Upcoming Presentation: Caldwell 70/Astro League Programs

It all started months ago when another member, then club president, suggested we team up and do a presentation at one of our club meetings to introduce the membership to Astronomical League programs. The process of completing these programs remains somewhat mysterious to many of our members for some reason. The work involved also seems intimidating to them. A presentation showing how it all comes together could break a few barriers and bring in a few more participants.

The plan fell by the wayside until our new club president sent an email out to the three members who have been working on AL programs the most, myself included, asking if we’d like to do a presentation. It all amounted to each of us tackling what we wanted however we wanted. I was left with thinking I should present the Caldwell list as it is a difficult undertaking requiring a trip to dark skies and attention to NGC objects low in our Lat 32° sky. I began the Caldwell Program in February of 2012 and finished at the Okie Tex Star Party in September of 2013, so the list required more commitment than the Messier Program and others.

I am still in the idea phase of making my presentation. The title will pull from my blogging experience, using the same title as one of my posts, Keeping up with the Caldwells. Beyond that, I lack any cohesive organization or format for introducing Sir Patrick Moore’s vision to the SBAS. I will have to cover the rules and regulations for this program, general sketching techniques, necessity for dark adaptation, cardinal point notation, use of nebula filters, some observation terminology, my methodology, and obviously, some choice objects from the challenging list to show what’s on there.

I feel as though a good photo of the pin and certificate is required to really lure them in. I love AL pins. Acquiring new pins keeps me motivated.

Caldwell 70 Pin

And then you have Sir Patrick Moore. My introduction should at least explain who he is and emphasize as the AL site does why he chose these objects for his list. After all, he was aware that these objects were not catalogued by Messier. Many amateur astronomers know quite a few of these objects already and even stare in awe at astrophotography images of them, yet if you were to ask them to manually hunt those objects down, what do you think would happen?

The only worry I have is that it will not come across as exciting, so I will need to work on spicing it up so that I don’t put my audience to sleep. I’ve got no fear of public speaking and am comfortable in front of this group, but I also know that this group has resisted the AL program challenge on every level. It will be an uphill battle, so I hope I can find the right triggers to inspire at least a few people.

When life gives you lemons, split double stars.

If you have ever met me at a star party, one of the first things that might come to mind is that you know I am a dedicated observer. At Okie Tex when we endured cold temperatures and wind chills, I was bundled up in my heavy coat knocking off items on the Okie Tex challenge lists. My observation logs from that night reflect my behavior. Every 10 minutes, I logged an object. In between each, I was huddled inside my tent warming my hands and body up for the next attempt. At Hodges Gardens last year, I wanted to see Caldwell objects I couldn’t find at home. Despite the clouds and wind, I stuck with it and knocked out quite a few Caldwell objects, including a few tiny mag 13 galaxies.

Tonight was no exception.

Earlier in the evening, I went outside to set up for some Herschel objects. Unfortunately, because of the moon glow, I had difficulty finding an open cluster I wanted to sketch. By the time 9pm rolled around, clouds were overhead. By the time I had packed it in, the clouds had disappeared.

Two hours later, I went back outside to observe. The moon was setting in the western sky. Only a few small clouds lingered in the northern sky. I was able to sketch two more objects on the Herschel 400 list before clouds came in and killed off any chance of dedicated sketching. Those two objects were NGC2158 and NGC2129. I couldn’t find NGC2126.

What’s an amateur astronomer to do?

While I have completed the Binocular Double Star list, I still need to do the full Double Star program from the Astro League. The log forms only require conditions, descriptions, and a sketch of the pair in question, paying attention to North and noting West on the diagram. Double stars are one of the few things we can observe in tough conditions as long as Seeing is decent.

So that’s what I did. By 4am, I had sketched and logged 13 double stars on the program’s list.

By the way, the best do-it-yourself add on I’ve made for just such a hunt is an aperture mask. I’ve made a cover out of a foam sheet with about a 2.5 inch hole in it. This puts my scope at roughly f/19 and airy disks form around stars. Not only that, but tight pairs clean up and colors come out. For example, tonight, Alnitak’s companion only appeared blue to me once the aperture mask was applied. Rigel was easier to split. Theta Aurigae was much easier to split, too. For fun, I even had a look at Jupiter because, although the mask reduces resolution, it dampens bright objects, so Jupiter looked clean. I saw the GRS and two moons.

