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Observation Log
 
 
  by Year and/or by Word - Case-Insensitive (planet, cluster, galaxy, etc.) 
 
09/10/2017 ~ 10:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-09-12 Message #438
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About 62°F, mostly clear but a bit hazy, limiting magnitudes N/A, waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed the September 10th Moon, Earth's satellite currently in Cetus and very close to Aries, with Canon XTi. I am on a journey of photographing our "Sister Planet", the Moon. This photo is with the camera's stock lens only. Next comes telephoto images and then finally, telescopic images.

Sep 10th Moon 2017  <-- Photo taken with Canon Rebel XTi at 1/320th, f/5.6, ISO 100, 80mm.

08/10/2017 08:30-09:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-08-10 Message #435
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59°F, clear but hazy with limiting visual magnitude ?.??, waning gibbous moon high in the sky. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Continued observing the Mirfak Cluster, open cluster in Perseus, with 10x50 binoculars. While looking over this sight which is becoming more and more familiar, out of curiosity, I checked distances and other specifications of more nearby stars. At 572 light years, Zeta Per seems to be yet another likely candidate for membership.

More exploration of visually nearby stars yields more variables and double systems at distances and proximity strongly suggesting membership.

---------------------------------------
Correction! Lambda Per is a likely candidate being 557 light years distant. I was a little dyslexic when reading the distance to Zeta at 752 light years. The cluster is listed at 570 light years.

Also, I notice Epsilon is 638 light years away. Easily considered a likely candidate.

Another note: The Wikipedia article lists the distance to the cluster in a range from 557-650 ly!

This merits further research using Aladin


08/02/2017 07:15-08:40 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-08-02 Message #434
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68°F clear but hazy, no moon, visual limiting magnitude 3.85, limiting binocular magnitude 7.30. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed the Mirfak Cluster (Alpha Persei Cluster), open cluster in Perseus, with 10x50 binoculars. I found this cluster fascinating because it, like the 80-light-year Big Dipper Cluster, is truly gravitational, but is not noted or labeled on any charts I have seen. It is given a distance of 570 light years.

Noteworthy features  
  * Mirfak (also Mirphak) is a brilliant white super-giant 1000s of times brighter than the Sun!
  * Stars 29 and 31 Persei form a nice pair of light-bluish stars positioned (celestial) north-northwest of Mirfak
    - 31 is 560 light years distant
    - 29 is 637 light years away, so I'm a bit uncertain about its membership, but it seems a likely candidate
  * A group of stars loosely forming a 'V' begin with Mirfak and extend south and west
  * Sigma Persei, a very orange-ish looking red-giant star, is found southeast of Mirfak
    - Appears very close to a row of three equidistant stars in a straight line
    - At 360 light years, I am uncertain of its membership, but this star seems another likely candidate
  * Farther southwest from Mirfak are both Psi and Delta, also members of the cluster

NOTE: The Mirfak Cluster includes an eruptive variable (Delta), a rotating variable (V396 Per) as well as double (34 Per) and eclipsing double (V575 Per) star systems. For me, this is a pretty awesome binocular view.

Stellarium Chart - July 2017 Misc. <- The Mirfak Cluster may be found in this Stellarium chart used in recent posts from July.

Wikipedia article
Jim Kaler's article

08/01/2017 09:30-10:mm UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-08-01 Message #433
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63°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.50, limiting binocular magnitude 8.15, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Melotte 20 or the Alpha Persei Cluster, open cluster in Perseus, with 10x50 binoculars. I was unaware of this object until a grouping of stars surrounding Mirfak caught my attention in Stellarium. This cluster isn't labeled in Stellarium and not often recognized as a cluster even though it is a true gravitational cluster.

Jim Kaler's article
Wikipedia

Also observed Neptune, planet in Aquarius, with 10x50 binoculars.

07/23/2017 ~10:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-23 Message #432
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62°F, clear but hazy, limiting visual magnitude 3.35, limiting binocular magnitude 7.40, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed ISS, International Space Station, passing through the southern sky near Markab heading east. It was typically brilliant at a peak magnitude of about -3.5!
Distance: 1.5 light-milliseconds.

Observed Uranus, our 7th planet in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. The light blue color was *just* discernible.
Distance: 2.75 light hours.
Uranus  <- Previously-captured CCD image.

Observed C14, Double Open Star Cluster in Perseus, with 10x50 binoculars. Nicely visible with averted vision even in this hazy at-the-edge-of-dawn.
Distance: 7.5 kilo-light-years.

Observed M31, the Great Andromeda Galaxy, with 10x50 binoculars. The nucleus is clearly visible with about 1.5° - 2.0° of the fainter width discernible with averted vision. I am struck by the idea that what I see is truly the shroud of a supermassive black hole... with binoculars under less-than-ideal seeing conditions!
Distance: 2.5 mega-light-years

Stellarium Chart - July 2017 Misc. <- Stellarium Android tablet chart identifying miscellaneous objects for mid-July.

07/17/2017 ~09:00-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-20 Message #431
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~64°F, clear with waning crescent moon rising. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

I've mentioned this before yet it merits saying again, the edge of dawn typically provides especially clear atmosphere!

Observed Uranus, planet in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. I find less color contrast in the moonlight with this light blue object, although, it is easily found at mag 6.15.

Observed ε Lyrae, DOUBLE double star in Lyra, with 8" Schmidt-Cass. Position angles of the morthern-most and southern-most pairs may be estimated to be nearly NS/EW - identified WDS member 'I' @ about P.A. 150°, separaed by 2½°.
  -> All data for system WDS 18443+3940.

Observed ψ Piscium, double star in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. Magnitudes are very similar at 5.30 and 5.50 so, P.A. may be estimated to be 150° or 330°.
  -> All data for system WDS 01057+2128.
Psi Piscium  <- Previously captured CCD image with 8" Schmidt-Cass.

Observed 61 Cyg - Bessel's Star, double star in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. With magnitudes 5.50 and 6.00, this pair is easier to estimate, again 150° or 330°, than Psi Piscium even though both pairs are separated by very nearly the same 1/2° and their mags are not so different. I think this may be due to the color contrast against the sky. Bessel's Star is a pair of K type stars while Psi Piscium is a duo of types A9 and B0 stars. A
  -> All data for system WDS 21069+3845.

Stellarium Chart - July 2017 Misc. <- Stellarium Android tablet chart identifying miscellaneous objects for mid-July.

07/13/2017 10:15-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-13 Message #430
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58°F, Waning Gibbous Moon, clear sky. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

On July 13, 2017 about 4:15-5:00 local, I observed the following with 10x50 binoculars - just to take a quick "tour" of some favorites in the sky. Follow along as I list my stopping places in order of distance from Earth.

Observed Venus, 1 AU, planet in Taurus

Observed 61 Cyg, 11+ light years, double star in Cygnus.
Complete data for 61 Cyg, aka WDS 21069+3845,
61 Cygni <- CCD image of 61 Cyg travelling very quickly through our stellar neighborhood.

Observed Aldebaran, 66 light years, red giant in Taurus
Observed Hyades, about 145 light years, open cluster in Taurus
Observed ε Lyr, 160 light years, DOUBLE double star in Lyra
Observed M39, about 1000 light years, open cluster in Cygnus

Observed V460 Cyg, 2040 light years, variable carbon star in Cygnus
Observed The Garnet Star, 5000 - 6000 light years, variable red super-giant in Cepheus 10,000s of times brighter than our Sun!

Stellarium Chart - July 2017 Misc. <- Stellarium Android tablet chart identifying miscellaneous objects for mid-July.

07/09/2017 09:00-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-13 Message #429
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65°F, clear, full moon, limiting visual Albireo/3.35, limiting binocular 7.0+ Burton Observatory - Aurora CO.

Observed the ISS, International Space Station, moving across the northeastern sky. I first noticed it moving in the vicinity of Vega. Passing near Polaris and finally approaching Capella, the space station was brighter than Venus. Attention-getting! I hadn't planned this sighting at all.

Stellarium ISS Chart <-- Stellarium chart on Android tablet.

Before noticing the ISS near Vega:

Observed V460 Cyg, variable carbon star in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. Copper-orange color very apparent. Again *just* fitting within nearby comparison/bracket stars V1619 Cyg, 79 Cyg, HIP 107664, HIP 107637, & HIP 107445 - so estimated at 6.1.

Observed 61 Cyg (Bessel's Star/Piazzi's Flying Star), double star in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. Clean separation. Nice golden color. Similar mags near 6, 6.00 and 5.20, are probably an aid in discerning this 1/2 arc minute separation. Complete data for this system, WDS 01057+2128, in deltaStar.

Observed the Garnet Star, variable red giant in Cepheus, with 10x50 binoculars. Deep orange color very apparent. Again *just* dimmer than comparison stars, ζ Cep and μ Cep, so estimate 3.5.

Note: Objects, with colors such as the three above, tend to be somewhat *more* easily observed in the moonlight or the first light of dawn. I believe this to be due to the scattered light in the atmosphere creating a faintly-blue contrasting backdrop.

Observed M39, open cluster in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. HIP 601297, 601346 & 601409 stand out first, equidistant and in a straight line. With averted vision and FOV sweep, HIP 601170 & 601297 become apparent as does a small "cloud" of fainter stars lending to a "flying saucer" appearance a bit similar to my impression of the Lagoon Nebula viewed through 10x50 binoculars.

Note: I've noticed *less* degradation of limiting binocular magnitude than of limiting visual magnitude under moonlit or early-dawn skies. Less loss of contrast is because of? Thus deserves more research.

07/05/2017 09:45-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-07 Message #428
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64°F, clear sky, no moon. Did not note limiting magnitudes. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Neptune, planet in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. This planet was an easy find by star hopping from Alrischa to Torcularus Septentrionalis then a little more than a degree to the northeast. There lies a light blue 6th-magnitude "star", Uranus.

Watched the ISS, International Space Station, appear over the southern horizon near Fomalhaut, pass near Diphda, and fly into the eastern dawn, turning light orange in the sunlight as it approached bright Venus.

07/04/2017 09:30-hh:mm UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-07 Message #427
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66°F, clear sky, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Kuma, double star in Draco, with 10x50 binoculars. This is a nice pair of very similar white color and magnitudes with about 1 full arc minute separation. WDS identifies this as a physical pair. Data for Kuma a.k.a. WDS 17322+5511.

Observed 61 Cygnus (Piazzi's Flying Star), double star in cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. This pair is a very similar yellow color and magnitudes separated by about 30 arcseconds or half an arc minute. This seems to be about the limit of separation I'm able to discern with binoculars. Complete data for this system, WDS 01057+2128, in deltaStar

06/02/2017 09:00-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-06 Message #425
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56°F, Clear sky, no moon. Limiting binocular magnitude 8.30, limiting visual magnitude 3.95. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.
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Observed v460 cygnus, variable carbon star in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. Estimated magnitude 6.0.

Observed the Garnet Star, red super-giant in Cepheus, with 10x50 binoculars. Estimated magnitude 3.6.

Observed what I believe to be an iridium flare at 3:25 a.m. Satellite Iridium 33? near the Great Square moving somewhat towards the Summer Triangle. Verified as Iridium 59 at http://www.heavens-above.com/

Notice the flare's magnitude of -7, about 16x brighter than Venus which rose within the hour!!!
An advantage of being in the path of the brightest flare sighting. Click image below for more info.
Iridium 59 Flare Info for Feb 2nd, 2017 <-- CLICK/TAP for Charts & Map

06/01/2017 09:00-10:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-06 Message #424
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54°F, clear sky, no moon. Limiting binocular magnitude 7.65, limiting visual magnitude 3.80. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed v460 Cyg, variable carbon star in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. After becoming familiar with the surrounding starfield, I found the object fairly easy to spot with binoculars. The more I allowed my e to adapt, the more I could make out that distinctive deep copper orange color of a carbon star even at estimated mag. 6.2. Range: 5.57-7.00, period: 180 days, type C6.3.

Observed the Garnet Star, red supergiant in Cepheus, with 10x50 binoculars. The distinctive very orange color of this star stands out obviously in the star field. Tonight I estimated magnitude to be 3.7 - 3.6. Range: 3.35-5.00, period: 730 days, type: M2-Ia.

NOTE: Again, the just-before-dawn sky took on an extra clarity it did not have earlier!

05/28/2017 08:00-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-06 Message #423
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44°F, clear sky, no moon. Limiting visual magnitude ~ 3.90, limiting binocular magnitude ~ 7.50, and limiting telescope magnitude ~ 12.00. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M4, globular cluster near Antares in Scorpius, with 8-inch Schmidt-Cass at 81x. This cluster has a smudged appearance to me more than the "glowing sparkling smoke" of other globulars. At least some of this could be due to the the object's 22° proximity to the southern horizon. With averted vision, a few stars resolved, however, I am uncertain of their membership.

Observed the Lagoon Nebula (M8), nebulous star-forming region in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. The Lagoon appears as a "glowing smoke" region surrounding four stars in a horizontal line. Sweeping the sky between Kaus Borealis and Saturn's current position, I found this object pleasantly easy to spot.

05/23/2017 10:15-10:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-06 Message #422
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Naked-eye spur-of-the-moment. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed the ISS, International Space Station, orbiting in the northern to eastern sky. This object is easy to see even from my suburban location. From the moment I spotted it near the Big Dipper's bowl until it traced an arc passing under Polaris and setting in the east near Venus, its magnitude hovered near -2 peaking at -2.7!  Stellarium for Android rendered a remarkable replication of the sky as I watched in real time. Eagle, my granddaughter's golden doodle, was an enthusiastic observer. Maybe not of the sky, but an enthusiastic companion observer nonetheless!.

Notes for future observation:
  WDS 17464+0542 Summer Beehive member?
  WDS 19307+2758 Albireo

05/08/2017 10:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-06 Message #421
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50°F, clear, waxing gibbous moon low in the West. Limiting visual magnitude 3.75, limiting binocular magnitude 7.65. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed IC 4665, open cluster in Ophiuchus, ith 10 x 50 binoculars. With averted vision, this cluster is easy to find being about one degree NNE from Cebalrai. There are six prominent stars that become obvious with night adaptation while averted Vision yields the impression of a few more fainter stars just to the east.


05/06/2017 10:15-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-06 Message #420
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57°F, clear, no moon. Moon had just set and observation time was just at the edge of dawn. So mags N/A.. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Saturn, planet currently in Sagittarius, with 8 inch Schmidt-Cass at 120x. The southern area of the ring system was obviously in front of Saturn with a very thin dark line separating the ring from the disk. The northern portion of the planet was obviously in front of the ring system with a small gray shadowed area at the north polar region and a barely-darker limb to the West. A brownish Northern equatorial band could be seen and at times looked as though it was actually two thinner bands.

Both Titan and Rhea were visible with Titan approximately 2 ring widths to the northwest and Rhea approximately a single ring width to the Northeast. Rhea, at magnitude 10.41, is 10 full magnitudes fainter than the total glare of Saturn at magnitude 0.42. This is a difference factor of 10,000 making Rhea challenging to see requiring me to employ averted vision.

04/20/2017 09:40-10:10 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-06-16 Message #409
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43°F, clear to partly cloudy, waning crescent moon just rising in the east. Limiting binocular magnitude 7.35. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed the Garnet Star, red Super Giant in Cepheus , with 10x50 binoculars. The star appears brighter than 10 Cep at 4.3 ( 4.25-4.35 var) and very similar to 21 Cep at 3.35? (3.50-3.54 var?). Estimating on the conservative side I can still put the star at magnitude 3.5.

04/19/2017 06:05-??:?? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-03 Message #418
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50°F, clear, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Jupiter, planet in Virgo, with 8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using a medium blue filter. The GRS was near the meridian, very dark in contrast, and extending into the band below the South Equatorial Belt. Striations ans variations in contrast very distinct.

Observed Zubenelgenubi, double star in Libra, with 8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. The companion member looks just a bit greener than the primary which is a faintly blue-tinted white. Estimated PA 315°, estimated separation 6' based on 30' FOV. WDS indicates most likely a physical pair based on PM (proper motion). WDS data also shows a position angle of 314° as of 2012 and a separation of 231.1 arc seconds, *just* under 4'.

Data for system WDS 14502-1653

04/18/2017 07:00-07:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-03 Message #417
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57°F, no Moon at the beginning - moonrise was 1:27 a.m. local, clear to partly cloudy and hazy. Although the air is still, providing a fairly crisp look at Jupiter, any limiting magnitudes are very difficult to determine. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Jupiter, planet in Virgo, with 8 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at 120x using a medium blue filter. The West limb seems to be *just* more shadowed than the east? Southern polar region looks gray, the band above looks to be nearly white, the southern equatorial belt appears dark brown and striated with possibly one swirl, the equatorial band is very nearly white, the northern equatorial belt looks very similar to the southern including striations, just above that lies a very thin light band then a very thin belt - both just discernible, then next there is another White Band and finally the grayish northern polar region.

Io was just cleanly clearing the west rim of the planet while Callisto lies about 8 arc-minutes west. East of the planet lies Ganymede, 1 disk-width away, then Europa at 3 disk-widths.

04/13/2017 09:00-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-03 Message #416
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48°F, Clear, waning gibbous moon. Limiting magnitudes have not been estimated because it is a very bright moonlit night in my light polluted area. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Mizar, double star in Ursa Major, with 8 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at 81x. Identified components A, B, C, and D. I may have identified component F, but must verify. My estimated position angle of the pair AC is 150°. WDS position angle is 153° as of 2015. The brighter of the pair that is Mizar, is a faintly blue piercing white while its companion, component C, is just a little more brassy colored in comparison. This multiple star system is apparently part of the nearby open cluster associated with the Big Dipper as its distance is around 80 light-years.

More info:
  * WDS data for Mizar
  * Jim Kaler's article
  * Wikipedia

04/09/2017 07:30-09:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-02 Message #412
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45°F, clear, waxing gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed GRS (Great Red Spot) transit on Jupiter, planet in Virgo, with 8 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at 120x using a medium blue filter. The air was a bit turbulent tonight, however, the GRS was nicely seen.

There are some things about the Great Red Spot that put this sight into perspective.
  * This cyclone can host up to 450 mph winds.
  * Its height is about the size of the Earth and its width 1 1/2 times as much.
  * The storm moves 27,000 miles per hour around Jupiter, so its change in position is easily noticed within 1/2 hr.

A yet larger perspective follows.
  * At this observation, the planet is 37 light minutes away (4.45 AU) from Earth!
  * The very largest sunspots could swallow Jupiter.
  * There are stars immense enough to contain our Solar System beyond Jupiter's orbit
    (483 million miles / 778 million km from the Sun).

After making the notes above, I stepped back over to the eyepiece at 4:55 a.m. local time to observe Io moving out from behind the planet at the western end of the Southern Equatorial Belt.

04/07/2017 09:30-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-04-07 Message #407
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48°F, partly cloudy, moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Investigating HIP 60175, double star in Draco, with 10x50 binoculars, Stellarium and Aladin. On a partly cloudy night, simply because of curiosity, I happened across a star in Draco labled as double by Stellarium and that is separated by only 0.1 arc seconds according to WDS. Data may be reviewed here for system WDS 12204+6623

04/03/2017 08:00?-09:00? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-03 Message #419
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31°F, clear, no moon, limiting binocular magnitude about 7+. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Searched for 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, comet in Draco, with 10x50 binoculars. HIP 60175 was 0.75 magnitudes brighter than it should be, or the comet was nearly in the exact location of that star. Should be verified with a follow-up observation, however, the skies will not be clear again until Wednesday which is 2 days from now.

***
Further notes on HIP 60175.  
***

WDS catalogs reports this as a double star with a separation of only 0.1 arc seconds. Pri mag = 7.47, Sec mag = 8.62. Epochs 1st and last are 1991. No notes. Data for system WDS 12204+6623

According to SIMBAD, B-mag = 7.17 and V-mag = 7.11 for component A while Stellarium reports 7.45. As of yet, I have not found evidence of the companion. IR mags are all 6.9+

Personal observation estimate places mag at 6.80 as bracketed by HIP 61068 at 6.90 and HIP 59658 at 6.70. These are Stellarium mags, so should cross check.

03/29/2017 07:30-11:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-02 Message #413
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38°F, clear to partly cloudy, limiting visual magnitude 3.35 and limiting binocular magnitude uncertain but 7.20+. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Rather than observing only objectively with many technicalities in mind, tonight I allowed myself to subjectively enjoy an awareness of the universe, taking in the fact that it is dynamic, changing, and literally taking place always! These following observations occured off-and-on during the posted hours.

Observed Vesta, asteroid in Gemini, with 10x50 binoculars. At mag. 7.58, difficult to conclusively spot, but with some patience was able to identify.

Observed 41P/Tuttle–Giacobini–Kresák, comet in Ursa Major, with 10x50 binoculars. Some averted vision allowed spotting this object to be fairly easy.

Observed Jupiter, planet in Virgo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using a blue filter. Striations and contrasts in brightness of the clouds were beautifully apparent. Between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m. local, the moon Europa began to transit Jupiter. Watching until several minutes after 2:30 allowed me to see the light pinpoint of the moon has it moved completely in front of the planet. At about 4:30 a.m. local time, I went back to the scope to watch Europa move out away from the planet and, at the same time, saw the great read spot move an obvious distance across the face of Jupiter.

...
Planning to observe Iota Leonis, double star in Leo, with C8" @ 81x, 120x, ???. Challenging separation!
Data for this system, WDS 11239+1032, here.
...

03/18/2017 05:45-06:05 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-03-19 Message #404
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50°F, clear, just before waning gibbous moonrise. Limiting visual magnitude 3.85 and limiting binocular magnitude 7.40. - Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Vesta, asteroid currently in Gemini, with 10x50 binoculars. Even though a bit fainter than in January, it was still reasonably easy to spot with averted vision. I find it gratifying to have, for the first time in *my* life, taken time to observe the movement of an asteroid (or minor planet) long enough to notice how far it really moves against the background stars in only weeks.

03/12/2017 11:55-12:10 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-03-25 Message #406
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36°F, mostly-to-partly cloudy, limiting magnitude N/A, full moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed the Full Crow Moon, Earth's satellite currently in Virgo, with 10x50 binoculars. The surface is well-lit having its Sun high overhead, revealing especially bright features such as the Rays of Tycho. Differences in color are very apparent to me tonight ranging from the deepest gray of the Marae, to a distinctly lighter gray in certain rather large areas, to the very bright white as is Crater Copernicus.

The Moon has become a more and more well-known friend - an alien, yet familiar world. I continue to experience the satisfaction of learning my way around the sky with only unaided eye and binoculars.

Crow Moon 2017  <-- Photo taken at 1/320th, f/5.6, ISO 100, 80mm. Preparing for Moonscapes with 8" Schmidt-Cass!

03/08/2017 10:53 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-03-20 Message #405
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32°F, clear, no moon. Limiting binocular magnitude 7.50. Limiting visual magnitude 3.55. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M4 & M80, globular clusters in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. Although M80 is dimmer than M4, because it's total magnitude is diffused over a smaller area, I didn't find it that much harder to spot than M4. Three things are important tonight. The first is becoming familiar with the star field surrounding the objects. 2nd and 3rd are averted vision and field-of-view sweeping. As I have mentioned in other posts, averted vision is even more effective when used in combination with a small field-of-view sweep.

HIP 79897 was easier to spot at magnitude 7.20 than the cluster M80 at magnitude 7.50. As I have stated before, I believe this to be due to the visual surface area difference of these objects.

And I will say this once again as well, I have gained a deeper sense of the universe and our place in it by spending time exploring the sky with naked eye and binoculars only.

03/06/2017 10:50-11:05 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-02 Message #414
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48°F, partly to mostly cloudy, no moon, limiting binocular magnitude 6.95. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M4, globular cluster in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. Using averted vision and field of view sweep, I was able to locate the object although seeing conditions are rather poor tonight. It's noteworthy that HIP 80673, which I used to gauge limiting magnitude, was easier to spot at 6.95 than the cluster which is 5.90. I believe this to be because the magnitude value is diffuse much more than a star being effectively a point source.

03/02/2017 09:36 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-06-16 Message #411
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28°F, Clear sky no moon. Limiting visual magnitude 3.85. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Jupiter, planet currently in Virgo, with C8" at 120x using a blue filter. At 3:05 local time Io was clearly emerging from the planet's disk on the west right next to the equatorial belt. A few minutes later, clear separation began to emerge between Io and Jupiter that widened becoming unmistakable by 3:30 a.m. local, at which time I ended my observation.

-------- -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- --------
NOTE:
In the future will observe Izar (Epsilon Boötis), double star in the constellation Boötes.

WDS data for system 14450+2704

01/27-31/2017 07:50-10:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-07-07 Message #426
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Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Followed Vesta, Asteroid in Gemini, with 10x50 binoculars. The following entries span Jan 27-31 and times ranging from 07:50-10:45 UTC.

_______________________________________
January 31st 1 o'clock a.m. local.

37°F, partly cloudy and no moon, visual limit is 3.45 and binocular limit is 7.75.

Observed Vesta, asteroid currently in Gemini, once again with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight, even with a partly cloudy sky and a bit of haze, visual and an binocular limiting magnitudes are surprisingly good. Vesta was quick to spot as it approaches closer and closer to κ (Kappa) Gem.

_______________________________________
January 30th 12:50 a.m. local.

38°F, clear with no moon, visual magnitude 3.85 and binocular magnitude 7.75.

Observed Vesta, asteroid currently in Gemini, with 10x50 binoculars. Again tonight I was able to find it nearly immediately because I have become so familiar with the star field surrounding its movement through the sky. Vesta is very close to the star HIP 38172 to the Northwest. With averted vision, I could tell that Vesta at mag 6.50 was just brighter than the nearby star at mag 7.05.

_______________________________________
January 29th 3:00 to 3:15 a.m. local.

29°F, partly clear to partly cloudy Sky no moon visual magnitude 3.45 and binocular magnitude at the very best 7.75

Observed Vesta, asteroid in Gemini, again with 10x50 binoculars and was able to spot it at the point where the clouds in that area of the sky were thinner. Stellarium for Android was very useful and quite accurate and I'm pleasantly surprised that I was able to find the asteroid as easily as I did tonight.

_______________________________________
January 28th 3:30 to 3:45 a.m. local.

21°F, clear sky no moon, visual magnitude 3.85 and binocular magnitude 7.75.

Observed Vesta, asteroid currently in the constellation Gemini, with 10x50 binoculars. Again, Stellarium for Android proves to be very accurate and I spotted Vesta quickly.

_______________________________________
January 27th 3:30 to 3:45 a.m. local.

11°F, clear sky no moon, visual magnitude 3.35 and binocular magnitude 7.05.

Observed Vesta, asteroid in Gemini, with the aid of Stellarium for Android using 10x50 binoculars. The object was easy to spot and the software proved again to be quite accurate.

01/22/2017 09:50-10:10 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-22 Message #403
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28°F,clear sky, waning crescent moon just rising, limiting visual magnituxe 3.85 and limiting binocular magnitude 7.95. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

~2:50am local
Observed Vesta, asteroid now in Gemini, with 10x50 binoculars. It is easily spotted tonight as the air is still with little turbulence. Vesta crossed the boundary from Cancer to Gemini on the 19th. It is very close to the double star HIP 39194 A and is approaching κ (kappa) Gem.

Vesta Chart Jan 22, 2017 Stellarium for Android Chart

01/18/2017 06:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-18 Message #402
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28°F, clear sky - waning gibbous Moon just rising - limiting visual magnitude 3.70 and limiting binocular magnitude 7.25. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

11:00pm Jan 17 local time:
Observed Vesta, asteroid currently in Cancer, with 10x50 binoculars. Even under these conditions, the asteroid is easy to spot just towards the horizon, or southeast, from HIP 39194 A. Vesta is separated from this star about 3/4 the distance between ω1 Cnc and ω2 Cnc - roughly 15'.


Vesta Slides <- Stellarium animation for Jan 2017 positions. Created with the GIMP.

01/14/2017 10:20-10:40 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-18 Message #401
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24°, clear - waning gibbous moon (~20° from target) - limiting 10x50 mag at least 6.40 (HIP 40007) or as much as 6.90 w/ (HIP 39077). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

~3:30am local time:
Observed Vesta, asteroid in Cancer, with 10x50 binoculars. Even with the bright moonlight, objects fainter than Vesta (6.31) could be seen with averted vision. Navigating southwest from Pollux about one FOV width, using x Gem and φ (phi) Gem as "signpost" stars, lead to a fairly easy sighting.

Vesta Chart Stellarium for Android finder charts for Jan 14th position. Created with a little help from the GIMP.

NOTE Landmark star worth investigating with the 8" Schmidt-Cass as a double is HIP 39194 A, whose data may veiwed here as WDS 08010+2335.

01/01/2017 12:00-13:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-03 Message #400
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24°F, clear with little turbulence, and no moon - limiting visual magnitude 3.85 and limiting binocular magnitude 8.00. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M44 or Praesepe, open cluster in Cancer, with 10x50 binoculars. Noted 4 double stars. They are 39 and 40 Cnc, HIP 42497, Epsilon, and HIP 42578. The former two are WDS systems discussed in the previous post, and the latter two may be only visual groupings. Averted Vision revealed details of faint Stars while direct Vision revealed subtle color differences.

Observed Vesta, asteroid located in Cancer at time of observation, with 10x50 binoculars. At about 5.5° northwest of M44, it was quite easy to find, even under my light-polluted skies, shining at magnitude 6.27. Stellarium proved to be very accurate and helpful in locating Vesta and I was able to fit M44 on one side of the binoculars' FOV and Vesta on the other.

Rick's NOTES: I made another observation the following night noting that the change in position of my asteroid of interest was again represented quite accurately by Stellarium. At the time of observation, it was moving apparently about 13' per day. By month's end, Vesta will be about 13° west-northwest of M44. In early March, passing south of Pollux and Castor, it will reverse direction in the sky heading back toward M44. Late May will bring Vesta about 3° north of M44 while fading a little more into the sunset each day.

12/30/2016 10:00-10:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-03 Message #399
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42°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.45 and limiting binocular magnitude at 7.60, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M44 or the Beehive Cluster, open cluster in Cancer, with 10x50 binoculars. Although limiting magnitude isn't the best tonight, the air is very still and star images in the binoculars very crisp.

  -> Stars to the north, 39 and 40 Cnc, make a nice close pair about 2.5' apart. These stars are likely gravity-bound according to the WDS Catalog and approx. 20 lt yrs apart. See complete WDS data for this pair with deltaStar for system 08401+2000

Four stars below that pair to the south appear in a rectangular configuration. There is, to the west of this rectangle, a row of three equidistant stars of similar brightness running north-south.

  -> The middle star of those three, HIP 42497, is just visible as a double star. Note that the eastern-most member is actually two other stars, very visually close together, all part of a WDS triple (members A, C, and D). See complete WDS data for this group with deltaStar for system 08399+1933.

There's a sprinkling of other fainter stars with averted vision making this cluster a nice binocular View. This is a true open cluster about 600 light years distant similar in age to the Hyades.

  * Rick's Notes: Setting Stellarium to year 2000 aids in identifying stars by WDS id as these designators are based on year 2000 coordinates.

12/30/2016 ~00:30-01:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-03 Message #398
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Temp and sky not logged. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed The Moon, located in Sagittarius at the time, with 10x50 binoculars. The moon was only about two days old but I was able to watch it with binoculars until it was nearly at the Horizon because of its position in the trees from my vantage point.

12/28/2016 08:30-09:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-03 Message #397
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32°F, clear to mostly clear with no moon - visual magnitude limit about 3.00 as some clouds and Haze move in but 3.50 or better at the clearest. Binocular magnitude while observing was a limit of about 8.00. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed The Satellite Cluster or C50, open cluster in Monoceros, with 10x50 binoculars. Once spotted, this cluster stood out nicely. There is a predominant somewhat orange-ish star accompanied by two other stars, one very close and southwest and the other to the northwest. With adverted vision, there is a nice sparkle of stars just farther northwest of the latter star. Nebulosity associated with the cluster seems to be at just the threshold of averted vision with a little field-of-view sweeping.

12/24/2016 01:00-02:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2017-01-03 Message #396
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Specific conditions of temp and sky not logged - no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Venus, planet located, at the time in Capricornus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. This observation was done using an Orion #15 deep yellow filter. The planet is 21" in apparent diameter and very close to what would be its last quarter, and so not quite 50% illuminated. With the filter at 120x, variations in the brightness of the clouds are just barely visible mostly closer to the terminator. This was not evident to me at 81x.

12/12/2016 12:09 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-12-17 Message #395
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24°F, mostly cloudy, waxing gibbous moon, limiting visual magnitude unsure due to variable cloud cover. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed one Geminid meteor in Leo traveling away from the radiant, heading southwest-ish with a brief but bright flash in the vicinity of Leo's head. Tomorrow night is the peak of this year's Geminids meteor shower.

12/10/2016 08:45-09:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-12-11 Message #394
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24°F, turbulent air and partly cloudy, limiting scope magnitude 11.12, waxing gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Cleeia, double star in Taurus, member of the Hyades, with C8 at 81x and 120x. WDS members C. D. & E identified. Upon further research I learned...
  * Member A is a variable with a 57 day period
  * Memeber D is also binary cataloged as HIP 20679 A&B with just 1/2" separation and, by distance, is a Hyades member.

Under given conditions, member E required averted vision with FOV sweep and I am uncertain about identifying B of pair AB. At times I would think I had caught a glimpse of B as a smaller node bulging out from the brighter star in a north-ish direction. This pair is separated by only 1.8" and is 3.59 magnitudes different in brightness - a factor of 27, so there is some challenge even under good observing conditions.

NOTE: I will observe again under better seeing conditions attempting to conclusively separate the AB pair.

Complete WDS data for star system WDS 04255+1756

12/06/2016 09:30-10:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-12-09 Message #393
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17°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.65, limiting telescope magnitude approximately 11.0, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed northwestern Pleiades, open cluster in Taurus, with C8" at 81x making note of any associated nebulosity using averted vision. The brighter inner portion of the nebulosity surrounding the star Maia was the most obvious, although some could be made out surrounding other stars. I was not able to discern any of the fainter regions of nebulosity found farther away from the stars. Asterope, Taygeta, Celaeno, and 22 Tauri were brightly notable in the 1/2° FOV.

Pleiades Chart created with
Stellarium and the GIMP.

Pleiades Chart
  <- Click for full 1600x900 version. Lighter circle indicates scope's FOV.

NOTE: Studying open clusters has grown on me recently. Sometimes exact stellar memberships and the size/distance measurements of these objects is uncertain. BUT, true gravitationally bound clusters are often cosmic siblings AND, these objects are really very complex multiple star systems, each with its own unique appearance and characteristics. Spending time at the eyepiece becoming familiar with but a portion of the Pleiades I found to be deeply satisfying as I noticed more and more detail.

11/14/2016 12:15-13:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-12-04 Message #392
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43°F, clear sky with a full supermoon (at perigee). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M47, open cluster in Puppis, with C8 Schmidt-Cass at 81x. HIP 37015, HIP 37037, & V0378 Pup form the main equilateral triangle asterism. A close (visual?) pair near HIP 37037 is crisply noticeable. Most of the stars are rather blue being zero or even a bit less on the B-V color scale. Nearly all the cluster fits nicely in the half degree field of view. There are a number of 8th or so magnitude stars scattered through the field of view and quite a number of yet fainter stars making for a nice sparkling appearance.
.

11/10/2016 11:30-12:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-12-04 Message #391
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43°F, clear skies with limiting visual magnitude 4.15 and limiting binocular magnitude 7.90, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M47, open cluster in Puppis, with 10x50 binoculars. Easy target for binoculars about two Fields East from Sirius and one field north or farther up from the horizon. There is an orange-ish gold signpost star just to the west of M47 which is KQ Pup / HIP 36773. I see an obvious triangle asterism within the cluster pointing down with the upper left corner being made of two stars. With averted vision, a background of sparkling stars is apparent.

10/21/2016 10:00-10:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-10-21 Message #390
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37°F, mostly clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.15 and limiting binocular magnitude 7.75, moon one day before last quarter. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M41, open cluster in Canis Major, with 10x50 binoculars. Being just 4° south of bright Sirius, this cluster was easy to find even given the nearby moon in Gemini and local light pollution. With averted vision, the brighter stars resolve while the rest render a "sparkling haze" look. Sixth magnitude 12 Canis Majoris is a nice sign post star just below the cluster less than 1/2° to the southeast.

Two central stars, HIP 32406 and 32426, appear the most prominent while other surrounding 7+ magnitude stars, all within only several arc-minutes, just resolve at the threshold of averted vision. Notable are HIP 32422, 32393, and 32467. Following is a list of magnitudes and distances for the stars mentioned in the order presented.

