzy star I saw had a bluish tint and a subtle flicker at around 38x and slightly more of a bluish tone at double that magnification (13mm/2x barlow). I declared the object found, but that also meant I had to add this one to the list of things to see in the XT8.

Fast forward about two hours.

I set up the XT8 without my leveling board, put my 4.5 on the tripod, and set up my iPhone in a cradle mounted on another tripod. The Thermacell was turned on and the stargazing commenced.

I went for NGC7027 first since I had only viewed it hours prior to that moment, starhopping down from Nu Cygni, landing on the planetary nebula at medium power (17mm/70x). I centered the object and applied more oomph (17mm/3x barlow = 211x). The first glimpse was interesting. Instead of a fuzzy ball, I saw a fuzzy nebula with a diagonal line across it from 7 o’clock up to 2 o’clock, an appearance akin to the astrophotography of this X shaped object. The halo was nondistinct and no central star was visible, although with averted vision, something popped out a couple times for me. Couldn’t verify that was a central star, though. At 8mm/2x (300x), I could see a second line across the planetary, this time with a vertical appearance, forming the X I had seen in the photos online. That line was not as long as the first, only extending out from end to end about half the length of the other line. UHC/OIII filters made no difference in the view. In fact, they blurred the image too much. Urban Skyglow filter made the view slightly more crisp, but not by much. The filter made it easier to visualize the second line across the nebula.

Here’s a vague digital sketch of the planetary nebula from memory:

7027-1

I decided to go ahead and swing around to NGC7026 again. I oriented myself to Cygnus, which was still upside down relative to the mental picture of the constellation, situated at the Zenith, which made starhopping a little cumbersome with the XT8. I decided to make a pass over the area once to refamiliarize myself with the star field before doing any serious starhopping. I assumed I could find the arc of stars the planetary is located in just by panning over the right spot, but I was wrong. I had to starhop from Deneb again, down to 55 Cygni and then to f1 Cygni, the same orange star I had seen the other night. NGC7026 was in the same view as f1Cygni, although it helped to push its brightness out of view to better see the PN.

I switched to my 8mm TMB, refocused, and centered NGC7026. The PN was obvious. Instead of an unimpressive faint fuzzy, the clarity improved and it was distinctly separate from the adjacent star I commented on previously. The surrounding halo was an obvious gray patch. At 8mm/2x (300x), I made a new discovery. There was a central notch and two bright symmetrical spots on either side, almost like a butterfly or a moth. The angle of the planetary respective to those two spots made a line almost tangentially below the neighboring star to the left. OIII/UHC made the view worse, however, likely because I was pushing too much on power.

Here’s a very basic digital sketch of the 300x view.
7026-2

After that, I decided to look at the Veil. It wasn’t spectacular, but I spent some time learning what I could get at different magnifications. In the XT8, I started with the 32mm and fit most of the Eastern Veil in view using an OIII filter to bring out the nebulosity. I upped the magnification with a 17mm and the OIII and the intensity of the nebulosity shot up. I couldn’t pull out much detail, but the improvement in nebulosity gave me hope that in more ideal conditions, I could use the 17 to view structure. I didn’t try a 13mm eyepiece, but it might be worth using in better conditions (like at Okie Tex).

The Western Veil was crap. I couldn’t see much of it at all. It has been notoriously difficult for me to view the Western Veil lately and this bothers me. I saw it plain as day in someone’s 10″ Astro Tech a while back using my eyepiece and my OIII filter.

I quickly viewed M31 and was able to see M32 and 110 without difficulty. Since I was in the area, I tried hunting down two Caldwell objects, both galaxies, NGC185 and NGC147. After lots of painful eyepiece switching and star chart references, I pulled out the 38mm eyepiece. I thought I saw both of them at low magnification, but zooming in showed one fuzzy area to be a cluster of stars and the other, nothing at all.

I won’t call these found just yet. I know how small galaxies like this appear in my scope, so a nice dark sky should give me the view I need.

After that, I waited for Perseus to get some altitude before zeroing in on the California Nebula with the 4.5. I was able to see a very faint section of it in the 32 with my HBeta filter. I’ve seen it before, so I know that time is on my side. It just needs some altitude to clear the atmospheric muck, but then again, dark skies would be quite helpful too.

Oh yeah. I’m ready for Okie Tex.

