September Astronomical Events + Exciting News

Hello to all! Schools back in sesion for me here so I hope I will still have the time to be blogging often.  I’ve gotten really lazy and haven’t been updating it like I want to be.  In any case, September is shaping up to be a great month for me.

Observing wise, this is a great time of year.  You can still catch the summer stuff early on in the evening and get a taste of the exciting fall and winter objects to come.  Andromeda is up pretty high by 10PM, and it is a great view on those dark nights.

Pegasus, or the Great Square contains a host of galaxies, namely NGC 7331 and Stephans Quintet, a wonderful, but compact grouping of 5 galaxies.  I could not see these from my Red Zone backyard in the 12.5″.  On a recent trip to my grandpas house, I got to spend a while on Pegasus and was surprised that they were not that apparent at first, even with the 16″ Newtonian.  They are just west of the bright galaxy NGC 7331, which it self is accompanied by a few fainter galaxies.  These were easy in the 16″ but in the 12.5″ at home, only 7331 was visible.  As far as galaxies go, it’s bright enough to be a Messier, but he did not come across it.  The bright planetary NGC 7662, aka, The Blue Snowball is readily visible in the RV-6 from the backyard.  It’s nickname is accurate, looks like a blue snowball afloat a field of stars. Larger aperture will show internal structure and a central star.

In the Andromeda/Triangulum area, there is a lot of memorable objects to be seen.  Of course, the main attraction is M31, with it’s 2 companions M32 and M110.  110 is the smaller brighter companion, with an almost stellar appearance in small scopes.  M32 is larger and fainter, but it can be spied in a 6″ scope from here.  The large aperture really brings this grouping to life.  The inner dust lane of M31 is glimpsed in the 12.5″ on a dark night here, and the galaxy’s milky light extends out far more than it appears.  More can be seen by placing the galaxy outside the field completely and slowly letting it drift into the field.  This tecnique also works great on the Orion Nebula. A favorite of mine in Andromeda is NGC 891, an edge on spiral galaxy.  The surface brightness is rather low and pretty faint from here, but in Arizona skies with grandpa’s 16″ it is large and bright, with a prominent dark dust lane going down the middle.  While in the area, check out NGC 752, a large scattered open cluster near M33.  I really like this cluster, and it’s rather overlooked in my opinnion.  Seen best with low power and wide fields, it is a real treat from dark skies.  The other great galaxy in this region is M33, the Triangulum Galaxy.  This is one of the hardest Messiers due to it’s very large size and low surface brightness. From Arizona, it can be seen naked eye, with spiral arms and clusters and nebulae superimposed upon them in the 16″.  But until recently, I have been unsucessful in locating it from my backyard, until recently.  Once I had the correct stars in the FOV, I waited patiently and after a few minutes was able to make out a soft glow of the galaxy.  This was in the 12.5″ with the ES30mm, giving 63.x and a 1.3* FOV.  Not a visually memorable view, but I was glad to have finally spotted it.

Comet Jacques (c/2014 e2) has gotten pretty bright in Cassipeia right now, hovering around mag 7.  I had it recently in the 12.5″ and it was pretty cool.  There nucleas was very apparent, with the coma extending out very far.  The tail escaped me that night, but it can only get better.  Finder chart here.

In other news, the article on Evered Kreimer will be in the September issue of the quarterly magazine Reflector by the Astronomical League.  I’m hoping for it to come any day now,  the anticipation is building! I submitted the article to them back in July and I’m eager to see it in print.  This is my first article ever in a magazine, and while it is short, it still is a start.  Hopefully more to come for the future!

I’m starting an astronomy club at my high schoold, San Dimas High.  Signups are the week of September 15, and so far there is quite a bit of interest. I am the founder and president of the club, something I can’t say I’ve had experience in before.  Club meetings will be twice month. I’m planning on fundraisers for the club to take a field trip up to Mount Wilson or Griffith Observatory.  The signup week I am bringing the big 12.5″ on campus to get people interested enough to sign up.  It’ll be quite a job, but I have a feeling it’ll bring in a lot more people.

That’s all for now, I plan to make a photo post about my astronomy club coming soon here, as well as the article for the magazine.  Should be really exciting!

 

Sketch of the M82 Supernova

Here’s my sketch of the SN from the 19th of January with the RV-6.  I observed the SN in the same scope a few nights ago and it was noticeably brighter, as it was easily seen at a low power of only 39x with a GSO 32mm Plossl. Click on the image for a high resolution view.