HIP 32406 - Mag 6.90 Distance: 2131.74 Light Years
HIP 32426 - Mag 7.25 Distance: 1203.53 Light Years
HIP 32422 - Mag 7.75 Distance: 2013.31 Light Years
HIP 32393 - Mag 7.40 Distance: 2090.75 Light Years
HIP 32467 - Mag 7.75 Distance: 2695.51 Light Years

10/02/2016 ~10:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-10-04 Message #388
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~55°F, Clear, no moon, vis mag 4.35, scope mag ~11.0?? (I don't believe this is accurate given the seeing conditions - should be 12.00+). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

(On my way to Meissa - couldn't resist the sight!) Observed Almaak, double star in Andromeda, with C8 Schmidt-Cass at 81x. The contrasted light yellow and blue seemed especially striking tonight. Perspective: 10" separation at 350 lt yrs is Sun to Pluto x 33!

Almaak's complete WDS data may be viewed here in deltaStar with identifier 02039+4220

Jim Kaler's article is found here describing what is actually a quadruple system.
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Observed Miessa (λ Orionis), double star in Orion, with C8 @ 120x. Primary is a "fierce" blue-white, while its companion is powdery blue. ID'd WDS components C, D, and E while F remained out-of-reach at mag 12.9. I find researching whether these other components are the same *distance* elusive. As I've noted before, distance and/or parallax are less readily found than proper motion even while using Aladin, Simbad, and VisieR. So a question comes to mind: How well-researched are memberships of double/multiple stars and open clusters compared to other astronomical areas of study?

Meissa's complete WDS data may be viewed here in deltaStar with identifier 05351+0956

Jim Kaler's article is found here and definitely worth a read. Meissa is illuminating a 150 light year diameter cloud that spans about 16 full moon diameters in the sky!
Meissa - Orion's Blue Giant Star   Check out these images created with Aladin and the GIMP to see with infrared and radio vision!

09/28/2016 about 10:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-10-04 Message #387
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~50°F, Clear, very old waning-crescent moon rising at about 4:30 local with limiting visual magnitude 4.35. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Meissa (λ orionis), double star in Orion, with C8 @ 80x at approx 4-5am local. WDS component B clearly visible @ 4.5", nearly 2 mags fainter, and looking *just* a little less blue than its bright companion. I estimated a PA of 45°. Meissa itself is a brilliant intense blue, speaking to the quality of the color rather than its 3.50 magnitude. This star is a type O8III - a powerful hot blue giant tucked up nearly all the way into the top left corner of an HR diagram (very hot & large) around 1000 lt yrs away.

NOTE: Will further study WDS components with C8 Schmidt- Cass.

Meissa's complete WDS data may be viewed here in deltaStar with identifier 05351+0956

Jim Kaler's article is found here and definitely worth a read.

09/26/2016 ~5:30am Local Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-10-04 Message #389
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~50°F, clear, rising waning-crescent moon - Vis mag 4.35 - binocular mag 8.40. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

After observing Meissa in my observatory, I looked up and spotted an object appearing as a single light high overhead moving generally N/S seeming to have a steady magnitude and velocity. It was about the brightness of Alnath or Menkalinan traveling from Auriga/Perseus to the "head" of Ursa Major. I think its path may have curved off a bit more toward the eastern horizon as it approached the great bear's head. Before it reached the bear's body, (or the Dipper's bowl), it suddenly brightened to the magnitude of Sirius or more for 1-2 seconds then faded from view just as suddenly. At least I could no longer see the object.

Iridium flare? I have not been able to match the event with the times and trajectories of any Iridium satellites. Other satellite reflecting sunlight? So far, I believe this is unlikely as its magnitude was steady until brightening and then drastically faded or disappeared when its flight path would seem to take it in a direction out of Earth's shadow toward the rising sun's light. Any rotating satellites I have witnessed had a rhythmic slowish flashing appearance similar to a beacon on a maintenance or security vehicle.

Notes added on 10/4/2016:

  * Upon reviewing a number of iridium flare videos and reading a number of sighting descriptions, this object's light curve does not seem to match. The brightening was more sudden and shorter-lived than what I have found so far. The seeming disappearance after the brightening also does not well coincide.
  * I found a sky map displaying a flare by satellite Iridium 61 that is quite close to what I observed agreeing well with the time and my location in Aurora, CO.
    - Check out the heavens-above.com Iridium flare page.
    - View copy of the generated chart for this flare.
  * It must also be mentioned that I have cross-referenced Iridium 61 in Stellarium on Android showing a very similar prediction for my location at the correct time and date.

The truth is out there, whatever that is discovered to be.

09/26/2016 ~10:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-10-02 Message #386
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~50°F, clear, rising waning-crescent moon - Vis mag 4.35 - binocular mag 8.40. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Observed Meissa (λ Orionis), ψ orionis, and associated stars, open cluster in Orion, with 10x50 binoculars. I was able to see HIP 26044 and HIP 25972 with averted vis and a bit of FOV sweep. All of these stars are from 1055 to 1095 light years distant and appear within about a 1.5° diameter. This places these 4 stars within a roughly 50 light year sphere.

Stars and Distance
Meissa    1055 lt yrs
ψ orionis 1087 lt yrs
HIP 25972 1069 lt yrs
HIP 26044 1095 lt yrs

Radial and Tengential Distance
Meissa to HIP 26044 = 40 lt yrs radial distance
Meissa to HIP 26044 = 1.5° visual separation = 29 lt yrs tangential distance
(1.5° @ 1095 lt yrs = 28.667 rounded to 29 lt yrs tangential distance)

Plane Trig Calculation to Approximate
29   lt yrs wide
40   lt yrs deep
49.4 rounded to 50 lt yr hypotenuse

Note: Limiting magnitude is only in part affected by moon light. At least from this location.
Further Notes:
  * If including HIP 26994 and HIP 26239 which caught my attention by distance in Stellarium, the containing sphere nearly doubles to about 97 lt yrs.
  * The WDS catalog assigns letters to components A-F when referencing Meissa, but actual physical pairing is unclear.
  * When using Aladin and VisieR to research possible membership in Meissa's family cluster of stars, I found it difficult to find catalogs containing distance or parallax with which to calculate distance to stars within approximately 2° of Meissa. Membership to this cluster didn't seem to be assigned to nearby stars while apparently more readily assigned to other seemingly more well-known doubles or open clusters. Two things come to mind.
    1) I am not an expert at using Aladin, VisieR, SIMBAD, or other related online astronomy database lookup tools.
    2) This star system / open cluster may merit further investigation.

09/09/2016 09:40 Local Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-09-09 Message #385
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Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Reprocessed M1, the Crab Nebula, supernova remnant in Orion, using The GIMP. Upon an inspired whim, I reworked the image processing of M1 which was originally captured in 2009. With but a very small loss of "clarity" or "focus" if you will, this image is much more representative of the nebula which was photographed from a light-polluted suburban location. What catches my attention is a closer similarity to professional images in infrared rather than optical wavelengths.

M1  <- Note that you may click/tap to toggle labels and info.

  * This is a "freeze frame" explosion that didn't simply happen a millennium ago, it's still happening!
  * If the central pulsar was placed where the Sun is, the expanse along the long axis could engulf Proxima Centauri!
  * A teaspoon of typical pulsar (neutron star) material "weighs" as much as 900 Great Pyramids in Giza!
  * The Crab Pulsar's immense gravity creates relativistic effects including time dilation and gravity lensing!

08/23/2016 08:??-09:?? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-08-23 Message #384
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62°F, clear, limiting binocular magnitude at least 7.65, waning gibbous moon in the southeastern sky. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M39, open cluster in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. Three stars nearly the same magnitude (6.80, 6.55, 6.80), about equidistant, and in a nearly straight line stand out immediately. From northwest to southeast, they are HIP 106293, HIP 106346, and HIP 106409. With averted vision, I was able to pick out HIP 106170 and HIP 106270 as well. Using FOV sweep, a patch of haze, like a Will-o'-the-wisp, seemed to float just at the threshold of perception.

The overall appearance is a nice sparkle of stars about the size of a full moon with three brighter "markers".

08/16/2016 05:??-06:?? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-08-16 Message #383
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59°F, partly cloudy and very hazy with a near-full moon - but with a few clear openings. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Epsilon Lyrae, double-double star in Lyra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass. Even though the sky looked so poor for observing, Epsilon was high overhead in a very nearly clear opening. At 81x the pairs of ε1 and ε2 were nicely discernible and at 120x there was distinct darkness between the member stars. All of these stars are 5th magnitude with a fairly low B-V color index value - except B, the northern-most member. This star is just a little dimmer at magnitude 6.0 and has the greatest B-V value albeit by a narrow margin.

The visual effect yields 4 silver luminous beads, the northern-most (B) shining with a very faintly gold-tinted light. The northern pair, WDS A and B, lie north/south and the southern pair, WDS C and D, lie east/west. Each pair is separated by only about 2 arc-seconds while the pair-of-pairs is separated by about 3 1/2 arc-minutes. I was also able to identify 10TH magnitude WDS member I about 1 1/2 arc-minutes east of a line drawn between the two close pairs.

Complete data for this system, WDS 18443+3940, may be viewed in my deltaStar app.

Jim Kaler's article is always worth a visit providing insightful details.

08/07/2016 10:00-11:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-08-07 Message #382
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56?°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.00 (gamma Trianguli, limiting binocular magnitude 7.65 (Neptune) no moon (4-5 days old). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M33 (the Triangulum Galaxy), local cluster spiral galaxy in Triangulum, with 10x50 binoculars. Athough faint in my level of light-polluted skies, this will-o'-the-wisp was found with a little star-hopping and averted vision. Looking 2/3 FOV from Mothallah (α Tri) toward Mirach (β And) places this object a little off-center - about half-way from center to edge. FOV "sweeping" brought this object more easily into view.
M33 Finder Chart Thumbnail  <- Reference this finder chart noting FOV and star hopping tips.

Observed M34 (the Spiral Cluster), open star cluster in Perseus, with 10x50 binoculars. This cluster looks like a small hand-full of fainter stars with a slight haziness about it. Sweeping about 2/3 FOV from Algol (β Per) toward Almaak (γ1 And) reveals this cluster off-center about 1/3 center-to-edge. This cluster was spotted fairly easily.

08/03/2016 09:00-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-08-04 Message #381
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67°F, partly cloudy and hazy with limiting visual magnitude about 3.00, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 16 & 17 Draconis, double star in Draco, with 10x50 binoculars. Easy target even with poor seeing conditions. Both stars lightly blue-ish tinted and the 90 arc-second separation very clearly defined. Distance: approx 400 light years.
[->Complete data for this system, WDS 16362+5255, may be found in my search app deltaStar]

Observed 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, with 10x50 binoculars. Fairly easy to find using Deneb, Sadr, and Gienah as the other 3 corners of a parallelogram. The pale gold color could just be made out, but discerning the 30 arc-second separation was a serious challenge. I thought it would be a bit easier based on the similar magnitudes of 16 & 17 Dra separated by 90 arc-seconds. Distance: 11+ light years.
[->Complete data for this system, WDS 21069+3845, in deltaStar]
61 Cygni  Previously-captured CCD image with 8" Schmidt-Cass.

Observed Psi-1 Piscium, double star in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. Quite easy to spot by way of a "T" asterism formed by Psi-1, Psi-2, Psi-3, and x Piscium. This "T" is found roughly 1/2 way between Sheratan and Algenib. I found the clearly blue-tinted color easy to discern. Yet again, a 30 arc-second separation with very similar magnitudes to 16 & 17 Dra was a serious challenge to just make out. Distance: approx 230 light years.
[->Complete data for this system, WDS 01057+2128, in deltaStar]
Psi Piscium  Previously captured CCD image with 8" Schmidt-Cass.

Observed Uranus, planet in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. This giant planet was really fairly easy to spot in spite of the poor observing conditions hopping from Sheratan to Pi Piscium (1 1/2 FOV) and from Pi Piscium to Uranus (another 1/2 FOV). Distance: 1.8 billion miles.

Observed Neptune, planet in Aquarius, with 10x50 binoculars. The most difficult sighting of the night. Hopping from Fomalhaut to Skat to λ (lambda) Aquarii is the easy part. Then very careful averted vision and "FOV sweeping" just revealed the 8th planet 2/3° south of lambda. Distance: 2.7 billion miles.

07/31/2016 09:00-11:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-31 Message #380
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64°F, hazy with very few occasional scattered clouds, limiting visual magnitude approx 3.00, limiting 10x50 magnitude 7.65 (Neptune), crescent moon rising at about 4:00am local. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 16 & 17 Draconis, double star in Draco, with 10x50 binoculars using Etamin and Rastaban as pointing stars similar to Ursa Major's pointers to Polaris. Even considering the hazy poor seeing, both members of this pair were clearly very lightly blue-tinted and fairly similar in brightness. Separated by 90 arc-seconds which I found easily observed with my 10x50s, this is definitely a worthy binocular target.

The brighter star, 17 Draconis, is really a double itself composed of members separated by only 3 arc seconds.
  * 17 Dra A is mag 5.40, type B9V
  * 17 Dra B is mag 6.40, type A1

The companion star, 16 Draconis, is also binary! A spectroscopic binary apparently hosting a hot white dwarf companion producing a prominent UV/X-ray signature.
  * 16 Dra is mag 5.50, type B9.5V

Complete data for this system, WDS 16362+5255, may be found in my search app deltaStar.

This system is about 400 light years from Earth but, here is where things got interesting. In my research, Jim Kaler's article places 16 & 17 Dra "at least 11,500 AU apart" (0.18 light years), Stellarium puts a 20-light-year distance between them, and a Simbad lookup of parallax values yields a separation similar to Jim Kaler's number or as much as 12 light years. And - the very closest 0.18 light year distance makes for a 38,000 year orbital period.

SIMBAD Pages
  * Hipparcos 17 Dra
  * Hipparcos 16 Dra
  * Id Query * 17 Dra
  * Id Query * 16 Dra

Observed 75 Draconis and nearby HIP 100843, visual binary star in Draco with my 10x50s. This pair is about 110-118 light years apart, galactic next-door neighbors, but not gravitationally bound. This pair is about one magnitude apart in brightness at 5.35 and 6.50. With a 3 arc-minute separation and a very light orange-ish yellow tint to both, this is yet another worthy binocular target. The brighter, 75 Dra, is type G9III and the other type K0, so the perceived color is quite honest.

07/17/2016 09:00-10:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-17 Message #375
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63°F, partly cloudy with limiting visual magnitude 3.00, waning gibbous moon setting in the southwest. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

My early-morning naked eye / binocular adventure continues...

Observed Algol, eclipsing binary variable star in Perseus, with unaided eye. As I stepped out at 3:00am local, this star was no more than mag 3.0 contrasting its usual 2.05. By dawn, it was brightening and just surpassing δ (delta) Persii, so approx 2.90.

Observed Neptune, cold gas-giant planet in Aquarius, with 10x50 binoculars. As the moon set, limiting visual magnitude quickly improved from about 3.0 to 3.85. Shortly thereafter, I could spot stars at 4.50! This was a good opportunity to hunt for Neptune. Star-hopping from Fomalhaut to Skat to λ (lambda) Aquarii, Neptune was easy to spot with landmark stars and... limiting mag in the binoculars was 8.35 in that special window of clarity right at the edge of dawn.

Observed Uranus, cold gas-giant planet in Pisces, with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight this planet was very easy to spot low in the Pisces "V". I could just make out some light blue-ish color.

Observed M31, galaxy in Andromeda, with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight, with averted vision, I can discern 1.5° - 2.0° if its 3° width... and in this location that is as good as I have seen.

Observed C14, The Double Cluster, open cluster in Perseus, with 10x50 binoculars. Very easily spotted as a sprinkle of brighter stars with a small scattering of faint stars made more apparent with averted vision.

Observed The Garnet Star, Type M2Ia red giant in Cepheus, with 10x50 binoculars. Beautiful orange garnet color as usual! Estimated mag easily 4.0, *perhaps* 3.95?.

02-07/??/2016 ≅06:00-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-14 Message #374
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≅60°F, clear to very clear with limiting visual magnitude ≅4.0+, limiting 10x50 magnitude ≅8.0, no moon most nights. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Exploring the Universe... with Just the Eye and Binoculars

For the last few months I have been on a new journey, or a journey anew! With my main telescope down for repairs, I pulled out binoculars and set out to see just what I could observe with the 10x50's. After midnight, the sky typically improves and... just before dawn, the air takes on a special clarity. Some of the objects mentioned are found in logs of 2016 already, but this is a summary of what I've been able to find in the night sky.

This adventure has been a grand one! The sky itself is much more familiar. Adding to the experience, I have learned by heart the names of stars all over my 40° north latitude sky. Stellarium for Android is a huge aid in star-hopping while I realize just how much of the Universe can be examined with the eye, binoculars, and a bit of patience... even under a suburban light-polluted sky! Oh and, for me a lawn recliner is a must.

The list.

SOLAR SYSTEM OBJECTS
  * Mercury
    - Descending into the morning light with Venus and the Moon
    - Months later transiting the Sun
    Venus, Mercury, Moon Feb 6 2015  Mercury Transit May 2016  <- Done only with telephoto lens and hand-held solar filter.

  * Venus - always very white and brilliant while descending into the morning light with Mercury
  * Mars - the sandy, orange-ish pink color of this planet never gets old for me
  * Jupiter - bright white traveler in Leo moving from the eastern sky to the western sky as night falls
  * Saturn - this planet and Antares as landmarks bring Mars' prograde/retrograde motion clearly into view
  * Uranus - star-hopping from Hamal and Sheratan to the bottom of the Pisces "V", found with landmark stars
    Uranus  <- Previously-captured CCD image.


  * Moon - learning some major features that may be identified with the unaided eye - so far:
    - Sea of Serenity ¦ Mare Serenitatis
    - Sea of Tranquility ¦ Mare Tranquillitatis
    - Sea of Vapor ¦ Mare Vaporum
    - Sea of Showers ¦ Mare Imbrium
    - Sea of Islands ¦ Mare Insularum
    - Sea of Clouds ¦ Mare Nubium
    - Sea of Moisture ¦ Mare Humorum
    - Sea that has Become Known ¦ Mare Cognitum
    - Ocean of Storms ¦ Oceanus Procellarum
    - Copernicus Crater
    - Tycho Crater

  * Comet Catalina - very cold but enjoyable observing in early morning December and January.
    See this post.

STARS
  * The Garnet Star is always a treat. Its distinctive color stands out from among surrounding stars.

DOUBLE STARS
  * Zubenelgenubi (α Librae) - less than 1 lt yr apart - light blue / light yellowish - a beautiful contrast
  * Shaula and Lesath - about 5 lt yr apart
  * μ (Mu) Scorpii - about 27 lt yr apart
  * ε (Epsilon) Lyrae - a true double double
  * Mizar and Alcor - a true triple double

GLOBULAR CLUSTERS - all look like fuzzy or out-of-focus stars
  * M3 - 33,900 light years
  * M5 - 24,500 light years
  * M92 - 26,700 light years
  * M22 - 10,600 light years
  * M2 - 37,500 light years
  * M15 - 33,600 light years
  * M10 - 14,400 light years
  * M12 - 15,700 light years
  * M13 - 25,000 light years

OPEN CLUSTERS
  * M44, nice binocular cluster
  * M7, once found, this nice sparkle of stars near the "tea pot" really stands out
  * M6, the Butterfly Cluster - predominant orange K3 star accompanied by small group of fainter blue stars
  * M25, spotted with a little star-hopping and averted vision
  * C14, the Double Cluster - stands out as two groups of faintish stars with averted vision
  * M39 - another nice sparkle of stars standing out with averted vision

NEBULAE
  * M8, the Lagoon Nebula - star-forming region 4,000 lt yr away - 4 horiz stars, 2nd from left fainter
     + glowing gas appears to surrounds these stars giving it a somewhat "flying saucer" look
  * M20, the Trifid Nebula - another star-forming region 5,000 lt yr away
     + look approx 1.3° north of the Lagoon to spot this somewhat less obvious object

GALAXIES
  * M31, the Andromeda Galaxy - nucleus is easy - fainter surrounding structure *just* discernible with averted vision.
    Another galaxy 2.5 million light years away! With my 10x50's in the city!

MISCELLANEOUS
 

06/15/2016 09:00-09:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-06-21 Message #373
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57°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.05, limiting 10x50 magnitude 6.95, moon below western horizo. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M25, open cluster in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. u Sgr is easy to spot as "tip of the arrow" along with HIP 90687 & 90806 - HIP 90790 & 90900 may be spotted w/ a little more care - averted vision reveals an indistinct fuzz.
.
Observed M22, globular cluster in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. The cluster is easily spotted and its brighter center just appears w/ averted vision.

Observed The Garnet Star, Type M2Ia red giant in Cepheus, with 10x50 binoculars. This variable has an estimated magnitude of 3.5 using 10 Cep and 20 Cep as bracket stars.

05/29/2016 08:00-09:30 ? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-05-29 Message #372
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50?°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.90, last quarter moon rising during observation. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Mu Scorpii (μ1, μ2 Sco), double star in Scorpius, with 10x50 binoculars. This double is a fine blue-ish white pair of types B1.5 and B2 stars only 1/2 magnitude different in brightness. Mu1 is 501 light years and Mu2 is 474 light years distant. The WDS catalog indicates they are likely a gravitationally bound pair, although there seems to be some uncertainty. Aladin and the WDS catalog both indicate very similar proper motions. Complete, current data for all members of system WDS 16519-3803 may be viewed with my app, deltaStar.

Observed M7, open cluster in Scorpius, with 10x50 binoculars. I found this cluster to be a clear crisp grouping even with its low altitude off the horizon and the moonlight.

Observed M8, The Lagoon Nebula, nebula in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. Again this object is nicely easy to spot, appearing as 4 stars in a horizontal line surrounded by a "glow", about one FOV diameter north of/above the spout of the Sagittarius "teapot".

Observed M20, The Trifid Nebula, nebula in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. This object is not nearly as prominent as the visually nearby Lagoon, but being just 1.5° to the north, it's fairly easy to spot.

Observed M10 and M12, globular clusters in Ophiuchus, with 10x50 binoculars. M10 is one degree west of 30 Oph and, for me, a bit easier to spot than M12 which is about 3° further to the northwest. Reference this earlier post and other linked posts for more details and finder charts.

Exploring the sky with binoculars recently has given me a whole new awareness and appreciation of our vantage-point looking out at the Universe from our home, Earth. There is a sense of learning the sky anew with a completely renewed perspective!

05/09/2016 16:40-17:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-05-09 Message #371
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62°F, mostly clear. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Mercury Transit, planet Mercury "eclipsing" the Sun, with Michael Burton's telephoto lens, Rick's White Oaks solar filter, and some team effort - switching between holding the filter (which is for an 8-inch scope) and manning the laptop. With a light breeze on a pleasant May day, we managed to get some fairly clear shots!

Mercury Transit May 2016  Note the sunspots -> click for labels.

This transit won't be seen again until November 9, 2019. Keep looking up!

04/12/2016 10:15-10:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-04-12 Message #370
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42°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.30, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Even more binocular glob hunting at the edge of dawn! See the preceding three posts for M3 / M5 / M13, M92, and M12

Observed M10, globular cluster in Ophiuchus, with 10x50 binoculars. Following star hopping steps from the previous post to M12, then looking about 4° southeast from M12 to 5th mag. 30 Oph. and finally looking only about 1° west of 30 Oph, I found M10 with averted vision and a bit of FOV "sweeping". For me, M10 was just a little easier to spot than M12, but the two clusters are very close twins in both brightness and apparent diameter.

A. M10 Globular Cluster    B. M10 Globular Cluster

A. Wide-View Finder Chart
  * Facing south and looking about midpoint between horizon and zenith
  * Blue line indicates looking 4° southeast from M12 to find 30 Oph
  * M10, marked by the blue square, is just 1° west of 30 Oph, marked by the white circle
  * The M12 Finder Chart can be a helpful aid in star-hopping.

B. Detailed Finder Chart - 9° Wide
  * Red lines and markers indicate landmark stars and star-hopping guides for M12 and M10
  * Blue labels and markers pinpoint M10's location from M12
    - Note extending the red diagonal line used to locate M12 as a pointer to 30 Oph and then M10
    - Look carefully! Very close representation of the faint smudges seen under my skies.

-> Charts created with Stellarium and a bit of help from the GIMP.

04/06/2016 11:30-11:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-04-06 Message #369
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37°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.90, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Continued binocular glob hunting at the edge of dawn! See the preceding two posts for M3, M5, M13 and M92

Observed M12, globular cluster in Ophiuchus, with 10x50 binoculars. This glob was a little tricky to find and required averted vision along with a small FOV sweep. It seemed to have a nearly non-distinct central brightening and mag 6.60 spread across 14 1/2 arc-minutes.

A. M12 Globular Cluster    B. M12 Globular Cluster

A. Wide-View Finder Chart
  * Facing south and looking about midpoint between horizon and zenith
  * Blue line is 9° or 1 1/2 10x50 FOV's to gage star-hopping

B. Detailed Finder Chart - 9° Wide
  * Red lines and markers indicate landmark stars and star-hopping guides
  * Blue label and markers pinpoint M12's location
    - Look carefully! Very close representation of the faint smudge seen under my skies.

-> Charts created with Stellarium and a bit of help from the GIMP.

04/03/2016 11:00?-12:? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-04-03 Message #368
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39°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude around 3.55, 21% waning crescent moon approx 12° above the eastern horizon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M92, globular cluster in Hercules, with 10x50 binoculars. Having some moonlight and no special visual mag limit, just ahead of dawn at about 5:30-5:40 local, M92 was but 3 1/2° from dead overhead and the air was clear. The stars barely twinkled and the globular cluster stood out from other stellar objects as obviously fuzzy or diffuse and not a point source! It was actually easy to find from my lawn recliner's suburban location. The cluster seemed to stand out even more from surrounding stars compared to no-moonlight observations - I believe due to its diameter of 11 arc-minutes as opposed to stars displaying diameters of but tiny slivers of an arc-second.

IMAGE
Finder chart created with Stellarium and some help from the GIMP.

  * Looking straight up, facing north on April 4th at 5:33am local time
  * Red markers indicate landmark stars I used for star-hopping from π Herculis to M92
  * Blue line indicates binocular's FOV - which I used to gauge star-hopping distance from π Herculis to M92

03/10/2016 11:00-12:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-03-20 Message #367
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??°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.55, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

NOTE: The sky was about as clear as it gets from this location although, limiting visual magnitude did not appear to be unusual.

Observed M3, globular cluster in Canes Venatici, with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight this object was clearly not another star. It was obviously "fuzzy". Star hopping was a fairly straight journey from Muphrid to e Boo, past 3 Boo and on to a right triangle asterism formed by HIP 66725, HIP 67028, and M3.

Observed M5, globular cluster in Serpens, with 10x50 binoculars. This cluster seemed to look a bit more like a "fuzz" with a small brightish center. Star hopping began with Unukalhai then moving about 1 1/2 FOV's southwest to a diamond asterism made up of 4, 5, 6 Ser and HIP 74901. M5 sits just above the peak of the diamond.

Observed M13, globular cluster in Hercules, with 10x50 binoculars. A simple star hop from ζ Her toward η Her finds this object about 2/3 of the way there. The "Great Cluster" easily becomes a "fuzz" with a brighter center.

Observed Zubenelgenubi - Alpha Librae, double star in Libra, with 10x50 binoculars. I find this sight to be striking with brighter α2 Lib a crisp blue-ish white and dimmer companion α1 Lib just slightly more yellowish-green and about 3 1/2 arc minutes to the northwest. WDS data indicates this is a true binary with 2 more fainter companions.
  * Complete WDS data can be found in deltaStar.
  * Jim Kaler's article is always worth a visit.

Observed M8 - the Lagoon Nebula, nebula in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. The Lagoon stands out as 4 equidistant stars in an east/west row surrounded by luninous mist. A denser accumulation of glowing interstellar material is found here.

Observed M20 - the Trifid Nebula, nebula in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. This object is not quite as prominent as M8 in binoculars, but is easily found just 1 1/2 degrees north of the lagoon. The Trifid is a star-forming region.

Both M8 and M20 lie above the spout of the Sagittarius "tea pot" and beyond that, I found no real need for star hopping.

03/02/2016 N/A UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-03-01 Message #361
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Fresh research on NGC designations found for objects near NGC 7331 / Caldwell 30, spiral galaxy in Pegasus, first posted on 8/28/2009 and seen in this previously captured CCD image:
C43 Note that NGC 7331 and NGC 7335 are accurately identified while error corrections are listed below.

  * NGC 7333 is a star, not a galaxy that was apparently misidentified in an earlier New General Catalog entry.
    It is still referenced as a galaxy in some charts and software.
    - See VisieR
    - See 2MASS
  * NGC 7326 is an inexperienced mislabeling on my part.
  * NGC 7327 is also an inexperienced mislabeling of my doing.

02/29/2016 approx 11:45-12:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-03-02 Message #362
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3?°F, partly cloudy with waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed the Moon, Earth's satellite in Libra, with 90mm Maksutov at 32x. A moon map on my phone made for quick identification of interesting prominent features which included:
  * Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains)
  * Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold)
  * Craters
    - Copernicus
    - Tycho - with a prominent ray extending away roughly northward
    - Plato
    - Kepler
    - Aristarchus
  * The Apollo 15 landing site - very near the terminator

Steve Jobs once said, during an interview I heard years ago, that a computer should be like a bicycle for the mind - enabling one to go farther faster with less effort. I agree! Electronic observation aids can do the same thing when one doesn't rely on the devices to "do/know astronomy" for them, but makes use of the electronics as a bicycle for the mind in order to explore the Universe.

02/28/2016 approx 11:45-12:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-03-02 Message #363
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3?°F, mostly clear with waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Herschel's Garnet Star (μ Cephei), red type M2Ia supergiant in Cephus, with 90mm Maksutov at 32x. When first sighting in my target, I was briefly led astray by nearby 12 Cep of type M1III. It didn't take long to realize that 12 Cep just didn't have the same deep garnet-orange color, (second only in the sky to carbon stars which have their own special spectral type and look much the color of a penny). This star is a pulsating variable, and so my magnitude estimate for tonight is 4.1 - the same as a 2/6 estimate found here.

02/~/2016 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-03-04 Message #364
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Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

These are spur-of-the-moment phone logs for a few binocular and naked eye observations in early February 2016.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Planets, Stars, & Clusters Feb 2016

Fri 12th predawn 36°F M3,globular cluster in Canes Venatici, high overhead with 10x50s - required careful averted vision from this location while using Arcturus and Muphrid as the initial jumping off point for star hopping.

Wed 10th evening 2?°F M44 (Praesepe), open cluster in Cancer, with 10x50s - this cluster was an easy target making for a very worthwhile binocular observation.

Wed 10th predawn/dawn 2?°F
Tue 9th predawn/dawn 2?°F
Wed 8th predawn/dawn 2?°F
Jupiter, Spica, Mars, Antaries, Saturn, Venus, Mercury, and Arcturus could all be seen in the sky at once as dawn approached. A striking sight!

02/06/2016 13:00-13:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-02-06 Message #360
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20°F, mostly clear with waning crescent moon low in the east. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Venus, Mercury, Moon, planets in Sagittarius, with Sony CyberShot. An opportunity to photograph Venus, Mercury, and the Moon in a close conjunction presented iteslf this morning. A thin crescent moon with Venus shining brightly and Mercury still visible with binoculars on a chilly winter dawn was a striking view. The moon is only about 2 days from new.

Processed with the Gimp. The image is stacked on top of itself with upper layer set to "Burn" mode and 67% opacity.
Venus, Mercury, Moon Feb 6 2015  Labels auto-toggle, you may click with labels on or off for full-res image. Try zoom in.

02/06/2016 12:30-12:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-02-06 Message #359
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19°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.55, moon just rising about 1-4° altitude during observation. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Herschel's Garnet Star (μ Cephei), red type 1a supergiant in Cephus, with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight, given the current layout of the sky, I star-hopped placing Alderamin at the top of the 10x50's 6° FOV which positions the Garnet Star at the bottom and a bit to the right. The deep garnet color of this star makes it easy to spot! Noting that this star is variable, I estimate its magnitude at 4.1 being but slightly brighter than nearby υ Cephei which varies at magnitude 4.25-4.35.

Jim Kaler's article along with Wikipedia's article paint a fascinating picture of this star's evolutionary state, variability, and more. This monster is 100s of 1000s times brighter than the sun and would contain Jupiter's orbit with room to spare!

NOTE: A comment on an observation 2 days later, Feb 8, 2016 just before dawn (about 12:50 UTC and 5:50am local). The sky is a hazy partly cloudy with no certain truly clear areas and the temperature is 20°F. There is no moon as it is very near new. I was able to easily spot the Garnet with 10x50s - its color still very distinct. Fairly clear areas came and went allowing me to pick out M13 without much difficulty. Apparently, the air itself was clear although with some thin clouds.

01/27/2016 15:00-15:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-28 Message #358
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39°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.00+ and limiting binocular magnitude 6.85-7.30, moon about 12° to 7° below the horizon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed C/2013 US10, Comet Catalina on the border of Camelopardalis and Draco, with 10x50 binoculars held steady from a lawn recliner. The comet is roughly 2° south of HIP 56253 which, among other stars, I used to star-hop. Waiting for my eye to well adapt and using averted vision with slight FOV shifting, I am fairly confident I was just catching a "will-o-the-wisp" at vision's threshold noting carefully the wisp's location. I found Stellarium for Android very helpful as a finder chart along with Sky and Telescope's finder chart.

Comet Catalina Thumb Stellarium's Dec 10th finder chart plus my added graphics. Click chart to toggle wide-angle view.

Previous Catalina posts
  01/14/2016
  01/05/2016
  01/01/2016
  12/22/2015
  12/10/2015

Catalina is yet again found in the APOD as part of this "Big Dipper, Deep Sky" photo!

01/14/2016 11:15-12:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-21 Message #356
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14°F, clear? with good contrast for viewing, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed C/2013 US10, comet in Ursa Major, with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight, the diffuse appearance of the object was more easily discerned than any previous observations. Although I did not make an accurate note of limiting magnitudes, visual could have approached 4.0 with binocular limit 8.0. An attempt to view the comet with a C90 Celestron was unsuccessful mostly due to a cold operator having difficulty finding the correct FOV in the view finder with approaching dawn.

Previous Catalina posts
  01/05/2016
  01/01/2016
  12/22/2015
  12/10/2015

Sky and Telescope's finder chart.

01/05/2016 09:50-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-05 Message #355
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26°F, partly cloudy with limiting visual magnitude 3.59, limiting binocular magnitude 7.35, just ahead of moonrise. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Catalina, comet in Boötes, with 10x50 binoculars. Averted vision and FOV-sweep revealed a hazy wisp that *may* have had a tail extending right in the FOV (about SW) This would indicate a glimpse of the dust tail following behind the comet and not its ion tail blown away from the sun by the solar wind. The area of sky observed was clear to very nearly clear.

The image of the comet seems to be getting easier to discern as Catalina approaches Earth. At first, it looked like a dim star to me. As the days have passed, the "fuzziness" is easier to see.

I'll reference Sky and Telescope's finder chart and the accompanying article again in this post.

01/02/2016 13:50-14:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-03 Message #353
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15°F?, clear with limiting visual magnitude ?? (brightening dawn), last quarter moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed ISS (ZARYA), International Space Station, with only the naked eye. I stepped out with my canine buddy, Eagle, to get some air and, as usual, to look up. The view of planets, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Saturn accompanied by the moon in the morning sky is an exciting yet quieting experience for me - pretty much always.

Ducking into my observatory to check Stellarium with my pocket computer (most call it a smart phone), I see that the ISS is just making a very bright appearance from the southwest and headed high over-head to the northeast. Hurrying back out to check it out, I am struck by the sensation of standing on Earth watching *our* space station orbit *our* planet! It's "2001 a Space Odyssey" come to life.

This perspective stems from opportunity to watch Niel Armstrong, live on black-and-white TV, place the very first human foot on our Moon. I saw the movie "2001" when it was first released. Technology has grown from short wave radio to color television, the personal computer, the expanding Internet connected to by a swarm of devices, and more power by many many factors in a smart phone than my first computer in the early 80s.

01/01/2016 11:30-12:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-01 Message #352
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6°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude at 3.45, limiting magnitude with 10x50 at 7.20, last quarter moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Catalina, comet in Boötes, with 10x50 binoculars. Even with moonlight and bright nearby Arcturus, tonight I spotted Catalina. Allowing the eye to dark-adapt as much as possible and using averted vision brought the diffuse image of the comet into view. Catalina passed closest to Arcturus this night missing the star by only about 1/2 degree. Again, I see the comet as a significantly dimmer 7th magnitude rather than the 4.89 magnitude reported in Stellarium. I *think* this is due to total brightness being dispersed across the nebulous image making for a "surface brightness" that is fainter.

