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!

 

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