M82 SN sketch RV-6

Observing Report: Prescott with BIG scopes

Well on November 8 we took a trip up to Prescott Arizona to visit my grandparents, and as I have mentioned before on here, my grandpa is an astronomer- at it for 59 years! Anyway, Saw a LOT of stuff but I posted it on Cloudy Nights.  So as not to repeat, here’s the thread.

One thing I don’t think I mentioned the thread, but the seeing (how steady the air is) was rated a 10/10.  I have never seen skies so still before.  One thing about going to dark skies is that I have found that you have to sort of re-learn the stars.  I remember when I got into the hobby I visited dark skies- it was stunning.  So stunning in fact, that I  could not stick to my observing list.  I found myself just looking up rather than through the telescope.  It was like the first trip or two.

Now when I visit the dark skies, I am still awestruck by the skies, but can get to work.  I don’t really make observing lists, rather, I look on star charts at a certain constellation at what’s in the area and for a while, I’ll sweep through the constellation, looking at everything there is to see.  When I have swept a few constellations of their most interesting targets, I go back and choose from the most interesting objects and sketch them.  While in Arizona, I made only three sketches, but that’s ok.  Generally, the sketches take time to do, but it does vary on the object.  I’ve sketched objects in 10 minutes and some objects take as long as an hour to do.  Even on the easier objects where I don’t think there will be much detail, I stick with it and find detail that often gets overlooked.

I’m not sure if I included this in the thread, but the last object I looked at up there was Jupiter.  It was getting pretty high by then (about 3:40 AM).  The seeing was just so good that I was able to put on a very high magnification and the image would hold up.  The highest magnification I went up to was 609x (this is with the 16″).  The image was still good, and could have definitely taken more.  The image was as good as in my 12.5″ reflector.  The Great Red Spot was out, and I could see white swirls in it.  The view that I had was one of the few times that it looks exactly like a photograph or better.  By this time the temperature had dropped to about 37 degrees F* and I went back in.

Hopefully I’ll be able to be making some sketches of Jupiter soon as I have not made one in a very long time, looking forward to it with the 6″ and 12.5″ especially!

Meade Lightbridge 16" F/4.5

Meade Lightbridge 16″ F/4.5

Observing Session #1: Mount Baldy

Me and my Dad got to go up to Mount Baldy (elevation 4000 feet) for an exciting evening of dark sky telescoping.  We knew it was going to be cold, considering it was already down to 48 degrees before we even started ascending the mountain.  We had along my 70mm f/10, and my Dad’s Orion  XX14 Go To dob.

We also had brought along an armada of eyepieces and accessories  as well as a LOT of jackets and coats.  I think by the end of the night, the temp got down to somewhere in the 30s.  Up until about 3 or 4 weeks or so, the average temperature in southern California for the past 3 months was somewhere around 100 degrees.  I’m sure that if we were “seasoned” with cold weather previous to this trip, we probably wouldn’t have been as cold.

Since the recent time change, this is a great time to make a trip up to acceptably good dark skies, just for a couple hours of observing.  This time, we came prepared, with a list of objects to observe, and we had almost everything we needed, short of a few batteries.

We were set up in a lot off of Glendora Ridge Road.  I’m not sure if there any more decent places to put up a scope farther up the mountain.  Itchy for dusk to settle below the horizon, I went over my list of 23 objects.  They were mostly Messier objects, with a couple of NGC’s.  It seems like most of the objects we observed were star clusters, but hey, they’re pretty, and respond well to dark skies.

Some of the highlights of the night included:

– The “Propeller feature across M13.  There are 3 thin dark lanes that cut into the globular and form an airplane propeller.

–  NGC 7000, North American Nebula.  A very large nebula by Deneb in Cygnus.  It was seen naked naked eye.

– NGC 7009, Saturn Nebula. A very cool Planetary Nebula that looks like the planet Saturn.

– Individual Stars in M31.  I could resolve some stars in a cluster within M31- NGC 206

– M31, M32 and M110 in the same FOV.  Was done in 70mm f/10 at 28x.

– M33- Triangulum Galaxy.  Seen for the first time in 10×50 binocs, 70mm f/10, and XX14.  Best view was in 70mm.

– M76- Little Dumbbell.  Allegedly the hardest Messier to find.  Not true.  looks like a smaller, flatter M27 (Dumbell Nebula)

– Dark Nebula in front of M45.  Seen in 10×50 binocs when leaning on the car

– Just seeing the Milky again was a real treat.