Techniques I found to be helpful
  * A lawn recliner tilted at an angle to steadily aim binoculars at the comet while resting my elbows on my chest.
  * Slight back-and-forth / up-and-down movement while holding my gaze still - amplifying averted vision.
    (Also very useful when hunting galaxies with telescope)
  * A nearby heated observatory!
  * Really warm gloves help when it's 6°!
  * Coffee. Lots of coffee.

Sky and Telescope provides this finder chart along with this article.

Catalina is featured in APOD today once again!

12/22/2015 12:30-13:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-05 Message #354
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35°F, clear with similar seeing conditions noted on Dec. 10, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Catalina, Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) in Virgo, again with 10x50 binoculars, some star-hopping, and averted vision. This morning the comet looked just a little fuzzy with averted vision. Again, the diffuse nature of the object "spreads out" the total brightness so that one must not expect to compare nearby stars' magnitudes when identifying Catalina in the FOV.

12/10/2015 12:00-01:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-12-12 Message #351
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42°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.85, binocular limit 7.50, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA. (The air seemed to be more transparent just ahead of perceptible dawn)

Observed C/2013 US10, comet Catalina in Virgo, with 10x50 binoculars. Its "smeared" light apparently reduced my perceived estimation of magnitude compared to nearby stars. Listed at 4.81 in Stellarium on Android, it appeared to be about 7.0 and looked like a dim star. I could see no "fuzziness".

Comet Catalina Thumb  Click for wide-angle view and Dec 10th finder chart.

Forcast provided by Stellarium for Android: Catalina travels toward Arcturus reaching it about the first of the year. The comet then sails toward Alkaid at the end of the Big Dipper's handle, passing it by in mid January. By February, our traveler moves somewhat near Polaris and is predicted to have faded to 6th magnitude.

And finally, APOD's photo of Catalina which was published after this observation. It was gratifying to observe this traveler and then see it presented on one of my very favorite web sites.

SPECIAL NOTES ......................................................................................
At approximately 5:15 local, I observed a satellite slowly flashing as it passed below the comet easily within the FOV moving left-right nearly parallel to the horizon. Stellarium identified the object as SL-16 R/B, catalog # 23088, international designation 1994-3B, agreeing well with the observed time and flight path.

Sadly, I just missed a very favorable opportunity to see the Hubble Space Telescope as my attention was focused on the comet. Next time!

11/02/2015 11:30-12:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-11-02 Message #350
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40°F, partly cloudy with waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Venus, Mars, Jupiter, planets in Leo and Virgo, with Sony CyberShot. The planets have been quickly changing their relative positions in recent history's morning conjunction. A beautiful sight in a chilly autumn dawn.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter Nov 2015  Labels auto-toggle, you may click with labels on or off for full-res image. Try zoom in.

2014-2015 Transcripts Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-24 Message #379
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  Tegmine
  Dec 11, 2014 4:30 local clear, 32°, waning gibbous (1 or 2 days from last qtr)
  vis mag about Porrima
  eyepiece limit mag 10.15 (eyepiece due south (corrected to 4:30 - "D" component?) of Tegmine 5-10 arc mins)
  NOTES Primary 2 stars easily distinguished, GoTo says quadruple, WDS 08122+1739, 4-5 arc mins, 1-2 mags dimmer
    than Tegmine 5' 4:30, 7' 6:00, D is def. brighter than eyepiece limit mag, 11:00 11 arc mins "G"? "D"? -

      object 7 Leo
   date/time Jan 15, 2015 2:40am local
        temp 30
  atmosphere clear
limiting vis star in a square nearly overhead formed by Jupiter and 3 other stars not nearly as prominent as Jupiter - NW corner star - Algenubi 2.95
limiting eye below 10 - seeing a 9th or 10th mag star (7 Leo)
        moon just rising -> waning cresent moving up in the sky
description double star in Leo
   equipment C8" @ 81x
       NOTES Very pale w/ a *hint* of blue or even silver - type A1 - not found in GoTo (as a double?) Companion
         a dimmer brass or bronze - Unclear whether true gravitationally associated double
           * Search WDS 09359+1423
           * WDS notes
             09359+1423 H 5  58     H V 58. 7 Leo.
             B is BD+15@2078.
           * SIMBAD URL
             A SAO 98662
             A * 7 Leo
             B BD+15 2078
             B->A ADS 7448 AB
             B->A * 7 Leo

        GoTo 8" - very close to WDS

  M67, open cluster in Cancer
  4:30am local, 36°, very clear w/ light breeze, Dec 10, 2014, waning gibbous moon (bright)
  Limit vis Porrima 3.40, Regulus?, 81x
  Limit eyepiece  - estimated 12.00-12.50
  NOTES seeing many stars - just east of north central 15-20 arc mins, other stars fainter that are still easy to
    make out, even dimmer w/ averted - at 81x 22-24 less prominent, then w/ averted vision "a number of" fainter
    stars another prominent 20 arc mins from central cluster near due north, other star PA correction: 1:30 or NE
  NOTE addendum: Prominent star NE of center is: HIP 43519 Magnitude: 7.80 Type: K0

  Gamma Arietis (Mesarthim), double star in Aries
  10/11/2015, no moon, very clear 4:21 local (observing off-and-on for about the last 3 hours) 55F
  Limit vis eyepiece 4:15 o'clock about the same distance as C is 12.50 -
  Orion holding *4* stars for limit visual mag 4.35
  NOTES very similar in mag and color - some subtle differences  B *may* be slightly less blueish, slightly less
    bright (agrees with WDS) - C east and a bit north not quite 4' - easy target, brighter 9th mag

    * Jim Kaler's article
    * WDS 01535+1918 search
      - southern star A
      - northern star B - very nearly due north
      - P.A. 360 (GoTo? WDS says 1)

2014-2015 Transcripts Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-24 Message #378
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* This entry contains transcribed audio logs coming from Aug 2014 - Oct 2015 *
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      object Perseid meteor
   date/time Aug 13, 2014 2:25am local
        moon bright, not the best for meteor watching, but I caught one anyway!
       NOTES Brilliant blue-tinted, NE-SW, high overhead, blue-ish, lasting about 2 sec, 45° off the horizon
      
      object HD 28484
   date/time Oct 14, 2014 06:03am local?
        moon 90% illuminated
  description star in Taurus
   equipment C8" @ 81x?
       NOTES Just to the west of the faintest pair formed by Theta1&2 and the other stars close, about 1.5x the
         distance of those stars, and 1 or 2 mags fainter, a very red star - carbon star? - Research reveals this
         to be HD 28484, a 7.70 magnitude M3III type star about 7 arc minutes west and a little south of HIP
         21029, which is a member of the Hyades, but the red-orange star in question is not, to my knowledge.
             * SIMBAD 28484
             * 2MASS imaging reveals this star to have a much brighter IR signature than its optical!

      object OBJECT
   date/time Oct 14, 2014 - 5:35am local
        moon Waxing gibbous high in the south.
       NOTES Moving OBJECT passes close to Rigel @ about the same magnitude, moving south in a straight line, and
         faded out in approx 1 min. I could not verify the identity of this object in Sellarium. This seems to be
         the case more often than not.
              
      object Mintaka
   date/time Oct 26, 2014 - 5:52am local
        temp 52
  atmosphere Some clouds - nearly overcast by 6:25am local
        moon None
  description Double star in Orion
   equipment C8 81x?
       NOTES Estimated PA 350 - WDS 0. Main star distictly blue - B0III - Still tracking @ 6:26 and can be seen
         through the clouds
      
      object Mintaka
   date/time Oct 26, 2014 - 6:47am local / 12:47 UTC
  atmosphere Mostly cloudy, sky beginning to brighten
  description Double star in Orion
   equipment C8 @
       NOTES Still able to see the star and companion in the eyepiece. Jim Kaler's article points out that Mintaka
         itself is double. Spec types O and B. AAVSO catalog: Mintaka spec type O9.5II. A 14th mag 3rd component
         could be a CCD target @ PA 228. Mintaka is an eclipsing binary varying only from 1.9 to 2.1 with a perion
         of but 5.73 days. This object could be seen in the eyepiece until 7:42am, clearly after sunrise,
         then faded into the sky's background glare.
      
      object M42
   date/time Oct 30, 2014 - 5:08 local
        temp 46
  atmosphere nicely clear
limiting vis 4.35 (4th in Orion's weapon)
limiting eye 11.10
        moon none
  description Orion's Great Emission Nebula
   equipment C8 81x
       NOTES Trapezium/Theta Orionis, very crisply defined - brightest theta blue-ish / faintest perhaps a bit
         yellower / other 2 slightly further from blue end of spectrum than the brightest / the "Eagle's Head"
         very nicely contrasted against the brighter nebula behind it / Studying more about the Theta system which
         is actually a group of siblings

2014-2015 Transcripts Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-24 Message #377
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* This entry contains transcribed audio logs coming from Aug 2014 - Oct 2015 *
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      object Neptune
   date/time Aug 12, 2014 4:30-5:00am local
  atmosphere clear?
limiting vis Left-most star of Cass when seen as "W" - 3.35
limiting eye About 9.75 to 10.70 to 11.45! (based on stars found in the FOV) - the fainter is ok
        moon Nearly full about 22 deg southeast of Enif ("1 or 2 days past super moon"?)
description Planet in Aquarius
   equipment C8 @ 81x
       NOTES Even with moonlight, blue color is very apparent - 2.7 billion miles away
      
      object Uranus
   date/time 5:00am local
description planet in Pisces
   equipment C8 @ 81x, 120x
       NOTES Obviously a light blue compared to Neptune's darkish turquiose - definitly a disk, not a point-source
         - a perfect tiny blue sphere - Uranus' dia 4" / Neptune's dia 2" - 1.7 billion miles - 120x reveals
         Uranus clearly as a blue sphere
      
      object Uranus
   date/time 4:47am local Aug 13th (night of the 12th?)
description planet in Pisces
   equipment 162x
       NOTES Neptune does appear as a tiny disk, but Uranus' 4x apparent surface area gives it a more
         clearly sphereical appearance - very crisp, perfect little ice world in the distance at 162x
      
      object Neptune
   date/time Aug, 13 2014 3:16am local
        temp 63°
limiting vis "not very good" some haze and clouds - can see the Summer Triangl
limiting eye F&G components
description planet in Aquarius
   equipment C8 @81x, 120x, & 162x
       NOTES Greenish-tinted Blue color is the most distinguishing feature tonight, increased power not a clear
         advantage (2" diameter) At 120x, *some* improvement, difficult to perceive the disk, but the turquoise
         color marks the object - 2" object has only 1/4 apparent surface area.

===================================================================================================
THIS INFO IS INCLUDES DETAIL FOR NEPTUNE/URANUS SPECIFICALLY
===================================================================================================

      object Neptune, Uranus
   date/time 4:30-5:00am local
       NOTES Neptune is 2.7 billion miles from Earth, Uranus 1.7 billion miles

2014-2015 Transcripts Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-07-24 Message #376
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PAGE 1
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* This entry contains transcribed audio logs coming from Aug 2014 - Oct 2015 *
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      object 61 Cyg (A & B)
   date/time Aug 6, 2014 1:20-3:20 local
        temp 60
  atmosphere partly cloudy
        moon just setting
description double star in Cygnus
   equipment C8 @ 81x?
       NOTES 61 Cyg A located:
         (I could not verify this with arch'd WDS data and Stellarium combined)
         ** I DID verify this with arch'd WDS data and using Aladin->SDSS image & SIMBAD proper motion data **
         The following geometry very closely locates 61 Cyg A along its PM path while agreeing with the WDS E&H
         data for 2014
           - a line drawn through E & H passes just north of A
           - a line drawn thru sim. bright star just northwest of E and then H passes just south of A
           - a line drawn thru F & G would pass just south of B  
           - The separation of AH compared to the separation of AB agrees well with WDS data

      object 61 Cyg
   date/time Aug 9, 2014
  atmosphere clear & settled
limiting vis 3.00
limiting eye member H or G - about 11.00
        moon waxing gibbous 2-3 d from full
description double star in Cygnus
   equipment C8" @ 81x
       NOTES At 81x, star more than 1' NW of E will be called "star #1" (used above for location geometry)
         * Line extending thru #1 and H passes between A & B - putting B just south of the extended line
         * Line extending thru E and H passes north of A less than AB separation
         * Separation between AH, over 2, perhaps 2.5x AB separation
         * Line drawn thru #1 and H passes south of A, but is closer to it than the EH line passing north of
           AB is again certainly south of B
         * Line drawn thru F to midway between AB, is nearly exactly 90° to line AB

       Looks like 2 polished golden beads, not reflecting light but shining from within
         - B just slightly more pinkish or orange-ish than A - Beautiful!

      object OBJECT passed through FOV
   date/time Aug 9, 2014 2:04 local
       NOTES perhaps 5' west of 61 Cyg - traveling S-N - Steady brightness, AB a bit NW of FOV center,
         - visible for about 2 sec - Observed about 2 minutes befor 2:04

      object Enif
   date/time 3:30am local Aug 9, 2014
        moon Near full 12 deg above the SW horizon
description Double star in Pegasus
   equipment C8
       NOTES Bright pale yellow / much fainter companion / about 3' sep / pa 315 / companion is violet-gray 81x /
         Jim Kaler - supergiant 600+ light years away - easily seen in light-polluted, moonlit sky - would cover
         40 deg at dist of sun - total lum is 6700 solar - would reach 1/2 way to Venus' orbit - Earth would be
         a scorched cinder!
         (I have a hard time thinking, even having studied multiverse and string theories etc, that this is
         just an accident - although I can appreciate the concept of *all* possibilities taking place given an
         eternity to occur)
       NOTES#2 3rd WDS member is not visible tonight - realizing the level of moonlight, it still
         may not be visible from my location
         System WDS 21442+0953 search

      object Enif
   date/time Aug 12, 2014 3:30am local
limiting vis Left-most of Cass 3.35
limiting eye About 9.75 to 10.70 to 11.45! (based on FOV) the fainter is ok
        moon Nearly full about 22 deg southeast of Enif
description Double star in Pegasus
   equipment C8 @ 81x
       NOTES At 81x, it seems quite white although type K2Ib - color perception, contrast, expectation / GoTo
         lists sep at 83" - This is correct for AB (the faintest member is B), is correct for AC - this
         could trip up the beginning amateur

10/13/2015 11:00-12:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-10-15 Message #349
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50?°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, limiting eyepiece magnitude 12.00? no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M42, Great Orion Nebula, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Tonight, even after already viewing this object many times over many years, I am amazed and awestruck by this sight all over again! The impression I get during this observation, is that of silver beads shining with their own light and displaying subtle variations in color, suspended in a brilliant mist with a 3-dimensional hawk-like shadow hovering over the Trapezium. The air is beautifully still before dawn so that Theta-1 Orionis, the Trapezium, is so very crisply separated with each star displaying its own brightness and hue distinctions.

This is the very starscape that inspired me to write these words, "Orion".

A. Orion Nebula  B. Orion Nebula

  A. Previously-captured CCD image with the Theta-1 system just up and left from center.
  B. More recent CCD image with the Theta-1 system members labeled. Oriented with north up and west left.

Digging further, I find Jim Kaler's article that explains Theta-1 is actually a complex 11-star system whose radiation, including intense ultraviolet, illuminates the nebula around it and causes it to fluoresce. The two variables in the system mentioned here, A and B, may be referenced in AAVSO's International Variable Star Index as V1016 Ori (Theta-1 A) and BM Ori (Theta-1 B).

A complete listing of WDS data for this system may be viewed with my double star search app, deltaStar.

10/11/2015 07:20-10:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-10-15 Message #348
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55°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, limiting eyepiece magnitude 12.50, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Gamma Arietis (Mesarthim), double star in Aries, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. These two stars are very similar in both magnitude and color, but if I am noticing any difference, I would say that "B" is a bit less bluish and a bit dimmer. Already having read Jim Kaler's article on this system, my perception may have been influenced. The "C" member is a brighter 9th mag. star to the east and a little north about 4 arc-minutes away from the main pair.

In the WDS catalog, "A" is the southern member and P.A. is 360°. GoTo database puts separation at 8". Complete WDS info for this system, 01535+1918, may be viewed with deltaStar, my online home-grown double star search app.

Jim Kaler's article, as usual, fills in much facinating detail about this system.

10/08/2015 09:00-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-10-09 Message #347
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50?°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, limiting mag at 81x about 12.00, crescent moon just rising during observation. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA. (Stellarium's magnitude for my limiting star in the eyepiece did not seem accurate, so I have relied on star catalog listings found with Aladin.)

Observed Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Tonight the southern member, B,  looks just a bit greener than the northern member of this turquoise pair. During past observations, this has not always been the case, but the southern sun is just a small bit closer to the yellow "F" and "G" stars on the HR diagram than its companion.

A. HR Diagram    B. HR Diagram    C. Psi Piscium  

  A. HR Diagram with nice representation of the O-B-A-F-G-K-M color scale.
    (Psi Piscium's members are very similar to the star Vega shown on this chart.)
  B. HR Diagram with Roman numeral size classifications and good illustration of the B-V color index
  C. Previously-captured CCD image

The WDS Catalog lists spectral types as B9.5V for "A" and A0V for "B" - barely a difference! Having such similar magnitudes and colors, it's truly difficult to discern such subtle details. Tonight, C was nicely visible at 11th magnitude a little more than an arc-minute ESE from B. I never tire of surveying these striking twin blue suns.

Details of this multiple system may be viewed with my home-grown online WDS search app, deltaStar.

09/28/2015 01:50-03:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-10-02 Message #346
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60+°F, mostly clear, perigee moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed "Super-Moon" Lunar Eclipse, perigee eclipse of the Moon in Pisces, with friends and family, the unaided eye, and binoculars (7x35 / 10x50). While enjoying this special event in the heavens, I took photos with my Cyber-Shot in night mode mounted on a tripod. With the excitement of a granddaughter and good people around me, I did not exactly focus on equal time periods between photos, but one must set priorities.

Here are a few of the resulting photos. I hope for all to enjoy!
Lunar Eclipse Sep 27, 2015

07/--/2015 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-26 Message #345
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Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

NOTE that I accumulated a few phone notes in 2015 I am including here although I have logged most everything this year.

List 2015

7 Leo
WDS 09359+1423
http://astronomy.datapathways.com/concepts/WDS/search.php?wdsid=09359%2b1423
RA 09h35m52.8s
Dec +14°22'46.0"

38 Lyncis
WDS 09188+3648
http://astronomy.datapathways.com/concepts/WDS/search.php?wdsid=09188%2b3648
RA 09h18m50.5s
Dec +36°48'07.0"


Algol

Period = 2.8673 days or...
2d 20h 48m 54.72s

Half = 1.43365 days or...
1d 10h 24m 27.36s

Max = 07/13/2015, 07:42:10.00 UTC
Min = 07/14/2015, 18:06:37.36 UTC
Min = 07/17/2015, 14:55:32.08 UTC
Min = 07/20/2015, 11:44:26.80 UTC
Min = 07/23/2015, 08:33:21.52 UTC <-
Min = 07/26/2015, 05:22:16.24 UTC <-


Fomalhaut

07/12/2015, 11:00-13:00 UTC
Still visible at 120x
Sun is approx 12° alt

*surrounding disk
*1st planet imaged
*extremely distant companions

Jim Kaler
http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/fomalhaut.html


Garnet Star

07/12/2015, 09:45-10:30 UTC
10x50, limit mag 8.15
copper-ish orange - beautiful!

04/--/2015 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-26 Message #344
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Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

NOTE that I prepared for months ahead to photograph quasar 3C273 so as to be very familiar with the surrounding star field through 10x50 binoculars and in the eyepiece. I had this object clearly identified verifying its identity with sky survey photos obtained using Aladin.

3C 273
HIP 60936

April 2015 Lunar observation window:
  * 4/09-10: 1h20m transit to Moonrise
   - 4/10-11: 00:03 MDT transit
    >13 day window
   - 4/22-23: 23:19 MDT transit
  * 4/24: 40m transit to Moonset

May 2015 Lunar observation window:
  * 5/7: 1h20m transit to Moonrise
   - 5/8: 22:16 MDT transit
    >11 day window
   - 5/18: 21:38 MDT transit
                21:38 = sun -15
                22:02 = sun -18
  * 5/19: 9m after transit = Moonset

June 2015 Lunar/Solar obs. window:
    > 5 days???
  * 6/6: 22:00 MDT
        @ 1h31m after transit
                sun = -15
  * 6/6: 22:24 MDT
        @ 1h57m after transit
                sun = -18
                moon = -25
  * 6/17: 22:24 MDT @ 2h40m after transit
                sun = -17
                moon = -11

- This star seems that it could be the same object before realizing how distant and luminous it really is. !*

- Based on an absolute magnitude of -26.7 for this quasar and 4.83 for the Sun, the object is over 4 TRILLION x as bright as the sun!* Yup, that's trillion with a T! AND...  based on an absolute magnitude of 0.00 for the milky way, this quasar is 300 x our galaxy's brightness.
...
(100^(0.2))^(4.83-(-26.7))
=4,092,606,597,300.11
...

Redshift = 0.158339 ± 0.000067*
Distance = 2.443 Gly (749 Mpc)*

*See:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/3C_273

========================================================
Jan 26, 2015 - searching for 3C273,
5:26am local - OBJECT mid-bright, rough S-N not very quickly - OBJECT much brighter and faster,
both not far from FOV center, 2nd a little more east

5:40 - limit eyepiece around 12 - clear, 39/40F, not checked vis mag
Searching for 3C273/HIP 60936 w/ C8" - identifying landmark star-hopping nearby stars - *may* have just seen target
bright object - roughly sw/ne quickly while *should* be centered on target

5:54 - about 1/4 after began search - lmt mag @ 120 threshhold of target's magnitude - limit vis after ideal 4.75
More confident in identifying at 120x - still becoming familiar with FOV for star-hopping & pos id
========================================================

10/--/2014 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-26 Message #343
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Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

NOTE that this is a collection of quickly-written notes typed into my phone during October-December 2014. Being more enthralled with the Universe than with logging data, here is what I nevertheless recorded.

==EARLY OCTOBER==

Open Cluster Exploration cont...
-----------------------------------------------------------

  M35
    - spotted approximately 6:00 am
    - sky *just* brightening
    - a few brighter stars w/ many fainter
    - 2.8 Kly distant
    - 95-110 Myr old

  M36
    - abit more difficult to spot
    - not as many brighter stars
    - 4.1 Kly distant
    - 25 Myr old

  M37
    - Unable to find in the brightening sky

Double Stars
-----------------------------------------------------------

  Mintaka

Daylight Objects
-----------------------------------------------------------

  Mintaka
  Betelgeuse
  Rigel

Lunar eclipse October 8th

==LATE OCTOBER==

Solar Eclipse October 23rd

Open Clusters
-----------------------------------------------------------

  The Hyades
    - Study of WDS members within
      - Theta
      - Delta
      - Kappa

==NOVEMBER/DECEMBER

Nebulae
-----------------------------------------------------------

  M42 / M43
    - WDS Members
      - Theta[1] Orionis (Trapezium)
      - Theta[2] (Row of 3 stars nearby)

  * NOTE: An exceptional viewing night revealed a (14th) mag star at the end of the Theta[2] "V"

Quasars
-----------------------------------------------------------

  Preparing to view and CCD image 3C 273 in March
  
  
Observing List

M44, M67, M48, M46, M47, M48, M50
NGC 2281, 2506, 2539, 2423

Zeta Cancri (Tegmine), 38 Lyncis (09h18.8m +36d48')

Observing M67: OBJECT moving N/S along W side FOV @ 5:22am local 12/10/2014 - moderate brightness, steady speed, direction, and magnitude 1 second in view

Observing Tegmine: OBJECT moving NW/SE in the western half of FOB @ 120x. 4:44am local 12/11/2014 - moderate brightness, steady speed, direction, and magnitude 1 second in view

09/--/2014 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-26 Message #342
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

NOTE that this is a collection of quickly-written notes typed into my phone during September 2014. Being more enthralled with the Universe than with logging data, here is what I nevertheless recorded.

Sep 26, 2014
  M34 open cluster (spiral?)
  NGC 869 (C14) & NGC 884 dbl cluster

Oct 4, 2014
  d Tau / HIP 21402 A
    - dbl star WDS 04357+1010
    - 10 o'clock 70.5" mags 4.27 7.84
    - types A5m
  π1 Ori / HIP 22845
    - dbl star WDS 04549+1009
    - 8:30 o'clock 171.8" mags 4.66 8.95
    - types A0V
  M35, M36, M37, M38 open clusters
  
Observations in Late Sept/Early Oct 2014

==LATE SEPTEMBER==

Open Cluster Exploration:
-----------------------------------------------------------
  Caldwell 14 (NGC 869 & 884)
    - brilliant & striking
    - intense blue-ish white stars
  NGC 869
    - western of the 2
    - 13 Myr old
    - 7.6 Kly distant
  NGC 884
    - eastern of the 2
    - 12.5 Myr old
    - 7.6 Kly distant
    - a few contrasting orange stars!

  M34
    - more subtle object than C14
    - 200-250 Myr old
    - 1.5 Kly distant

  M45 - the Pleiades (10x50s & C8")
    - very bright blue-ish white stars
    - some nebulosity
    - 444 Ly distant
    - 100 Myr

  The Hyades (10x50s & C8")
    - more subtle than M45
    - surrounding Aldeberan
    - two members to the east blue/orange
    - only 153 Ly distant!
    - 624 Myr old

Globular Clusters
-----------------------------------------------------------
  M15 - Elder Cluster
    - easily found
    - magnification yields much more detail
    - 33-39 Kly distant
    - 12 BILLION years old!

Galaxies
-----------------------------------------------------------
  M74
    - very challenging from my location
    - quickly found w/ previous FOV info

Double Stars
-----------------------------------------------------------
  Al Risha - Alpha Picsium
    - Only 1.3“ separation!
    - 120x & 162x worked well
  Psi Picsium
    - beautiful blue binary
    - southernmost a bit more greenish
  Zeta Picsium

  Rigel
    - 240x w/ dawn light CLEARLY seen!
    - pin prick next to "spiked" brilliance
    - 6.5 mags difference = 400x!

Local Solar System
-----------------------------------------------------------

  Sun
    - Star Storms the size of whole planets!
    - easily seen sunspot groups
    - darker central & lighter periphery clear
    - easily correlated with online data

  Neptune
    - beautiful distinctive deep blue-green
    - 2" disk better seen with higher x
    - about 2.7 billion miles distant

  Uranus
    - brighter light blue color stands out
    - 4" disk seen clearly even at 81x
    - about 1.7 billion miles distant

09/25/2015 10:20-11:40 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-25 Message #341
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
50°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, moon 5° above the horizon in the west. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Alpha Fornacis and Omega Fornacis, double stars in Fornax, the Furnace, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x.

Alpha For is separated by about 5 arc-seconds, was clearly seen at 120x, and appeared white with a slightly brassy companion. White agrees well with the spectral type F8V, but the brassy color is apparently due to the magnitude difference of 3.98 and 7.19. The companion is actually bluer than the brighter star. I estimated P.A. to be about 270-285° and the WDS catalog lists it at 301°. Only 5" makes this tricky! See the current WDS data for this star, WDS ID 03121-2859, here.

Jim Kaler's article includes the items below and much more.
  * This star system is but 46 light years away and has an orbital period of 269 years.
  * Current distance between these stars is comparable to our Kuiper belt's outer fringe's distance from the Sun.
    (This strikes me with a "perspective glimpse" of the Universe's vastness! All the planets and the Kuiper belt
     would fit between those two shimmering dots.)
    

Omega For is separated by a wider 11 arc-seconds and very nicely resolved although somewhat dimmer. The primary is a bright blueish white while its companion also looks brassy-ish. The lesser magnitude difference of 4.95 and 7.71 with wider separation seems to lend to more accurate color perception. The main star is type B9V and its B-V value is -0.77. The companion star's B-V value is 0.16 making it clearly shifted away from the other star in a more-yellow/red direction on the HR diagram's color spectrum. I estimated P.A. at about 225-240° while the WDS catalog lists this angle as 246°. See the current WDS data for this star, WDS ID 02338-2814, here.
  * Although this system's primary is a magnitude fainter than Alpha's, I find the appearance more striking.
  * Mush farther than Alpha, Omega is 454 light years away.

NOTE: Alpha is not listed as a double in my GoTo database and Omega is not listed at all. This observations is a result of exploration using Stellarium and delta*.

09/18/2015 09:15-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-18 Message #340
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
49°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, limiting magnitude with 120x eyepiece 11.70, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed NGC 253 aka Sculptor Galaxy, galaxy in Sculptor, with C8". At 81x, the stars HIP 3706 and HIP 3745, along with a few other landmark stars in the FOV, made for easy identification of the object's location - but the galaxy was not really visible even with dark-adapted averted vision. At 120x, the nucleus could just be made out using averted vision and a few arc-minutes of NS "field sweeping". (I have found that averted vision combined with a bit of movement in the FOV, while not changing direction of gaze, is quite effective for seeing fainter objects in a light-polluted sky.) The remaining structure may have been seen as a very elusive will-o-the-wisp.

Landmark stars HIP 3706 and HIP 3745 are 20' apart and so barely fit on opposite sides of the 120x FOV. Two other stars near 3706 form a near right angle, aiding in verifying the galaxy's location.

These Stellarium-generated charts show HIP 3706, top center marked with a small circle, with its attending landmark stars, the Sculptor Galaxy and HIP 3745 at bottom center, also marked with a small circle. South is up and left as indicated by the chart with the equatorial grid lines.
Sculptor Galaxy

09/13/2015 11:40-12:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-12 Message #338
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
53°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35 just before dawn's light, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Venus, planet in Cancer the Crab, with phone cam. Stepping out on my front porch before 6:00 am local time, there was brilliant Venus in the eastern sky. As an inspiration-of-the-moment experiment, I pulled out my Experia and set the camera to full manual mode. Next purely by eye, I tweaked white balance, "film" ISO number, amount of light (effective aperture/shutter speed?), light meter mode, and focus mode. Steadying my hands on the rail, I took quite a few photos to see what I could get. My wish for you, the viewer, is simply to find some enjoyment or inspiration...

Here is one of my favorites.
Venus the Morning Star

09/13/2015 10:20-11:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-15 Message #339
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
53°F, very clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, limiting mag in the scope ath 120x, 13.25, no moon. (This was excellent seeing from my suburban location!) Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M77 aka Cetus A, Seyfert galaxy in Cetus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass. At 81x, the nucleus is a bright "out-of-focus" star. At 120x, there is a faint suggestion of "fuzz" around the galaxy's center with averted vision. This galaxy's central region appears unusually bright compared with the "typical" galaxies I have observed that are 10s of MLy distant.

NOTE: Stellarium for Android did an exceptional job of assisting in double-checking and verifying the identity of this object. About 10' to the NE is HIP 12705 while about 25' to the SSE is HIP 12728. Both stars provide obvious 9th mag landmarks. Only 1-2' SE of the nucleus is 11th mag HIP 12668 which further clinches the deal.

I like to stop and ponder the idea that every time I view or photograph galaxies or quasar 3C273, what I see is a super-massive black hole's brilliant shroud! Our Universe never fails to gift me with moments of wonderment and reverence.

09/10/2015 10:15-11:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-10 Message #337
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
55°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 4.35, limiting magnitude with 81x eyepiece 11.20, thin crescent moon rising in the east roughly 3 days from new. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Vesta, minor planet in Cetus, with C8" at 81x. Using Stellarium to obtain current R.A./Dec and nearby landmark stars, I entered the coordinates into the scope's GoTo mount. Having slewed to the given location in the sky, I used nearby stars in the field with a radius of 1° around Vesta to verify what I was seeing. Hip 4385 3/4° south was strikingly golden - classed as M5III, it nicely became part of verifying Vesta's identity in the eyepiece.

** Rick B - 08/28/2016 ** Note the corrections to the previous sentence, appearing below in bold underline, to Hipparcos number and spectral class.

"Hip 4346 3/4° south was strikingly golden - classed as K5III, it nicely became part of verifying Vesta's identity in the eyepiece."

Click below to view a chart I created with Stellarium that is quite representative of what I saw given the existing level of light pollution. East/west are reversed representing a Schmidt-Cassegrain view. Panning the scope about the immediate area surrounding Vesta, my old star-hopping skills allowed for quick confirmation of my target. Notice these items.
  * 3-star pattern to the north (up)
  * 3-star pattern to the east (right) including HIP 4403
  * HIP 4276, 4346, and 4385 to the south (down)

Minor Planet Vesta

NOTE: 5:35 local time, a bright fast-moving object passed through the FOV traveling about NW/SE passing within only several arc minutes of Vesta to its SW.

09/09/2015 07:??-07:?? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-10 Message #336
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
60?°F, clear with no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M15, globular star cluster in Pegasus, with C8" at 81x. While visiting this old friend determining its visible diameter to me with averted vision (which was actually fairly close to its given diameter of 12+ arc minutes), at 01:26am local, a faint slower-moving object moved through the 1/2° FOV moving about NNW/SSE. It took a few seconds to move across the star field pas sing very near the center of the cluster. The impression I had was distant / high altitude rather than slower than the brighter objects I typically see while observing that take but 1-2 seconds to move across the FOV. I was unable to match this object with any satellite displayed in Stellarium for Android, although a COSMOS satellite was shown to pass very close to M15 a few minutes later, but traveling pretty much the opposite direction of what I observed.

09/08/2015 05:00-05:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-09 Message #334
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
62°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.80 and 11.30 in the eyepiece at 81x, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M29 or the Cooling Tower Cluster, open cluster in Cygnus, with C8 at 81x. There are 7 stars of magnitudes 8.95-10.45 that, to me, stand out as a distinct pattern in this star field making the "cooling tower" very recognizable. There is a rectangle tilted at a nearly diagonal angle to the "compass" points. From the northern corner, 3 more stars form a "zig-zag" running northward. From the western corner, another star angles away about WNW. The cluster itself lies south of Sadr (center of Cygnus' "cross") less than 2°.

09/04/2015 10:40-11:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-09-09 Message #335
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
55°F, mostly clear with a last-quarter moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Uranus, planet in Pisces, with C8 at 81x and 120x. Other nearby stars in the field were easily identified with Stellarium on an Android phone. The light blue color always stands out as well as the 4 arc-second disk of the planet which I can easily spot with 81x, but is that much more apparent at 120x.

Observed NGC 752, open cluster in Andromeda, with C8. At 81x, I "quadrant swept" the 1' cluster so as to see all of the structure with a 30" FOV. I noticed most stars were of similar magnitudes with "stings of beads", a mini-Cassiopeia, a mini Bootes, pairs, boxes and triangles of similar size. There are 2 prominent stars to the SW - at least one is noticeably yellowish.

Observed Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces, with C8 at 81x and 120x. At both magnifications, the turquoise color is stunning even into dawn. The C member is also easily spotted with a little help from averted vision.

NOTE: At 5:41 MDT (11:41 UTC), a bright white, fast-moving object traveled through the FOV about 5'-10' west of Psi moving about N/S.

08/15/2015 11:45-12:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-08-31 Message #333
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
65?°F, clear, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Sirius, magnitude -1.45 star in Canis Majoris, with unaided eye and 10x50 binoculars. This morning, the Dog Star caught my eye in the dawn. Curious, using highlines and tree branches while sitting in my outside coffee chair, I was able to see Sirius until 06:01 local time (MDT) with unaided vision. Now more intrigued, I grabbed binoculars out of the observatory, allowing me to view the star until 06:17 local time - the very time an app on my phone placed sunrise!

Only a few days later on the 26th, I observed Sirius, unaided, until 06:08 local time. Again using highline-and-branch placeholders, I was able to track Sirius until 06:23 with binoculars. And again, this was the very time my app listed the day's sunrise.

Sirius 2015  Stellarium-generated charts showing altitude and angular distance to the sun.

NOTES:
The sky, when in contrast with Sirius, visually changed brightness nearly minute-to-minute. Without placeholders of some kind, I don't believe it would have been possible for me to track this star nearly this far into dawn as the fading contrast quickly makes the object tricky to find.

On the 15th at 6:00am local time, Sirius was 52° from the Sun and 8° off the horizon. By the 26th at 6:00, Sirius was 59° from the Sun and 15° off the horizon! The sky is changing day to day while the Dog Star climbs in the sky - moving closer to Autumn 2015.

I couldn't help but enjoy the sparkling refracted colors of white, red, blue, and green while I watched... daylight star-gazing magic.

08/13/2015 10:00-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-08-30 Message #332
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
60?°F, clear with no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Perseids 2015, meteor shower with radiant point found in Perseus, just outside the observatory in a lawn recliner, facing northeast, using unaided eye only. I can verify seeing 5 meteors during this time while the radiant was roughly 60° above the eastern horizon. The first and most prominent meteor was bright white traveling about 10° high overhead. I saw 2 more moderately bright meteors traveling about 7° along with 2 quite faint ones traveling around 5° tending toward Polaris. It is possible that I spotted 2 more faint meteors toward the edge of my peripheral vision.

