Arrived at Starfest Friday during a break in the unrelenting rain. To set up a tent and camp for the first time, in this, was to say at the very least, disheartening. The reports showed no sign of reprieve. The rain continued its torrential pounding, but as time passed a change of spirit began to evolve. So it came to be ....Adversity had brought Opportunity.
Listening, you could hear talking and outbursts of laughter drift over the canvas community. There were no longer the "haves" and the "have nots" or the "wanton". Delivered from "aperture envy" we were "just astronomers" one and all. So it became a weekend of the storytellers: lectures, experiences, advice, hopes, and laughter. Astronomers wedged elbow to elbow huddled under leaking canopies, sharing. Soaked astronomers passed and exchanged a nod, a smile, a chuckle and shook their heads. Acknowledging, saying it all, without saying a word. Strangers becoming friends.
And there were "stars" alright. They shone with a magnitude blinding even the unaided observer. They were the members of the NYAA. Each and everyone outstanding, responding to this facilitators nightmare with absolute grace under fire. How disheartened they too must have been after so much time and preparation. But they never gave up and they carried on.....and oddly so did we.
Make no mistake, it truly was exactly that, wet and cold and bleak and unyielding......but the spirit of fellowship did not falter. It held steadfast.
In the upcoming year I will not hesitate to pre-register for Starfest. Why? The NYAA will need our support next year, more so, than ever before. After all.....Isn't that what fellowship is really all about ?
Last night was good for backyard observing. I could even see the faint haze of the Milky Way from Cygnus down to the Teapot. While my computer booted up, I checked out Ptolemy's Cluster (M7), and M6 with binoculars and my 6" reflector, then I went looking for the "little cat's eyes" (zeta scorpii) but, alas, the little cat was in a tree.
The Keystone of Hercules can often be a challenge, from Grimsby, but tonight the entire constellation was visible. My chart of the periodic comet 177P/2006 M3 (Barnard 2) indicated it should be within a degree of the bright'ish star 52 Herc so I panned up for a look. After a few minutes I found a tiny halo with a bright core. Sure looked comet-like. It was too small to be M92 and, in my limited experience, the central condensation appeared too bright in comparison to the halo to be a planetary.
From what I'd read, comet 177p was supposed to be large and diffuse - not tiny and bright. By now Cartes du Ciel was up on the computer screen so I zoomed into the area and found that what I had "discovered" was not a comet at all, but gobular cluster NGC 6229.
However, my uncertainty put me into some esteemed company: NGC 6229 was first spotted in 1787 by William Herschell who catalogued it as a planetary. Then, in 1819, an Admiral Smyth reported it as a comet. It was eventually determined to be a "very crowded cluster" by Msr. d'Arrest in the mid 19th century.
Located about 1 1/2 degrees north of 52 Herc, NGC 6229 makes a nice equilateral triangle with a pair of mag. 8 stars. In my scope, it's diffuseness is evident at 57x. At 171x, there is just a hint of the outer stars resolving. It would probably be an interesting object to image. Even if it's not a comet.
After a very pleasant afternoon BBQ, it appeared that a couple of people were interested in heading out to Binbrook to look for a few more meteors and do some general observing. So with that in mind, I trotted on up to the main gate at about 9pm. While I was confirming the main gate was still locked, a young couple in from Toronto arrived who had checked out the club website and thought the park was always open for observing. After diplomatically correcting their misconceptions, I offered to escort them over to the alternate site on Tyneside in hope of finding some of the other club members.
I ran into another couple who were already set up and apparently were long time observers at this location. Brett and Cheryl were very enjoyable to talk to and were very open about sharing their giant binos and 100mm refractor. The young couple and I were able to observe a few clusters while explaining a little more about astronomy and the club.
Shortly aferwards, Jackie showed up and we had an official get together of the "rogues". Not being one to pass up an opportunity to share in some comraderie and recognizing the moon wouldn't be up for about 2 more hours, I set up my binos and 6" reflector. Scorpius was just setting and I hoped to catch the Jewel Box before it dropped below the trees. Still being too slow with set up, I missed that object (again) but did manage to view M80. Before leaving the southern skies for the night, I also observed globular cluster M9 for the first time.
Fortunately Jackie brought lots of batteries with her so once she was properly aligned (based in part on my inaccurate watch), she was good to go.
Amongst our observing and socializing, more general public joined us and some came over to look through the scopes & binos, ask some good questions about astronomy and gasp in amazement at some of the bright meteors (it was better than Friday night). It was like another public night with nearly a dozen people showing up. We were able to show them a number of globular and open clusters, and a few nebulaes. Of course I had my green laser going to help show off the sky better. (Sure wish I had that narrow band filter for the nebulaes)
During this time we tried again for comet 177P, but after a false identification, we convinced ourselves we only saw M92. (Too bad on the comet, but another Messier for me.)
Later I swung the scope towards the north east and started after a few Messiers around Cassiopeia. We found the double cluster pretty easily. Jackie mentioned Kemble's Cascade so I gave it a try and found a very neat string of stars leading to a small open cluster. After a false identification of M103, which turned out to be NGC457, I did eventually locate M103 and then followed shortly afterwards by NGC663 - all very nice little open clusters.