In the end, we observed 19 out of the 23 objects on our list.  I definitly don’t regret making that list.  One of the best feeling you can have is having so many stars in the field, you’re overwhelmed.  This happened when I had gazed upon the Double Cluster (NGC 869) with the 70mm f/10 at 28x.  It framed the 2 groupings perfectly; this sight brought a tear to my eye.  This is what a serious astronomy buff does .

Photo: GSMimaging.com

This was the closest picture I could find to what I saw in the eyepiece.  Truly overwhelming amount of stars visisble.  There had to be hundreds, quite possibly thousands of stars visible.  I’m glad the scope is a refractor, because had it been a reflector, the stars would no have been quite so sharp.  I failed to understand this  until I owned this scope.

As far as the seeing, it was great, and dark as it can get for that location.  The location has dark skies, but they’re not the darkest I’ve been under.  For example, Lake Arrowhead.  My family went there on vacation years ago.  My Dad had brought along his 6 inch reflector, and he said that the view of M31 was compared to the view of it through the 14 inch, the 14 was slightly better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a say in this.  I was very young and my primary interest was in my Game Boy.  Oh well, all of this observing makes up for that, so my conscience is clear!

Ascending into the skylight

Amazing resolution with 6 inches

The 6 inch reflector, possibly the most common mirror size manufactured and used in telescopes.  I has been considered the “serious” aperture for many years.  At least that’s what it was like back in the day, meaning the 1950s and 60s.  That has certainly changed in today’s light pollution and advancements in telescopes, including Go-To telescopes

I can remember my grandpa telling me that he used to sketched moon craters and similar objects with his homemade 4.25 inch reflector.  He tried to have some of his sketches put into Sky and Telescope>, and unfortunately, they were never put in. I just got Sky and Telescope, and I don’t see any sketches in it.  Perhaps I’m wrong though.

I recently made an excelent detailed sketch of M42, on of the best nebulae you can view.  M42 is good in most any telescope, but it was great the other day.  Why? Because staying up late was worth it.  Even with a Waning Moon some 40 to 50 degrees away, it was still really good.  One of the only other times I’ve seen Orion- the constellation in general was at a PVAA star party at Mount Baldy.  I mean, this was really good seeing.

On a recent sketch from Astronomy Sketch of the Day, there is a nice sketch of M42-43, with a telescope with aperture of somewhere around 10 inches.  The sketch is great, I tip my hat to them, but notice that the seeing when it was sketched was 3 out of 5.  Most or all deep sky objects generally react well to darker/more transparent skies, so if you see my sketch below, notice that there is more structure and also notice more stars in the “Trapezium”.

Observed with a Star HOC 6-5 EQ; Orion Sirius Plossl 7.5mm eyepiece

Notice that I can pick out the “E” and “F” stars in the Trapezium cluster; this was previously only attainable by the using the Orion XX14, or a 12″ Meade Lightbridge at Mount Baldy.  I could not believe this much structure and defined detail in such a small telescope.  There is an interesting article on Belt of Venus regarding sketching and how much can be seen in a small telescope.  This article included seeing very detailed view of M101 with only a 50mm refractor.  Read this really cool article.

So the moral of the story is that even 6 inches can take you very deep in the sky, giving there’s decent viewing.  One thing to remember is that the light pollution usually is less so after midnight as lights turn off and freeways and highways become vacant.  I believe that most of the light pollution in La Verne is due to the 210 freeway that runs right through town.

When it comes to observing the deep sky, the more you look the more you’ll see; an experienced observer with a 4 inch telescope will see much more detail/structure in all objects than an inexperienced observer with a bigger telescope.

Keep looking up!

Deep Sky with Binoculars and Mirror Grinding

Grinding is wrapping up for my telescope mirror project.  I only have 3 more abrasives left to grind through, and the on to polishing.  The project is going very well, and the abrasive is like a powder.  It has been rainy the past few days, so that ruled out most of the observing, but before I get into the project, I had a spectacular night with binoculars.

I have a decent pair of Barska 10×50 binoculars, and there were clearings from the clouds and the rain late at night.  Cassiopeia is getting pretty high up in the sky now, so that means prime observing time for the Double Cluster, NGC 869.  Through the binos, it is  large, bright, and resolves approximately 40 stars with an unresolved background of stars.  This large bright grouping could even be sen with my unaided eye, as 2 faint small patches of light.

My next target was another Cassiopeia cluster- NGC 7789.  It was faint, but there as an irregular glow of unresolved stars.  It was nice to see a non-Messier object with binoculars.