But I’m done for tonight, folks. The clouds came in and killed my view of everything. I was just about to sketch Mizar.

November 26th and 27th Recap

The dark skies set in early this time of year, so I could not resist setting up the XT8 to show my girlfriend a few DSOs these past couple of nights. Late on the 26th, I enjoyed views of the Double Cluster, M42, M1, and M31/32/110. I even showed her the teeny tiny NGC1999 at about 150x. On the 27th, I was able to put a few other objects in view during a run & gun observing session including the Helix Nebula, the Fetus Nebula, and both Eastern and Western Veils.

The Double Cluster was teaming with stars and the Smiling Cyclops easily caught my attention. M42 filled a decent field and gave some great detail along its wings and central regions. M1 resembled a poof and only subtle detail was apparent. M31 spanned across most of my 35mm eyepiece and M110 appeared twice as large as it normally does. M32 even had a tiny bit of extra halo.

Because the Helix Nebula had already set by then, I knew it would be on the menu for the 27th.

So after setting up on the 27th, I put the Helix in view first. Without a filter, nothing was there. My trained eyes could detect a slight hint of something, actually, but I tossed a UHC filter on a 26mm eyepiece and the Helix instantly popped into view. It didn’t have much quality to it and the central dark region was just barely visible. The fringed ends were not the least bit refined. An OIII filter cleaned things up quite a bit, allowing obvious bias to be apparent on at least one end of the nebula where the edges taper off. The central dark circle was much more visible. OIII made all the difference.

Then she wanted to see the Fetus Nebula. After consulting SkySafari, I put it in view. The kidney bean shaped nebulosity was visible at low power next to a star in my 35mm eyepiece without any filters. At 70x and 150x, the nebula was obvious and one end was brighter than the other. An OIII filter only made it brighter, so again, an OIII filter made a difference. Best view of NGC 7008 I’ve ever had.

And then I wanted to view the Veil Nebula, so I put in the 26mm eyepiece with the OIII and ran on over to 52 Cyg. To my surprise, the handle of the broom on the Western Veil was easily visible and the rest of the broom came into view on the opposite side of 52 Cyg. It wasn’t Okie Tex quality, mind you, but I cannot recall the last time I saw both parts of the Western Veil at home. The Eastern Veil yielded similar results with some fibrous quality and that curled end coming out with an OIII filter.

Not bad for a couple of nights observing. My OIII filter is the inexpensive Zhumell OIII and not the prized Lumicon everyone raves about. My eyes are trained after observing under dark skies, but my memory often needs refreshing, so the hunt always breathes something special back into my lungs and awakens the senses. Things like knowing NGC numbers and choosing an OIII filter when all else fails makes me the kind of observer people respect, but knowing what to look for once I get where I’m going makes anyone at my eyepiece a better observer, too.

How well do you remember your observations of the Veil? Fetus Nebula? Helix? Crab Nebula? M42? If you are a visual observer, this is one skill you absolutely must foster in yourself. I don’t want to knock astrophotographers, but the visual observer is often the better amateur astronomer.

Helping you through the Binocular Doubles List

When considering challenges in our hobby, one place we turn is to the Astronomical League’s lists because they are both varied and comprehensive in nature. If you enjoy telescopes over binoculars, planetary nebulae over solar viewing, or constellations over Messier objects, or conversely, the opposite of any of those choices, the AL has a list for you. However, those lists are not always clear and sometimes, you have to do some of the ground work to sort out what they put in front of you.

The Binocular Doubles list is one challenge I have almost completed. I have eleven more double stars to split and sketch. The list itself contains standard nomenclature, but also throws in the two flavors of Struve objects, Herschel doubles, Dunlop, South & Herschel, Knott, and South by way of Greek symbols. If you use star charts, seldom are these double stars listed by these Greek names.

That’s why I have chosen to write this post. Think of it as a reference post rather than an article. I have taken the time to look up the oddly named stars in SkySafari Pro and considered position angles in determining those primary and companion stars. If you can search for HD, SAO, or HIP items in your star atlas of choice, then my work will probably help you complete this list.

Let’s go alphabetically using the Binocular Doubles List. I will include the AL designation from the list, the constellation the pair is located in, and the naming scheme(s) to search in SkySafari. I have bracketed pairs in the nonstandard catalogs for convenience. What few I have not figured out yet are noted with question marks and clarification is needed. The list below isn’t perfect, but it’s close to being complete and is most certainly useful if you plan on tackling this challenge.