Observing Report 7/20/2013 – 7/21/2013

The SBAS held our monthly meeting last night at LSU-S, during which we discussed a multitude of business-related topics, mostly about our budget, but the highlight of the meeting was a presentation given by one of our members and one of my good friends, Joey Matheson. He had been waiting for the opportunity to purchase an Observa-Dome dome in Natchitoches located at the high school. It went to auction recently and he snagged it at a heck of a bargain. There has been a 14″ scope inside of this thing and now, it’s his…and ours.

observadome

Courtesy of Bing Maps

We are planning on transporting it (somehow) to our main observing site and while Joey will still own the dome, it’ll be there for club use. I can’t wait to give it a try.

We also discussed the possibility of fixing a C14 that has some focus issues, but they want to buy an expensive Hotech collimating device to get it back up and running. From what I understand, it was giving us a double image, in addition to other focusing issues. Imagine having a C14 at our disposal. The SBAS is on an up swing, assuming we can raise some much needed cash to keep us afloat.

After the meeting ended, I drove on out to the Worley under an almost full moon to do some observing. After setting up, I discovered I had placed my tarp near some rabbit droppings, so I had to remember that for the rest of the night so as to not step in it in the dark. I also had an armadillo pay me a quick visit before I packed up and left.

armadillo

I leveled the scope, got aligned with Deneb, checked my alignment with Polaris and a few other objects, and set out to mess around with whatever the sky could offer. I also set up my binoculars on the tripod for some quick viewing. Not long after that, our club president and another member showed up to do some observing too.

Observing log:

Saturn: 150x and 300x (8mm/2x). Really crisp. Cassini was easy. Additional A/B ring detail (gradient). Surface detail. Three moons. I should’ve recorded video for stacking.

Cat’s Eye Nebula: Fleeting view of central star with direct vision. Slight slanting of its edges. 150x and 300x. Found with setting circles.

Moon: Aristarchus. Schroter’s Valley. Reiner Crater & Gamma. 25mm and 8mm with variable polarizer.

Doubles: Split Mizar and Albireo with binos. Split Izar at 150x in 8mm TMB.

Dumbbell: Viewed for fun to see how bad moonlight could kill it. Big smudge. No arching. No filter required. Didn’t try with a filter. Surprising, but not unexpected.

I could barely see the Eastern Veil with an OIII filter when it was closer to the Zenith. Prior to that, it was not visible at all.

I found two Caldwell open clusters (see below). Hunted for a couple Caldwell Cassiopeia galaxies (NGC147, NGC185), but couldn’t visualize them. Identified the location. Couldn’t overcome the moonlight. Same with a Caldwell nebula in Corona Australis. Right location. No visual confirmation.I also tried searching for NGC40 again, but I still could not see any signs of a planetary nebula anywhere in that field of view.

Found M31 in binos, then in 8×40 finder, then in 32mm eyepiece. M31/M32 were easy. M110 was barely visible with my skyglow LP filter.

Caldwell Objects:
NGC7243/Caldwell 16: Open cluster in Lacerta
12:35am. 48.6° az, 52.8° alt
Found by starhopping straight up from 4 Lacerta. Obvious cluster, despite being located in a very rich field. Cluster itself was narrow at top and widened out with a noticeable gap between two patches of stars within the cluster. The smaller patch had six or seven prominent stars shaped in a pentagon-like formation. The bottom larger half had 10-12 prominent stars with many more faint stars scattered in between. When viewed together, the cluster resembled a snail. Observed in a fairly moonlit sky. Viewed in 32mm ep (37.5x).

I will revisit this cluster because Struve 2890, a 9th mag double star, sits in the middle of the cluster. (It pays to review the SkySafari description ahead of time. Obviously, I did not do this prior to observing tonight.)

NGC6885/Caldwell 37: Open cluster in Vulpecula.
12:52am. 122.8° az, 79.6° alt
Difficult to hone in on because it was near the Zenith. Used Albireo as a jump point and navigated down. Obvious open cluster in 32mm ep against background stars. Located next to another cluster, NGC6882. There was a clear gap between the two clusters, a very apparent dark patch. 6882 was essentially three visible stars with the brightest one in the middle. C37 was above it in the eyepiece. C37 resembled a broad X without a star in the center. Imagine the Under Armour clothing X logo. The brightest of the six visible stars was on the right side of the field (20 Vulpecula). There were four stars on the left and three on the right. The other stars around it were apparently also part of the cluster, so all of C37 resembled a W or an M, depending on how you view it.

I hope to knock out NGC40 soon, but I’m mainly gunning for a better view of IC342/C5.

Duck Hunting: NGC2359

One object on my observation list that I have been hoping to find is the Duck Nebula. Many of you might know it as Thor’s Helmet. If you google this emission nebula, the images displayed should provide you with enough imaginative inspiration to understand either name. I tend to think of it as Thor’s Helmet vs a duck.