Next was M31, Andromeda galaxy.  It is easily seen in the binoculars, but not naked eye.  The core was bright and obvious and was very large.  I could not detect M32 nor M110.

My last target was M33, Triangulum.  If you observe in skies similar to mine, you know how difficult of an object this is.  I started scanning the area several times, and I detected a faint oval patch of light.  I had finally found M33!  It was not an impressive view, but It was certainly visible.

It turned out to be a great night, and was good enough for me.  Sometimes, small optical devices are all you need to enjoy the night sky.  The clouds came and went as the night wore on, but I was satisfied to have my look at the heavens.

In the last post I set up a grinding schedule to accomplish one grade of abrasive every week.  It looks like that plan is going to work.  I set up my equipment and got to work.  I always find it interesting to feel and study the surface of the glass closely and then grind the next finer abrasive for 30 minutes or so and then look and feel the difference.  This was apparent after transitioning from Silicon Carbide #80 to #120.  These are very coarse grains, but there is a big difference.

It seems impossible that there are still 3 more grades left, because the surface is so smooth to the touch.  I opened up the 5 micron container and sampled its size.  I detected no difference in texture from the 5 micron to the 15 micron.  As I was cleaning up shop for the day, I thought about just putting a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the workstand, then removing it when it is time to change abrasive sizes.  That way, I don’t  have to clean it outside and re-level the stand each time which would save a huge amount of time.

 

 

All Night Observing 9/15/12

Me and my dad had been thinking about doing a run up to Mount Baldy and we finally got everything ready to go.  The 14 inch and 70mm refractor easily fit into the car, as well as all of our accesory cases and star charts.  Just before we left, my Dad showed me his new 5x 2 inch barlow.  We had seen this on ebay and I did know of such a lens.

Anyway, we were all excited to go up there to get away from all the lights.  You know it’ll be good seeing when your going up the mountain and seeing the smog and lights from the city below.  It is an awesome view, and I was going  to take a picture of it, but I forgot the camera.   We made it all of the way up there, and we were just about to turn onto Glendora Ridge Road and it was blocked off.  It was probably because of the extreme heat lately and they didn’t want to risk a fire of some sort.

We came down the mountain looking for an alternate spot.  When were pretty much all the way down, we found a nice parking lot to view in. There were cars going by every once in a while, but no site is perfect.  We got everything all set up and we were observing for not more than 45 minutes when were told to leave.  I guess the police don’t want people around there after dark.

So we had to pack everything up and go home.  Once we got back, we could either take out the scope in the backyard or put it away.  We took it out.  I will try to list all of the objects I saw, but I might forget some.  I saw so many, if you can think of any decent object, I probably saw it.

I saw:

M13 globular

M57 planetary (as well as the central star)

M56 globular

M11 open

M27 planetary

Cat’s eye nebula (NGC 6543)

Blinking planetary (NGC 6826)

Stephan’s Quintet

M2 globular

M15 globular

M22 globular

M8 lagoon nebula

M20 Trifid nebula

M31 Andromeda galaxy

M42 Orion nebula

 

I stayed up pretty much all night.  I got to be the first one to see the Orion nebula in the 14 inch.  When you view it with that much aperture, you can see structures of clouds and dust going in multiple directions and the nebula extends out very far.  In the 10×50 binoculars the whole region is nebulous.  I also saw M31 which came out really awesome in a sketch I made.

Shortly after viewing it, I found out there was an area on the edges of the galaxy called NGC 206.  I would definitly seen it had I known it was there.  One of the other highlights of the night was Jupiter.  It was absolutely amazing in the 14 inch, and this is where I got the most use out of the Rini 5x.  I was getting clear focus, even when it filled nearly the entire field.  I must have spent about 45 minutes on it, and returned to it several times.

I also managed to sketch the Blinking planetary.  Also, I was able to pick out several very dim objects with the 70mm, such as the blinking planetary, the Cat’s Eye Nebula and the Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009).  I came in around 4:30, and it was still dark.  I guess it technically wasn’t all night, but it’s the longest observing run I’ve ever made.  I also tried imaging M45 with the digital and they came out OK, you can see the blue stars but not much more.

 

All in all, one of the best nights I’ve ever had out with the telescope,  I need to find a way to stay awake longer though.

Less than Transparent Skies

The growing dilema in amateur astronomy is light pollution and other related sources.  In the mid city, forget about all of the NGC’s or IC’s you’ll be lucky to see all of the Messiers.  I have faced this problem everytime I go out with my telescope.  The LA county fair is in full swing right now, and that pretty much rules out the entire southern sky.