The easiest way to verify the correct companion at the eyepiece or in a star chart is to use the position angle listed in the AL list. Draw a 360 degree circle around the primary star. Label North as 0/360, East as 90, South as 180, and West as 270. Eyeball estimate the angle at which a possible companion sits and then compare that to the number quoted on the AL list. If you guessed correctly, you should have the correct pair of stars.

If you spot any errors, please let me know.

56 Andromeda, HR 556.

59 Andromeda (Same)

15 Aquilae (h Aql), HD 177442.

O∑∑ 178 in Aquila. O. Struve 178. STTA 178 in SkySafari. [HR 7300, HD 180243]

28 Aquilae, SAO 104723.

57 Aquilae. (Same)

14 Aries, HD 13152.

33 Aries. BD +26 443 (STF 289).

35 Cam in Auriga. STT128 [HIP 28765 (HR 2123 or HD 40873 or SAO 25548), SAO 25549.]

Iota Bootes, HD 234121.

∑ 1850 Bootes. Struve 1850. STFA 1850. [HR 5415, HR 5414.]

Delta Bootes, SAO 64591.

Mu 1 & 2 Bootes.

Beta Camelopardalis, HD 31911.

11 & 12 Camelopardalis.

32 Camelopardalis. Struve 1694. STFA 1694. [HR 4893, HR 4892.]

Iota Cancri. (Same)

h 3945 Canis Major. Herschel 3945. [HR 2764, HD 56578.]

Eta Canis Major, HD 58324? (Clarification needed)

∆47 Canis Major. Dunlop 47. [HR 2834, HD 58534.]

14 Canis Major, SAO 116185? (Clarification needed)

Alpha 1 & 2 Capricornus.

Beta 1 & 2 Capricornus.

Rho Capricornus, HD 194960.

Omicron Capricornus. (Same)

Alpha Cassiopeia, HD 236494? (Clarification needed)

Phi Cassiopeia, HD 7902? (Clarification needed)

O∑∑ 1 Cepheus. Struve 1. STTA 1. [HD 919, HD 947]

Delta Cepheus, HD 213307

37 Cetus, HD 7438.

Chi Cetus, EZ Cetus.

12 Coma Berenices, SAO 82274.

17 Coma Berenices, HR 4751.

Nu 1 & 2 Corona Borealis.

Beta Cygnus. (Albireo). Beta 1, 2 Cyg.

16 Cygnus, HR 7504.

Omicron 1 & 2 Cygnus. 30 & 31 Cyg.

29 Cygnus. b3 Cyg, HD 192661.

48 Cygnus, HR 7887.

61 Cygnus. (Same)

79 Cygnus, HD 206807.

Mu Cygnus. Mu 1 Cyg, Mu 2 Cyg.

S 752 Cygnus. South 752. [HD 195358, HD 195341.]

Kappa (5) and 6 Draconis.

16 & 17 Draconis.

Nu 1 & 2 Draconis.

Psi 1 (31) & 2 (34) Draconis.

∑ 2273 Draconis. STFA 2273. Struve 2273. [HD 164984, HD 164983.]

41, 40 Draconis.

39 Draconis. b Draconis, HD 238865.

75 Draconis, HD 196565.

Gamma (5) & 6 Equuleus.

62 Eridanus. b Eri, SAO 131617.

Nu Geminorum, HD 257937.

20 Geminorum, SAO 95794.

Zeta Geminorum, HD 268518.

65, 64 Geminorum.

Kappa Herculis. (7 Her)

36, 37 Herculis.

∑I33 Herculis. STFA 33. Struve 33. [HR 6341, HR6342/HD154238.]

F Hydrae, HD 74394.

27 Hydrae, HD 80550.

Tau Hydrae. Tau 1,2 Hydrae.

∑ 1474. Struve 1474. STFA 1474. [HR 4218, HD 93524] [HR 4218, HD93525] (Source)

Zeta (36), 35 Leonis.

Delta Leonis. STT 573. (Reference link to CN thread) Possibly TYC-1439-1307-1.

83 Leonis, HD 99492.

Tau Leonis, HD 99649.

93 Leonis, BD +21 2357.

42 Leo Minor, SAO 62237.

Gamma Lepus, HR 1982.

Alpha Librae 1, 2 Librae.

5 Lynx, HD 44647.

19 Lynx. (Same)

Epsilon 1 & 2 Lyrae.