Regrettably the waning moon was now getting high enough to be a nuisance for observing. I decided to look at M31 anyways, but as expected it was washed out by the moon glow. Having given up on other objects, Jackie conceded defeat and swung her scope over to the moon with a filter. Impressed (and I guess also admittng defeat), I decided to do the same. Way too bright in the scope initially - even with the moon filter. Brett suggested a red filter which made it look like Mars, but it did help bring out some new details. Inspired I tried several filters including the yellow. Remembering reading something about stacking, I stacked the yellow and moon filters and it made observing quite pleasant. When Jackie started trying to identify regions on the moon, I flipped NightWatch over to the moon chapter and we picked up quite a few of the larger features including the Tycho and Copernicus craters, and the Apennine mountain range. The rays emanating from Tycho were amazing.
Thus ended another fun night of observing with good company and good skies.
The forecast is looking good for our Public Perseid Party, Friday night. Gail and I will be there for about 8:30pm and will set up the slide show in the pavillion near viewing area "b". We've already had calls about the event so are anticipating a good turnout.
See you there!
Some images from Binbrook last night. It was a clear night - warm - slight breeze - and almost no mosqitoes. Unfortunately, most of the DSOs I had intended on imaging were within a few degrees of the very bright moon. I imaged the Trifid Nebula - and after seeing the severe moon glow washing out the scene I abandoned the idea of trying to image the other nearby DSOs. I was still able to filter out (via software) enough of the wash to get a usable image, which has now been posted to my gallery. I also tried imaging Andromeda for the first time - my initial attempt was with my main scope (8" SCT) - which wasn't turning out so well - so I moved my camera to my guide scope and used my main for guiding. With a focal length of only 400mm, my guide scope had the perfect FOV - capturing M31 (Andromeda) and its small companion gallaxies M32 and M110.
Equipment: 6” reflector; Pentax 21mm & 7mm ep’s; Moon filter; Ruckl’s Atlas of the Moon
After the rain-forest-like weather we’ve had, lately, it was nice to have a clear and comfortable night to observe. We opened the GEM ‘n I Dobservatory at 9:30pm and went straight to the (10 day) Moon.
Though its transit altitude was only 19°, seeing was steady enough that atmospheric turbulance would only be a mild disturbance at high power. Bright enough at low power to merit a Moon filter we spent most of our time around the northern terminator region of Sinus Iridum. The rugged semi-circular ridge that borders the sinus (bay) both starts and finishes with a promontorium (cape). In our inverted view, the lower Promontorium Laplace anchored a well-defined shadow peak.
Just outside of the bay were the two craters named for Helicon, a 4th century BC Greek astronomer, and La Verrier, the mathematician who first calculated the position of Neptune.
Moving “up” and to the “right”, we followed a dorsum (wrinkle ridge) to the crater named for Caroline Herschel.
As we let the Moon drift throught the eyepiece we soon came upon an interesting triangle formation, measuring about 25km across, casting three long, narrow, shadows. It took a lot of flipping through pages in Ruckl’s atlas before I identified it as an unnamed formation lying between Delisle Crater and Dorsum Bucher (page 9). An Internet search only turned up the following entry from a Peter Grego:
"The large triangular assembly of mountains in the north is unnamed on Rukl's lunar map. The mountain group, probably a remnant of the original Imbrium ramparts that were buried by lava flows, occupy an area equivalent to the Isle of Wight. Here they cast spire-like shadows onto the plain".
With the Moon now dropping behind a tree, we ended our tour with a look at Montes Teneriffe (Teneriffe mountains) and Mons Pico which is 2400 metres high but placed far enough from the terminator, this night, that very little shadow was detected.
The last observation of the night was a very fast-moving meteor coming from the general direction of – dare I say – Perseus.
Any takers for Binbrook tonight?
CSC looks good - 1/2 moon sets around 12:17am - should be a good night for observing and imaging DSO's - temperature should be about right for long sleeves (to keep the bugs down).
Update: The weather and mosqitoes were very coperative. Myself, Jackie, and Don showed for a very pleasant night of star gazing. I spent most of my time imaging - unfortunately, what I mainly had intended to image was within a few degrees of the rather bright moon. Jackie and Don seemed intent on finding as many faint planets as possible - I think there may have been some success with Uranus and Neptune - however, the question usually remained "Which of these stars is the planet?". Finally, an attempt was made to locate the comet in Hercules. We finally packed in just after 2am - Don, still full of energy, wanted to go to Tim Horton's - I opted for the 1/2hr drive home followed by rest.
There's almost as many stars in this cluster as there were mosquitoes attacking us Monday night while I was imaging.
The periodic comet 177P/2006 M3 (Barnard 2) was recently recovered after a span of well over a hundred years. It is currently visible in binoculars in the constellation of Hercules and is shining at a magnitude of 8.4 as it heads towards Draco. This comet has a large 10' coma and is fairly diffuse due to its proximity to the Earth.
A finder chart is posted at http://www.skyhound.com/sh/comets/177P.gif
UPDATE: Aug. 2,2006
Gail and I searched for the comet, last night, to no avail. We both thought we might have, maybe, almost detected a smudge with our 10x50 binoculars but were unsuccessful with a low-power search using our 6" reflector. Other reports have suggested it is very diffuse and the current heat haze doesn't help, either. Still, we know where it should be so we'll keep looking and maybe it'll brighten.
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