I don’t have any problem with the fair, it’s just that it turns an already not transparent sky into something that can’t be described without seeing it firsthand.  If you live far away in the country, you don’t have much problem with this.

Anyway, I am finishing up the Mesier project, 70 objects are very close now! I need only about 15 more Messiers, but this is hardly any compared to how many I have observed.  Pretty much all of these were observed in town, in badly polluted skies.  Before going out with the telescope, I look at the color of the daytime sky.  If it is a deep blue, it will be a decent night.  However, if it is pale blue and the area above the horizon is a dirty smog color, it will not be worth going out for deep sky.  I have been limited to planets and the moon on nights like that.

I can’t wait to see dark skies, even acceptably dark sites like Mount Baldy are well worth the trip.  By the way, the blog appearence and theme has been changing a lot lately and I have finally found a look that I am satisfied with.  I haven’t observed too much as school is really in full swing now.  I have also been blogging less, like one to two posts a week.

If you ever get the chance to pull the trigger on one of Astro league, programs, it is HIGHLY reccomended you start one.  Mesier one is awesome for learning and taking notes on these bright and detailed astronomical objects.

Clear Skies

Astronomical Sketches: Old And New

I’ve been going through some of my old observing notes lately and pulled out my very first astronomical sketch book.  I took a few minutes and looked through every page.  If you’ve seen my recent sketches, they are perfect representations of what you would see through the eyepiece, except they are negatives.  All of the sketches in my first book were all made with #2 pencil.

My first sketches were made on lined paper and the sketching circle representing the field of view in a telescope eyepiece was just merely hand drawn.  These first sketches were crude, and they were not descriptive or an accurate sketch either.  I the went to taping circular pieces of sketching paper which proved much better.

I was still not very satisfied with my results, and wanted more oomph from the sketches.  I read Steve Coe’s Deep Sky Observing, which is one of the best deep sky/ sketching books I have ever read.  Then came the perfect set up.  I has ample room for notes, including dates; times; and telescopes used plus a 3 inch circle complete with North and East markings.  These could be made on the computer and were used with ease.For an example of what these sketches look like versus the real thing: I have a picture of the real object and one of the sketch I made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This object is a planetary nebula- the Dumbbell Nebula (M27).  See the Dumbbell? The sketch was made using my small 70mm Refractor, and the view would have been much more impressive from a darker sky.  For those who live in light polluted skies, you feel my pain and know what I am talking about.  There is one other type of deep sky object I like to sketch: globular clusters.  At first I thought this was not possible but once again, referring back to Deep Sky Observing, it shows how to sketch these stellar nodules of stars in space.

The view through a small telescope is dramatically less impressive than looking at a high quality photograph.  A strip of 35mm film can capture much more light than your eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can really see the difference in globular clusters obviously.  By the way, Hi Digi Com and Media!

Observing Multiple Sky “Medias”

As many people who own telescopes, one usually has a regular that they use more often than not.  Mine has obviously been the 70mm f/10, which I have talked about on many occasions.  In the night and daytime sky, I have best found a way to classify each type of object groups as medias.

A media is a group of one kind of objects, like the deep sky for example.  This group could the be broken down in to smaller subgroups such as star clusters, nebulae, etc.  Solar system media includes solar observing, planetary observing and lunar observing.  This could also be yet divided again into more subgroups such as certain types of craters on the moon, the list goes on and  on.

I was observing 2 medias last night, the deep sky group and the lunar group.  For the majority of the night, it was the deep sky which was observed as the moon is in its waning phases currently.  First on my list was M22, a prominent bright globular cluster in the constellation of Sagittarius.  It is very bright with a distinctive oval shape.  Even with the blinding lights from the LA county fair glowing bright, many stars were on the edge of resolution and some were individually picked out.

After M22 came M11, the famous compact open cluster known as the Wild Duck Cluster.  Many objects were viewed last night and the list is too numerous to mention.  Just when I decided to bring it in, I noticed most of Cassiopeia peaking over the roof of the house and swung my scope over for a look.   The Double Cluster was still too low, and the light from the moon was coming in the east.  I decided to choose NGC 457, an open cluster that many people see an owl or “E.T.” from t.he hit movie.  I never saw the owl shape but the E.T. shape came right out instantly.

Just before I went in, the moon also came up high enough and just for the blog I took a picture:

Clear Skies.

a