NOTES!
  * The Perseid meteors are bits of the debris sprinkled behind Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
  * A meteor radiant point is not fixed in the sky, but moves as Earth travels through the debris field.
  > Wikipedia explains more.
  > The International Meteor Observers web site provides this radiant chart and MUCH much more.

07/12/2015 11:00-13:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-07-13 Message #331
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
54+°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude approx 4.00, thin crescent moon rising in the east. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Fomalhaut (Alpha Piscis Austrini), first magnitude star in Piscis Austrini, well into daylight with C8 Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. This began as simple curiosity wanting to see how far into the morning I could observe this star. Somewhere approx 1/2 way through the observation, I switched from 81x to 120x making the star easier to track.

As the sky brightened from early dawn to full-on daylight, two things became noteworthy.
  * While contrast gradually lessened, the star's apparent diameter shrank and it slowly lost its "twinkle".
  * The sun was 12° off the horizon when I ended my session!

This sight, for me, was almost magical. A star in broad daylight! Next I read Jim Kaler's article on Fomalhaut which highlights more facts I found intriguing including these.
  * Fomalhaut has a surrounding debris disk 5 times larger than Pluto's orbit.
  * It hosts the 1st exoplanet to be directly imaged.
  * There are 2 extremely distant companion stars having 7.6 and 35 million year orbits.

What was but a bright star in the sky to me, is now a dynamic neighboring solar system. That's astronomy.

07/12/2015 09:45-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-07-13 Message #330
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
54°F, clear with limiting 10x50 magnitude 8.15, very old crescent moon about 10° off the eastern horizon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed The Garnet Star (μ Cephei), red type Ia supergiant star in Cepheus, with 10x50 binoculars.

This star is a distinct beautiful copper-ish orange! The only star I've seen that is any more red is a penny-copper colored carbon star such as HIP 93666 in Aquila mentioned in this blog here and here.

Locating this gem under my somewhat light polluted sky.
  * Facing north in a lawn recliner (object is 70° off the horizon), I visually identified a triangular asterism a bit more than 1/2 of the way from Deneb in Cygnus to Caph in Cassiopeia. Three stars make up this pattern being the ζ (zeta), δ (delta), and ε (epsilon) stars of Cepheus.
  * With this trio of stars in the binocular's field of view, I looked west and slightly north (left and slightly down) this unmistakable star comes into the field of view as the triangle of stars begins to move out.
  * A finder chart generated with Stellarium may be viewed or downloaded here.
    - A blue line drawn with the angle tool is the line from Deneb to Caph.
    - Just below the blue line and right of its center, the triangular asterism may be found.
    - A pale orange circle marks the Garnet Star itself.

06/13/2015 10:00-10:10 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-06-13 Message #329
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
56°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude less than 3.35 (Albireo), no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. During this observation, I was unable to spot the nova, but sighted HIP 91172 (mag 6.35) with relative ease. So this magnitude estimate must be fainter than 6.35.

Sagittarius Nova 2015 <-- "Teapot" with my bracket stars' magnitudes labeled. Note HIP 91172's location added.

-> Sky&Telescope article updated 6/10.
-> Note AAVSO's UPDATED preliminary light curve mentioned in the article.
-> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

NOTE: I was also able to spot M8, M13, Albireo's blue companion, and Mizar's companion (not Alcor) with the 10x50 binoculars tonight - indicating quite good seeing from my suburban location.

06/02/2015 10:04-10:04 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-06-02 Message #328
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
55°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.35 (Albireo), full moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed a moving object near Albireo - with consistent speed, direction, and brightness - pass through the FOV of my 10x50 binoculars travelling about N/S missing Albireo approximately 2-3° to the east. Most likely a satellite.

06/02/2015 09:44-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-06-02 Message #327
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
55°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.35 (Albireo), full moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. Tonight I bracket the nova between HIP 91172 (mag 6.35) and HIP 90485 (mag 5.90) so as to estimate the nova's magnitude at 6.1. Even with the full moon present, I am able to see the mentioned mag 6.35 star for bracketing although it requires a bit of averted vision and slight FOV movement.

Sagittarius Nova 2015 <-- "Teapot" with my bracket stars' magnitudes labeled. Note HIP 91172's location added.

-> Sky&Telescope article updated 6/1.
-> Note AAVSO's UPDATED preliminary light curve mentioned in the article.
-> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

04/25/2015 11:00-11:10 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-25 Message #326
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
43°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude uncertain - about 3.0, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, 10x50 binoculars. Estimated magnitude 5.50 based on looking just a bit brighter than 18 Sgr at 5.55.

-> Sky&Telescope article updated 4/21.
-> Note AAVSO's UPDATED preliminary light curve mentioned in the article.
-> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

04/21/2015 07:15-08:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-21 Message #325
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
35°F, clear with limiting CCD magnitude at least 14.65 (a star I found listed at 15.00 can be located just at the threshold of the CCD's noise), no moon (about 3 days past new). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 3C273, Quasar in Virgo, with CCD using an IR filter. This quasar is over 4 trillion times brighter than the Sun and weighs in at around 900 million solar masses! At the eyepiece, I am able to just see this object dancing on the threshold of my averted vision... ancient photons that travelled nearly 2 1/2 billion years to meet my eye. Awestruck

NOTE: I also observed nearby Porrima with seeing good enough to separate the 2" main pair at 81x and at 120x the separation is that much easier. WDS members E and F were easily observed at around 9th mag. See WDS List in my Delta Star app.

Quasar 3C273 image processed by The Gimp.
  * Started with a black background layer
  * Stacked 4 CCD images on top of each other - each being exposed for approx. 5 minutes
  * First image layer set to "Normal" mode
  * All 3 layers stacked over the 1st image set to "Darken Only" mode to filter out most noise
  * Adjusted Transparency on the top 2 layers by eye - each somewhere close to 50%
  * Merged all layers
  * Used Brightness/Contrast tool
  * Used Levels tool

Quasar 3C273 <-- Quasar 3C273 CCD image. Click to toggle labels.

04/21/2015 11:10-11:20 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-21 Message #324
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
36°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude uncertain, no moon (about 3 days after new). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. This morning, I estimate magnitude to be 4.8 being just dimmer than HIP 88567 / γ1 Sgr (gamma-1 Sagittarii) at mag 4.55 -OR- HIP 88839 at mag 4.65.

Again this morning, I noticed how nicely visible the Lagoon Nebula / M8 was, with its horizontal row of 4 stars, in the binoculars even with suburban skies and approaching sunrise. Always a beautiful sight!

-> Sky&Telescope article updated 4/15.
-> Note AAVSO's UPDATED preliminary light curve mentioned in the article.
-> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

Sagirrarius Nova 2015 <-- "Teapot" with magnitude estimating stars labeled.

04/13/2015 11:40-12:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-16 Message #323
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
40°F?, clear with limiting visual magnitude approx 3.15, moon just after last quarter and about 33 north-east of the observed object. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. This morning the nova was estimated to be magnitude 4.6 being very similar in brightness to HIP 88839 at mag 4.65 and HIP 88567 / γ1 Sgr (gamma-1 Sagittarii) at mag 4.55.

I noticed how nicely visible the Lagoon Nebula / M8 was in the binoculars this morning even with the moon, suburban skies, and approaching sunrise. Beautiful sight!

-> Sky&Telescope article updated 4/15.
-> Note AAVSO's UPDATED preliminary light curve mentioned in the article.
-> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

04/11/2015 11:40-12:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-16 Message #322
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
40°F?, clear with limiting visual magnitude approx 3.15, moon just before last quarter and about 11° north of the observed object. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. This morning the nova was estimated to be magnitude 4.1
  * The nova was "bracketed" between HIP 88839 (mag 4.55) and HIP 92041 / φ Sgr (mag 3.15).
  * Using the bracket stars' mag. difference of 1.4, I put the nova about 1/3 of that distance brighter than HIP 88839
  * Subtracting 0.45 from 4.55 yielded 4.10.
  * This agrees with the previous post's estimate of 4.20 when I placed the nova at about 1/4 of the difference brighter.

-> Sky&Telescope article updated 4/15.
-> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

04/06/2015 11:15-11:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-06 Message #321
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45°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude about 3.0, bright moon two days after full. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. I was unable to discern the nova with my unaided eye, but it shone nicely in the binoculars in spite of the moon and approaching sunrise.

As in the previous post, I estimated the nova's magnitude at 4.2 by "bracketing" it between one fainter and one brighter star with well-known magnitude values.

Photos may be found in this earlier post.

--> All related posts may be displayed by entering "Nova Sagittarii" in the search field above and clicking "Search".

04/05/2015 12:00-12:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-05 Message #320
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33°F, clear with a day-after-full moon and brightening dawn. Limiting visual magnitude near 6.0 with binoculars. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. With a bright Moon in the west and a dawning sky, the nova is still visible with binoculars! Knowing the time of morning left me little opportunity to observe, I estimated the nova's brightness with the aid of nearby stars and their listed magnitudes in Stellarium. These stars surround the spout of the "teapot" and were all visible in the binoculars. My estimate is based, first, on noting the nova being a bit brighter than the brightest star in the following list of four - sorted dimmest to brightest.
...............................................................................
  * mag 5.90 - HIP 90485
  * mag 5.55 - HIP 90260 / 18 Sgr (18 Sagittarii)
  * mag 4.65 - HIP 88567 / γ1 Sgr (gamma-1 Sagittarii)
  * mag 4.55 - HIP 88839

--> mag 4.20 - estimated Nova Sagittarii  (.35 mags from the dimmer bracket star and 1.05 from the brighter)

  * mag 3.15 - HIP 92041 / φ Sgr (phi Sagittarii)
...............................................................................
Then, clearly not as bright as the last star listed below Nova Sgr, found where the handle joins the upper body of the "teapot", I estimate the nova's magnitude at 4.20.


I have been following this Sky&Telescope article updated Apr 5, Easter Sunday.
Note AAVSO's preliminary light curve mentioned in the article.

These preceding two posts also address Nova Sagittarii
  * 03/31/2015 11:00-11:45 UTC
  * 03/30/2015 11:05-11:45 UTC

04/04/2015 11:00-12:00 ? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-05 Message #319
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35°F?, clear with limiting visual magnitude ?, full moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

I am entering this post 24 hours after the observation because, in spite of my own blunders, this was still a notable and satisfying experience.

Observed Full Lunar Eclipse, moon's eclipse by Earth's shadow in Virgo, with naked eye and Sony digital camera. At about 5am local time (MDT), I noticed the moon close to half covered by the umbra. At this point, the umbra still appears quite dark black-ish in contrast with the more illuminated area of the Moon. Oops #1) The reason I use the word "noticed" in the previous sentence is that I had been both busy and very engrossed in following the bright nova in Sagittarius... and I was unaware of this eclipse! My granddaughter, 4 year old Annika, and I went out to look at the early morning sight. Oops #2) I set up the digital cam on a tripod and dutifully took photos every 5 minutes - only to realize afterword that I had missed the Moon entirely! (Small viewer with a street light in sight that I allowed to fool me!!)

Oh well. Annika and I enjoyed the sky and the dawn while watching our Moon become more of a deep red-ish orange color as it approached the horizon. By around 5:15-5:20am, the shadow left only a bright sliver to the upper right of the Moon (nearly straight north in the sky) and the Moon's "eclipse color" was clearly evident. Around 5:45 the bright sliver had dimmed significantly so that the Moon was completely a deep "eclipse color" as it came closer and closer to the horizon. About 6:00 o'clock the Moon was nearly ready to set and the "bright sliver" was pretty well no longer discernible.

A full Lunar eclipse as the Moon sets... worth experiencing with a 4 year old who is learning to look up and enjoy the stars!

03/31/2015 11:00-11:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-04-02 Message #318
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39°F?, clear, haze-free with limiting visual magnitude 3.15 toward Sagittarius, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars and Canon digital camera mounted on a tripod. The Nova appears to be perhaps a 1/2 magnitude brighter than 24 hours ago putting it at 4.6-4.5.

Photos were processed with the GIMP using brightness/contrast, saturation/lightness, gray-scale levels, and layer tools. The full-view image was stacked on top of itself. The top layer was set to "difference" mode and 24.7% transparency to smooth some of the graininess out of the sky.

Sky&Telescope article updated Apr 2 (note the AAVSO links)

Recommended
  * Screen: full brightness
  * Browser: maximized/full-screen
  * Mobile: landscape orientation
Sagittarius Nova 2015 <-- Full-View Photo  ¦  Detail View --> Sagirrarius Nova 2015
Direct Links
  Full View
  Full View Labeled
  Detail
  Detail Labeled

03/30/2015 11:05-11:45 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-03-30 Message #315
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39°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.15 (toward Sagittarius), no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Nova Sagittarii, Nova in Sagittarius, with 10x50 binoculars. The nova is very easily identified as an approx. mag 5 star where there "shouldn't" be a star. Estimate based on comparing magnitude with other stars whose magnitudes are indicated on an AAVSO observation chart and cross-checked with magnitudes listed on Stellarium.

  * At 11:14 UTC, the sun was 18° below the horizon.
  * At 11:45 UTC / 5:45am local MDT, the sun is now only 10° below the horizon,
    and the object is still easily seen with binoculars while dawn is very evident.

See this March 29th Sky and Telescope article for more info and finder charts.

03/28/2015 09:00-10:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2015-03-30 Message #316
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40°F, very clear and haze-free with limiting visual magnitude ?.??, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M49, M58, M59, M60, M61, M84, M86, M87, M89, M90, M104, galaxies in Virgo, with 8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. All of these galaxies were fairly easily found although the dimmer objects appeared more "Will-o'-the-Wisp". Greater magnification was a definite advantage along with averted vision.

The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, was the most striking with the prominent dust lane just at vision's threshold. The east-west direction of the disk was evident and the northern portion of the central bulge brighter than the southern. Each of these galaxies is a member of the Virgo Supercluster and distances range from about 30 to 60 Mly.

01/26/2015 12:26-12:54 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-01-21 Message #357
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40°F, various notes on preparing to photograph 3C273, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Searching FOV of 3C273 with C8".

Jan 26, 2015 5:26am - searching for 3C273,
========================================================
OBJECT mid-bright, rough S-N not very quickly
OBJECT much brighter and faster,
both not far from FOV center, 2nd a little more east


Jan 26, 2015 5:40 local - limit eyepiece around 12 - clear, 39/40F, not checked vis mag
========================================================
Searching for 3C273/HIP 60936 w/ C8" - identifying landmark star-hopping nearby stars - *may* have just seen target

Further notes from next audio file
bright object - roughly sw/ne quickly while *should* be centered on target


Jan 26, 2015 5:54 local - about 1/4 after began search for 3C273 - lmt mag @ 120 threshhold of target's magnitude - limit vis after ideal sigma vir - 4.75
========================================================
More confident in identifying at 120x - still becoming familiar with FOV for star-hopping & pos id
.

12/11/2014 11:30-12:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-12-12 Message #313
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32°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.40, limiting eyepiece magnitude 11.10, waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Tegmine (Zeta Cancri), double star in Cancer, at 81x, 120x, 162x. At 81x I note that the obvious main pair, AB/C, nicely appears to be a bright silver celestial bead accompanied by a bit dimmer light brass bead. Spectral types of F8V and G5V bear this out. At 120x, I make note of WDS members D, E, F, G at magnitudes 8.89 - 10.26. All of these stars fit into the FOV with the main pair only a little off-center to the south since G is 11'+ to the WNW and the FOV has a radius of approx 10'. Increasing magnification to 162, I am able to just separate A and B at a separation of only 1.1 arc seconds!

Jim Kaler's article graphically charts the 59.6 year orbital period of A/B, the 1115 year period of AB/C, and describes Ca/Cb because C itself is a double with a mere 0.3" separation.

Complete WDS data for system "08122+1739" may be displayed with my WDS search app, deltaStar.

12/10/2014 11:30-12:?? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2016-03-05 Message #366
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36°F, very clear w/ light breeze with limiting visual magnitude 3.40, limiting eyepiece magnitude approx 12.00-12.50, bright waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M67, open cluster in Cancer, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x.

Even on this moonlit night, I am seeing many stars.
  * Just NE of center within the central 15-20 arc mins is prominent star HIP 43519, a cluster member.
    See: SIMBAD
  * Another prominent star appears about 20 arc mins from center nearly due north, HD 75638, a spectroscopic binary.
    See: SIMBAD
  * At 81x there are 22-24 less prominent yet easily seen stars.
  * With averted vision I see "a number of" fainter stars I used to estimate limiting magnitude.

07/20/2014 09:45-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-07-20 Message #310
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70°F, atmosphere clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.8, eyepiece magnitude 11.7, waning crescent moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, again this time at 120x to make further note of landmark stars for the sake of continuing my watch over the golden binary's proper motion through the sky. In an Aug 2014 Sky & Telescope article by Alan MacRobert, a 10.7 mag star is mentioned just west of 61 Cyg A pretty much only grazing the brighter star at this time. I was unable to separate it away from the brighter star A, at least not yet and/or not at 120x. That's to be further investigated and, that separation will be slowly but steadily increasing over the months and years ahead.

I did, however, note another landmark star nearly an arc minute to the northwest of WDS member H. Loading colored DSS imagery into Aladin, I measured the distance at 54". For the purpose of gauging magnitude, this star weighs in at mag 11.7 (my eyepiece limit tonight with averted vision) according to both Stellarium and kStars. A sanity check included loading catalogs into Aladin and looking over their various methods of determining magnitudes. I disregarded infrared values (we can't see IR after all... at least I can't) and took the brighest value from blue and red photometric data found in HST guide star catalogs, noting a close agreement of an 11.8 red magnitude.

  * NOTE: Searching this blog with "61 Cyg" will list posts from Aug 2008 to the present.

SUPPLIMENTAL NOTES added 07/26/2014------------------------------------------------------------

Further study of Digital Sky Survey photography, SIMBAD stellar measurements, and Washington Double Star data yielded this graphic.

  * Violet lines represent SIMBAD proper motion data
  * Red letters label many of the WDS "constellation" of stars listed with this system
  * Green lines display my own "constellation" in the FOV for tracking 61 Cyg's motion
  * Blue lines plot a geometry with which to guage the current position of this system
  * Blue labels identify the star NW of "H" (#1) and  the S&T landmark star (#2)

  * Based on the apparent position of the binary system, the photo comes from about 1990
    (24.5 yrs to visually travel 130" at 5.293"/yr - estimated from DDS and WDS data)
  * The position of the beginning-point markers on the purple proper motion lines is from about 1999
    (15.35 yrs to visually travel 81" at 5.293"/yr - estimated from DDS and WDS data)

61 Cygni's flight through our stellar neighborhood

07/09/2014 09:00-10:00 ? UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-07-13 Message #309
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60°F ?, atmosphere partly cloudy with limiting visual magnitude approx 3.5 and at the eyepiece 11.3, moon setting at the start of observation. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, at 81x. Referring to past posts (search blog with "61 Cyg") along with entries found in the Washington Double Star Catalog, I have verified components A-H at the eyepiece in preparation for further observation and photography of this system's proper motion. Abbreviating WDS info as below, the following slide show illustrates the process. (Copy/paste this identifier "21069+3845" to search here for a complete WDS list of 61 Cygni with my WDS double star search app. Note especially the the top 7 lines "AB" through "AH".)

  B    152°   31.6"   6.05
  C    218°  748.1"  10.23
  D    252°  658.7"  10.45
  E    269°  320.4"   9.63
  F    241°  346.4"  11.3
  G    237°  239.7"  11.30
  H    277°   96.5"   9.97

61 Cygni Proper Motion Study  * Components A-H from the WDS catalog verified with help from Aladin and The GIMP

06/29/2014 10:15-11:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-07-01 Message #308
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60°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.80, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 61 Cygnii, double star in Cygnus, at 81x. My estimate of P.A. for this observing session is 4:30-5:00 o'clock (135° - 150°). The WDS reports 152° as of 2012. The southern secondary star looks just pink-ish/orange-ish compared to the northern primary star. Happily, this agrees very well with the secondary's K5 type and the primary's K7 type. It seems that the similar types, as well as magnitudes of 5.20 and 6.00, lends to seeing the colors fairly accurately for my human eye.

In a CCD image captured in 2008, I later identified WDS component H. Then another image taken 4 years later in 2012 enabled the system's pronounced proper motion to be plotted using the H component as a "landmark".

61 Cygni Proper Motion  * In 4 years (8/12/08 - 8/9/12), proper motion (21 arc seconds ENE) becomes very apparent.

61 Cygni "E" is found at the labeled posion. Both H and E agree very well with the current triangulated position of A. Note the very rapid proper motion indicated by the blue lines.
Image created using Aladin and The GIMP
Locating 61 Cygni E

Tonight, I can verify E's position in the FOV. In a post from 2012, a number of other components are also identified. Copy/paste this identifier "21069+3845" to search here for a complete WDS list of 61 Cygni with my WDS double star search app. Note especially the "AH" and "AE" line items.

06/19/2014 09:50-10:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-06-19 Message #307
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52°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.80, limiting eyepiece magnitude 11.45, last quarter moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Albireo, double star in Cygnus, at 81x and 120x. The main pair of this system is a pleasure to see every time I take a look at it. Tonight, I see the main star as gold-tinted silver and its companion as a distinctly topaz blue... each illuminated from within! I ended my observation at 4:50 am local time while the sun was just below the horizon. The stars still shone gold-tinted silver and topaz blue against a brightening powder blue sky while other stars washed away, one by one, from the field of view.

In the previous post, I stated that I had possibly identified the "WDS component J" star of the system. This time, I verified the identity of the star with help from Aladin, averted vision, and 120x. The star in question is shown here at 5 o'clock from the main star and at approx 2.3' separation. Complete data for identifier "19307+2758" is found in my WDS double star search app here. Note the "AJ" line item. PA 210°, Sep 139", Mags 3.19 10.

  * Distance to J is gaged using the 35" separation between A and B as a "yard stick"
  * Position Angle of 210° is gaged by the "o'clock" method. (30° from 6 o'clock / south)
  * Image pixels have been tweaked reducing "exposure" representing more accurately what is seen at the eyepiece.

Locating Albireo J  
Albireo "J" is the marked star at 5 o'clock (7 o'clock when Schmidt-Cass inverted).
Image created using Aladin and The GIMP

Albireo Thumbnail  CCD image identifying Albireo "E" taken 8/2007, further processed in 7/2012. See post here.

06/15/2014 10:00-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-06-18 Message #306
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48°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude ??, limiting eyepiece magnitude 10.?, waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Albireo, double star in Cygnus, at 81x. I see the primary star as golden silver while the companion is topaz blue. Estimated PA = 45°, WDS PA = 55°.

* NOTE: I believe, with averted vision, I observed WDS component J roughly 2' distant and PA at 7 o'clock (210°). Further observation is needed to verify this. Copy/paste this identifier "19307+2758" to search here for a complete WDS list of Albireo with my WDS double star search app.

Albireo Thumbnail  CCD image identifying "E" taken 8/2007, further processed in 7/2012.See post here.

06/10/2014 03:00-07:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-06-18 Message #305
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60°F?, clear with limiting visual magnitude ??, limiting eyepiece magnitude 10.32 (Rhea), waxing gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Mars, planet in Virgo, at 120x. The planet is its usual "pink dusty brick" color. Syrtis Major is visible as well as the north polar ice. Along the eastern limb, a shadow is discernible indicating Earth's faster orbit as we pull ahead of Mars after opposition in May.

Observed Saturn, planet in Libra, at 120x. The ring system appears to be the same height as the planet in a north/south direction. I can just make out Cassini's Division. The north polar region and the wide belt north of the ring are just a bit "dustier" than the pale yellow disk. Titan lies south of Saturn and Rhea east, both a little more than 1 "ring diameter" from the planet/ring image.

05/28/2014 09:00-09:50 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-05-29 Message #304
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63°F, clear with a very few clouds, limiting visual magnitude 4.05, limiting eyepiece magnitude 12.95, no moon (new). Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M13, globular cluster in Hercules, at 81x then 120x. I can estimate a visual diameter of 10' and with averted vision, this cluster appears as sharply sparkling smoke glowing from within. The brighter resolved stars, to me, have the appearance of tendrils extending out from the center. This 10 billion year old cluster populated with some 1 million stars gives me the sense of a majestic elder statesman.

Observed M92, globular cluster in Hercules, at 120x. This glob is half the actual diameter of M13 and visual diameter tonight is about 6'-7'. I don't see the "tendrils" that appear in M13, but the sparkling smoke glowing from within is distinct to me.

M13's 3D placement in the sky puts it about the same distance as our galaxy's center being 25,000 Ly, 65° north of the Milky Way's center and 40° above (galactic north) the galactic plane. M92 is also 25,000 Ly distant while laying 70° north of the galaxy's center and 35° above the galactic plane.

Observed M57, planetary nebula in Lyra, at 120x. The diffuse "lobes" of the ring at 2:00 o'clock and 8:00 o'clock are easily apparent tonight! The 13th mag star (which I used to estimate eyepiece limiting mag) just east of the ring may be seen with averted vision.

NOTE: At 9:50 UTC, a white object, brighter than any stars in the FOV, passed about 9' south of M57 from WSW to ENE staying visible for no more than about 1 second.

05/28/2014 10:00-10:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-05-28 Message #303
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57°F, clear with limiting visual magnitude 3.35? and limiting eyepiece magnitude 11.05, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Albireo (Beta Cygni), double star in Cygnus, at 81x. I never get tired of the beautiful visual impact this double provides which, to my eye, is pale yellow and topaz blue. The position angle I estimate to be 45° while the Washington Double Star Catalog lists it at 55°. I made note of a star approx 2.5 arc minutes away from the primary at about 7:00 o'clock. At this point, I believe this or another nearby star to be a member of the WDS list for this system - will take further research. (Copy/paste the identifier "19307+2758" here in the "Identifier" text box to search the WDS list). Component E was photographically identified in CCD images. See this post.

See Jim Kaler's article for an awesome detailed description of Albireo. I especially enjoy the appearance of the primary star, also a double, from [a hypothetical world orbiting] its blue companion. "From Albireo B, Albireo A would appear as brilliant orbiting orange and blue points about half a degree apart, the K giant shining with the light of 35 full Moons, the close class B companion at about half of that."


04/15/2014 07:45-09:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-04-18 Message #302
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?°F, clear to partly cloudy, full moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Total Lunar Eclipse, Earth's Moon in Virgo, with 90mm Maksutav scope at 31x and Sony digital camera. The eclipse was a fine naked eye show from my backyard observatory location. The 90mm scope revealed landmarks clearly as the Moon passed through Earth's shadow. The digital cam was mounted on a tripod and set to "Night" photo. The flash was disabled and the timer was used for hands-off stability. I was able to capture a number of photos with the Moon very close to Spica and Mars only 9° away to the west. Then the GIMP was used to do a bit of processing with Input/Output Levels and Unsharp Masking.

The Moon's motion in orbit is eastward while the sky is carrying it to the west. It intrigues me to ponder about how our satellite creeps through Earth's shadow west-to-east even while Earth's rotation yields the majestic "westward march" illusion of the heavens.

I've created a SLIDE SHOW to demonstrate the Moon's movements during the eclipse -AND- to just enjoy a sight that is wondrous to me every time I'm privileged to see it!
Total Lunar Eclipse 2014

04/10/2014 07:00-08:00 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-04-10 Message #301
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54°F, partly to mostly cloudy with limiting visual magnitude ?, waxing gibbous moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed Mars, planet in Virgo, at 81x and 120x with yellow filter. The morth polar ice is discernible along with Utopia and a faintly darker region in the disk's center which would be Elysium and Amazonis. Even with the seriously compromised seeing conditions, I am pleased with what is acually a pretty fair view of the next-planet-out from the Sun. Mars is now 177° from the Sun, magnitude -1.5 and just over 15 arc seconds in diameter.

03/29/2014 07:45-08:30 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-30 Message #300
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32°F, clear becoming hazy with limiting visual magnitude 3.3 and 10.4 at the eyepiece, no moon. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed 12 Com, double star in Coma Berenices, at 81x. The primary star is white and I can verify WDS components A, C, and D while B and E are below the magnitude threshold of viewing conditions. Making estimated note of the following stars in the FOV:
  * 5 o'clock 1'  9th mag  WDS C
  * 4 o'clock 4' 11th mag  WDS D
  * 2 o'clock 9'  9th mag  reference
  * 4:30  12-13' 11th mag  reference
  * 6:00  13-14'  9th mag  reference

Method of study:
1. Select target star system from Washington Double Star Catalog
   (COPY/PASTE the identifier 12225+2551 HERE for complete data)

  WDS    Discovr Comp  EPOCH      #  THETA       RHO     Magnitudes Spectral
Identifier              Frst Last      Fst Lst First  Last  Pri   Sec  Type  
______________________________________________________________________________
  
12225+2551 SHJ 143AB    1904 2012    9  54  57  35.0  36.7  4.86 11.8        
12225+2551 SHJ 143AC    1783 2012   47 163 168  58.9  59.0  4.86  8.90        
12225+2551 ARN   6AD    1908 2012   11 133 132 209.5 213.1  4.86 10.10        
12225+2551 SMR  57DE    1950 2013    8 169 167  13.2  12.8 10.1  14.2  F5+K/M

2. Dial in coordinates to GoTo mount 12h 22m 30.32s, +25° 50' 46.3"
3. Compare Field Of View constellation
4. Compare WDS constellation
Double Star in Coma Berenices  SLIDE SHOW

03/25/2014 09:30-10:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-28 Message #299
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25°F, clear then partly cloudy with limiting visual magnitude 3.3 and 11.5 at the eyepiece, waning gibbous moon just rising. Burton Observatory - Aurora, CO USA.

Observed M53, globular cluster in Coma Berenices, at 81x and 120x. Under current conditions, the cluster's nucleus was "out-of-focus glowing smoke" perhaps 2' or so in diameter. Greater magnification increased brightness and size, but I was unable to resolve any individual stars. Averted vision brought out a faint haze beyond the central region that I estimate at 3' or 4' in diameter.

Making note of 4 stars in the FOV enabled an estimated limiting visual magnitude in the eyepiece using Aladin and Stellarium. This exercise also helps me to become more familiar with a specific area of the sky, and perhaps discover something unusual or unexpected. Estimated pattern:
  * Two 10th mag stars at 7 o'clock 10' from cluster's center
  * One 10th mag star at 5 o'clock 15' out
  * One 12th mag star at 1 o'clock 12' out

M53 cluster FOV study The Stellarium image is labeled for scale and the limiting magnitude star is indicated with a circular marker. The Aladin image allows comparing observation with digital sky surveys and star catalogs.

03/16/2014 10:45-11:15 UTC Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-16 Message #298
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30°F, mostly clear with limiting visual mag 3.3, full moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Mars, planet in Virgo, at 120x. I couldn't discern the north polar ice but, I could just make out somewhat fleeting "smoky" areas which would include Mare Acidalium to the north slipping into shadow. Mare Arythraeum (just south of Mare Acidalium) trailed by Mare Sirenum were a bit easier to make out as they made their way into the nighttime side of Mars.

Tonight "pink sandstone with smoke-colored smudges" comes to mind as a description of what I see. Mars' disk is 13" across and will soon increase to 15" through April when I hope to capture some images.

03/13/2014 04:15-04:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-13 Message #296
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30°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3.3 and some turbulence, waxing gibbous moon in the western sky. Burton Observatory.

Observed Porrima (Gamma Virginis), double star in Virgo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Both stars appear a slightly blue-ish tinted crisp white. I could just make out the pair at 81x looking sometimes like an elongated star and sometimes having two distinct nodules. More magnification is an unmistakable advantage revealing the two "nodules" at all times and separated stars much of the time. I must attribute these variations to turbulence. Estimated P.A. 0° / 180°.

WDS data  2013 AB: PA 10°,  Sep 1.9",  Mags 3.48 3.53, Types F0V F0V
  * Complete WDS data may be found HERE searching with identifier 12417-0127
    (copy then paste into the app's "Identifier" text box and click "Search")
  * This system has exhibited detectable changes over 2 years! PA from 16° to 10° and Separation from 1.6" to 1.9"
    - Enter Porrima in the search field above and click "Search"
        -OR-
    - See these previous posts:
      - 03/25/2012
      - 03/24/2012

Jim Kaler's article has excellent detail!

03/05/2014 06:40-07:00 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-11 Message #295
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35°F, a few low-to-the-horizon clouds with limiting visual mag 3.3,  just before sunrise. Burton Observatory.

Observed Saturn, planet in Libra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. Even at this time-of-day, the planet's shadow on the ring system to the west of the disk is easily discernible indicating that the planet's position in the sky is closer to the sun eastward (117°) rather than westward (243°). The rings are tipped northward toward Earth so that the edges of the rings are tangent with the north and south poles of the disk. A slightly smoky-ish band north of the rings is just visible which I believe to be the North Equatorial Belt. The northern polar region seems to be just visible as well - also slightly smoky-ish compared to the lighter regions. This feature is pretty much threshold-of-vision this time of day.

  * NOTE: The orientation of the rings as seen from Earth changes dramatically over time (30 year cycle) from northward inclined to southward inclined with the rings' edges tangent to the planet's edges. When line-of-sight, the rings are virtually invisible being only about 20 meters thick at an average distance of roughly 900,000,000 miles!

Saturn CCD photo from April 2008 shows the rings in a south inclined position.

03/05/2014 04:30-06:40 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-07 Message #294
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35°F, clear then a few low-to-the-horizon clouds with limiting visual mag 3.3,  no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Mars, planet in Virgo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using Orion #25 red, #15 deep yellow, #58 green, and #80A medium blue filters.

  -> At 4:48 local time, an object roughly as bright as Mars passed through the FOV very close to the planet moving rapidly about SE/NW - staying in view only 1 second or so. A meteor?

Neither green nor blue filters appeared clearly helpful, the red filter I have may be a bit too dark (needs more testing), and I think yellow may be the most helpful but that remains to be confirmed with further observation. For now, I will say that I'm uncertain which filter seemed the best choice for contrast with the dusty pink color and darker areas... still learning and experimenting with filters for viewing Mars.

Although my favorite prominent dark feature, Syrtis Major, was still wrapped too far around the eastern limb, brief glimpses of Utopia and north polar ice could be discerned. I'm less certain about Mare Cimmerium which would have been very close to the SE limb. As Mars is not perfectly full, the "fuzziness" of the shadow along the western limb contrasted with the crispness of the eastern limb.
  * Sky and Telescope's Mars Profiler works well to know what features of Mars are facing us, but can be a little misleading regarding the actual appearance of those features wrapped around a sphere.
  * The Stellarium open source planetarium yields a nice representation of what Mars looks like through the eyepiece. It may be downloaded free of charge and runs on Linux, MAC, and Windows.

  -> I am stricken again by an alien pink world in a light blue sky as the morning light grows. Finally by 6:40 local time, the planet became a bit too difficult to see. A year ago, Mars was 4 arc seconds in diameter and magnitude 1.18. In January I observed Mars at 7" diameter mag 0.77, tonight it was 12" mag -0.60, and in April its diameter will grow to 15" while it brightens to magnitude -1.43! From Jan to Apr the apparent surface area increases by about 4.6 times making Mars a worthy sight indeed.

03/02/2014 08:45-09:15 pm MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-04 Message #293
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19°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3.6 - eyepiece mag around 10?, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Jupiter, planet in Gemini, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using an Orion #80A medium blue filter. The Great Red Spot is visible in the southern equatorial belt and striations are discernible in both north and south equatorial belts.

Tonight, I noticed that Callisto is very close to the eastern edge of the planet's disk about 1/2 way between the equator and north pole. Callisto had emerged not long before from behind its host planet. Europa is not much farther away from the eastern limb very near the equator - preparing to transit Jupiter fairly soon. Io is about 2 planet diameters to the west-center of Jupiter and Ganymede is another diameter yet to the west a little south of the equator.

03/02/2014 07:45-08:15 pm MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-03-04 Message #292
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19°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3.6 - eyepiece mag around 10?, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed M42/M43, Great Nebula in Orion, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x.

I focused my attention on the Trapezium noticing that the brightest of the group looked silver white while the next two dimmer stars looked a bit less white (slightly grayish?) and the faintest of the group seemed very faintly yellower in comparison. The first and second brightest are Type O - the third and forth brighter are Type B - so hue differences are at least partially a product of the eye's interpretation of brightness contrast.

  -> Even though I am aware of contrast yielding perceived color differences, I never grow tired of the striking appearance of multiple star systems in all their variations.

  * NOTE: The entire Trapezium Complex is described by 39 records in the Washington Double Star Catalog!

02/26/2014 07:45-08:15 pm MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-02-26 Message #291
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32°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3.55 and limiting visual mag at the eyepiece around 12, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed M1, supernova remnant in Taurus (Crab Nebula), with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. This object is nicely visible with averted vision even under these less-than-ideal conditions. It appears as an indistinct smudge of light roughly 5' in diameter. Greater magnification does render a bit of improved contrast making the "smudge" a little more apparent.