Zeta 1 & 2 Lyrae.

Beta Lyrae, HD 174664.

Delta 2 & 1 Lyrae.

Rho Ophiuchus, HD 147888, HD 147932.

36 Ophiuchus. (Same)

53 Ophiuchus, TYC 0996-2303-1.

Sh 251 Ophiuchus. SHJ 251. South & Herschel 251. [HR 6575, HD 160314.]

67 Ophiuchus, SAO 123014.

Delta Orionis, (34 Ori). [HR 1852, HR 1851.]

42, 45 Orionis.

Theta 2 Orionis, HD 37042.

Epsilon Pegasus, SAO 127027.

Pi 2 & 1 Pegasus.

33 Pegasus, SAO 90461.

35 Pegasus, Possibly TYC 0563-0630-1 (Clarification needed)

57 Persei (m Persei), HD 28693.

Psi 1 Pisces. (Same)

Rho (93) & 94 Pisces.

Knt 4. Knott 4. [QY Puppis, HR 3027]

Epsilon Sagittae, HD 232029.

15 Sagittae, HD 190338.

Theta Sagittae, HD 191571.

54 Sagittarius (e1 Sgr), HD 185673.

Omega 1 & 2 Scorpius.

Nu Scorpius (14 Sco). [HR 6026, HR 6027]

Mu 1 & 2 Scorpius.

Zeta 2 & 1 Scorpius.

Theta Serpens. Theta 1, 2 Ser.

21, 22 Taurus (Double in Pleiades – Asterope, Sterope).

Eta Taurus (Double in Pleiades – Alcyone).

Phi Taurus, HD 283576.

62 Taurus, SAO 76590.

Kappa 1, 2 Taurus.

Theta 2, 1 Taurus.

88 Taurus (d Tau), HD 286909.

Sigma 2, 1 Taurus.

Tau Taurus, HD 284659.

15 Triangulum, HD 16070.

Alpha Ursa Major (Dubhe), HD 95638.

65 Ursa Major. (Same)

67 Ursa Major, HD104556, HD 104526, HX UMa (HD 104425).

Zeta (79) & 80 Ursa Major. (Mizar/Alcor)

∑ 1740 Virgo. Struve 1740. STFA 1740. [HD 116442, HD 116443.]

70 Virginis, SAO 100586.

Alpha (6) & 8 Vulpecula.

Last night was fantastic for stargazing

Last night, I set up the 8″ Meade, my 4.5″ Orion Autotracker, and my 15×70 Orion binoculars for an all night observing session. I was only staying up until dawn to catch two Iridium flares at 6:17am, but I’m glad I decided to set up because I was able to observe things I hadn’t seen under my home skies. I ended up only seeing one of the two flares, but the observations leading up to dawn made up for that shortcoming.

I don’t even really know where to begin. Maybe I should simply list the targets and observations I made (in no particular order).

NELM, (Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude) was an impressive 5.5 to 6. The star I identified was magnitude +5.8 according to SkySafari Pro. Transparency was outstanding. Seeing was great, but not perfect.

As a testament to the issues with Seeing, Uranus was not easy to bring into focus, however I think the 8″ Meade LX200 doesn’t focus sharply at higher magnifications to begin with. I’m going to miss having the Meade in my immediate possession. When the Worley Observatory is finished, that scope is going into the storage room with other club scopes.

Neptune was eventually visible once it cleared an oak tree. I believe I saw Triton, one of its moons with averted vision.

M31 was okay, but I wanted to have a wide field view in the 4.5. M110 was easily visible in the Meade and showed up slightly larger than I’m accustomed to. The outer edges of M31 faded more than expected in the 4.5.

Cygnus was full of good observations. I was able to see the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888/Caldwell 27) using UHC and OIII filters in the 8″ Meade. I was able to observe the North America Nebula in the 4.5 using my H-Beta filter. The Veil looked nice in both scopes, but detail wasn’t popping out in either the Eastern or Western portions.

The Double Cluster was bursting with stars. The Smiling Cyclops was easy to spot. Normally, its smile has five visible stars, but the fainter half takes patience to see. Last night, the faint half of the smile took no effort at all and each star had a pinpoint appearance.

The nearby Heart & Soul Nebula were both visible using H-Beta. They were only faintly visible with a UHC filter. I have only observed these two nebulae at Okie Tex and never here at home. Again, conditions were outstanding.