On April 12, 2013, I was able to get a clear shot at the patch of sky just above Sirius where this nebula sits. I perused the chart in SkySafari and decided it was time for me to scratch this object off the list. I ended up finding NGC 2359 with ease and hopefully this post will help you find it too.

duck-ss

SkySafari Pro: Location of the Duck Nebula above Canis Major.

When Sirius returns to our early morning skies later this year, you will have a shot at finding this nebula. Above is a decent star chart with notable naked eye landmarks, including Sirius and Muliphein. M47 is also in the top left of the chart.

What you will need:
Low power eyepiece to starhop
High power eyepiece to view NGC2359
OIII filter (Cannot see NGC2359 without it)
Decent sky conditions
Optional: UHC Filter, 2x Barlow

SkySafari Pro: Duck Nebula

SkySafari Pro: Duck Nebula

I was able to locate NGC2359 at low power in a 26mm Plossl simply by navigating up from Sirius to Muliphein and then to NGC2360. From there, an eyeball estimation landed me in the right spot. If you are a chart-oriented star-hopper, then refer to your chart of choice and go for it.

This nebula is difficult to find without a nebula filter of some kind. You may use a UHC filter first, but an OIII filter is where the magic happens. If you want to see the wings, use an OIII.

4/12/2013. 9:22pm CST. Alt: 34.3°. Az: 220.3°

I was able to find NGC2359 at low power (32mm) near a sparse arrangement of stars, likely Haffner-6. The nebula was only visible with an OIII or UHC filter. I boosted the power with an 8mm eyepiece. There were two stars at 4:30 and one star at 2:30. The bulk of the nebula was angled toward those stars with the helmet wings facing out and away from them. A UHC filter did not offer much of an improvement, although it was useful for finding the nebula at low power. I could not resolve much structure or detail. I could only see the faint fuzzy helmet and the two wings.

The Hunt for Perseus A

In my attempt to complete the Caldwell List, I came across Caldwell 24 (NGC 1275). This is also known as Perseus A. It is a galaxy in Perseus, located amidst what some know as the Perseus Cluster.

The first task with any object on my list is to find it on a star chart. In my case, I search SkySafari Pro and view the star field. In this instance, Perseus A is located near Algol, a naked eye star. In most cases, I end up finding my target. In this case, I’m merely speculating.

I get lost in the field of view. What I see in SkySafari does not resemble what I am seeing in the eyepiece. I end up doing a little guessing.

I found a cluster of bright stars arranged similarly to what I’ve seen online in astrophotography of the Perseus Cluster. I found what I believed to be Perseus A. It ended up only looking like another star. No faint fuzzy halo surrounded it.

In order for me to verify that I found Perseus A, I feel like I need to be able to see some kind of halo. I don’t know what to realistically expect. Hopefully, someone in my local club will be able to give me some pointers. As Perseus drops in the western sky around dusk, my chances of observing anything other than a star-like object are dwindling. Perseus won’t get that high again until late July into August.

NGC2467

In the world of iPhone astronomy apps, one can’t help but to fumble around in star fields, tapping on random NGC objects out of curiosity. Earlier, I ran an app I don’t often use called StarMap 3D+. I downloaded that app back when it was free and haven’t made it serve a real purpose yet. However, when I grow weary of SkySafari Pro’s overwhelming detail, I sometimes fall back to this app to skim alternative NGC objects. I ended up finding a very interesting open cluster associated with nebulosity, NGC2467.

So I went back into SkySafari Pro to find out more.

What I discovered was, this object is a small open cluster in Puppis located near M93. It seemed easy enough to find. With the temptation of nebulosity that supposedly shows up in binos, who was I to resist?

The storms had cleared our area and the final clouds were moving out. I saw Orion clear the white puffy edge of clouds, then Sirius, and with it, the rest of Canis Major. The area of Puppis where 2467 was located is just two stars away from the big dog’s tail.

I admit, I tried my 16×32 binos without success. I consulted someone on Twitter, a fellow XT8 owner, in hopes of getting him to do the work for me. I figured that if he could see it in his XT8, I knew I could and that would save me the work of hauling my dob out to a spot where trees did not obstruct my view of Puppis. Sadly, his sky was crap, so I had to lug my scope outside sine I had some crisp clean air to work with. The move paid off, though, and now we both know our XT8 can see this thing.