  ->At approx 08:10 pm local time, a  blue-ish white object somewhere around 10th magnitude moved steadily through the FOV SE/NW just NE of M1. I would say that velocity, direction of travel, and brightness were constant. A satellite?

02/26/2014 06:50-07:00pm MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-02-26 Message #290
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34°F, clear with limiting visual mag about 2.75 as some twilight still lingered, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed M45, open cluster in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x.

  -> At about 18:57 local time, I observed a rapidly-moving object pass NNW/SSE very near Alcyone with a magnitude similar to Electra and Maia - approx 4.0 - and white as compared to the blue-white of the major B-type stars in the Pleiades. My first thought is a meteor rather than a satellite based on velocity.

02/11/2014 04:30-05:00 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-02-11 Message #289
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Temp 19°F, clear with some haze - limiting visual mag 3.3, just after moonset. Burton Observatory.

Observed M3, globular cluster in Canes Venatici, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. This globular, as others, looks like a sparkling puff of smoke glowing from within. I can see about 10' diameter with averted vision as well as resolved stars making the "sparkle" I described. The brighter central region looks to be about 3' in diameter but with no clear boundary as this cluster appears as a radial gradient to me.

There are 3 approx 8th or less mag. stars at 10:00, 1:00, and 6:00 o'clock in the FOV. Distances from the center of the cluster, in the same order, I estimate to be 7', 10', and 12'. This cluster is 35,000 light years away placing it further away than the Milky Way's center.

  * For the "10:00 o'clock" star, further research reveals that it has no Hipparcos references, but appears in Tyco catalogs.
    The interesting question here is "Why?"
  * The "1:00 o'clock" star is HIP 66891 and is listed in Tyco as well.
  * the "6:00 o'clock" star is HIP 66890 and is also listed in Tyco.

  * At 6:00 am local, when I close up the observatory, the sight of Venus, Saturn, and Mars in the sky from east to west is magnificent - especially bright Venus shining at a -4.5 magnitude!

01/19/2014 06:00-06:30 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-01-27 Message #288
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Temp 2?°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3+, waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Cor Caroli (HIP 63125), double star in Canes Venatici, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. The primary star is silver (not white) and its companion a pale brassy gold-ish. I estimate P.A. to be 7:30 o'clock or 225°.

  * WDS data shows: PA 229°, Sep 19.2", Mags 2.85 5.52, Spec-Type A0pSiEuHg
  * Jim Kaler's article speaks in more detail
    - The primary star is a type A0 variable with unusual amounts of silicon, europium, and mercury in its atmosphere.
    - Its oddly powerful magnetic field also lends to the strangeness of the primary star.
    - The companion displays high amounts of iron.
    - At 650 AU apart, this double's orbital period is calculated to be at least 7900 years.
  * Wikipedia's article is well worth a visit.

A WDS search with the identifier 12560+3819 retrieves current data on Cor Caroli.
An AAVSO search selecting Canes Venatici from the constellation drop list and 3 from the Magnitude "Max >" drop list displays AAVSO data on this star.

->On the 22nd of Jan from 6-6:30 am, I observed this system again mostly to "sanity check" my perception of colors. They looked the same except that I would note the primary's color to be silver with a hint of blue..
->During my observation on the 22nd, at 6:22 am I saw a white object in the eyepiece I would guess to be a meteor. It passed through the field of view, aligned with Cor Caroli. in approx 1-2 seconds at a consistent velocity and direction - NNW to SSE.

01/16-17/2014 11:30 pm-03:00 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-01-27 Message #287
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Temp 25°F, clear/very mostly clear with limiting visual mag 3.30, Full Wolf Moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Jupiter, planet in Gemini, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using an Orion #80A medium blue filter and an Orion #15 deep yellow filter. Europa appeared west of the disk while Io, Ganymede, and Callisto lay east in order from nearest to farthest.

The yellow filter revealed details in the northern and southern regions nicely. Most notably so were the north temperate belt, north north temporate belt, and the north polar region. I didn't notice the features south of the south equatorial belt contrasting so clearly. Striations in the north and south equatorial belts were discernible making it clear that they are not simply straight solid "stripes".

The blue filter gave the equatorial belts much more contrast with the rest of the disk than yellow, but the lighter features were lost.

01/03/2014 06:30-09:00 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2014-01-03 Message #286
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32°F, mostly clear with some turbulence - limiting visual mag ??, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Mars, planet in Virgo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x, 120x, and 162x. The 7" disk was apparent at 81x, but larger of course, at the greater magnifications. I was not able to clearly discern any features - Mars had a fairly bland side facing Earth.

Beginning at 6:30 local, there was still a fairly high degree of contrast and the planet was a brick or sandy pink. I could make out the thin dark shadow wrapped around the western limb due to Mars' 90% gibbous phase and perhaps dark features such as Mare Acidalium moving around to the far Martian west at that time.

Sunrise occurred at about 7:30, but I could easily see the planet at any power for 1 1/2 more hours. While the sky slowly lightened, I was struck by the view of a sandy pink alien world seen through a light blue atmosphere... somewhere in the Universe.

12/28/2013 12:40-01:10 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-12-28 Message #285
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36°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3.70 and at the eyepiece 12.55, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed M1 (Crab Nebula), supernova remnant nebula in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Appears as a phantom in the eyepiece with little advantage at 120x over 81x. The object is longer NW/SE than NE/SW with a somewhat brighter central area appearing a bit SE of center. With averted vision, estimated size would be approx 5' x 3'. None of the filamented structure is visible to me.

11/18/2013 05:15-06:05 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-11-18 Message #284
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32°F, clear with limiting visual mag uncertain (3.0?), day-after-full moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed C/2012 S1 (ISON), comet in Virgo, with C90mm Maksutav F11 telescope at 31x (believing the eyepiece to be 32mm w/ 1000mm scope focal length). This morning's observation yielded very pleasing results given location and moonlight. The comet was a very distinctly diffuse image in contrast with stars which appeared as much sharper point-like objects. Using averted vision, nucleus and coma could be discerned but I was unable to see any tail structure or determine color.

By 6:05 the comet was slipping beyond averted vision's threshold. And - I was ready to warm fingers and toes!

11/17/2013 05:30-06:00 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-11-17 Message #283
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32°F, partly cloudy with limiting visual mag roughly 3.0, full moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed C/2012 S1 (ISON), comet in Virgo, with 10x50 Bushnell binoculars. (Image "stabilization" was achieved by sitting backwards on a chair and propping my elbows on the back.) ISON appeared as a blueish star perhaps slightly out-of-focus 1 3/4° above Spica. After 3 unsuccessful attempts over the previous several days, it was very satisfying to see this approaching object clearly from my suburban location.  

According to Stellarium 0.12.4, on Nov 6th ISON was a 6.6 mag object while this morning it had brightened to 4.6! So during the time spanning my first attempted observation to now, the comet has become more than 6x brighter.

11/01-02/2013 11:00-12:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-11-02 Message #282
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32°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.03 and limiting mag at the eyepiece about 12.3, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed NGC 185 (Caldwell 18), galaxy in Cassiopeia, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Once again, even under suburban skies, I am able to bag another galaxy with combined averted vision, shifting FOV with fixed gaze, and small-scale star hopping. The greater magnification does help to enhance this object at the eyepiece. Then I do the following to absolutely verify what I see given the light pollution present.

  * First, averted vision assists in seeing this will-o-the-wisp
  * Next, slightly moving the FOV with fixed gaze adds motion to averted vision
  * Last, I imagine my own "constellation" in the eyepiece to "star hop" at a small scale. Retrieving digital sky survey images with Aladin, I can nail the position of the dim spectre against nearby stars.

NGC 185 Star Hop  Image which is approx 40'x40' spanning a bit more than my 30' FOV created with Aladin

  * NGC 185 is a satellite galaxy of the Andromeda galaxy and lies some 2 million light years away.

11/01/2013 09:30-10:30 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-11-01 Message #281
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37°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.05 and limiting visual mag at the eyepiece 12.30, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed NGC 7331 (C30), spiral galaxy in Pegasus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. The nucleus is very apparent as indistinct and larger than surrounding stars. Fainter outer structure extends nearly north/south with averted vision and is enhanced a bit more by moving the FOV slightly with fixed vision. Visually I can say this object is 5' in length although actual size is about 10'. Higher power does yield some advantage in seeing detail.

C43
  * This previously captured CCD image is found in the gallery and mentioned in this earlier post. (clear searches first)
  * NGC 7331 lies about 40,000,000 light years away and has a counter-rotating nucleus.

10/27/2013 01:00-02:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-10-29 Message #280
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44°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.35, last quarter moon just rising. Burton Observatory.

Observed Alrescha (Alpha Piscium), double star in Pisces, with C8" at 120x. Both stars appear white and tonight I estimate PA at 8:30-9:00 o'clock (255°-270°). C and D members fit nicely in the FOV. This sub-2" pair is challenging but just nicely separated.
  * AB: PA 266°, Sep 1.7", Mags 4.10 5.17, Types A0p A3m
  * AC: PA 63°, Sep 404.9", Mags 4.10 8.25
  * AD: PA 335°, Sep 434.5", Mags 4.10 8.59

Observed Zeta Piscium, double star in Pisces, with C8" at 120x. This pair looks silver with a light brass companion. I estimate PA to be 45°.
  * AB: PA 62°, Sep 23.7", Mags 5.22 6.26, Types A7IV F7V
  * AC: PA 75°, Sep 1.8", Mags 6.26 12.2 <-- (I will focus on this pair in future observations)

Observed Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces, with C8" at 120x. Tonight the southern member looks just a bit greener than its companion. The C member is clearly seen to the SE. Estimated PA 5:30 o'clock (165°).
  * AB: PA 159°, Sep 29.7", Mags 5.27 5.45, Types B9.5V A0V
  * AC: PA 123°, Sep 90.8", Mags 5.27 11.2, Types A2
  * AD: PA 108°, Sep 69.1", Mags 5.45 11.2, Types A0

  * All values derived from current WDS data which may be searched HERE using the following identifiers.
  02020+0246 Alpha
  01137+0735 Zeta
  01057+2128 Psi

10/13/2013 02:00-03:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-10-13 Message #279
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* I accidentally deleted this post on 11/2/2013 and have re-created it as accurately as possible. (oops?)

Approx 40°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.15, full moon set below the western horizon. Burton Observatory.

Observed NGC 147 (Caldwell 17), galaxy in Cassiopeia, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Under suburban skies, I am able to bag this galaxy with combined averted vision, shifting FOV with fixed gaze, and small-scale star hopping. The greater magnification does help to enhance this object at the eyepiece. Then I do the following to absolutely verify what I see under light-polluted skies.

  * First, averted vision assists in seeing this will-o-the-wisp
  * Next, slightly moving the FOV with fixed gaze adds motion to averted vision
  * Last, I imagine my own "constellation" in the eyepiece to "star hop" at a small scale. Retrieving digital sky survey images with Aladin, I can nail the position of the dim spectre against nearby stars.

NGC 147 Star Hop  Image created with Aladin

  * NGC 147 is a satellite galaxy of the Andromeda galaxy and lies some 2 million light years away.

10/08/2013 07:50-09:30 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-10-08 Message #278
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53°F, mostly clear with limiting visual mag 4.5, young moon set at about 8:45 pm. Burton Observatory.

My 3 year old granddaughter, Annika, and I observed Albireo, double star in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. The pale yellow and powder blue colors are always strikingly beautiful to me. This was Annika's first look through a telescope at the stars and she was excited to do it!

  * At approx 8:00 pm, a very bright white object I took for a jet flew overhead about WSW-to-ENE. What was most interesting is that it appeared to fly into Earth's shadow as it faded out of view very suddenly while moving eastward  much like a satellite?. Upon checking the ISS's visible fly-over schedule, I was able to confirm that I had seen the International Space Station!

My daughter, Tara, and I observed HIP 93666, carbon star in Aquila, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Once again my impression of this star's hue is a deep copper color. Tara commented on the color looking like a penny and being very intense. I have to agree!

  * At about 8:49 pm, a light green object, a bit brighter than HIP 93666's 7.2 magnitude, moved through the FOV roughly north-to-south no more than a few arc seconds from the targeted star. Brightness and speed appeared constant and I estimate its time moving across the FOV to be 3-4 seconds.

10/06/2013 01:15-02:30am xm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-10-06 Message #277
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40°F, clear, little turbulence with limiting visual mag of 3.75, no moon (very young/near new). Burton Observatory.

Observed Alrescha (Alpha Piscium), double start in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt Cassegrain at 120x. The main pair contains stars that, to me, look very similar in magnitude and that are lightly blue-tinted white. I estimate PA at 8:00-8:30 o'clock (240°-255°) and the sub-2" separation is just discerned at 120x.

"02020+0246"<-- Highlight and copy this code, then retrieve WDS data here pasting the code into the "Identifier" text box.

GoTo describes this double with a PA of 273° and 4.0" of separation. However, the WDS catalog lists a PA of 266° and a separation of but 1.7". I find that it's important to have current information due to data that may be out-of-date for quickly-changing systems. I was also able to identify the WDS "C" and "D" components - each being 8+ magnitude, separated by 6 1/2' and 7', and located at 2:00 and 11:00 o'clock.

Read Jim Kaler's article for more very interesting details.

10/01/2013 02:00-03:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-10-01 Message #276
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53°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.15, no moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed M74, spiral galaxy in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. This object looked like a will-o'-the-wisp with averted vision and displayed better contrast at 120x than at 81x.

  * I have developed a technique which, when used along with averted vision, helps significantly in identifying challenging entities in the eyepiece under a suburban sky. With the Go-To controller, I move the scope slightly north/south and east/west while keeping my gaze fixed. The motion of these ghostly wisps across my vision enhances the advantage of my eye's sensitivity to fainter light when off-center viewing.

  * Adding a bit of star hopping clinches the deal. Using Aladin to create this image, the key stars I used by distance and angle are identified. At 120x FOV diameter is about 20' so this can be used to estimate separation. While keeping in mind the east/west reverse of Schmidt-Cassegrain optics, the "o'clock" method will estimate angle.

M74 Star Hop

I find it very satisfying to once again bag a distant object under my city-dwelling sky. This face-on spiral is 40,000,000 light years away and visually distributes its 9.2 magnitude photons over a 10' diameter "disk"!

09/25/2013 04:00-05:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-09-25 Message #275
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52°F, clear but turbulent with limiting visual mag 3.5-7, waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Alrecsha (Alpha Piscium), double star in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x, 120x, and 240x. Atmosphere very turbulent so that the sub-2" separation could not be discerned at any magnification. I will try again on a better night. The main pair appears very white and companions estimated to be at 11 o'clock (330°) and 2 o'clock (60°) 6'-7' distant could easily be identified.

WDS data
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AB: PA 266°, Sep   1.7", Mag 4.10 5.17, Class A0p A3m
AC  PA  63°, Sep 404.9", Mag 4.10 8.25
AD  PA 335°, Sep 434.5", Mag 4.10 8.59

"02020+0246"<-- Highlight and copy this code, then retrieve WDS data here pasting the code into the "Identifier" text box.

Jim Kaler's article explains many more details including the main pair's mutual orbit of 720 years at 120 AU apart.

  * Object dimmer than companion stars (9th mag?) moved west-east approx 10' north of target star very near 5:00 am. It was in the FOV for several seconds with steady speed, straight flight path, consistent brightness. Satellite?.

09/23/2013 09:00-11:00 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-09-23 Message #274
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53°F, clear with limiting visual mag 3.8-9, waning gibbous moon rising in the east. Burton Observatory.

Observed HIP 03666 (V Aquilae), carbon star in Aquila, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. This 7th magnitude star shines like a deep copper gem due to its carbon-rich atmosphere. To me, this object is better seen at the greater magnification. I am struck by the incredibly distinctive color that, in comparison, makes any orange-ish sodium vapor street light seem a very washed out and pale version of the hue. The tremendously energetic IR signature revealed by the 2MASS infrared sky survey for this particular star is noteworthy.

Observed M11 (Wild Duck Cluster), open cluster in Scutum, at 120x. This rich open cluster boasts about 500 stars, and I estimate a diameter of around 10'. First it seems to look like a loosely-packed somewhat irregular globular, then I think it appears to be a very sparse face-on spiral with a starfish center and two, maybe three arms. Among the many fainter silver sparkles, there is a handful of perhaps 8th magnitude stars that stands out. In a word, beautiful.

09/17/2013 04:00-05:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-09-18 Message #273
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Approx 60°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.5 and about 11 in the 81x eyepiece, waxing gibbous moon below the western horizon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt - Cassegrain at 81x. The Turquoise Binary is my own nickname for this beautiful pair of greenish-blue cosmic jewels.

These two stars are so very similar in color and brightness that it's very difficult to call either the more luminous or the bluer. To me, the northern star sometimes looks just a hint greener than the other and then it seems reversed. I would estimate P.A. at about 5 o'clock (150°). The third WDS member looks about 2 1/2x farther from the northern primary at 4 o'clock (120°).

WDS data
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  AB: PA 159°, sep 29.7", mag 5.27  5.45, class B9.5V A0V
  AC: PA 123°, sep 90.8", mag 5.27  11.2, class A2

Complete data may be viewed with deltaStar, my WDS search app HERE.

Psi Piscium  Previously captured CCD image

Regarding observational perception, I note that technically the southern star is "greener" according to classifications listed in the Washington Double Star Catalog, but they are extremely close to being the same. Also, the C member is 3x farther from A than B in reality. Perceived colors and color differences are always a thrilling sight to me nevertheless!

-> At approx 5:00 o'clock, a yellowish-white object moved quickly through the eyepiece south-to-north just east Psi Piscium. It took perhaps a second or two to move through the FOV and was a bit brighter than these 5th mag stars.

09/07/2013 05:00-06:15 xm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-09-07 Message #272
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63°F, clear with limiting visual mag at 4.5 when beginning, no moon (near new). Burton Observatory.

Observed M42 and M43, Great Orion Nebula, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. The trapezium was very sharply discerned and I am intrigued with the subtle color differences among the 4 stars, a feature not often mentioned in my experience. The southern-most member star seems a bit brassy or copper-ish compared with its fellows. The "inner moth" brighter area surrounding these stars is nicely apparent. Bright strands in the clouds extending out of the FOV and the very dark area between M42 and M43 all seem especially hi-def this morning using averted vision.

Observed Rigel, double star in Orion, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. I viewed this object from 5:30-6:15am local time. The faint "pin prick" companion could be discerned with the lower power at an extimated P.A. of 190°-195° (WDS data puts P.A. at 205° in 2011). With 120x, the sight was magnificent!.. and I stayed at the eyepiece until even Sirius was lost in the sky glow. As the sky slowly took on the blush of dawn, this pair became more apparent while separation in the still air was at least the seeming diameter of Rigel itself. This star seemed a fierce white with a hint of blue while the companion looked a bit yellowish in contrast - realizing the tremendous magnitude difference of 400x according to the 0.3 and 6.8 magnitudes listed in the WDS catalog.

This was my first experience seeing a double of such different brightnesses while separated by only 9 arc seconds! Thrilling and satisfying.

08/11-12/2013 11:45-02:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-08-12 Message #271
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Temp 60°F, clear to mostly clear with limiting visual mag 4.5, no moon, many obstructing buildings and trees. Burton Observatory.

Observed Perseid Meteors, annual meteor shower with radiant in Perseus, using naked eye only.
  * 11:45-12:00. At about midnight a bright white meteor appeared near the zenith with this estimated behavior - moving North to South 5° at mag 0 to 1.
  * 2:00-2:50.
    - At about 2:30 a bright white meteor, very similar to the previously listed, appeared near the zenith with this estimated behavior - moving North to South 5° at mag 0 to 1.
    - At about 2:45 a fainter white meteor appeared near the zenith with this estimated behavior - moving WNW to ESE 4° at mag 2 to 3.
    - NOTE Briefly observed M31, spiral galaxy in Andromeda, with 10x50 Bushnell binoculars. The nucleus was easily seen along with inner structures around it. Averted vision revealed much of the more delicate outer structures.

08/04/2013 03:45-04:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-08-04 Message #270
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Temp 59°F, clear with limiting visual mag 4.5, no moon - near new. Burton Observatory.

Observed M15, globular cluster in Pegasus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. At the lower power, the nucleus of this cluster is obvious with "glowing smoke" around it, but individual stars are not really apparent to me. At 120x, individual stars stand out with averted vision making for a "sparkling glowing smoke" appearance looking as though the glow comes from within. I estimate the diameter to be 10-ish arc minutes at the threshold of my averted vision.
  * Brighter resolved stars yield a tendril-like impression extending from the center.
  * There is a star I estimate to be approx. 7' from the center at about 1 o'clock which seems to be just bluer than the cluster. This is HIP 106157 which is a 7.6 mag G0 type star.
  * My GoTo mount says this cluster is 39,000 light years away and 130 light years in diameter. This Wikipedia article has somewhat different stats and reports a core so dense that it may contain a black hole!

M15 Thumbnail Previously captured CCD photo also found in the gallery.

08/01/2013 10:00-11:30 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-08-01 Message #269
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67°F, mostly clear with some misty clouds and humid, no moon (waning crescent). Burton Observatory.

Observed Xi Boötis, double star in Boötes, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. WDS A and B stars are their usual brilliant silver and brassy-gold. System members E and F are very similar in magnitude while the 10.25 magnitude star to their south, at a nearly equal separation, is easily distinguished as dimmer than either of the former.

Tonight, at 81x, the WDS D member star is barely averted-vision threshold yet the 10th magnitude star previously mentioned is clearly direct-vision observed. At 120x, D becomes more easily seen with averted vision, but still effectively disappears with direct vision. I will estimate Xi Boötis D to be approx. 2 magnitudes fainter than the 10th mag comparison star making it a 12th magnitude object.

Observed Epsilon Lyrae, double double star in Lyra, at 81x and 120x. At 81x I am just able to discern each pair at only about 2" separation for both. At 120x the separation becomes nicely distinct with just a little truly clear space between the stars of each double. The stars, in general, are white with a very faint sense of blue-ish tint, all having similar magnitudes.

The northern pair is oriented north/south (P.A. estimate due north at 360°) with the secondary member looking just a bit fainter in magnitude and perhaps very slightly yellowish tinted compared to its companion.

The southern double has very similar magnitudes and colors, and is oriented east/west (P.A. estimate due east or west at 90°/270°) with difficulty determining which is the primary.

  * Jim Kaler's article reveals a 160 light year distance, 1000 year orbital periods, and at least 1/2 million years for the pair-of-pairs to orbit one another!

07/27/2013 04:15-05:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-07-21 Message #268
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62°F, mostly clear, very little turbulence, very few wispy clouds, waning gibbous moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed Uranus, planet in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. The planet is a small crisp disk looking like a perfect tiny light blue ball bearing in a very sparce field about 1 3/4 billion miles away.

Observed Zeta Aquarii, double star in Aquarius, at 81x and 120x. Both stars are a very-light-blueish-tinted white. At the lower magnification, the 2" separation is just discernible. At 120x, on such a calm night, the separation is quite visible! I estimate the position angle to be 5 o'clock/11 o'clock (150°/330°) as the stars are so close in magnitude as to be difficult to determine the primary.

  * Jim Kaler's article places the system's period at about 760 years, its separation at 1.7", and its distance at 103 light years
  * WDS data places the PA at 167° and separation at 2.0" in 2012
  * Astronomical League data places the PA at 226°, which I must call into question, and separation at 1.8"

Observed Neptune, planet in Aquarius, at 120x. This world has a very distinct color and looks more greenish-blue to me than Uranus' light blue. Its disk is not clearly discernible to me at about a billion miles farther away than the 7th planet.

07/20/2013 04:00-04:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-07-20 Message #267
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62°F, clear, waxing gibbous moon had set approx 3:30. Burton Observatory.

Observed NGC 7331/Caldwell 30, spiral galaxy in Pegasus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. The "fuzzy star" nucleus is apparent at 81x with a hint of surrounding structure using averted vision. At 120x the galaxy is definitely more apparent and, using averted vision, reveals a bit more than a hint of its surrounding structure running roughly north-south.

This observation took place with the object high overhead just between moonset and dawn!

C43  * This previously-captured CCD photo may be found in the gallery. NGC 7335, also appears at 332 million light years distant.

07/09/2013 02:30-03:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-07-09 Message #265
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68°F, partly cloudy and hazy, moon one day after new. Burton Observatory.

Observed 17 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Able to identify not only the silver primary star and the copper Washington Double Star Catalog "B" component, but components "C" and "F" as well. The "C" star lies less than 2 arc minutes from the primary at about 4 o'clock while the "F" star lies about 12 1/2 arc minutes from the primary at about 7:30-8:00 o'clock.

  * clock angles use 3 o'clock as east

WDS Data
____________________________________________________
AB:  PA  68°, Sep  26.0", Mags 5.06 9.25, Spec F5V
AC:  PA 127°, Sep 109.6", Mags 5.06 9.44, Spec F5V
AF:  PA 235°, Sep 792.0", Mags 5.06 8.48

07/08/2013 02:15-02:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-07-10 Message #266
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68°F (approx), partly cloudy with some haze, new moon. Burton Observatory.

Observed M57, (Ring Nebula) planetary nebula in Lyra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. During a period when the area of the sky surrounding M57 was quite clear, the ring shape and darker center were easily discerned and very nicely defined with averted vision.

05/27/2013 Ongoing Xi Boötis D Variable Sleuth Work Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-05-27 Message #264
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I have compiled a summary of various sky surveys and the recorded magnitude values of Xi Boötis D which I have suspected is variable since June 15th 2012.
  * Use the search term "xi bo" at the top of the page to view relevant logs.
  * Note that entries may also be filtered by year.

Xi Bootis D Variability Study  Xi Boötis D variability summary.

01/18/2013 01:42 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2013-01-18 Message #263
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I have a newly enhanced CCD photo to begin my 2013 entries.

Three years ago on 12/15/2009, I captured an image of M1, the Crab Nebula from my somewhat hazy light-polluted location in Aurora, Colorado. What is striking and exciting to me is how much information is able to be found in those pixels from my world-famous ;-) Back Yard Observatory!

The original image is here and is more representative of what I am able to see at the eyepiece.
M1 - Crab Nebula

With a little help from the GIMP, tweaking brightness and contrast fairly aggressively and applying some unsharp masking, this image emerges!
M1 - Crab Nebula Enhanced

11/30/2012 06:00-06:15 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-12-01 Message #262
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40°F?, partly cloudy, waning gibbous moon. Outside the Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Saturn, planet in Virgo, along with Venus, and Mercury, planets in Libra, with my unaided e. Facing east-south-east with the waning gibbous moon at my back, I see very bright white Venus shining brilliantly as the morning star while Saturn appears very lightly yellow-tinted above Venus. Mercury sparkles below Venus not far off the horizon with comparable brightness to Saturn's. The 3 planets are in a nearly vertical line tipping a bit to the right.

Using KStars 2.0 on Ubuntu 12.04, I determine the following. At this time, Venus is 15° off the horizon while Saturn is 19° and Mercury only 8° above the horizon. Jupiter is not far from setting in the west-north-west 12° above the horizon.

I took these photos the very next morning at the same time under virtually the same conditions.
Mercury, Venus, Saturn December 2012  Jupiter and the Moon December 2012  To the East - Mercury, Venus, Saturn / To the West - Jupiter and the Moon

11/18/2012 03:30-04:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-11-18 Message #261
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UPDATE 8/21/2013 - This galaxy is 63.6 to 72.8 million light years distant according to NED and SIMBAD queries. The original distance I posted was found in my GoTo database and is apparently outdated or in error. So we see this object as it was around the time of the dinosaurs' extinction at the end of the Mesozoic Era!

30°F, Clear with very few clouds and little turbulence, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed NGC 2217, barred spiral galaxy in Canis Major, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. At the lower power I was unable to discern this object. At 120x, using some old-school star hopping within the FOV, even with the level of light pollution in my suburban location, I was able to see a "will-o-the-wisp" with averted vision. (I cannot help but find a thrill and some satisfaction while seeing a distant galaxy some 48.5 million light years away!)

To verify my observation, I used the Aladin app from Université de Strasbourg to obtain sky survey imagery. With a 20 x 20 arc minute image approximating the FOV of the 120x eyepiece, I used the GIMP to invert east/west and filter out dimmer objects. Then a bit of star hopping clinched the verification.

Take a look at this slide show for details.  

IMAGE

11/11/yyyy 12:15-02:30 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-11-12 Message #260
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50°F, very clear, no moon, turbulence. Back Yard Observatory.

12:15-01:15 - Observed M42, Great Nebula in Orion, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Striking as always! Light and dark areas, swirls extending beyond the 1/2° FOV. "Eagle" form very apparent. Trapezium beautiful.

01:45-02:30 - Observed Jupiter, planet in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Ganymede and Io are to the west at roughly 2 & 3 disk diameters. Calisto is east at roughly 3 diameters. What is so notable now is the clarity of the belts. From north to south, the list follows.
  - North polar region gray
  - White band of equal height
  - Very narrow gray band
  - Very narrow white band
  - North equatorial band dark brown
  - White band
  - South equatorial band dark brown
  - White region to the south pole with perhaps a small darkening at the pole

At 120x with an Orion #80A medium blue filter, the bands are a bit more clear. South pole darkening not visible. Some striations in the equatorial belts can be discerned.

11/09/2012 04:00-04:45 am MST Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-11-12 Message #259
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38°F, partly cloudy, waning crescent moon, turbulence. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Mintaka, double star in Orion, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Brilliant 2nd magnitude primary blue-ish white appearing with much "twinkle". Companion a faintly goldish yellow tinted star much fainter. Estimated P.A. 12 o'clock (north).

  * See Jim Kaler's article describing a quadruple star having an eclipsing binary forming Mintaka itself!

04:21 am - object observed close to the NE edge of FOV travelling ESE with steady direction, magnitude and velocity. Perhaps a bit yellowish with mag. between the two stars but much closer to the fainter companion.

04:22 am - object observed not as close to the edge of FOV approx. to the NW moving NNE looking very similar to the first object in color, mag., velocity, and straight line movement.

10/15/2012 01:10-03:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-11-12 Message #258
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48°F, clear, no moon, little turbulence. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed IC1613, galaxy in Cetus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Unable to discern with level of light pollution at mag. 9+.

Observed M33, galaxy in Triangulum, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. The nucleus is apparent especially with averted vision. Power is not a noticeable advantage. The "grain" of the object appears NE/SW or NNE/SSW. The 62' object is much greater than the FOV (about 30').

Observed M74, galaxy in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Unable to verify sighting with level of light pollution.

Observed Zeta Piscium, double star in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. Primary is white and its companion a tarnished silver with perhaps a hint of gold. PA estimated at 1:30-2:30 o'clock (45°-75°).

09/14-15/2012 11:15-12:15 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-09-15 Message #257
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54°F, clear no turbulence, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed NGC 7217, galaxy in Pegasus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. At the lower power, the nucleus appears as a faint "fuzzy" star with a hint of its extended structure using averted vision. At the higher magnification, the nucleus is easier to see and the extended structure is a bit more apparent using averted vision.

  * Tonight it's thrilling to see this galaxy from my suburban location -  high overhead and around 40-50 million light years away!

09/14/2012 10:00-11:15 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-09-15 Message #256
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57°F, clear no turbulence, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M27 (Dumbbell Nebula), planetary nebula in Vulpecula, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. I estimate the diameter to be 6' at the brighter region. I am finding discrepancies in size, age, magnitude, distance and expansion rate from different sources.

GoTo data:
  mag 8.1, size 15.2', expansion rate 27km/sec, distances 750 LY, age 48000 years, diameter 2 LY

M27  My previously taken CCD image

09/04/2012 4:00-5:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-09-04 Message #255
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60°F, mostly clear, waning gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed the Moon, Earth's singular natural satellite, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using an Orion 17mm Plossl with an Orion variable polarizing filter. I studied features in and around Janssen Crater which is about 45° south Lunar latitude and about 50° to the Moon's east from Tycho. Also noted the central peaks of Rosenberger and Piccolomini while "crater hopping" from Tycho and its huge prominent rays - so as to navigate the Lunar surface.

There are two line-like formations on the eastern floor of the crater running parallel roughly N/S. Another much sharper line-like feature radiates from Fabricius, which overlaps Janssen at its northern border, looking like a sharp gouge or scratch nearly centered in Janssen and somewhat parallel to the former two line-like features. This "gouge" seems strikingly unlike other formations.

Northwest of Janssen, the shadows of sunset slowly fill kilometer deep Vallis Rheita as I watch. This familiar moon seems such an alien world tonight.

08/26/2012 2:30-3:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-30 Message #254
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65°F, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

A night of turquoise jewels!

Observed Neptune, planet in Aquarius, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x & 162x. At the lower magnification, the disk is not apparent, but the blue-ish green color stands out well making this world easily distinguishable from any nearby stars. At 162x, The 2.36" disk is apparent.

3:30-4:00 am MDT

Observed Uranus, planet in Pisces, again tonight for comparison with Uranus. Higher in the sky, greater 3.67" diameter, & greater magnitude yield much more distinct disk and color. Uranus looks like a BB with soft blue finish at 162x.

4:00-4:45 am MDT

Observed Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces, at 81x & 120x. The two stars are so very similar in color and magnitude. The WDS B component is much fainter with 3x greater separation at 3:30 o'clock (105°) but distinct. At both mags, most of the time I see the northern A component as just a bit greener.

08/25/2012 2:45-3:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-30 Message #253
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65°F, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Uranus, planet in Pisces, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x, 120x, 162x, and 240x. This disk is apparent at all magnifications, but best at 120x & 162x in my vision. The diameter, of course, is greatest at 240x, but for me the striking light blue color and crisp distinctness of the sphere is best at less power. Tonight I am very pleased with the richness of this world's hue!

08/19/2012 1:00-1:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-30 Message #252
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58°F, clear & still, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M2, globular cluster in Aquarius, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. Very "focused" central region with brighter stars resolving using averted vision. This cluster has a bit less of the "sparkling puff-of-smoke" appearance than many other globs. Under urban skies I would estimate a 7' diameter. GoTo reports a 12.9' dia. and a 38,600 light year distance.

08/19/2012 12:00-12:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-30 Message #251
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61°F, mostly clear, no moon, still. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Neptune, planet in Aquarius, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Blue-green color is apparent. At 81x * cannot verify any disk but at 120x the disk seems to be perhaps at vision's threshold. There is a star of similar but dimmer magnitude approx. 10' south. I estimate no more than 1 magnitude different.

08/09/2012 2:30-4:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-09 Message #250
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Coolish(60°F), clear w/ a little haze, last quarter moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, obtaining 4 years of its proper motion comparing images from tonight with images from 4 years ago using C8" Schmidt-Cass and Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD:
  * Exposure: 0.0160 sec
  * Lower limit: 5061
  * Upper limit: 5648
  * Total exposure: 121 sec
  * Combine: checked
  * Filter: IR only

Processed with GIMP:
  * Layers stacked to overlay 8/12/2008 RGB photo with 8/9/2012 B&W photo
  * Bottom B&W layer set to Mode: "Normal" - top RGB layer set to Mode: "Screen"
  * Top layer's Opacity set to 50%, moved while zoomed to align image pixels
  * Bottom layer's orientation rotated to match top layer's orientation (N up)
  * Bottom layer's levels, brightness, and contrast adjusted

61 Cygni Proper Motion.  * Over only 4 years time (8/12/2008 - 8/9/2012), these stars move about 21 arc seconds ENE!

07/26/2012 3:00-3:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-04 Message #249
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Coolish(62°F), partly cloudy w/ little turbulence, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed (yet again) 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Noted how when viewing through the clouds of varying obscurities, the difference in both magnitude and color of A & B becomes much more opparent.

61 Cygnus Sketch Thumb
Sketch lays out positions of WDS members A, B, E, F, G, H. Members C & D are not apparent at all. This is connected with the dates of observation and large proper motion values I believe. Warrants further investigation.

07/23/2012 1:45-2:30? am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-04 Message #248
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Coolish (69°F), clear, no moon & still. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M29, open cluster in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Sparsely populated with a rectangle of stars of very similar magnitude about 2'x3' and its corners placed roughly N, E, S, W. Six other stars of the same or 1 magnitude less lie nearby.

NOTE: Observed a fairly bright distinctly blue-ish white object in the eyepiece moving roughly WNW-ESE at a rapid rate very close to this cluster. It remained in the FOV for only 1 or 2 seconds. Single light, straight line, constant speed & brightness. Satellite? I do not recall ever seeing any with that color reflectivity.

