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!

 

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Lunar Eclipse 2014

I set up the reflectors for the Eclipse on the 14th.  This was my very first lunar eclipse, and I’ll say, it was spectacular.

The Big 12 ready for the eclipse!

The Big 12 ready for the eclipse!

As expected, the Eclipse started around 11:00, seen as a dark protrusion on one side. The image of the moon dramatically changed over a period of just a few minutes.  My little brother Kevin joined and took control of the RV-6, and really enjoyed swapping out eyepieces.  It was a lot of fun, and he was very impressed with the views.  I was using the 12.5″ and the moon is so bright my eye started to hurt after a while.  Kevin came over and enjoyed several minutes on the stepladder intently watching the eclipse.  I think he may have an early case of aperture fever!

The shadow continued to creep over surface, gobbling up crater after crater into the inky shadow.  I could still see the features, but they were faint in the shadow.  Eventually, a soft orange glow came over the shadow area and made the features more pronounced.  I created a  4 photo montage showing the stages of the event.

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Eclipse montage, taken through both scopes using Ipod Touch camera

I edited the photos to bring out the red orange coloring, and to make the surface features more apparent.  In reality it appeared more subdued. As Lunar totality arrived, I noticed that my surroundings had drastically changed.  For one, it was very dark, and many stars came out. Usually on a full moon all but the very brightest stars are washed out, but now with the eclipsed moon, it was dark like a night without a moon.  Also, it became very quiet.  The crickets ceased their chirping and the wind had finally settled down.  It was amazing watching the eclipse.  There was scattered clouds throughout the evening, but I managed to get excellent views.  During totality, a cloud would pass over and it would turn the same color as the moon.  Soon after totality, I had to go to bed, as it was a school night!

As much as I would have loved to make a sketch of the moon, during this event, sketching anything lunar is extremely difficult for me.  Deep sky? No problem.  Planets? I can do it.  Lunar? No way! There is another lunar eclipse this October, and hopefully it will be as exciting as this one was.  I’m glad I got to experience this, even though it happens relatively often.  It’s always nice to have a total lunar eclipse as your first one! I found that the views through my 40mm finder scopes were spectacular, just as good as through the big scope and the RV-6. In this case, it’s not aperture that counts as much as magnification, which should be low.  In any case, a lunar eclipse is really fun to experience, telescope or not.

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

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.

1 Year Anniversary of the Observer 70

Yesterday (September 9) was the 1 year anniversary of owning and using the observer 70mm.  The telescope came in one big box while I was at school.  Strange because this was my sisters birthday, wish her a happy one.

Don’t have too much time.  Had a killer observing run on Saturday til’ about 1 in the morning.  Saw Capella, Auriga, and even Orion in the pollution.  I also logged some more Messier objects, it’s winding down, I am planning to finish up by the time the moon gets big again.

The highlight of the evening was seeing the arrival of Jupiter.  It was big and bright, and still is to this day, my favorite planet to observe.  Hoping to do a more complete blog sometime this week.