Mirach’s Ghost was also visible in both scopes as a smudge. In the Meade, it was obvious. In the 4.5, I could see it at medium power, but I had to use my 8mm eyepiece to better distinguish it against Mirach’s bright glare.

The 4.5 was also able to pull out sections of the California Nebula with the H-Beta filter.

M33 was visible in binoculars, the 4.5, and the Meade. Later on in the night, M33’s core was apparent as a brighter smudge inside a fainter ball. Between 3am and 5am, I was able to see spiral arms in M33 in the 8″ Meade. That made my night. Spiral arms in M33!

I also split Polaris with the 4.5 using a 13mm eyepiece. I had to verify the location of its companion star with SkySafari (up & to the left). Looking at the star chart, the companion appears to line up with the point star, Errai, in Cepheus relative to Polaris. Draw a line from Polaris to Errai and you have the rough direction of its companion.

M1 was bright enough to observe, but no detail came out. I had the same problem with M27.

M42, however, was fan-freakin-tastic in the Meade. I could see M43. The structure within the center of M42 had some detail and appeared extremely clear. Unfortunately, I could only resolve the four main stars of the Trapezium.

I also observed a comet, C/2012 K1 Panstarrs. I had light pollution to observe through, but it was straight down from Procyon between a triangle and square of stars. It was only visible as a slightly rectangular faint smudge without any sign of a tail.

In terms of sketching, I knocked out six binocular doubles. I went after Albireo first, knocked out two pairs in the Pleiades in the same field of view, pegged two other pairs in the same field (Beta Cam and 11/12 Cam), and finished with 35 Cam (HIP 28765). For whatever reason, SkySafari Pro does not list 35 Cam in its database, but it does list HIP 28765.

Targets for the week of 9/21/2014

Last week, I wrote a post covering specific targets one can find during evening hours this time of year. While those same objects should be on your short list this week, I wanted to extend the scope, pardon the pun, of this week’s targets by shifting your observing time to the early morning hours. After all, Okie Tex is going on this week and if you observe like I do, staying out until 5 or 6am can be quite rewarding, especially under dark skies.

The moon is on its way out this week, switching over to New. This means your night sky should be great for viewing as long as the weather holds. That said, beware of dew formation during the hours I’m focusing on in this post. By 6am, there is a good chance you will be damp in many parts of the US.


(Note: All times CST)

At 2am, Uranus and Neptune should still be in good parts of the sky for some observing, so refer to my previous post to get some idea as to what to expect. Closer to dawn, Jupiter will rise and be viewing at around 20-30 degrees altitude. Watch for an Io transit on the 22nd around 4am, the GRS around 4am on the morning of the 24th, a Europa transit on the morning of the 25th around 6am, a Ganymede transit and the GRS around 5:30am on the 26th, and Europa popping out from behind Jupiter on the 27th at 5:17am. The moon will be near Venus on the morning of the 23rd.

Naked eye observations worth noting include the Double Cluster as a fuzzy ball below Cassiopeia, the Andromeda Galaxy out to the left of Mirach overhead (Try to spot it near Zenith around 2am), and the Hyades, a triangular shaped open cluster in Taurus. The Hyades are actually a Caldwell object, Caldwell 41, so if you sketch it, consider yourself already working on the Caldwell Astronomical League challenge list.



Binocular objects are all over the place this time of year, but at 4am, point your binos toward the sword of Orion to view M42, the Orion Nebula. By 5am, try to put M81/M82 (Bode & Cigar galaxies) into view off of Dubhe in Ursa Major. Phecda and Dubhe will make a line toward these galaxies and aid in finding them with ease. Lastly, find Alzirr at the foot of Gemini and pan downward until you locate the Christmas Tree Cluster.




In a telescope, challenge yourself in Gemini by chasing down a few targets there. M35 is quite easy and possibly a naked eye object if you are dark adapted. It is located off of the opposite foot, Tejat Posterior (a red giant star). From M35, attempt to locate another open cluster more distant than M35, NGC 2158. It will appear as a concentrated cluster to the side of M35, quite possibly in the same field of view when seen in wide fields. This one is a personal favorite of mine. Also in Gemini, find the star Wasat. Below Wasat lurks the Eskimo Nebula and I have a post already written to help in finding that planetary nebula.

Lastly, find the arm of Orion off of the reddish orange star Betelgeuse. Two stars close together, Xi and Nu Orionis hold the key to locating the next telescopic target, the 37 cluster, NGC 2169. Put your scope in between those two stars and move toward Betelgeuse to put the 37 cluster into view.