07/20/2012 3:45-4:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-08-04 Message #247
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Coolish (69°F), clear - very still, new moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. (Also observed on the 14th approx same time - waning crescent moon.) WDS component H visible at about 9:30 o'clock(285°) 1' from A, 10th mag E is at approx 9:00 o'clock(270°) 5'-6' from A, 8th or 9th mag F is at 8 o'clock(240°) about 7'-8' from A, 10th mag G is at 8 o'clock approx 4'-5' from A. While the first blush of dawn is in the sky, this system is still very clear and colorful high overhead.

WDS Data
________________________________________________________
  AB:  PA 175, Sep 34.2", Mags 5.35 6.10, Spec K5V  K7V
+AE:  PA 270, Sep 309.9", Mags 5.35 9.63, Spec K5V
--AF:  PA 241, Sep 333.8", Mags 5.20 11.32, Spec K5V
+AG:  PA 236, Sep 223.5", Mags 5.35 10.84, Spec K5V
+AH :  PA 282, Sep 89.0", Mags 5.35 10.89, Spec K5V

+ verified
-- some disagreement - will verify

Excellent study of 61 Cygni (German)
Click here for Google translation!

NOTE: Observed an object moving through the finder, east of Polaris, while polar alignment fine-tuning. Steady light, straight-line trajectory, much fainter than Polaris, moving downward and a bit to the left in the FOV. Satellite?

07/11/2012 1:15-2:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-07-11 Message #245
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Coolish(60°F), very clear and still, rising last quarter moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Albireo, double star in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. Color contrast is striking tonight with the blue companion star looking especially topaz blue against the pale yellow primary. The WDS "E" component is visible with averted vision at about 7 o'clock(210°) twice the distance of separation of the main pair being 35", so an estimated 70 arc seconds. WDS lists this star at PA 206° and separation at 76.7". Unable to identify any other WDS components tonight.
Albireo Thumbnail  Original CCD photo.

WDS data
A-B: PA 54°, Sep 34.8", Mags 3.19-4.68
A-E: PA 206°, Sep 76.7", Mags 3.2-11.
Albireo Thumbnail  Newly-processed CCD photo rotated so up is very close to north.

See Jim Kaler's article.

07/10/2012 3:45-4:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-07-11 Message #244
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Coolish(61°F), few clouds and a bit of haze w/ very little turbulence, moon near last quarter. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 61 Cygni, double star in Cygnus, with C8" Schmidt-Cas at 80x. This is what I call the golden binary. Primary is yellowish gold and the B component is orange-ish gold - both looking wonderfully like polished gold beads. "B" is at about 5 o'clock(150°) and the WDS "H" component is at approx 9:30 o'clock(285°) 2 1/2 times greater separation than A-B.

61 Cygni  My previously-captured CCD image.

WDS data
A-B  PA 151°, Sep 31.9", Mags 5.20-6.05, Spec K5V-K7V
A-H  PA 282°, Sep 89.0"  Mags 5.20-10.89 Spec K5V

I have taken to looking for other components listed in the WDS catalog while observing "double" star solar systems as many of these systems are multiple beyond only 2 stars. This system's great proper motion led to the first distance of another solar system determined by parallax in 1838. It is only about 11 light years away. See Jim Kaler's article.

06/27/2012 ~10:00-1:00 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-06-30 Message #243
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Warm, partly to mostly cloudy, waxing gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Saturn, plant in Virgo, with grandson Tyler using C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. We identified Titan, Rhea, and Tethys. Tyler then said he could pick out another moon very close to the disk and pointed out Dione on his laptop which we were using to identify each moon.

* Stellarium 0.11.3 on Win7 was used.

Before calling it a night, I observed once again that Xi Boötis D is clearly less bright that the 10th mag star about 5 3/4' south and just a bit west from Xi Boötis E.

Xi Bootis  Recently captured CCD images.

06/26/2012 ~2:00-2:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-06-30 Message #242
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Warm, clear, moon has set. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Epsilon Lyrae, double star in Lyra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. What is striking about this observation is that I can visually separate both Eps I and Eps II into their respective 2" doubles at just 80x! The 11:30 P.A. of Eps I and the 7:30 P.A. of Eps II are also clear!

06/25/2012 ~10:00-11:00 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-06-30 Message #241
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Warm, clear, waxing gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Saturn, planet in Virgo ,with grandson Tyler using C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. I see the ring system passing in front of the planet to the south and the main dark northern belt both as a tan-ish shade just a bit darker than the disk itself. I make visual note of Titan and Rhea - and then Tyler points out Dione as well. Using averted vision, I also see Dione.

* Sky and Telescope's Saturn's Moons Javascript Utility on Android phone used.

We also observed Xi Boötis, double star in Boötes, using C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. I point out WDS components A&B first, then E&F. Next I ask Tyler to look for D and tell me which is brighter, D or the 10th mag star south of E (forming a near line with E&F). His answer: D! (WDS listed this star as mag 9.6 in 2008)

06/17-18/2012 -11:30-3:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-06-19 Message #240
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Warm but clear, little turbulence and no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Xi Boötis, double star in Boötes, with C8" Schmidt-Cass and Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD in continuing research on WDS member "D" which I suspect may be an undocumented variable.

I experimented with combining exposures of 200-600 10,000ths second for 2-6 minutes and "Long Exposure" both checked and unchecked. The GIMP was used to do minor touch-up of grey-scale levels and then layers provide low-high exposure overlay and labels.

Xi Bootis

06/15/2012 -1:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-06-11 Message #239
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Researching Xi Boötis D Which is cataloged having varying magnitudes when comparing AAVSO, WDS, and SIMBAD data.
  * AAVSO chart does not show this star
  * WDS data specifies its magnitude at 9.6 with most recent epoch 2008
  * SIMBAD photo data agrees with a fainter magnitude very similar to what I see

Xi Bootis Chart Overlay
  SIMBAD photographic data overlaid on AAVSO chart.

06/05/2012 4:30-8:00 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-06-05 Message #238
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Warm, partly cloudy and windy. Front yard.

Observed the Venus transit, planet Venus passing in front of the sun, with C8" Schmidt-Cass and Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD using a Thousand Oaks white light glass filter - neutral density 5 (reduces light about 100,000x)
Venus Transit 2012
  * Auto-contrast ON
  * Very short exposure times yeilded best results
  * Wind and clouds created challenging conditions
  * Unable to use software tracking

05/31/2012 3:15-4:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-31 Message #234
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Cool (47°F), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Epsilon Lyrae, double-double star in Lyra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 160x. Eps I has a secondary star about 1 mag. fainter that its primary. They are both blue-ish white and I estimate PA at 11:30 o'clock (345°). Eps II has very equal magnitudes making it a bit easier to separate although both pairs are each only about 2" apart. These stars are also both blue-ish white and I estimate PA at 2:30 o'clock (75°). The system is high overhead, there is little turbulence, but even so each pair's separation comes a bit in-and-out of focus with what atmospheric disturbance there is.

GOTO Eps I MAG: 6.0, SEP: 2.0", PA: 353°
GOTO Eps II MAG: 4.5, SEP: 2.2", PA: 80°

WDS data Eps I PA: 346°, SEP: 2.2", MAGS: 5.15/6.10, SPEC: A4V/F1V
WDS data Eps II PA: 79°, SEP: 2.3", MAGS: 5.25/5.38, SPEC:  A8Vn/F0Vn

* Jim Kaler's article is found here.

05/31/2012 2:45-3:15 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-31 Message #237
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Cool (47°F), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M9, globular cluster in Ophiuchus, w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x, 160x. At lower magnification the cluster is obvious, but at higher magnification detail is much easier to see. This cluster appears to have a smoother, gradual fading from brighter center out toward its fringes than, for example, M13 or M5 which have a more distinctly brighter core region. With averted vision, there are some brighter resolved stars yielding the "sparkling glowing puff-of-smoke" appearance typical of globulars. I would also say under suburban skies, I can put its diameter at 3'-4'.

05/29/2012 3:15-4:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-31 Message #236
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Cold (45°F), clear w/ little turbulence, no moon.  Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Epsilon I and Epsilon II Lyrae again tonight w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x, 120x, 160x. At 120x, both pairs were just showing separation, then at 160x both pairs were cleanly separated. Eps I remains a bit more challenging due to magnitude difference while Eps II is very similar in magnitude and easier to separate. I don't see the color differences of last night. All stars appear a blue-ish white. Turbulence was much quieter. Perhaps the perceived color difference of the previous observation was a magnitude difference effect of the Eps I pair?

05/28/2012 4:15-5:?? am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-31 Message #235
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Cool, clear w/ some turbulence, no moon.

Observed Epsilon I Lyrae, double star in Lyra, w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x, 120x, 160x. Separation not apparent until 120x. This pair appears a bit yellower than Epsilon II and the secondary star is at least a magnitude fainter than the primary.

Observed Epsilon II Lyrae, double star in Lyra, w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x, 120x, 160x. It is a bit bluer than Epsilon I. The two stars are much more similar in magnitude and therefore it's easier to discern separation.

  * I am relying on GoTo for PA placing Eps I at 353° and Eps II at 80°.
  * Epsilon I is the northern of the two pairs.

05/27/2012 2:15-3:45 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-31 Message #233
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Coolish (57°F), clear with some fire haze, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Rasalgethi, double star in Hercules, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x, 120x. Primary star is white with a very light yellowish cast. Its companion is a slightly blue-tinted gray at around 2 mags fainter. I estimate P.A. to be between 3:00 and 4:00 o'clock and so 105°.

  * GoTo states these stars are similar in magnitude which is in error.

WDS data: PA: 103, Sep: 4.7", Mags: 3.48/5.40, Spec: M5Ib-II

* Jim Kaler's article is found here noting that this star is also variable.

05/21/2012 4:30-5:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-23 Message #232
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Coolish (57°F), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Zeta Lyrae, double star in Lyra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. In the dawn light, the primary appears faintly blue-tinted white while its companion has a slightly greenish-tinted hue and is about one magnitude fainter. There is a much fainter star positioned approx. 10' east in the FOV. I estimate P.A. to be 4:30-5:00 o'clock (135°-150°).

WDS data: PA: 150, Sep: 44.0, Mags: 4.34/5.62, Spec: F0IVv

* Jim Kaler's article is found here noting that the primary is class A while its companion is class F0. (This seems to differ with the WDS primary class F0 data but is in agreement with observed color differences putting the companion a bit more toward cooler red.) The plot thickens as I read that this system lies 152 light years away, the primary is a spectroscopic binary, the secondary star may be binary, and that there are 3 other fainter member stars!

05/20/2012 7:30 pm - sunset MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-21 Message #230
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Warm, variable clouds, Front Yard, Aurora CO.

Observed the Annular Solar Eclipse as the sun was setting. My position in Aurora is north of the "Total Annular" path and so at maximum the sun is a thin crescent-like sliver. This eclipse appears as a thin ring of sun in the path of totality, thus it's called annular meaning ring-shaped.

  * The first photo is a bit of an illusion where my reflection in the solar filter can be seen while the eclipsed sun is showing through the filter.
  * I took the remaining photos with a Sony Cybershot on a tripod while I held a solar filter for my Celestron C8 in front of the camera. Some processing has been done with The GIMP.

Click for larger versions.
Solar Eclipse 2012  Solar Eclipse 2012  Solar Eclipse 2012  Solar Eclipse 2012  Solar Eclipse 2012  Solar Eclipse 2012

05/18/2012 2:00-2:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-22 Message #231
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Coolish (58°F), clear w/ little haze?, no moon. Back Yard Observatory

Observed M13, globular cluster in Hercules, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. With averted vision, the diameter is just at the threshold of perhaps 10'. The brighter central region distinctly glows from within and is 3'-5' in diameter. Many individual stars easily resolve yielding a sparkling "puff of smoke". A sort of tendril-like appearance seems to come from some of the brighter resolving stars.

GOTO DIST=25,000 ly; DIA=160 ly/16.6'; MAG=5.8; Pop=1 million stars; Age=10 billion years

05/15/2012 12:30-1:15 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-15 Message #229
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Cool (51°F), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M5, globular cluster in Serpens, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. I can see a bright central region about 3' in diameter and with averted vision can say the outer region extends to about 10'. This is under suburban light-polluted skies. Many individual stars are easily resolved and the cluster appears to have faint tendrils radiating out from the brighter central region.

GOTO DIST=30,000 ly; DIA=100 ly/17.4'; HALO=15'; MAG=5.8

05/09/2012 4:15-5:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-12 Message #228
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Cool (44°F), clear, waning gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 95 Herculis, double star in Hercules, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. Primary is a faintly blue-tinted silver and its companion is a very pale gold. Their magnitudes are very similar. I estimate P.A. to be 8:00-8:30 o'clock (240°-255°). Turbulence is very quiet and the separation is very distinct.

WDS data: PA: 257, Sep: 6.3, Mags: 4.85/5.20, Spec: A5IIIn

* Jim Kaler's article is found here noting that the subtle brightness difference emphasizes color contrast to the eye!

05/02/2012 2:00-3:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-05-02 Message #227
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Cool (50°F), clear, waxing gibbous moon, little turbulence. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Xi Boötis, double star in Boötes with C8" Schmitd-Cass at 80x. Separation is very distinct tonight. The primary star appears silver with perhaps a slight hint of goldish tint while its companion looks gold. I estimate the PA at 10:00-10:30 o'clock (300° - 315°). I would guess the secondary's brightness difference to be 1/4 to 1/5 or approximately 2 magnitudes.

WDS data: PA: 308, Sep: 6.0, Mags: 4.76/6.95, Spec: G8V/K5V

* Jim Kaler's article is found here.

04/28/2012 3:00-4:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-04-28 Message #226
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Cold (36°), clear, no moon, little turbulence. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed.Graffias (Beta Scorpii - also Acrab), double star in Scorpius, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. Brighter primary appears blue-ish white while the significantly less bright companion appears to have a slightly tarnished, just greenish tint in comparison. I estimate PA at 1 o'clock or a bit less (20°-30°).

WDS data: PA: 20, Sep: 13.5", Mags: 2.59/4.52, Spec: B0.5V/B2V

* Jim Kaler's article explains this quintuple system with fact and imagination!

* NOTE: At approximately 3:38 MDT, I observed a much fainter object with a steady light moving about north, just east of Graffias, say 5' or 10' at its closest. Satellite? Stellarium's satellite list didn't include any matching time and location.

04/21/2012 3:15 - 4:00 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-04-22 Message #225
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Cool, clear, no moon (near new)  Back Yard Observatory

Observed Delta Serpentis, double star in Serpens, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x and 120x. The stars are nicely separated at 80x and very cleanly separated at 120x. I estimate P.A. at 165°. The primary appears blue-ish white while its companion is perhaps one magnitude less and has a faintly greenish/yellowish tiny compared to the primary.

GOTO MAG: 5.2, SEP: 3.9", PA: 179°
WDS PA: 173°, SEP: 3.9", MAGS: 4.17/5.16, SPEC: F0IV

* NOTE: Jim Kaler's article has very good detail.

04/18/2012 1:30 - 2:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-04-22 Message #224
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Cool (42°F), clear, no moon  Back Yard Observatory

Observed M83, barred spiral galaxy in Hydra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x and 120x. Nucleus appears as an indistinct star in the FOV. I'm not making out any surrounding details, but it should be noted that the object is not very far off the SSW horizon.

There are 3 stars in an "Orion's Belt" approximately 5' appart forming an line running about NW to SE.

Upon careful examination with averted vision, I may be seeing some of the surrounding details angled along a similar line to these 3 stars. That would most probably be the brighter portion of the structure around the nucleus.

M83 Sketch Log book sketch showing relative positions of the 3 stars and M83

04/07/2012 4:30 - 5:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-04-07 Message #222
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Cold (30°F), clear, full moon (just 16 hrs past) Back Yard Observatory

Observed Alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi), double star in Libra, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. There is mild turbulence. The bright 3rd magnitude primary appears a clear blueish white while the companion is approx 1/2 the primary's magnitude appearing yellow with a faint greenish tint. It reminds me of tarnished metal. I estimate separation at 4-5 arc minutes and P.A. at 10:30 on the clock or 315°.

Jim Kahler states that the two are probably a gravitational pair as they move together through space, are 77 light years away, and would have an orbital period of around 200,000 years.
  * SEE http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/zubenel.html

The WDS (Washington Double Star Catalog) yields this 2002 data.
  P.A. 315°, Sep 231.1", Mags 2.74 5.19, Spec Types A3IV F4IV

The Astronomical League posts this data.
  Mags 2.8 5.2, Sep 231", P.A. 314°

03/30/2012 7:30 - 9:30 pm MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-04-07 Message #223
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Cool, clear, first quarter moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x with 11 year old grandson Tyler.

  * Castor - double star in Gemini - both stars white and very similar in brightneww
  * Algieba - double star in Leo with some very light coloring
  * 54 Leonis - double star in Leo also with some very light coloring
  * Saturn
    - noted a darkish contrast with the planet of the ring in front of the disk
    - noted a darkish belt north of the rings
    - Titan was easily seen
  * Moon
    - a double polarized filter allowed the moon's light to be dimmed to a comfortable level for the eye
    - surface features seemed especially crisp this night!

03/24/2012 3:45 - 4:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-03-25 Message #221
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Cool (48°F), clear, no moon (very young) Back Yard Observatory

Observed Gamma Virginis (Porrima), double star in Virgo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80 & 160x. Viewed this star more favorably southward than last night and atmospheric turbulence is quieter than last night as well. Both stars appear as brilliant blueish-tinted white and identical in magnitude. Tonight I estimate PA at no more than 1 o'clock (30° or less but east of north) and the 2 arc second or less separation is CLEAR at 160x! Better than last night's observation at 240x.

Graphic inverted with labels added representing Schmidt-Cass view (north=up/east=right) and star positions 1995, 2005, & 2012.
IMAGE  CREDIT: Jim Kaler's article

03/24/2012 3:45 - 4:30 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-03-24 Message #220
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Cool, clear, no moon (near new) Back Yard Observatory

Observed Gamma Virginis (Porrima), double star in Virgo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80, 120, 160, 240x. The star is west of its optimum observational position in the south and there is a bit of turbulence but very little. Primary and secondary stars both appear white to blueish white. I estimate the PA at 300°. Very little separation so that it's difficult to verify except at 240x although I was fairly confident at 160x. I don't think separation is more than 2-3 arc seconds.

WDS (Washington Double Star) Catalog Info
  * 2011 AB: PA 16°, sep 1.6", mags 3.48-3.53, spec F0V-F0V

GoTo Info
  * Variable separation from 0-5". Increasing since 2005.

NOTES:
  * My estimate of PA is about 45° off westward. Very little separation as well as perhaps not accurately establishing north in the FOV I believe are contributing factors.
  * Please note that the Astronomical League's double star list indicating PA 293° and separation 3.6" is roughly 20 years out-of-date for a rapidly-changing system which completes an orbit every 167 years.
  * The Naval Observatory's WDS Catalogue is more up-to-date.
  * Jim Kaler's article is very nicely done and contains much useful data.
  * The Wikipedia article also has much useful data along with a table of trends from 1995.

03/21/2012 2:30 - 3:15 am MDT Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-03-21 Message #219
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Cold (27°F), clear, no moon (near new) Back Yard Observatory

Observed Saturn w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. Planet appears white or very light yellow. The portion of the ring system passing in front of the disk is a bit darker appearing slightly brownish and the main belt above (north) of the rings is clearly visible at a similar brownish color and darkness. Titan is nicely visible about 3 ring diameters west and a bit to the south of the ring line. Rhea is significantly fainter than Titan but is a crisp point of light with averted vision at about 1 ring diameter west and slightly north of the ring line. The Cassini Division seems to just fade in and out of my threshold of vision.

  * My scope is freshly collimated and the view is remarkably sharp! Thanks to Cathy at S&S Optika
  * Here is an excellent tool for locating Saturn's moons at Sky & Telescope

03/15/2012 9:09 pm Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2012-03-17 Message #218
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Planets Late Winter 2012

Very mild, clear, waning crescent moon well below the horizon. Back Yard, Aurora CO.

Observed Jupiter and Venus in the west at 9:09 MDT during a very mild late winter evening on the Ides of March. At this point there is an unusual configuration of naked-eye planets placing Mars half-way between horizon and zenith in the ESE sky and Saturn 1/2 hour from rising in the eastern sky.

My Sony Cybershot was used in night mode with full zoom to capture the two planets (Venus is the upper brighter object). A separate photo was taken in normal mode with flash and layered with The GIMP to reveal foreground trees.

Venus and Jupiter in the west

12/10/2011 6:00 - 7:00 am Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2011-12-14 Message #217
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Cold 17°, mostly clear, full eclipsing moon. Front Yard, Aurora CO.

Observed the Lunar Eclipse as the moon was setting and dawn was breaking. I took these photos with a Sony Cybershot on a tripod while I experimented with various zoom settings. The 3rd and 4th photos are from slightly different points of view to keep the moon visible.

Click for larger version, click again for full-size, zoom on the Moon
Lunar Eclipse 2011  Lunar Eclipse 2011  Lunar Eclipse 2011  Lunar Eclipse 2011

10/22/2011 5:10 am - 5:40 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2011-10-22 Message #216
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Leonids 2011

Cold (40° or less), partly cloudy, waning crescent moon. Back Yard, Aurora CO.

With one interruption to get more comfortable for observing, I saw 2 meteors, both clearly appearing to move directly away from the radiant.

  * Approx. 5:30, medium-bright 3° streak about 30° off the southeast horizon.
  * Approx. 5:37, bright 5° streak about 45° off the east southeast horizon very close to a line drawn between the radiant and the moon.

Note that this location is in a suburban light-polluted area with some sky obstruction from trees and buildings.

Observing in 2011 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2011-08-19 Message #215
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It's been necessary to set observing aside so far this year, but that is about to change. I do, however, want to comment on "observing" and awareness of the grand environment around us.

While one stands outside on an August night (or about 2 hours earlier on a September evening), the large arrowhead-shaped Summer Triangle, composed of the bright stars Deneb, Vega, and Altair, is high overhead pointing south toward the constellation Sagittarius. Just off of the spout of the Sagittarius "tea pot", close to the southern horizon, lies the center of our Milky Way Galaxy some 26,000 light-years distant. Two member galaxies of our Local Group, Andromeda and Triangulum, may be found in the eastern sky approximately 2.5 million and 3 million light-years away respectively. The core member galaxy cluster of our Local Supercluster, the Virgo Cluster, is setting in the west around 54 million light-years from Earth. This Local Supercluster contains at least 100 galaxy groups and clusters spanning some 110 million light-years or so. The Great Attractor, which holds sway over the entire Local Supercluster, lies about 25° below the southwestern horizon in the direction of the constellations Centaurus and Hydra somewhere around 250 million light-years away.

  * At my latitude, 40° north, the surface of Earth is moving at Mach 1 around the planet's axis.
  * Earth itself is travelling in its orbit at 66,000 MPH!
  * Our Solar System orbits the galactic center roughly toward the Summer Triangle star Deneb at about 1/2 million MPH!
  * The Local Supercluster rushes toward the Great Attractor at around 1 1/2 million MPH!

This awareness doesn't require binoculars or telescope, but rather a sense of where we truly live.

-RB

12/20-21/2010 11:30 pm - 3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-12-24 Message #213
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Cold, mostly clear, full moon / eclipse. Back Yard.

Observed a Total Lunar Eclipse with both unaided eye and binoculars. As the moon began to move into the umbra, it looked like a "bite" had been taken out of it with the shadow seeming quite dark compared to the lighter portion of the disk still in the penumbra. As totality approached and the lighter portion of the disk was only a sliver, the umbra looked obviously dark orange.

Photo taken with Sony CyberShot
Lunar Eclipse 2010

11/27/2010 12:00 - 1:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-11-27 Message #212
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Cold (27°), clear, near last quarter moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Gamma Ceti, double star in Cetus with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x, 120x, 162x, and 240x. The companion star cannot be seen at 81x. At 120x, the companion just appears as a "lobe" of the primary star. At 162x, the "lobe" becomes a bit easier to discern while at 240x there is a little degradation of focus yielding a less discernible pair. (The scope appears to be a little out of alignment which I will be correcting.) Using WDS catalogue data, a third 10th magnitude member can be seen at 81x 14' to the NW (306°) of the primary. Both stars appear bluish-white although the fainter companion is not as easy to determine.

WDS
  * AB: PA 298°, sep 2.3", mags 3.54-6.18, spec A1V
  * AC: PA 306°, sep 843.1", mags 3.54-10.15

GoTo
  * AB: PA 297°, sep 2.7", mag 3.5

NOTES: The Stellarium program agrees with the observed 3rd member using magnitude, separation, and position angle.
Gamma Ceti
Read Jim Kaler's article at http://stars.astro.illinois.edu/sow/kaffaljidhma.html

10/13/2010 3:30 - 4:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-10-13 Message #211
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Cool (40°), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Alcyone, Eta Tarui, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Brightest member of the Pleiades. A bright blue-white star surrounded by nebulosity. With averted vision, these clouds are easily 5' in diameter, but seem to extend to 10' or so while becoming fainter. Photographic data indicates a diameter of approx 20', so the Aurora skies cause the outer regions to be faint/difficult at the eyepiece. (Planning future photo)

To the west, there is a small "framing square" of stars forming a triangle pointing west. Beautiful field!

10/13/2010 1:50 - 3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-10-13 Message #210
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Cool (43°), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Uranus with C8" Schmidt-Cass and Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD:
  * Exposure: 0.0221-0.0300 sec
  * Lower limit: 6129
  * Upper limit: 7594
  * Total exposure: 150 sec

Processed with GIMP:
  * Layers stacked IR, R, G, B with all but the bottom set to Mode: "screen"
  * Each layer's Opacity set to 50%, moved while zoomed to align image pixels
  * Colors / Color Balance tool applied to red, green, and blue layers
    - Increase Midtones for appropriate channel to 100%
    - Increase Highlights for appropriate channel to 100%
  * Colors / Brightness-Contrast tool applied to IR layer to reduce brightness

Uranus

8/21/2010 1:30 - 3:35 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-29 Message #192
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Coolish (64°), partly cloudy, waxing gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Enif (Epsilon Pegasi), double star in Pegasus with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Main star is a bright orange-ish yellow and its companion is much less bright at an estimated P.A. of 10:30 o'clock (315°) and 2 1/2' - 3' separation. Seeing wasn't the best for color perception, but past observations have seen this dimmer companion as a violet-gray. WDS Catalog places a 12th mag member mearly on a line between the other members a little more than 1/2 way from the brighter to the dimmer star.

CCD data from August 31st 2008, when enhanced, reveals this third member!
Enif with 3rd Member  Original Image ->Enif

  * A second look after moon set again reveals the violet-gray color of the companion star.
  * During this session at various times, attempts to see the faintest member with averted vision AND using the edge of the FOV to eclipse the brighter member failed.

GoTo: "triple star", PA 320°, sep 83.0", mag 2.5

8/11-14/2010 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-29 Message #191
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Perseids 2010

It was 2:48 am Mountain Time on the 11th that I saw a bright white meteor headed downward, away from Perseus, in the lower half of the SW sky. The trail was approx 5° - 10° long.

From 11:00 pm to 1:00 am on the night of the 12th/13th, I saw no meteors. My daughter, Myra, saw one. My daughter Chrissie and grandson Tyler also saw another, but I am uncertain which of them saw it.

At about 1:30-1:40 am Mountain on the 14th, I saw a medium-bright white meteor in about the same location, perhaps a bit farther west, with a trail about 5° or less.

8/13/2010 1:00 - 1:45 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-14 Message #190
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Coolish (60s), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M2, globular cluster in Aquarius with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 120x. This cluster is a grainy fuzz-of-light with a distinct center 1'-2' in diameter. With averted vision, the outer regions extend to 4', perhaps 5' in diameter. Stars do not seem to resolve well to create the "sparkling" affect common to local globulars. With averted vision, I also noted a star eastward of the middle maybe 1' or so from center.

  * GoTo: Dist 38.6 KLy, Dia 150 Ly, Mag 6.5, Dia 12.9', "compressed intense core"

8/7/2010 4:00 - 4:?? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-10 Message #189
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Cool (60°), clear, rising waning crescent moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Psi[1] Piscium, dbl star in Pisces with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x. Very close to same mag and color. Northern primary star seems to be slightly greener - both blue or turquoise in color - striking color! GoTo places stars 30" apart. I estimate P.A. @ 150°. There is a third star @ 3:30 o'clock (105°) and about 60" separation from the B component and much fainter perhaps 10th/11th mag. It's very distinct w/ averted vision tonight.

  * GoTo Mag 5.5, Sep 30", P.A. 159°
  * WDS A/B P.A. 158°, Sep 29.6", Mags 5.7 6.6, Spec B9.5 A0
  * WDS B/C P.A. 108°, Sep 69.1", Mags 5.45 11.2, Spec A0

Image from 9/22/2008 once again verifying the WDS catalog data above
Psi Piscium

7/18/2010 2:30 - 4:?? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #188
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Cool(high 60s), partly cloudy/some haze, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 61 Cygni, dbl star in Cygnus w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x. Primary is orange-tinted yellow while its companion is a bright yellow. They both remind me of polished gold! P.A. is about 5 o'clock (160°) and separation estimated at less than 1', perhaps 1/2' - A & B very similar mags. There is a much dimmer (11-12th mag?) star at about 10 o'clock and approx 1'. Will verify WDS whether part of the system.

  * GoTo Mag 5.4, Sep 30.0", P.A. 158°

At approx 2:30 am while aligning the scope, I observed an object in the finder south of Altair near the edge of the FOV moving roughly eastward.

  * WDS A/B: P.A. 152°, Sep 30.7", Mags 5.20 6.05, Spec K5V K7V
  * WDS A/C: P.A. 288°, Sep 82.2", Mags 5.20 10.89

Verified Washington Double Star Catalog third member found in raw CCD data from 8/12/2008!
  * Image rotated counter-clockwise to approx North = up, East = right
  * GIMP used to enhance existing data revealing third member at 10 o'clock
61 Cygni  Original Image ->61 Cygni

7/12-13/2010 11:50 - 12:45 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #187
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Coolish, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M92, globular cluster in Hercules w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass. At 120x, there is a striking 2'-3' bright central region with an even brighter nucleus. Using averted vision, I see a sparkling puff-of-smoke with an "inner glow". Brighter individual stars are prominent and the diameter extends to 7' or 8'. At certain moments, I think the fringes of the cluster extend to a 10' diameter, pre-informed expectations?

  * GoTo Dist 25 KLy, Dia 80 Ly, Lum 150,000 suns, Mag 6.5, Dia 11.2', very old cluster

7/10/2010 1:45 - 3:45 am Mountain           Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #186
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Coolish, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M56, globular cluster in Lyra w/ C8" Schmidt-Cass. At 81x, there is clearly a 1'-2' puff-of-smoke. At 120x, I see a sparkling puff-of-smoke distinctly 2' in diameter and with averted vision, it's 3'-4' in diameter.

  * GoTo Dist 31 KLY, Mag 8.3, Dia 5'/7.2'?

Observed M71, globular cluster in Sagitta @ 120x. The sparkling puff-of-smoke appears a bit less dense, but larger. I see a 2'-3' diameter directly and 4'-5' with averted vision.

  * GoTo Dist 12KLy, Mag 8.3, Dia 7.2', Lum 13,000 suns

6/19/2010 3:15 - 4:00 am Mountain         Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #185
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Cool(58°), clear, no moon - edge of dawn. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M8, Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 120x. There appears to be a dim star at the center perhaps 11th mag or so. There is a somewhat brighter star about 1' and a more perdominant star at about 2 1/2' about 1:15 o'clock (37° or so) from the "center" star. The central brightness is apparent to about a 5' dia w/ averted vision.

  * GoTo Star-forming region, Dist 5 KLy, Dia 100 Ly, Mag 5.8, Dia 90.0'

6/16/2010 2:00 - 2:45 am Mountain       Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #184
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Clear, cool(60°), no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M22, globular cluster in Sagittarius with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 120x. Many stars resolved! Central area appears to be glowing clouds behind (or among?) the resolved stars and not perfectly round. The outer-most wisping edges span a diameter of perhaps up to 10' w/ averted vision. Resolved stars may be sprinkled out to a diameter of the entire approx 20' FOV. The longer I look, the more the more-delicate outer regions seem to hover at vision's threshold even under urban skies!

  * GoTo Mag 5.1, Dia 24.0', Dist 9.6 KLy, Lum 210,000 sol masses, Dia 70 Ly

2:45-3:00 Observed an object with steady velocity, mag, and direction beginning in the finder near Vega, then S-N for about 5° naked-eye.

3:00-3:45 Observed M56, globular cluster in Lyra @ 120x. Small fuzz of light around 2' maybe 3' in diameter. Cannot verify resolved stars.

  * GoTo Mag 8.3, Dia 7.1/5.01?', Dist 31 KLy

6/10/2010 1:00 - 1:45 am Mountain     Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #183
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Coolish(64°), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M4, globular cluster in Scorpius with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x and 120x. There is a more-prominent (foreground?) star roughly 8th mag about 10' from center at about 11 o'clock. At 81x, I see a somewhat roundish, mottled, grainy fuzz of light. At 120x, the brighter center is more obvious, and seems clumpy or mottled rather than having an even, round glow. More individual stars resolve esp w/ averted vision lending to the "sparklish fuzz" look no uncommon to globulars. There is a N/S string of brighter stars @ center. I would estimate diameter to be approx 10' from my back yard location.

  * GoTo: Dist 6.5 KLy, Dia 26.3', Mag 5.9

5/31/2010 3:30 - 4:?? am Mountain   Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #182
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Cool(50s), clear, breezy, waning gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 95 Herculis, dbl star in Hercules with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x. Similar mags, primary white - companion very slightly yellower than primary. Estimated P.A. less than 9 o'clock - perhaps 8:30 (255°-260°). Separation estimated no more than single-digit arc seconds.

  * GoTo: Mag contrast???, P.A. 258°, Sep 6.5", Mag 5.1
  * WDS: P.A. 259°, Sep 6.6", Mags 4.85  5.20 Spec A5

Observed Rasalgethi (Alpha Herculis), dbl star in Hercules @ 81x. Primary is yellowish-white and companion is gray-silver. There is much mag contrast but clear separation at what should be no more than 5". Estimated P.A. is more than 3 o'clock, perhaps 3:30(100°-105°).

  * GoTo: Similar mags???, Mag 3.5, Sep 4.6", P.A. 107°
  * WDS: P.A. 104°, Sep 4.8", Mags 3.48  5.40 Spec M5

5/19/2010 1:30 - 2:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #181
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Cool, nearly clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory

Observed M5, globular cluster in Serpens with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x and 120x. Object more distinct @ 120x. Appears a few arc minutes in diameter with glowing center approx 1'-2' in diameter. With averted vision, 3 stars stand out at perhaps around 10th mag. Outer regions difficult from Aurora.
  * 1' @ 4:30 (135°)
  * 2'-3' @ 7:30 (225°)
  * 7'-8' @ 8:30 (255°)

  * GoTo: Dist 30 KLy, Dia 100 Ly, Dia 17.4', Mag 5.8

5/17/2010 After midnight? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-08-09 Message #180
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Cool, clear, no moon, Back Yard Observatory

Observed M87, elliptical galaxy in Virgo with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x and 120x. More distinct @ 120x as a fuzz with a small sharpish center and perhaps an arc minute in diameter. Outer regions difficult under Aurora sky. Member of Virgo cluster?

  * GoTo: Dist 50 MLy, Dia 135 KLy, 790 billion sol mass, 1000 known glob clust, Dia 7.2', Mag 8.6, believed to have giant black hole

  ->My impressions: Looks like a probability function for the location of some cosmic entity - be it a particle at some very large scale - a star - the galaxy itself - Possibly the result of a primordial quantum fluctuation in the "seed" of the Universe before inflation.

5/1/2010 3:30 - 4:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-05-01 Message #178
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Cool, nearly clear (few very small clouds), waning gibbous moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed Epsilon Boötis, double star in Boötes with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 162x (Celestron 25mm + 2x Barlow). Primary is white (perhaps faintly yellow-tinted) and its companion is pale blue to gray. Estimated P.A. is 11 o'clock (330°). The two stars are just separated cleanly with patient viewing.

NOTE: Previous failure to identify the companion seems to have been alleviated by referencing WDS data, then viewing again? Although I strive to avoid preconceptions by observing, taking notes, and verifying with independent data afterward, I believe this observation was aided by the other data.

4/25/2010 3:30 - 4:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #177
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed Xi Boötis, double star in Boötes with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Primary silver and companion brassy-gold. Estimated P.A. 10:30 o'clock or 315°. Magnitude difference is small enough so that small separation is very definite.
  * GoTo: Sep 7.0", P.A. 326°
  * WDS: Sep 6.4", P.A. 310°, spect G8/K5

Observed Kappa Boötis, double star in Boötes with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Primary silver while companionis yellowish or yellow-greenish. Estimated P.A. 7:30 o'clock or 225°. Sep wider, clear.
  * GoTo: Sep 13.0", P.A. 236°
  * WDS: Sep 13.8", P.A. 237°, spect A7/F1

NOTE: While Epsilon Boötis was centered in the FOV of 120x Orion eyepiece, a roughly 9-10 mag object moved N/S along the east edge of the approx. 20' diameter FOV. A satellite? Velocity, direction, and brightness all appeared constant.