Within minutes, I was on Asmidiske, a double star in Puppis. From there, I quickly scanned upward to find M93. Then, I went on the hunt for 2467. I found the bright zig zag of stars underneath Asmidiske and right next to them, 2467 at 29 degrees. At low power in my 32mm, it had some fuzzy characteristics, but it was difficult to really draw out much. I added a UHC filter and that brought out more nebulosity to the point where I had a nice round faint fuzzy. Granted, it wasn’t fantastic, but it was noticeable enough that there was no question it had nebulosity. One bright star stood out just off center at the bottom (flipped image). There were no other discernible stars, so to me, it did not resemble an open cluster, even in my 8mm TMB. I comfortably viewed the nebula in my 17mm with the UHC filter.

Images from astrophotography confirmed what I saw, mainly verifying that the one bright star sat at the correct side of the nebula. Of course, those long exposure photos drew out more nebulosity than I will ever be able to see.

The SkySafari description included a mention of a bright blue star which excites the nebulosity. I wish it described the kinds of gas coming from that star, but all I suppose we need to know is that it is an emission nebula that is easily visible with minimal effort. Given its description of red gases, dust lanes, and dark globules, it would make for a fine astrophotography project, I would think.

I’ll add my findings to my blog’s observation list soon. I may want to revisit the cluster to see what else shows up in a moonless sky. The moon was out tonight at around 61% illumination. I’m certain that negatively affected my view.

A brief outing: 1/22/2013

Last night, I headed outside after taking care of my to do list inside. I was met with a moonlit sky and a few familiar constellations. This was the sky I cut my teeth on last year. I have slowly tried to reintroduce myself to a few friends I haven’t seen in quite a while.

I kept my objective list short. The moonlight prevented me from chasing down any Caldwell objects and the tree line did the rest. With a limited number of choices, I kept it simple. I hit up one old friend, one new challenge, and two difficult challenges under a very bright moonlit sky.

First up was NGC2169, the infamous 37 cluster. It resembles the number 37. The 3 looks more like a Sigma symbol and the 7 has something of a crook-neck, but it’s still obvious to visualize the arrangement. It is located between Xi and Nu Orionis.

At low power in my 38mm SWA, I could see the cluster and Xi/Nu Orionis in the same field. I verified that in my 8x finderscope. It was difficult to make out the entire cluster, but it easily stood out against the background. I then boosted the power with my 17mm eyepiece (~70x). With the 37 cluster right in the middle, it served as quite the comfortable view. Still, I went ahead and ramped up the power with my 2x barlow, making the magnification 141x. The unmistakable 37 dominated the field. I visualized eight stars in the 3 and six stars in the 7. Without moonlight, perhaps more would have been visible.

I then chased after a triple star I heard about at my last club meeting, Beta Monocerotis. The star itself is just outside of Orion near Gamma Monocerotis, a noticeably orange star. I used Gamma Monocerotis to hop to Beta because both stars are harder to identify without some good reference points. (Find one. Find the other.) At low power with a 32mm eypeiece, one might get the impression that it is a double star because it is not as refined of an object like any normal star would be. In my 17mm eyepiece, Beta Monocerotis was an obvious double, barely visible as a triple. I then barlowed my 17 mm eyepiece. It was easily visible as a triple star, with the double on the right and the last star on the left in the field (reversed by the optics).

After surveying the sky, I decided to view a couple galaxies in Ursa Major. I set my sights on M81 and M82. Sure enough, both were visible at low power without much effort. Granted, they weren’t as defined as they could have been in a moonless sky, but I was still comforted by the fact that I could see them without trying very hard. On the other hand, M51/5195 was not visible. However, surprisingly the Owl Nebula (M97) was just barely visible. I had to try really hard to confirm the fuzzy spot that was that small planetary. Your mind tends to play tricks on you in situations like that.

Jupiter was next. I zoomed in on it with a barlowed 17mm eyepiece. There was a slight glare emanating from the planet, but it didn’t really interfere with viewing the individual bands. Incidentally, I happened to be viewing Jupiter right as Io was in the midst of a transit. I couldn’t see the shadow right away and only knew about it because I consulted SkySafari on my iPhone. After realizing where the shadow was, I immediately saw it right in the middle of either the South Tropical Zone or the South Equatorial Belt. I could not make out the actual moon in the transit, though. Europa and Callisto were on one side of Jupiter. Ganymede was on the other side.

After that, I decided to call it quits. I did shoot some video of Jupiter in an attempt to capture the transit. I’m going to run that video through some processing to see if it works like my attempt at the Ganymede transit. If it works, I’ll post the photo here and on Instagram.