That should be enough to keep you entertained this week, or at least for one or two early mornings this week. If you finish finding all of these objects, try throwing an OIII filter at the Eskimo. Shoot for viewing the Rosette Nebula with either an OIII or UHC. Attempt to find M32 and M110 next to the Andromeda Galaxy. Look for Mirach’s Ghost, a galaxy adjacent to the star, Mirach. Spend the rest of your morning viewing M42, the Orion Nebula. You have from now until March of next year to take it all in.

If none of that appeals to you, point your scope toward Comet C/2012 K1 PANSTARRS. SkySafari says it is around Mag 7. I could be wrong. Let me know if it is visible and in what apertures.


Targets for the week of 9/14/2014

This post is hopefully going to be the first of many, assuming I can keep up. I honestly don’t know how people like David Fuller have the energy to do what they do online. I’m running on coffee right now and nothing else. This may end up being a once every two weeks deal or even once a month.

I won’t go through the steps of starhopping to each object. I will show you where it is in the sky. It is up to you to find the target after that. If demand is expressed to include starhopping details, I will add extra media to cover that.

So…here goes.

This time of year is great for stargazing because the summer heat begins to trail off and the days begin to get shorter. We are left with ample time to set up the telescope for some observing. The constellations in our skies this time of year offer a plethora of deep sky objects every amateur astronomer should view.

This week is especially nice because the moon rises late and does not interfere.

Let’s start with some naked eye targets.

If your sky is dark enough, look overhead at Cygnus and look for the Milky Way spanning across the sky through Deneb and Sadr, over Altair, and down into Sagittarius.

Once in Sagittarius, try to spot the fuzzy regions of the Lagoon/Trifid nebulae, Butterfly Cluster, and Ptolemy Cluster. If you have dark skies and a keen eye, you might be able to spot the Eagle and Swan nebulae as small fuzzy smudges, too.

Now let’s try some binocular targets.

M27 is the Dumbbell Nebula and although nice in a telescope, it can be seen in binoculars as well. Find Sagitta, the arrow, and hop from there.

In the same patch of sky, the Coathanger cluster looks good in binoculars, too. This open cluster gets its name because it has a hook and a line of stars arranged much like a coathanger. From Sagitta, hop to the opposite side as M27.

A third target worth viewing over in that patch of sky is Albireo, although you may enjoy splitting that star with a telescope instead.

Let’s switch to some telescopic targets.

Stay near Cygnus and hit up the Double Double in Lyra. Split the first pair of double stars at low power and then, if conditions permit, boost the power to about 250x and attempt to split each of those stars into their respective pairs. One pair will be horizontally arranged and the other, vertical.

dbl split

M11, the Wild Duck Cluster, can resolve nicely this time of year if you have good conditions. M11 is located at the bottom of Aquilae near Scutum. It is visible in a finder or binoculars.

In Cygnus, now find 52 Cygnus and center that star in your field of view. On one side of that star, you may see the nebulosity that is the broom handle of the Western Veil. A UHC or OIII filter may aid in visualizing this nebula. Follow the handle down the broom and see how far you can go.

Then hit the Eastern Veil, which, to me, always seems easier to visualize than the Western Veil. You’ll note it arches around and under dark skies and good conditions, one end hooks around on itself. With especially dark skies and aperture, you may note the fibrous nature of this nebula.

If you have a wide field scope, dark skies, and either a UHC or Hydrogen Beta filter, center the field of view on Deneb in Cygnus. Now pan down to view the nebulosity in the North America Nebula. Track your way down from the US portion into Mexico. You may also see parts of the Pelican Nebula while bouncing around.
veil na

Finally, Neptune and Uranus are gracing our early night skies this time of year. Begin with a wide field view and locate the correct star field. Neptune is currently in Aquarius near Sigma Aquarii and Uranus is along Pisces near Epsilon and Delta Piscium. At medium power, Neptune may not appear like a disc as much as Uranus right now, but you may notice it does not have the star-like spikes or flicker and there may be a hint of blue-green color. Uranus is a brighter object this time around and so very little oomph is required to visualize the planet’s disc.

Neptune at ~150x

Uranus at ~150x

There are so many objects to keep us entertained right now and I left out some big ones, including M31, but if you want to have a quick observing session, these are nice targets to keep on your list.

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.