Observed Epsilon Boötis, double star in Boötes with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x, 120x, and 160x. Unable to see companion. Magnitude difference? Will verify with WDS catalog.
  * GoTo: Mag 2.7, Sep 3.0", P.A. 303°
  * WDS: Mag 2.58/4.81, Sep 3.0", P.A. 343°

4/25/2010 2:20 - 2:50 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #176
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed Saturn with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. I estimate Titan to be 2 1/2 ring diameters east of the planet and I believe Rhea to have been seen about a ring diameter west. The ring system appeared as a straight line drawn through the planet's disk.

4/24/2010 8:30-8:45 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #175
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed YY Geminorum, variable star in the Castor system with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x. YY Geminorum / Castor C was brighter than Castor D which I interpret to mean it was not in eclipse phase. I used the direct vision method to verify magnitude since averted vision seems to me to be misleading when comparing C and D with C's proximity to A/B.

YY Geminorum Sketch Digitized sketch to identify stars.

4/19/2010 1:30 - 2:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #174
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Cool, clear, waning crescent moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed M12, globular cluster in Ophiuchus with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. The object appears granular, somewhat irregular in shape and with a faintly mottled magnitude across its diameter (darkish splotches?)
  * GoTo: 20 kly, mag 6.6, dia 14.5', "compact bright core, resolved outer halo"
My estimated diameter is 5'-7' suggesting that the halo is difficult under suburban skies. There are a few faintish-but-brighter (foreground?) stars.

Observed M80, globular cluster in Scorpius with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. This cluster has a more distinct, compact core brighter than M12. My diameter estimate is 2'-3' with averted vision.
  * GoTo: 28 kly, mag 7.2, dia 8.9'
Again, my diameter estimate tells me that the fainter outer regions of this object are difficult here at my suburban observatory. And again, a few brighter (foreground?) stars.

Observed M104, "Sombrero Galaxy" in Virgo with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. The nucleus is a distinct-but-fuzzy object. My estimate of its edge-on elongated direction is basically E/W.
  * GoTo: 30 Mly, dia 82 kly, mag 8.3, dia 8.9'
What I can actually see with averted vision is about 2' in diameter, so again, the suburban sky is apparently making the outer areas difficult.

4/1/2010 3:15 - 3:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #173
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon about 2 days past full - Back Yard Observatory

Observed Xi Boötis, double star in Boötes with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Primary is a greenish-tinted silver and its companion is brassy-gold.
  * GoTo: Sep 7.0", P.A. 326°
  * WDS: Sep 6.4", P.A. 310°, spec G8/K5

3/31/2010 8:00 - 10:30 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #172
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon - rising - Back Yard Observatory

Observed YY Geminorum, variable star in the Castor system with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x.
  * 8:15 Definitely brighter than D when using direct vision technique: brighter / more distinct or "crisp"
  * 9:15 same
  * 10:15 same

3/28/2010 8:15 - 10:45 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #171
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon - rising - Back Yard Observatory

Observed YY Geminorum, variable star in the Castor system with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x, using averted vision and out-of-focus:
  * 8:30 C perhaps a bit dimmer than D
  * 9:30 C about the same as D
  * 10:30 C about the same as D - a bit brighter?

3/27-28/2010 10:20 pm - 12:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #170
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Cool, clear, waxing gibbous moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed YY Geminorum, variable star in the Castor system with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x.
  * 10:30 With averted vision and out-of-focus, C appeared less bright than D, brighter than other comparison star.
  * 11:15 With averted vision and out-of-focus, C appeared about as bright as D.
  * 12:30 With averted vision and out-of-focus, C appeard brighter than D.

NOTE: Last two observations were between tree branches. C and D are clearly brighter than my selected bracket star, but comparing them visually is difficult. Are my e deceiving me? Must yet verify observations.

3/25/2010 10:40 - 11:30 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-29 Message #169
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Cool, few very thin clouds, waxing gibbous - Back Yard Observatory

Observed YY Geminorum, variable star in the Castor system with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x. Area of the sky observed seemed very clear.
  * 10:40-10:45 When comparing YY Geminorum/Castor C to WDS Castor D, they looked very similar in magnitude and I don't believe I could count C any brighter than D.
  * Later than this, thin clouds and tree branches prevented any good C/D sighting.

3/21/2010 9:15 - 11:00 pm Mountain   Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-26 Message #167
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Cool, clear, waxing crescent moon - Back Yard Observatory

Observed YY Geminorum, variable star in the Castor system with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x.
  * 9:23 Dimmer than Castor D when out-of-focus, clearly brighter than a comparison star at about the 4 o'clock position (ESE seen inverted) from A/B and slightly farther than D. I'm finding this uncertain due to proximity of A/B, similar magnitudes of YY Gem and D, and small mag. delta of YY Gem's eclipses
  * 10:45 YY Gem once again seemed brighter that D! I must verify times of minima.

YY Geminorum Sketch Digitized sketch to identify stars.

3/18/2010 3:00 - 4:00 am Mountain   Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-04-26 Message #165
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Cold, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Preliminary scan of Messier objects in Virgo - all galaxies, and except for M104, all members of the Virgo Super Cluster: M60, M61, M84, M87, M89, M90.

Of the Virgo Cluster galaxies, M49 was the easiest target - listed with the brightest magnitude. Under suburban skies, some of the remaining cluster members were challenging even with averted vision.

The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, was a reasonably easy target, although clear distinction of its shape was not apparent.

  * ALL of the objects' nuclei were "fuzzy stars" with the exceptions of M49 and M104 being a bit more apparently something "nebulous".

  * During this hour, I observed a meteor, bright and white to blue-white traveling approx 30° to 40° west-to-east, 30°-40° off the southern horizon. It ended in a brief fire-ball over the SE horizon apparently disintegrating in the atmosphere.

3/7/2010 9:30 - 10:30 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-03-08 Message #159
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Cold, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Castor, (Alpha Geminorum) multiple star in Gemini.
Castor

Took photos through infra-red filter only applying auto-exposure and auto-contrast then experimenting with various settings increasing the exposure times as well as the gray scale maximum limit.

Using the GIMP for processing, I combined two of the resulting images to enhance C & D and avoid over-exposing A & B:

  * Layers stacked
    - align the two images
    - eliminate over-exposed A & B from the layer with visible C & D
  * Each layer locked and rotated to "north up"
  * Image flipped to correct for Schmidt-Cass east/west inversion
  * Layers combined
  * Colors | Levels - Output Levels top slider changed downward

NOTE: An object was observed moving through the eyepiece's FOV before attaching the CCD. It traveled in a straight path from approx. SW to NE, was a constant brightness of perhaps 9th mag, and passed within 10' of Castor.

2/11/2010 3:00 - 4:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-03-01 Message #158
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Cool, clear (very light 'sky haze'), no moon. Back Yard Observatory

Observed galaxies found in the Messier catalog within Leo using the C8" Schmidt-Cass.

M65 @ 81x & 120x has an obvious, if faintish, nucleus. At 120x with averted vision, its elongated shape extends NW/SE or NNW/SSE.
  *GoTo: dist 29 Mly, dia 60 Kly, mag 9.3, dia 10.0'

M66 @ 120x has a fairly obvious nucleus and with averted vision is elongated NW/SE.
  *GoTo: dist 29 Mly, dia 50 Kly, mag 9.0, dia 8.7'

M95 @ 120x is more challenging needing averted vision to see the nucleus clearly. Its shape is not apparent and @ 81x even the nucleus is in question.
  *GoTo: dist 31 Mly, dia 70 Kly, mag 9.7, dia 7.4'

M96 @ 120x has a faintish nucleus fairly obvious with averted vision and its shape is not apparent.
  *GoTo: dist 31 Mly, dia 62 Kly, mag 9.2, dia 7.1'

M105 @ 120x has a more distinct nucleus than M95/M96, but again its shape is not apparent.
  *GoTo: dist 31 Mly, dia 35 Kly, mag 9.3, dia 4.5'

2/11/2010 1:10 - 2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-03-01 Message #157
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Cold (28°), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory

Follow-up observation of 54 Leo, double star, with C8" Schmidt-Cass using 81x Celestron E-lux 25mm eyepiece. Primary is a blue-tinted silver while the companion is a bit less blue and at times has a slightly yellowish tint compared to the primary, but is a blueish star.

Algieba or Gamma Leonis, double star, with C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x shows a primary with a light goldish-yellow tint and a secondary with a more gray or silver tint.

1/30/2010 3:45 - 4:45 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-01-30 Message #156
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Cold (23°), clear, FULL moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 54 Leonis, (Struve 1487) double star in Leo, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Estimated angle a bit less than 4 o'clock (110°) and separation estimated to be single-digit arc-seconds. The primary is blue-white while the companion is yellower... pale yellow? Perhaps a bit greenish?

  * GoTo: 4.5 mag, 6.8" separation, 110° angle

I estimate the companion to be about 6.0 mag.

  * Astro League: 4.5/6.3 mag, 6.5" separation, 110° angle
  * Hubbard Sci Atlas: 4.5/6.3 mag, 6" separation, greenish-white/blue
  * Norton Atlas: 5.0/7.0 mag, 6.3" separation, angle 108°, angle slowly increasing (1923)
  * WDS Catalog: 4.48/6.30 mag, 6.9" separation, 113° angle (2008), A1V/A2Vn spectral types

NOTES: Color perception seems to be affected by both color contrast and magnitudes. The universe teaches patience.

1/26/2010 12:30 - 1:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-01-30 Message #155
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Cold, clear, waxing gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Castor, double star in Gemini, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Struck by the blueness of both the brighter stars. Again, there is clear separation of the 5 arc-seconds even at 81x and it's evident how well my observations agree with WDS data including components C and D.

1/17-18/2010 11:40 - 1:30 am Mountain   Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-01-26 Message #154
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Cold, VERY clear, no moon. Back yard observatory.

Observed the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392) Planetary Nebula in Gemini, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 240x. A bright, nearly stellar center is surrounded by a round cloud, like a gradient fading from the center outward. With averted vision, it is estimated at less than 1 arc minute in diameter. GoTo: 0.7 arc minutes, 10.0 mag. A star of similar mag is about 2' north.

Observed Castor, double star in Gemini, at 81x and 240x to verify earlier observation. I see no 3rd mag star at 171°, but definitely see a star of that mag at 2 o'clock (approx 60°). There are two much-fainter stars, one at about 5 o'clock (approx 150°) and about 1 to 1.5 arc minutes distant. The other is between 7-8 o'clock (approx 210-240°) and about 3x the distance of the first.

The WDS (Washington Double Star) Catalog confirms that these are 3rd and 4th components of this system. The first: 70.5", 164°, 9.83 mag. The second: 183", 221°, 10.07 mag.

1/9/2010 12:00 - 1:45 am Mountain   Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-01-26 Message #153
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Cold, extremely clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Castor (Alpha Geminorum) double star, with C8" Schmidt-Cass. Primary is silver-white, secondary blue-silver. Basic star atlas lists 5" separation which is CLEAR at only 81x tonight! The atlas lists magnitudes at 2.0 and 2.8 and I estimate orientation angle at about 2 o'clock or 60°.

NOTES:

Both of the following sources appear to be in conflict with my observations
GoTo (mag 1.6, separation 1.8", angle 171°, epoch/yr ?)
Astro League (mag 1.9/2.9, separation 2.2", angle 171°, epoch/yr 2000.0)

These sources agree more closely esp when considering how the angle has changed over time.
Norton (mag 2.0/2.8, separation 3.9", angle 209°, epoch/yr 1937)
Hubbard Sci (mag 2.0/2.8, separation 5", angle ?, epoch/yr 2000?)
WDS Catalog (mag 1.93/2.97, separation 4.7", angle 58°, epoch/yr 2008)

1/9/2010 12:00 - 1:45 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2010-01-09 Message #150
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Cold (about 17°), partly cloudy to clear toward end of observing time, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

First observation of 2010!

Observed 145 Canis Majoris, double star with C8" Schmidt-Cass, and again I found strikingly beautiful contrast between the golden orange-yellow primary at mag. 5.0 and its pale turquoise-blue companion at mag. 7.0. On Nov. 26th 2009, I estimated orientation at 45°. Tonight, I estimated the orientation to be 55° to 60°, and again for reference, it's listed at 65° in my GoTo database.

Observed Adhara, (Epsilon Canis Majoris) a double star. Primary is a very bright bluish-white 1.6 magnitude star less that 20° off the southwest horizon showing a fair amount of atmospheric "twinkling" that yeilds some rainbow refraction colors. It overwhelmed its companion only 8" distant at magnitude 9.0. On Nov. 26th 2009, I could not see the companion at 81x and tonight I also attempted 120x, 162x, and 240x with the same result.

12/20/2009 1:50 - 3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #149
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Cold, some thin clouds, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Eta Puppis, double star, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Both stars appear silver and so nearly the same mag. that I cannot determine which is primary. I estimate angle of orientation to be 4 o'clock / 10 o'clock being either 120° or 300°. Separation only several arc seconds. (GoTo info: 5.9 mag, 10.0", 117°)

Observed Kappa Puppis, double stars, at 81x. Both stars appear bluish-silver and are so very close in mag. (as in Eta) that I cannot determine primary. Estimated andgle of orientation is 4:30 o'clock / 10:30 o'clock being 135° / 315°. Again, separation is several arc seconds. (GoTo info: 4.6 mag, 10.0", 318°)

Observed M93, open cluster in Puppis, at 81x. My first impression is "delicate and irregular". All of the members are fainter stars so colors are indistinct. GoTo info describes this object as V-shaped with a central void and I can agree with that description. The V shape points like an arrow to the southwest. (GoTo info: 6.2 mag, 22.0' diameter) I can be certain of approx. 15' visual size, but the irregular shape somewhat blends the periphery into the surrounding field.

12/15/2009 2:00 - 2:50 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #148
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Cold, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M1, (Crab Nebula) supernova remnant in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass and Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD.
Crab Nebula

Took photos through infra-red, read, green, and blue filters - each with using the following settings:

  * 2.0 second exposures combined for 300 - 400 seconds
  * Darks newly generated and applied
  * On a 0 - 65535 gray scale, minimum limit 5930, maximum limit 6446

NOTE: This image was barely visible against the background light pollution and so is a little grainy due to aggressive processing

Using the GIMP for processing, the following tools were applied:

  * Layers stacked IR, R, G, B with all but the bottom set to Mode: "screen"
  * Each layer's Opacity set to 50%, moved and rotated while zoomed to align image pixels
  * Colors ; Color Balance tool applied to red, green, and blue layers for coloration,
    in some cases subtracting the appropriate color with the Shadows slider
    while increasing the Midtones and Highlights sliders

  * Colors ; Brightness-Contrast tool applied (both +) multiple times to enhance detail visibility
  * Colors ; Levels - Output Levels bottom slider changed multiple times to darken background
  * Filters ; Enhance ; Unsharp Mask applied to sharpen detail

12/14/2009 2:05 - 2:25 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #147
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Cold, clear, no moon. Back Yard.

Observed Geminids, December meteor shower, naked-eye in a lawn recliner looking straight up at Castor and Pollux. I definitely saw 7 meteors and probably saw 2 more for a count of 9. With some obstructions around me, I believe I had a reasonably good FOV looking up at approx. zenith. All meteors appeared white, radiated out from the Geminid radiant near Castor, and commonly spanned about 10° of sky.

12/13/2009 1:30 - 3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #146
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Observed M1, supernova remnant in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. With averted vision, the slightly irregular-shaped puff-of-smoke becomes more obvious.

Observed M35, open cluster in Gemini, at 81x. Many bright stars. Fills the approx. 30' FOV. (GoTo info: 75 stars, 2200 LY dist, 30 LY dia, 28'/5.0 mag.)

Observed M37, open cluster in Auriga, at 81x. Bright stars in a nice field. (GoTo info: 150 stars, 4600 LY dist, 25 LY dia, 2500 suns lum, 24'/5.6 mag)

Observed M36, open cluster in Auriga, at 81x. Bright blue stars. (GoTo info: 4600 LY dist, 25 LY dia, 8000 suns lum, 12'/6.0 mag)

Observed M38, open cluster in Auriga, at 81x. This cluster is striking in its dense population of stars - with averted vision around the field, the many fainter members become very obvious! (GoTo info: hundreds of stars, 4200 LY dist, 25 LY dia, 21' / 6.4 mag)

Observed 38 Gemini, double star, at 81x and 120x. At 81x, the 7" separation was visible but better at 120x. The primary component is a bluish polished silver while its fainter companion is copper. Orientation estimated at 135°-140°. (GoTo info: 4.7 mag) WDS Catalog lists angle of orientation at 146° and spectral type F0 (white).

11/30/2009 11:15 - 11:45 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #145
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Cold, wispy clouds, nearly full moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Mintaka, (Delta Orionis) double star in Orion, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Even with the less-than-ideal conditions, while Orion was in a clearer area of the sky, the primary was a bright bluish-white (at mag. 2.2) and the companion was much dimmer and showed a deeper blue (with a hint of green?). Separation of 53" is listed in the GoTo database and I estimate orientation at 180°. There is another star in the field approx. 8'-9' from the primary at approx. 15°. Associated? I don't believe it is based on Washington Double Star Catalog info.

NOTE: My own orientation at the eyepiece was confused while viewing with the scope on the west side of the tripod! The orientation of the companion is listed by the WDS Catalog at 0° so the 15° estimate of the other star has to be in question although I may be able to add 180°. Nevertheless, I see no system memeber in the WDS listed at 8'-9' of separation.

11/26/2009 12:50 - ?? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #144
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Cold (about 32°), clear, moon-set. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M1, (Crab Nebula) supernova remnant in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Appears to be a slightly grainy puff-of-dust-or-smoke with averted vision from my urban back yard. I don't see any advantage in viewing this object at 120x. I would estimate its size to be 5'-6'. There are 2 modestly prominent stars in the FOV: one is about 10' from center to the north (or a bit east of north) and the other about 7' southeast. At 6500 LY, distant and 10 LY across, my estimated 5'-6' size agrees well.

Observed M41, open cluster in Taurus, at 81x. This striking cluster easily fills the approx. 30' FOV with subtle variations in its stars' colors ranging from bluish to orangish-yellow.

Observed Adhara, (Epsilon Canis Majoris) a double star. Primary is a very bright greenish-blue star overwhelming its companion only 8" distant with magnitudes 1.6 and 9.0. Could not see the companion at 81x.

Observed 145 Canis Majoris, double star, and found beautiful contrast between the orange-yellow primary at mag. 5.0 and its pale turquoise-blue companion at mag. 7.0. I estimated the orientation to be 45°, and it's listed at 65° in my GoTo database. I estimated separation to be no more than 1' and it's listed at 27" in the GoTo database.

11/20/2009 approx. 3:00 - 4:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #140
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Cold, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M42, Great Orion Nebula, with C8" Schmidt-Cass and Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD.
Great Orion Nebula

Took photos through infra-red, red, green, and blue filters - each with the following settings:

  * 2.8 second exposures combined for 360 seconds
  * Darks newly generated and applied
  * On a 0 - 65535 gray scale, minimum limit 6264, maximum limit 11915

Using the GIMP for processing, the following tools were applied:

  * Layers stacked IR, R, G, B with all but the bottom set to Mode: "screen"
  * Each layer's Opacity set to 50%, moved and rotated while zoomed to align image pixels
  * Colors ; Color Balance tool applied to red, green, and blue layers for coloration
  * Colors ; Brightness-Contrast tool applied (both +) to enhance detail visibility
  * Colors ; Levels - Output Levels bottom slider changed to darken background
  * Filters ; Enhance ; Unsharp Mask applied to sharpen detail

11/10/2009 2:10 - 2:50 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #139
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Clear, cold - waning cresent moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M1, supernova remnant in Taurus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. With averted vision, along with slightly moving the scope's FOV, could see this object as a smudge of light or a wisp of smoke. Better at 81x. Moderately prominent stars at 1 o'clock / approx. 10' from center and 5 o'clock / approx. 7' from center.

Observed Alcyone, brightest member of M45 (Pleiades in Taurus), at 81x and 120x. Nebulosity visible nicely with averted vision at either power. Triangle of bright, but less prominent stars to the NW of Alcyone.

10/17/2009 2:30 - 4:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-21 Message #137
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Cool, very clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M42, Great Orion Nebula, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Swirls and wisps very apparent in clouds. Trapezium is so distinct. Dark clouds running NW-SE with a large nodule protruding toward the trapezium... somewhat like wings and the head of a bird... with 3 stars in a row to the north of the head. The bright clouds form a large extension of these wings and head spreading out of the FOV and the bright "head" engulfing the trapezium and miniature "Orion's belt".

Another prominent star to the south seems to be surrounded by nebulosity.

NOTE:
  *Miniature "Orion's belt" runs approx E-W.

  *Trapezium is like a tiny "Pleiades square" with the northern star brightest - "Alcyone's cousin".

10/7/2009 2:30 - 3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-12-20 Message #135
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Cool, clear, waning gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed NGC 752, open cluster in Andromeda, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Beautiful field of fainter-magnitude stars filling the approx 30' FOV if not spilling out beyond. There is a brighter star in the southern portion that, at first, seemed to have a light orange-ish yellow tint.

Nice field of stars even in the moon light. Miniature "Pegasus Square" in the eastern part of the field. Two stars quite close together at the NW edge of the field.


9/26/2009 2:00 - 4:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-26 Message #133
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Cool (very), clear, no moon (1st quarter had set). Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M 52 - open cluster in Cassiopeia with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. Fainter cluster with predominant star a light orangish-yellow. (NOAO photo agrees)

Observed Eta Cassiopeiae, double star, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. Primary component silver, secondary component copper - significantly dimmer. Estimated orientation 300° (10 o'clock) and estimated separation only several arc seconds.
  * WDS: AB 323°, 13.0", mags 3.52 7.36, spec types G0V dM0
Upon closer examination, there is a significantly fainter-yet star approx. 5x-6x more separation at about 120-135° orientation. A 3rd member?
  * WDS: AE 124°, 82.6", mags 3.52 10.15
Further examination of field while reviewing WDS data. Another component? approx. 350° at 10'-11' separation (based on FOV). Yet another component? approx. 235° (about 8 o'clock) at 7'.
  * WDS: AH 355°, 684.7", mags 3.52 8.41
  * WDS: AG 258°, 418.7", mags 3.52 9.53

NOTE: Cannot verify any of the 11th or 12th magnitude components tonight, but this is a septuple system according to the WDS Catalog!

9/18/2009 11:15 pm - 2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-19 Message #132
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Cool (very), clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 94 Aquarii (double star) with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Looks like a car in the distance with one headlight and one parking light. Primary is silver with faint amount of greenish tint. Secondary is dull gold or bronze in color. Estimated orientation 350° with estimated separation only several arc seconds.
  * WDS: AB 351deg;, 12.3", mags 5.27 6.97, spec type G5IV ?

Observed 107 Aquarii (double star) at 81x. Both white - primary perhaps slightly blue tinted. Orientation estimated at 135°/SE and separation estimated at single-digit arc seconds.
  * WDS: 136deg;, 6.9", mags 5.65 6.46, spec types A9IV F2V

Observed Tau(1) Aquarii (double star) at 81x Primary white, secondary much dimmer so color indistinct. Estimated orientation 135°/SE and estimated separation only several arc seconds.
  * WDS: AB 126deg;, 21.0", mags 5.68 9.57, spec type A0V

Beginning at approx. 1:00 am, observed the Saturn Nebula/Caldwell 55, planetary nebula in Aquarius, about 30° off the WSW horizon. At 80x and 120x this object is obviously not stellar. At 240x, it looks like a lightly blue-tinted cotton ball. With carefull observation, there is a slightly elongated, elliptical appearance at a 2 o'clock/8 o'clock angle for the "major axis" (with north at 12 o'clock and east at 3 o'clock). With averted vision, there is a faint sense of a "line" along the "major axis". Upon further examination with averted vision, the "line" appears to extend just beyond the object in both directions.

  * NOTE: A previous observation of Caldwell 55 on 8/13/2009 is worth comparison. This object was definitely worth investigating at higher power!

9/8/2009 1:15-2:?? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #131
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Cool, mostly clear, waning gibbous moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Psi Piscium, double star in Pisces with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. With 81x Celestron eyepiece, first look showed the northern component greenish blue and the southern component blue with a hint of violet. The 120x Orion eyepiece rendered two light blue stars with the northern only a bit more green tinted. Estimated orientation at 330deg; and separation roughly 20".

  * NOTE: While observing this object again on 9/12 at about 2am and reviewing its associated Washington Star Catalog (WDS) entry, I realized that a previous entry made on 9/22/2008 had a mistaken assumption. The third star in the photo was a third member of this system!
See:
Psi Piscium

8/28/2009 1:00-2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #130
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Cool, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 30, spiral galaxy in Pegasus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass - photographing this object with Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II CCD:
  * experimented with various contrast and exposure settings
  * IR Meade filter was used
  * Darks applied for noise-to-signal ratio

C43   * Notice the background galaxy at 332 million light years!

I processed the image above with the GIMP using:
  * Brightness-Contrast
    - Brightness 64
    - Contrast 48
  * Despeckle
    - Radius 2
    - Black 7
    - White 248
  * Unsharp Mask
    - Radius 0.1
    - Amount 1.0
    - Threshold 48
  * Levels input set at 30 to darken sky and signal noise

8/27/2009 2:00-4:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #129
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Cool, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 43, a galaxy in Pegasus with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x. Barely visible at the threshold of averted vision! Photographed this object with Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II CCD:
  * 2 second exposures combined for a total of 503 seconds
  * IR Meade filter was used
  * Auto-contrast was disabled with min/max values of 5993/6288 on a 0-64k scale
  * Darks applied for noise-to-signal ratio

C43

I processed the image above with the GIMP using the Brightness-Contrast, Despeckle, and Levels tools,

Observed Caldwell 30, spiral galaxy in Pegasus from approx. 2-3 am at 120x. Much more visible. Pronounced magnitude difference. Spiral galaxy in Pegasus.

8/24/2009 1:00-?? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #128
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My backyard observatory. Cool, clear, no moon.

Observed Caldwell 15 with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass using Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II CCD:

C15

I processed the image above with the GIMP using the Color Balance, Brightness-Contrast, and Levels tools to create 4 layers of IR, red, green, and blue data. Unsharp Masking was applied and layer attributes were set to "Screen". The IR layer was left black and white while the others were colored and stacked.

  * The "blink" effect was created with GIMP processing to approximate the optical illusion seen at the eyepiece. The original photo is the version with the brighter nebula.

8/22/2009 10:00-?? pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #127
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Cool, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed double star Ras-Algethi (Alpha Herculis) with Matt H. Using C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80, 120, 160, and 240x, we both agreed that the primary component was a golden orange. The secondary component tended to look greenish or blue-greenish to me and blueish to violet to Matt. Separation must be only a few arc seconds and I estimate orientation to be about 110° (more than 3 o'clock and no more than 4 o'clock).

8/21/2009 9:30-?? pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #126
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Cool, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed M 17, the Omega Nebula in Sagittarius. In Wikipedia, this object is listed at 5-6 thousand light years distant and 15 light years in diameter. With the C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x, the nebulosity appears elongated in an ESE/WNW direction. Definitely more visible with averted vision. The elongated dimension is perhaps 2/3 FOV at 120x, so at 80x I get approx 30' FOV making 120x approx. 21' FOV, 2/3 of which yields 14'. (At 5K light years, an object 15 light years across will appear 10'+ in size)

8/21/2009 1:00-2:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #125
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Cool, clear, moon near new. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 30 with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 240x. This object in Pegasus, high overhead, appears to be a galaxy with a brighter nucleus and elliptical haze around it at the higher magnification. At 81x it only appears to be a small, indistinct, non-stellar object. The elliptical "major axis" is roughly NW-SE. I cannot determine whether the foreground part of the object is the SW or NE side.

  * I found a source online listing this object as a 9.5 magnitude spiral galaxy 47 million light years distant.

8/16/2009 1:15-2:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #124
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Extra cool, clear, waning crescent moon rising. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 15 (planetary "blinking" nebula in Cygnus) at 81x and 240x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. Myra, my daughter, and Ra'ad, her friend, joined me. Ra'ad agreed that the "fuzzy star" at 81x clearly became a nebulous object with brighter center at 240x. The "blinking" at 81x seemed a little less pronounced tonight. (Clearer seeing? Knew what to expect?)

Observed Albireo (double star in Cygnus) at 81x. Ra'ad said "wow" when seeing the bright color contrast.

Observed Jupiter at 120x with a medium blue filter. Both Myra and Ra'ad saw the GRS which had transited approx. 1 hour earlier. Ra'ad agreed that he could see striations and had a "sense" of variations in rotational speed and direction. Myra said that the view was "even better than before". By 2:30 am, Ganymede was occulted behind the western limb and the GRS western edge appeared close to touching the western limb. GRS very light oval appearing more centered in the South Equatorial Belt.

  * North edge of GRS seems more flush with edge of belt?

8/13/2009 2:30-3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #123
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Cool, clear, last quarter moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 55, planetary nebula in Aquarius. Perhaps about 35° off the southwestern horizon. At 81x with C8" Schmidt-Cass this object was not like a point-source star, somewhat fuzzy and irregular - maybe roundish, maybe quadrilateral. At 120x, somewhat fainter haze around the periphery seems to come into view with averted vision.

NOTE: In a sparse field, there is a moderately brightish star approx. 55°-60° orientation and 8' distant.

  * Saw 3 Perseids during the night!  

8/12/2009 10:20-10:?? pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #122
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Cool, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed 95 Herculis with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Only several arc seconds separation. Primary? silver, secondary component brass at approx. 240° orientation. Like metal lit from within. High overhead but past transit. Double star.

Observed M 92, globular cluster in Hercules. A bit smaller than M 13 but a very nice globular cluster looking like sparkling dust - better at 120x than 80x.

Observed another double star in Hercules, Rasalgethi at 120x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. Only a few arc seconds separation with estimated orientation 120°. Primary component goldish-bright brass and secondary dimmer and dullish brass.

8/12/2009 1:00-2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-15 Message #121
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Cool, clear, moon close to last quarter. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 15 in Cygnus with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80, 120, 160, and 240x. At 81x, the object, before I familiarized myself, looked like a star having a bit of haze around it especially with averted vision. At 120x, I suspected a globular cluster. At 160x and 240x, the haze became clearer yet - tolerating magnification very well. The nucleus seemed to be unusually bright and distinct. Referencing Caldwell 15 online, I find it to be a planetary nebula with bright, concentrated center and surrounding cloud having a somewhat 2-lobed or dual-polar structure that isn't distinct tonight (considering moon light?).

NOTE: There is a star just a bit dimmer than the bright nucleus approx. 2' distant and oriented in a 210° direction from the nucleus's center.

8/10/2009 11:30-?? Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #120
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* Continuation of previous entry (Tyler is asleep now):

At 11:33, Europa was clearly exiting occultation - NOTE: - striations nicely visible tonight and the darkish southern region is smaller but a bit darker than the northern region. This northern region appears to have a thin line at its south edge. At 12:24 am 8/11, Io was clearly exiting its occultation at the planet's eastern limb.

At 1:47 am 8/11, the Great Red Spot (GRS) was at transit, by 2:30 its eastern edge was leaving the meridian and by 3:15 its western edge nearly appeared to contact the planet's western limb.

8/10/2009 9:30-10:15 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #119
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Cool, clear, moonrise at 9:56 pm - waning gibbous. Back Yard Observatory.

Grandson, Tyler, and I observed M 13 high overhead before moonrise with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x and 120x. Looks like a round puff of sparkling dust with averted vision. Better at 120x.

Observed M 57 high overhead at about moonrise. At 120x Tyler commented "it really does look like a doughnut with a hole in the middle".

We then observed Jupiter low in the southeast with a medium blue filter and watched Io move behind the planet's western limb. Callisto is to the west about 10 diameters and Ganymede to the east about  8 diameters. As Io disappeared, Tyler commented something like "yeah, it really is gone".

  * Europa exits occultation 5:32 UT
  * Io exits occultation 6:24 UT
  * GRS transits 7:47 UT

8/9/2009 1:15-2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #118
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Cool, clear, waning gibbous moon about 3-4 days past full.

With C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x -

Observed Neptune - beautiful turquoise blue even with moon - disk not apparent at 81x

Observed Albireo. Primary pale yellow and companion light blue - even in the moon light. Striking as always.

Saw a Perseid meteor looking a bit west of south, approx. 30° off horizon, moving north to south, approx. 10° trail - yellowish goldish.

8/3/2009 2:00-3:40 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #117
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Cool, clear, no moon. Back Yard Observatory.

Observed Caldwell 47, globular cluster in Delphinus, with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 80, 120, 160, and 240x. In a sparse field, there is a moderately bright star just west of the cluster perhaps 1' or more from its center. At 81x, I was unsure whether I saw a globular cluster or a galactic nucleus. At greater magnifications, the  object becomes more apparent and, as magnification increases, with averted vision, individual stars seem to lie just at vision's threshold.

8/3/2009 12:40-?? Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #116
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Back Yard Observatory - Clear, cool, waxing gibbous moon.

Waxing gibbous moon about 20° off the SW horizon. Observed Albireo (Beta Cygni) with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x. Even with the moon light, the A member is distinctly pale yellow and the B member is distinctly light blue. I estimate orientation at 30° and separation somewhere in the magnitude of 1/2' to 1'. Basic star chart collection lists separation at 35".

8/1-2/2009 11:30-12:45 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #114
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Cool clear, waning gibbous moon. Back yard observatory.

Observed the Moon with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x with adjustable dual polarized filter. Objects of interest: Tycho crater, Copernicus crater, Mare Musium, Mare Humorium, Gassendi crater.

The eastern ridges of Mare Humorium and Gassendi are very nicely displayed in relief due to their proximity to the terminator. The rays of Copernicus and especially Tycho are nicely visible. I can estimate Tycho's rays at up to 700-800 miles - one extending NW to Mare Nectaris!

What is the ray-like feature extending across Mare Serenitatis starting or ending apparently at Mt. Haemus and continuing nearly to the limb?!

8/1/2009 1:45-3:00 am Mountain   Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #113
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Cool clear, no moon (earlier rain). Back yard observatory.

Observed Caldwell 37 / NGC 6885, open cluster in Vulpecula, the fox. With C8" Schmidt-Cass at 81x, a bright star (20 Vulpecula) is predominant in the field surrounded by a nice collection of stars of various magnitudes - without remarkable coloration (perhaps most are close to the HR A-F color range?). The brightest star is east of center of the cluster. Another star of similar brightness is just north of the cluster at the edge of the 81x eyepiece's FOV. Object high in the sky during observation.

7/24/2009 3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #112
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool, clear, no moon.

Observed M27 with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass using Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II CCD:
  * 5.7 second exposures combined for a total of approx. 24 minutes
  * IR, red, green, and blue Meade filters were used - each for approx. 6 minutes
  * Auto-contrast was set with min/max values of 5962/7211 on a 0-64k scale
  * Darks applied for noise-to-signal ratio
  * Scope alignment was good so that software tracking allowed for minimum drift

M27

I processed the image above with the GIMP using the Color Balance, Brightness-Contrast, and Levels tools to create 4 layers of IR, red, green, and blue data. Unsharp Masking was applied and layer attributes were set to "Screen". The IR layer was left black and white while the others were colored and stacked.

7/22/2009 3:45-4:?? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #111
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, no moon. Back yard observatory.

Observed Jupiter with C8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using an Orion #80A medium blue filter. Features nicely visible including a slightly darkish northern region with a thin band at the edge approximately 20° north latitude. Major dark bands just north and south of the equator visible with some striations while the southern band had a slightly dual appearance. The southern region appears a bit darker than the northern from 40°-45° south latitude to the pole. Two moons to the east at about 1 1/2 and 4 diameters from the limb and one slightly brighter moon to the west at about 2 diameters from the limb.

NOTE: This observation shows two distinct dark spots - one very close to the west limb at 4:00 and just at the edge by 4:15 - very close to the equator. Another somewhat less prominent dark spot was about 1/5 of the distance in from the east limb to the west just south of the equator. By 4:30 this spot is 40%-45% across the planet's diameter close to the meridian with a prominent  feature in the dark band south of the equator trailing - a light oval.

Tonight, the detail  within each belt/region is incredible!

This sketch has verified observed objects labeled.
Jupiter sketch  Jupiter sketch Inverted and somewhat digitized version.

7/18/2009 2:45-3:15 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #109
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, rising waning crescent moon. Back yard observatory.

Observed Epsilon Pegasi at 120x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. The A component is pale golden yellow. The B component is like a small spark in grey-violet ash - much less bright in contrast. Estimated orientation at 315° with a separation somewhere near 1 1/2 arc-minutes. Much contrast in both color and magnitude. This star is also named Enif.

7/18/2009 12:00-12:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-14 Message #108
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, no moon. Back yard observatory.

Observed M13 at 81x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. Individual stars begin to resolve nicely with averted vision. With 120x the resolving of individual stars is much more remarkable - brighter sparks against a dimmer haze. There is the impression of a subdued filament-like pattern in the cluster - but is it the pattern of only some of the brighter stars in the cluster?

7/17/2009 12:00-1:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-07 Message #107
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, no moon. Back yard observatory.  

Observed double star Zeta Lyrae at 81x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. A memeber pale green. B member pale violet. Orientation approx. 150° with separation estimated to be at least 1/2 arc-minute.

7/16/2009 9:45-10:15 pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-07 Message #106
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, no moon. Back yard observatory.  

Observed double star Xi Boötis at 81x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. A component slightly tarnished silver (blue-green?). B member dull gold. Orientation approx. 305° at single-digit arc-second separation.

7/16/2009 1:00-2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-09-07 Message #105
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, waning crescent moon 1 day past last quarter just rising. Back yard observatory.  

Observed double star 17 Cygni at 81x with C8" Schmidt-Cass. A component looks silver at 5th magnitude. B component looks copper/bronze at 9th magnitude and about 60° orientation. Listed at 26" separation and "Red-Blue" in my basic star finder (which I disagree with). Component C is approx. 5x further from A at about 125-130° orientation. C appears a little dimmer than B and its color indistinct.

Washington Double Star Catalog lists A-B orientation at 69° and separation at 26.3". A-C orientation is placed at 129° and separation at 115.7".

2/27-28/2009 11:45 -1:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-03-30 Message #95
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool clear, no moon. Back Yard.

Again, observed Lulin w/ 10x50 binoculars. Again moved approx 6° over the last 24 hrs. Close to Upsilon Leonis, west of Regulus. With averted vision, coma is obvious, nucleus comes in and out of vision and a faint tail seems to be at the threshold of averted vision to the east.

  * Each of the 3 Lulin observations was carefully sketched for posion against key background stars.

See this digital photo with comet positions and labels added.
Comet Lulin

2/27/2009 12:45 -1:30? am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-03-30 Message #94
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool, clear - no moon. Back yard.

Observed Lulin again with Bushnell 10x50 binoculars. Moved about 1 full FOV since last night's observation. Bushnell permafocus wide angle binoculars have a 393' FOV @ 1000 yds which yields a 7.5° FOV. The nucleus and coma are visible w/ averted vision. The tail may barely show extending east, but from our vantage point, it's near time for the tail's apparent direction to "flip".

NOTE: Real FOV for 10x50s closer to 6°.

2/26/2009 2:30-3:15 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2009-03-30 Message #93
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear. No moon. Back yard.

Observed Comet Lulin (2007 N3) with Bushnell 10x50 binoculars. More than 2/3 from Saturn to Regulus. A faint tail pointing approximately east could be seen with averted vision. Coma a fuzzy object easily large enough not to be a star. Nucleus just on the verge of my vision with averted vision. Some haze @ end of session.

Sketched position carefully against key background stars.

12/13/2008 12:30-1:50 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-12-15 Message #91
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and clear - moon.about 1 day past full

Observed Chi Tauri with my C8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x. This sketch has been digitally worked and colored to represent the actual view seen at the eyepiece.
Chi Tauri

The primary star appears pale blue with a hint of green while its companion appears grayish, then indistinct, then yellowish-orange like a tiny amber in the ashes. I estimate its orientation at 20° while the Astronomical League lists it at 24°.

The Washington Double Star Catalog lists Chi Tauri specs as of 2007:
  * Orientation 24°
  * Separation 19.1"
  * Magnitudes 5.37 8.54
  * Spectral Types B9 F8
  

9/22/2008 2:00-3:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-09-22 Message #90
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and a few misty clouds - waning moon.just past last quarter
Psi Piscium
Observed Psi(1) Piscium with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass using Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II CCD. North is up.

I processed the image above with the GIMP - a tweaked version of the original image to represent more closely the experience of seeing this system in the eyepiece without the pronounced size of the brighter, somewhat over-exposed binary stars. Notice the much fainter star to the right of the pair which is not a member of this system.

The colors to me are striking with the northern star just a bit greenish tinted compared to its southern companion.

9/22/2008 1:00-1:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-09-22 Message #89
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and a few misty clouds - waning moon.just past last quarter

Observing with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x, 120x, and 240x

Observed Zeta Aquarii
  - White/white; mag 4.3, 4.5; 1.8" separation!
  - Astro League's angle: 266° / estimated: 345°

NOTES: I have to call into question the Astronomical League's angle posted at http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/dblstar/dblstar2.html based on what I saw as nearly north/south and not nearly east/west. Also, I was unable to separate the stars at 81x and it was questionable at 120x, but at 240x both stars were apparent. (Orion 17mm Plossl + barlow)

9/20/2008 12:00-3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-09-21 Message #87
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and clear - waning gibbous moon.

Observing with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x

Further notes on some double stars:
  61 Cygnus
    - Light gold/light orange-gold; mag 5.2, 6.0; 28" separation
    - Astro League's angle: 146° / estimated: SE (135°)
  Enif (Epsilon Pegasi)
    - Light yellow/gray-violet; mag 2.4, 8.4 ; 142" separation
    - Astro League's angle: 320° / estimated: NW (315°)
    * My daughter, Myra, sees the companion as green-blue
  Psi(1) Piscium I'm calling this the turquoise binary!
    - greenish turquoise/turquoise; mag 5.6, 5.8; 30" separation
    - Astro League's angle: 159° / estimated: SE to SSE (135-157.5°)

* Working on sharpening up angle estimates

9/16/2008 3:10-3:40 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-09-21 Message #84
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and clear - moon one night past full.

Observing with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass @ 81x

Notes on some double stars:
  Almach (Gamma Andromedae)
    - Yellow/blue; mag 2.3, 5.5; 10" separation
    - Astro League's angle: 63° / estimated: 40-45°
  Gamma Arietis
    - White/white; mag 4.8, 4.8; 8" separation
    - Astro League's angle: 0° / estimated: 5-10°
  Lambda Arietis
    - White/blue; mag 4.9, 7.7; 38" separation
    - Astro League's angle: 46° / estimated: 25-30°

* Need to sharpen up angle estimates - can be 5-20° off!

8/31/2008 1:00-2:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-08-31 Message #81
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*

Enif
My backyard observatory. Cool with patchy very thin clouds... no moon.

I observed double star Epsilon Pegasi, or Enif with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO CCD. The brighter primary star at magnitude 2.4 appeared light yellow while the much dimmer companion at magnitude 8.4 appeared gray-violet. These stars are visually 142" apart and north is up with east/west inversion corrected to represent actual sky orientation.

It should be noted that even when using the SkyAtlas 2000.0, the very symbol used to represent the primary star Enif encompasses nearly the entire FOV of the scope at 81x!

The open source planetarium software KStars with the latest Tycho-2 star catalog loaded and custom FOV (Field Of View) symbols added was used to assist in a positive identification of the dimmer companion. The GIMP was used for final color processing using photos taken through red, green, and blue filters.

8/28/2008 2:00-3:00 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-08-28 Message #80
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and clear... no moon.

I observed double star Epsilon Pegasi, or Enif with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass and a Celestron E-lux 25mm eyepiece yielding about 81x. The brighter primary star at magnitude 2.4 appeared light yellow while the much dimmer companion at magnitude 8.4 appeared gray-violet. These stars are visually 142" apart and the direction of the dimmer companion from the primary is 315° - 320°.

Noting the direction and separation of the companion in this eyepiece's approximately 30' FOV helped to identify it!

8/12/2008 1:00-1:30 am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-08-24 Message #79
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*

61 Cygni
My backyard observatory. Cool and clearing... waxing gibbous moon setting.

I observed 61 Cygni once again with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass and a Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO CCD.

I captured each grey-scale image through RGB filters with these settings in the CCD software.
  * Exposure: 0.0156 seconds
  * Combine checked
  * Histogram sliders set to 5935 and 8453
  * Total image time 30 seconds

Using GIMP:
  Red Image:
  * Brightness -30
  * Levels bottom slider 8
  * Color-balance midtones/highlights Red 100
  * JPG quality 100%

  Green Image:
   * Levels bottom slider 8
   * Color-balance midtones/highlights Green 100
   * JPG quality 100%

  Blue Image:
   * Contrast +10
   * Levels middle slider 1.10
   * Color-balance midtones Blue 100

  OPEN AS LAYERS:
   * Red
      - Normal mode

   * Green
      - Levels bottom slider 6
      - Overlay mode

   * Blue
      - Brightness +30
      - Overlay mode

  COMBINE LAYERS:
   * Color-balance midtones/highlights Yellow -100
   * Color-balance midtones/highlights Yellow -100

8/5/2008 2:15-3:00am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-08-11 Message #78
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and clearing after a partly-cloudy night earlier... no moon.

I observed 61 Cygni with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass and a Celestron E-lux 25mm eyepiece yielding about 81x. This binary system looks like polished gold with the slightly dimmer B member looking just a little more red-ish tinted than its companion star. The two component stars are separated by 24" and shine at magnitudes 5.21 and 6.03. Classified K5 and K7, these stars are orange main-sequence stars smaller than the sun, so their visual color seemed to well-represent actual color.

What makes this system so interesting is that it is the first system whose distance from the earth was measured other than our sun itself. A rapid proper motion suggests that these stars are not native to the Milky Way galaxy.

6/30/2008 2:15-4:00am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-07-02 Message #75
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
My backyard observatory. Cool and clear with a little haze and a waning crescent moon just rising around 3am.

Jupiter and Ganymede's Shadow
Observed Jupiter while Ganymede's shadow was crossing the face of the planet. The dark spot to upper left is the shadow and the fainter spot to its right and near center is Ganymede itself!

Using my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass with a Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO CCD, I captured this image with the following settings.

CCD Software:
  -Exposure 0.0020-0.0116 seconds
  -Total time 30-120 seconds
  -Histogram upper limit 18,000-28,000
  -"Auto Contrast" UN-checked
  -"Darks" UN-checked

* The best results seemed to be when leaving upper limit at 28,000 and adjusting the exposure for each RGB filter, then combining exposures for 120 seconds.

The GIMP
  -Increased midtones of proper channel for each RGB filtered image to 100%
  -Green and blue layers were set over red with their modes set to "Overlay"
  -Unsharp masking was applied to the color image
    *Radius 0.2
    *Amount 0.91
    *Threshold 0
  -Brightness and contrast were both set to -4
  -Last, rotation and cropping

See this image for a notated Black & White tweaked to reveal other moons!
Jupiter and Ganymede's Shadow

6/7/2008 3:30-4:15am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-06-08 Message #73
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear, no moon - my back yard observatory.

Observed M57, The Ring Nebula, with my C8 8" Schmidt-Cass first at 160x visually. Differences of brightness within the ring structure were apparent. With averted vision, strands within the nebula and the central star are just discernible.

Using my Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD, the following settings yielded the image below.
  - "Dark Sub" checked to eliminate device white noise and artifacts.
  - Exposure 1.4 seconds
  - "Combine" checked
  - "Auto Contrast" UN-checked
  - Adjusted limit sliders on histogram
    * Upper = 7102
    * Lower = 5900
  - Exposure total time 150 seconds

The GIMP's "Levels" tool was used to refine brightness and contrast over all channels. Unsharp masking was applied with:
  Radius: 25.0
  Amount: 0.70
  Threshold: 1
M57

5/24/2008 2:30-4:00am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-24 Message #72
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear, waning gibbous moon - my back yard.

Observed the binary Graffias (Beta Scorpii) with my C8 8" Schmidt-Cass at 160x this time with no filter (see second entry below). The brighter star in this system looked bluish-white and the dimmer companion was a grayish-violet which at times had a greenish tint.

These stars are 530 light years distant and visually separated by 14". Both are hot B-type stars and have magnitude values of 2.56 and 4.90. Visual separation was very clear.

With a Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD, I used the following settings combining exposures through RED, GREEN, and BLUE filters creating the image
  - Exposure 0.0078 seconds
  - "Combine" checked
  - "Auto Contrast" UN-checked
  - Adjusted upper limit slider on histogram
    * Upper = 7583
    * Leaving the lower limit at 5942
  - Exposure total time 40 seconds

The GIMP was used to process color as described in the 5/3/2008 entry.
Graffias

5/18/2008 3:00-3:45am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-21 Message #71
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with some haze, near full moon - my back yard.

Observed Jupiter with my C8 8" Schmidt-Cass at 160x using a single polarized filter experimentally discovering that detail was more distinct with this filter. Ganymede's Shadow was a very sharp dark spot on the planet's disk. By 3:45 local time, the shadow was nearly ready to leave the edge of the disk. Noted the following:

  * Io about 4 disk diameters to the east
  * Ganymede about 1 disk diameter west a little north of center
  * Ganymede's shadow close to the eastern edge of the disk a little north of center
  * Europa about 2 1/2 disk diameters west a little north of center
  
  - Darker northern polar region - dusky color
  - Northern equatorial belt with some faint swirling detail - light rusty color
  - Southern equatorial belt with some faint swirling detail - light rusty color

Sky and Telescope Jupiter Moons Tool

5/18/2008 1:00-3:30am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-21 Message #70
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with some haze, near full moon - my back yard.

Observed Graffias (Beta Scorpii) with my C8 8" Schmidt-Cass at 160x with a double polarized filter I had forgotten to remove after looking at the Moon. I'll take notes here for the sake of comparison with no-moon and non-filtered observations. The brighter star in this system looked white with a faint bit of bluish tint. The dimmer companion seemed grayish and even faintly purplish.

These stars are separated by 14", both hot B-type stars, and have magnitude values of 2.56 and 4.90. Visual separation was very clear.

5/18/2008 1:00-3:30am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-18 Message #69
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with some haze, near full moon - my back yard.

Observed the Moon with my C8 8" Schmidt-Cass at 160x using a double polarized filter to reduce glare. Scanned the terminator noting the beautiful stark landscape with its mountains and craters. A favorite Lunar geographic feature of mine is craters containing central peaks.

The filter which is made of two polarized filters that can be rotated to adjust degree of brightness makes for nice viewing preventing the overwhelming brightness of the Moon's light at the eyepiece.

5/11/2008 3am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-11 Message #67
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with some haze, no moon - my back yard.

Observed Xi Boötis, a binary system separated by approx. 7". Xi Boötis A is a G-type yellow dwarf with a magnitude varying from about 4.5-4.7 over 10 days. Xi Boötis B is a K-type orange dwarf magnitude 7. This system is 22 light years away with an orbital period of 150 years.

With my C8 Schmidt-Cass at 160x, the A star looked white and the B star looked yellowish with perhaps a hint of green.

5/3/2008 10-11:30pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-06 Message #66
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear, no moon - my back yard.

Observed Algieba (Gamma Leonis) noting that this binary pair is separated by only approx. 4.5" and is composed of a brighter K giant star and dimmer G giant star.

  *NOTE: Looking at the previous entry, there are significant differences in hue perception by various observers, but the dimmer star seems to be always perceived as further from the red end of the spectrum than its companion!
Algieba

With my C8 Schmidt-Cass using the Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD, I used the following settings combining exposures through RED, GREEN, and BLUE filters to create this image:
  - Exposure 0.0078 seconds
  - "Combine" checked
  - "Auto Contrast" UN-checked
  - Adjusted upper limit slider on histogram
    * Upper = 17332
    * Leaving the lower limit at 5947
  - Exposure total time 60? seconds

Used the GIMP's Color Balance Tool on each RGB filtered image: Midtones AND Highlights - appropriate channel (Red, Green, or Blue) set to 100%

Lastly, an Infra-Red-filtered image rendered this sharp clear separation.
Algieba

4/27/2008 10:30pm-midmight Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-06 Message #65
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with no moon - my back yard.

Observed Algieba (Gamma Leonis) and Saturn with my daughter Myra. Using the C8 Schmidt-Cass at 160x, the Cassini Division, south equatorial belt, south polar region, Titan, Rhea, and Tethys were visible when viewing Saturn.
  Titan approx. 2 ring diameters to the east and a little north
  Tethys very close to the eastern edge of the ring and a little north
  Rhea very close to the eastern edge of the ring a little south

When viewing Algieba, my impression of color was white for the brighter star and silver-gray for the dimmer companion. Myra reported silver-bluish for the dimmer star and pinkish/light orangish for the brighter star. Separation @ 160x was close but crisp noting only about 4.5" of separation! Magnitude differences were easily discerned.

4/20/2008 9-11pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-06 Message #64
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear, near full moon - my back yard.

Observed Saturn noting:
  * Titan and Rhea
  * Visually, an Orion #15 deep yellow filter seemed most helpful - not greatly
Saturn

With my C8 Schmidt-Cass using the Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD, I used the following settings combining exposures through RED, GREEN, and BLUE filters to create this image:
  - Exposure 0.0055 seconds
  - "Combine" checked
  - "Auto Contrast" UN-checked
  - Adjusted upper limit slider on histogram
    * Upper = 14082
    * Leaving the lower limit at 5938
  - Exposure total time 90 seconds

Used the GIMP's Color Balance Tool on each RGB filtered image: Midtones only - appropriate channel (Red, Green, or Blue) set to 100%

Used the GIMP's Unsharp Masking tool set to: - Radius = 0.5, Amount = 2.0, Threshold = 0

Finally, using the above unsharp masking only, a Red-filtered image rendered this detail.
Saturn Red Filtered

4/14/2008 10:30pm-1am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-06 Message #63
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with waxing gibbous moon even closer to Saturn than last night - my back yard.

Observed Saturn with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass at 160x noting (with a little averted vision help):
  * Cassini Division
  * Shadow of right on planet - inner edge
  * Shadow or planet on ring - eastern side opposite Titan
  * South Equatorial Belt
  * South Polar Region (grayish)
  * Very pale yellowish planet
  * Four moons (west-to-east)
    - Titan and Tethys on the west side of the planet
    - Rhea a little south and Dione a little north on the east side
  * A and B rings - near part of ring crossing in front of the planet about 1/3 distance from the north pole to the south

Note that moonlight added a challenge to night vision, but with averted vision, Tethys, Rhea, and Dione were apparent - and - some detail may have had slight contrast in the areas of the South Tropical Zone and South Temperate Belt.

4/12/2008 11pm-1am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2008-05-06 Message #62
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Cool and clear with a waxing gibbous moon - my back yard.

Observed the double star Algieba, Gamma Leonis, with 8" Celestron Schmidt-Cass at 160x. Easily separated and the magnitude difference was striking although color differences were not apparent to me - seemed whitish or very light gray.

Observed Saturn roughly 7 degrees south of Algieba in Leo and noted:
  * Cassini Division
  * Shadow of right on planet - inner edge
  * Shadow of planet on ring - eastern side opposite Titan
  * South equatorial belt
  * Titan
  * Very pale yellowish color of planet

11/18/2007 5-5:15am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-18 Message #49
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Observed Comet Holmes from my urban back yard - partly cloudy, no moon, 42 degrees, and visibility is hazy between the clouds.

With Bushnell 10x50 binoculars and using averted vision, the coma's outer edges are just brushing Mirfak. The comet's motion over the last 2 weeks is obvious as it is no longer the "elbow" of a right triangle formed with Mirfak and Delta Persei. There is a flat-ish side toward Mirfak turned slightly in the direction of Delta Persei. The coma's diameter spans around 1/6 the binocular's field of view and the inner 1/3 to 1/2 diameter is still definitely brighter.

11/11/2007 3-4am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-12 Message #47
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Observed M 42 - the Orion Nebula from my back yard - cool, no moon, partially hazy sky. The nebula itself appeared to be in a clear part of the sky.
Orion Nebula Thumbnail

With my C8 Schmidt-Cass, M 42 had obvious delicately detailed dark swirls using averted vision at 80x. There was a sense of more and more detail just beyond the threshold of vision.

Using the Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD, I used the following settings to create this image:
  - Generated current "Darks" with "Auto Contrast" checked
  - Applied darks
  - Exposure 2.8 seconds
  - "Combine" checked
  - "Auto Contrast" UN-checked
  - Adjusted upper limit slider on histogram to
    * Bring out nebula detail
    * Just distinguish trapezium stars in overexposed area

Then I set the upper limit slider down just a bit more to create this image bringing out more detail in the cloud and overexposing the trapezium area.

Used the GIMP's Unsharp Masking tool set to: - Radius = 5.0, Amount = 0.50, Threshold = 0

11/9/2007  1-3:30am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-12 Message #46
*EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE*
Observed Comet Holmes again from my back yard. Cold - 40 degrees - clear with no moon.
Comet Holmes Thumbnail

With the C8 Schmidt-Cass at 80x, Comet Holmes looked visually much the same as 2 nights ago (11/7). Using the Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD, I was careful to take new "Darks" for the current exposure/temperature for 60+ seconds. Then with exposure set to 2.8 seconds, "Combine" checked and "Darks" checked, I captured images for 60+ seconds. The result reveals very slightly brighter streaks in the inner coma in the direction of the tail. The CCD reveals background stars shining through the coma very distinctly. The nucleus is bright and off-center in the inner coma away from the tail. It's very apparent that this device can "see" much more than my e.

11/7/2007  1-3am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-08 Message #45
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Observed Comet Holmes from my urban back yard. Cold - 40 degrees - clear with no moon.
Comet Holmes Thumbnail

With my C8 Schmidt-Cass at 80x, the comet is stunning. Stars can just be seen through the coma. The outer coma has a slightly brighter border. The brighter inner coma is elongated away from the nucleus in the direction of the scant tail.   The entire object is shaped like a "Pac Man Ghost" with the flatter side in the direction the tail is forming. The comet is still high overhead near Mirfak.

A Meade DSI Pro 2 CCD image revealed the nucleus clearly along with stars showing through the coma at 2.8 sec. exposure with "Darks" applied. I couldn't eliminate some artifacts that looked like water drops and were associated with the device and not filters or telescope optics. When layering 2 images using the GIMP to set layer mode to Multiplied, the comet's motion against the stars appears as in this image.

* In the future I will make detailed notes of all CCD settings and relace the device if necessary.

11/4/2007 - 11/5/2007 11:30pm - 3am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-08 Message #44
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Observed Mars, M42, and Comet Holmes from my urban back yard - cold, clear, and no moon until 2:29 according to the U.S. Naval Observatory ephemeris.

With my C8 Schmidt-Cass, Mars was a pink-gold "BB" at 80x and 160x. At 120x, an Orion #80A medium blue filter may have helped just resolve large dark features.

The Orion Nebula - M42 was laced with dark delicate swirls and expanded beyond the field of view at 80x. Two stars close to the trapezium but much fainter were distinct and sharp.

Comet Holmes appeared slightly greenish with 10x50 Bushnell binoculars and still round with a brightish center 1/3 the diameter of the entire coma. Through the C8 at 80x the comet's nucleus could be seen! The telescope revealed an asymmetrical shape with a flatish, less distinct side of the outer edge and the nucleus slightly off-center in the inner brighter region of the coma. Holmes is high overhead at the elbow of a right triangle whose legs are formed by Mirfak and  Delta Persei. I may see a slight greenish cast.

11/3/2007-11/4/2007 9pm, 12, 3, and 5am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-08 Message #43
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Observed Comet Holmes from my urban back yard. No moon, cool and clear at 9. Some hazy clouds at 12. Clear with a rising waning crescent moon at 3 and 5.

Holmes is easily seen as an "out of focus" star with the naked eye even from my Denver suburb. Through 10x50 Bushnell binoculars, the comet's diameter was about 1/10 the field of view and appeared round with a brighter center 1/3 - 1/2 the diameter of the fainter outer coma.

My wife, Patti, was also able to easily spot the comet in the sky and look at it with the binoculars. She agreed about the round shape and brighter inner coma.


10/31/2007 10-11pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-08 Message #42
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I observed M2 from my back yard - clear and cold with no moon and a little haze.

Through my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass, this globular cluster was a distinct round hazy patch at 80x. When observed at 160x, individual stars were perceptible with averted vision and contrast was markedly better.

Although past transit, M2 is still about 40 degrees off the horizon. I would call it a "grainy cloud" or a "cloud of sand".

10/29/2007 1:30am ? Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-05 Message #41
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My urban back yard - cool and clear - waning gibbous moon
Almach Thumbnail

Observed the multiple star Almach through my Celestron Schmidt-Cass 8" using a Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II taking images through its red, green, and blue filters.

As with Albireo, I used the GIMP's Color Balance tool on each image to boost the appropriate color channel for midtones and highlights to max two times. Each image was stacked over the other as a layer with the top 2 layers' modes set to Screen.

The resulting image is not as rich in color as Albireo, but is fairly accurate in it's rendering of the gold and blue even if subtle. These stars are separated by 10".

9/13/2007 time? Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-05 Message #40
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My urban back yard - clear - no moon
M15 Thumbnail

Observed M15 through my Celestron Schmidt-Cass 8" using a Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II. This globular cluster was not far beyond transit although the time is uncertain.

  First, this original image was captured
  - Adjusted exposure by eye while watching the live feed
  - Applied "darks" to filter out CCD noise

  This enhanced image was processed with the GIMP's Unsharp Masking tool
  - Radius = 0.1
  - Amount = 5.00
  - Threshold = 20

8/23/2007 approx. 3:00am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-04 Message #39
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My urban backyard - clear
Lunar Eclipse Thumbnail

Observed a total Lunar Eclipse with 10x50 binoculars and a Sony 7.2 Mega pixel CyberShot in night mode on a tripod. The photos were a spur-of-the-moment experiment taken at intervals that were not carefully timed. As the Moon moves apparently toward the west, it actually moves eastward into the Umbra. A high line is visible across the 8th, 9th, and 10th images.

I used the GIMP's layering capability to stack the images setting the layers' modes to Addition. Then I applied a brightness value of 100 and a contrast value of 92 with the Brightness-Contrast tool to create this image representing closely what I saw in the sky.

8/11/2007 time? Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-11-01 Message #36
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My urban backyard - no moon
Albireo Thumbnail

Observed Albireo through my Celestron Schmidt-Cass 8" using a Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II taking images through its red, green, and blue filters.

I used the GIMP's Color Balance tool on each image to boost the appropriate color channel for midtones and highlights to max two times. Each image was stacked over the other as a layer with the top 2 layers' modes set to Screen.

The resulting image is fairly accurate in it's rendering of the gold and blue colors I perceive with my eye. These stars are separated by 34" with a striking contrast of both color and magnitude!

7/2/2007 6:00-6:30pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-07-02 Message #27
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My front walk - 95 degrees - much thermal turbulence - a few small hazy clouds - mostly clear - breeze

I observed the Sun with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass at 80x using a Thousand Oaks white light glass filter - neutral density 5 (reduces light about 100,000x). A sun spot with 2 distinct dark nuclei somewhat quad-angular surrounded by a somewhat pent-angular gray area. This structure is estimated to be about 1.5 x 2 earth diameters based on estimating scale from a SOHO image. There was also a much smaller dark spot very close to the larger structure. According to the SOHO image at 20:48 UT, the spots are just south of the solar equator and around a day past transit.

My grandson (6), daughter (30), and wife (not telling) also shared in this observation. They all agreed on seeing the gray area around the outside of the spot(s) and Patti, my wife, agreed that the nucleus was 2-part.

6/30/2007 12:00-2:20am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-07-01 Message #26
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My urban backyard - nearly full moon - breeze, temperature in the 60s, air nearly haze-free:
Jupiter Thumbnail

Observed Jupiter through my Celestron Schmidt-Cass 8" using a CCD for the first time - Meade Deep Sky Imager PRO II with its blue filter in place. The bundled software was installed on my ThinkPad. The planet is near transit 27 degrees off the southern horizon NE of Antares.

  First image
  - Auto exposure (1 second) and auto contrast both active
  - Planet's disk over-exposed, Galilean moons captured very clearly

  Following images
  - Exposures from under .0100 to over .0400 seconds tested
  - Galilean moons faint
  - Planet's bands showing distinctly varying shades
    * Northern polar region medium shading
    * Northern central region very light
    * Narrow southern central band darkest
    * Southern polar region medium shading

  Manipulated image
  - Image rotated with planet's north pole up, east left
  - Galilean moons from first image at 60% brightness
  - Left-to-right moons are Ganymede, Io, Callisto, Europa
  - Planet's disk from following reduced exposure
  - Blue tint added representing the blue filter My urban backyard - nearly full moon - breeze, temperature in the 60s, air nearly haze-free:

  Enhanced image
  - Applied the GIMP's Unsharp Masking tool
  - Radius = 5.0, Amount = 1.00, Threshold = 0

What was most striking - the difference between my impressions of Jupiter's features and what the CCD saw. Where I thought I saw a similar shading for the north central and southern polar regions visually using the previously-mentioned Orion #80A medium-blue eyepiece filter, the CCD revealed the northern central region as the brightest feature and the southern polar region as medium shaded.

6/19-20/2007 11:05-12:40am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-21 Message #21
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My urban backyard - waxing crescent moon about 5 degrees off the horizon at 11:30pm - little haze:

My wife, Patti, and I observed Jupiter through my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x w/ Orion #80A medium-blue filter.
  - Northern region moderately shaded
  - Northern-central band appeared double
  - Southern-central band darkest feature
  - Slight shading in the southern region
  - A small "knot" may have been discerned in the dark southern-central band

The air seems a little clearer of haze than usual. Jupiter is 28 degrees off the horizon, NE of Antares in the southern sky close to transit. Patti commented "wow" tonight - clearest view of this planet so far with this scope! Observed 11:05-11:40.

Observed M4 with 80x and 160x from 11:45-11:55. This globular cluster's center was faint but better with averted vision. Round shape not really discernible. Some brighter stars in field stood out.

Boötes double stars 11:55-12:40
  * Epsilon Boötis at 160x a difficult separation - brighter star gold - companion unsure - 3" separation
  * Xi Boötis at 160x is nicely separated - less difference in magnitude - brighter star off-white, companion dull gold - separation 7"
  * Kappa Boötis at 160x is well separated at 13" - brighter star silver, companion gray

6/17/2007 3:04-3:50am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-17 Message #19
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My urban backyard - no moon, some haze:

I observed Jupiter from 3:10-3:35am with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x with an Orion #58 green and Orion #80A medium blue filter. Haze & low elevation - 15 degrees off the horizon - caused general features to be barely distinguished. The narrow, darkest central-southern band was briefly discernible but most of the time, the darker central and northern polar regions were only faintly in contrast with the lighter regions. The medium-blue filter was best.

I observed M57, planetary nebula in Lyra, from 3:40-3:50am using 80x, 120x, 160x, and 240x. The darker center was easily visible at all magnifications – best using averted vision – and the object was more striking with each increase in power. The brighter outer ring seemed to perhaps display some variations in brightness.  M57 was high overhead where seeing was significantly better with less haze and more contrast.

6/11/2007 1:45-2:45am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #13
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My urban backyard - no moon, patchy clouds, some haze:

I observed Jupiter with my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass at 120x using an Orion #80A medium blue filter, then an Orion #58 green filter. Jupiter is about 23 degrees above the horizon, NE of Antares. I can see some variations in shading in the central area shown in my sketch. The southern border of the darker central region appears as a very narrow band and is the darkest feature. Tonight I have to say that the green filter seemed to enhance contrast variations of details a bit better than the medium blue.

5/26/2007 2:30-3:30am Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #12
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My urban backyard - Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass:

I observed Jupiter again using the Orion medium blue filter with similar observations as found in the previous entry regarding the bands or belts.

The air quality was such that the edge of Jupiter's disk showed evidence of some atmospheric shimmer or "boiling". Thermal? - Inherent to the planet's low altitude off the horizon? (About 26 degrees)

5/??/2007 2:00-3:00am (approx) Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #11
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My urban backyard - Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass:

Observed Jupiter with an Orion #80A medium blue filter. At 80x or 120x, what are simply "rusty" stripes or bands when unfiltered just begin to show uneven edges or some variations in the darkness - or perhaps the saturation of the "rust" color. This color appears more gray through this filter.

5/12/2007 6:00pm Mountain (approx) Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #10
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My urban front yard Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass:

Observed the sun with a new solar filter. A group of 3 small sun spots and what I think may have been a 4th which was even smaller. Reference the SOHO image for 2007/05/12 16:00. There were intermittent clouds, but considering how low in the sky the sun's disk was, the sun spots could be seen quite well. I estimate the more prominent 3 sun spots to be comparable to the earth in size!

3/??/2007 time? Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #9
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My urban backyard, Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass:

I believe I saw the mag 10.9 component of Meissa (Lambda Orionis), but I want to verify this. I believe that the 29" separation makes this mag 10.9 star an easier visual target than Theta's mag 10.3 component.

I'm observing Sigma Orionis again, the mag 10.3 component separated by 11" from the mag 4.0 component is easier than Theta's mag 10.2 F component separated by approx 3" from the mag 5.1 C component.

3/??/2007 8:00-10:00pm Mountain (approx) Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #8
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From my urban backyard with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass - near new moon, some very thin clouds early in session:

Found the E member of Theta Orionis at mag 10.3. As I recall, 120x or 160x was best rather than either 80x or 240x. The F member was apparently too close to C and the proximity to the brighter star is what I believe prevented its detection from my light-polluted backyard.

2/10/2007 9:30-10:30pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #7
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From my urban backyard with Celstron 8" Schmidt-Cass - crisp cold air, no moon, nearly no turbulance:

M42 - Again observed swirl patterns even with the light pollution.

Sigma Orionis - all 4 members are visible at 80x. With a Barlow at 160x, my hasty sketch represents the view.

11/28/2006 NOTES: Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #6
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Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass:

I kept the hand control and the battery pack in my office. I suspect the hand control being cold may have caused recent odd behavior when aligning, calibrating, and slewing. The scope was right on target functioning correctly.

Now the hand control, DEC cable, and battery pack are inside during cold weather.

AC adapter to be tested.

11/28/2006 12:00-1:00am (approx) Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #5
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From my urban backyard with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass - cool, clear, maybe some haze?:

M42 - again swirls easily distinguished at 80x.

Rigel - could not separate companion at 160x.

Mintaka (Delta Orionis) was very widely separated at 53". My color impressions: Mintaka a bright blue-white and its companion greenish or grayish, but unsure about "lilac" mentioned by an observer in comments I'm reading.

11/19/2006 time? Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #4
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From my urban backyard with Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass - cool, clear, no moon:

M42 showed clear swirl patterns esp. w/ averted vision. The trapezium was easily, widely separated - all at 80x.

Saturn at 160x showed the planet's shadow on the ring and the ring's shadow on the planet. A light tan band was visible above the ring. Tital and other moon yet to confirm.

10/24/2006 10:30-11:00pm Mountain Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #3
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From my urban back yard, Almaak (or Almach) was clearly separated at 80x in my Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass and the colors looked gold and green-blue. The dimmer companion sometimes appeared blue - sometimes green. An Orion eyepiece at 120x seemed to contrast the colors a bit better. The star was even more striking at 160x w/ Celestron eyepiece and Barlow, and even though some crispness was lost, the separation and color contrast at 240x w/ the Orion eyepiece and a Barlow was best.

NGC 7789 showed crisp, fine, low-magnitude stars against a rich background. With averted vision, many many dim yet crisp and contrasting stars were revealed.

M103 even at 80x seems too apparently large a structure to appreciate. Perhaps actually better with 10x50 binoculars?

10/24/2006 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #2
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Some objects already observed while learning my new Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cass from my urban Aurora, Colorado backyard:

Planets:
  Uranus
  Neptune
  Jupiter

Messier:
  M27 (Dumbbell Nebula)
  M57 (Ring Nebula)
  M31 (Andromeda Galaxy)
  M34 (Open Cluster)
  M13 (Hercules Globular Cluster)

Multiple Stars:
  Cygnus
    Albireo
    16
    17
    61

  Misc.
    Gamma Delphini
    Struve 2725

6/11/2007 Email: rick@astronomy.datapathways.com Posted: 2007-06-11 Message #1
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Officially beginning my star log

I fell in love with astronomy at an early age under dark skies in South Dakota beginning my hobby in earnest with an Edmond 4" Newtonian telescope - not even having a clock drive! Over time I have used an 8" home-built (purchased) Newtonian (also no clock drive), an Edmund Astroscan 4" reflector, and a Celestron C90 (90mm) WITH a clock drive!

Having recently purchased a Celestron 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope mounted on a German equatorial tripod with GoTo, I have finally come to appreciate keeping a star log or star diary if you will. Some of the early entries being transcribed here will be less-than-complete, but I am now putting an effort into consistent content and style - and also to get more serious about this adventure!

Soon I will embark on the CCD astrophotography experience as well.

Finally, my compliments to the friendly knowledgeable staff at S&S Optika here in the Denver area. http://www.sandsoptika.com (Thanks Cathy and Stephanie!)

  -Rick

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