This pretty open cluster skimmed barely above the treeline. Probably as low as I can get in the southern direction from home. It's in the constellation Puppis and has a little planetary nebula NGC 2438. The cluster is fairly rich with about 150 stars that range from mag 10 to 13. Also nearby is another open cluster M47... which can probably seen in the same field of view with binoculars.
Imaged with the C6-SCT @f6.3 and QHY-8
Crop showing Planetary Nebula NGC2438
This is my first post so please forgive any mistakes I may make. Three weeks ago, I ordered a 12" Skywatcher Collapsible scope from KW Telescope. By this weekend, it still hadn't come in so they lent me their "test-bed" version. I will need help learning how to collimate it correctly, but I gave it a go and was able to use it tonight for the first time. It was amazing! I have never seen so much detail in the Orion nebula, or so many small craters on the moon (I'm used to a 80mm refractor). Collimation wasn't bad up to about 110x. I am looking forward to Grimsby on Saturday and would appreciate any help from other members on how to collimate properly. Maybe I'll even have my own 12" by then.
Hopefully see you all there.
Some members of the HAA club executive were available and invited for an astronomy presentation requested by 97th Hamilton Wolf Cubs, last night.
The format was designed to support their 'Astronomy' badge requirements, and is in 5 parts.
* A cub with an astronomy badge has learned about how to find the North Star, and how to show someone else how to find the north star.
* We taught them about Meteors, and had a sample meteorite to pass around for inspection. There was a discussion about the northern lights, (Aurora Borealis) and its southern counterpart (Aurora Australis), planets, (and what the controversy about planets is all about), nebulas, comets, satellites, eclipses, and galaxies.
* How to use a planisphere, a star map, and how to locate several constellations in the sky, in this case, Orion, the big dipper, Cassiopea, Little Dipper, and Cepheus.
* Aboriginal legends about the night sky and constellations are read, learned and re-told.
* The phases of the moon, and what the moon does to cause the tides.
We were prepared with sufficient written material, meteorites, hand-outs and star maps to do the evening's presentation without a clear sky, but we were lucky that it was a good night, with just a few low clouds to the west.
We set up a few telescopes, and some of the cub parents brought telescopes.
After the meeting, when the parents returned for their kids, they all had a chance to see Saturn, the Orion Nebula, and the Perseus double cluster.
Lighting at the church, was, as expected, pretty bright, and as a result, I could not point at the Pleiades, as all I saw was a white glow from the light, but other items were visible.
If you are a club member, have participated in a public night of the HAA in the past, and would like to volunteer for a future event like this, and have some week-nights free during the Winter season, a telescope, or a desire to talk about an aspect of astronomy to a keen audience, contact me and I will include you on a mailing list. We need about 6 volunteers for each event.
Regrettably the clear skies that greeted us at the start of our venture from Hamilton didn't follow us to North Toronto, but approximately 40 members and guests enjoyed the trip to York University.
After stops for refreshments and appropriate enticements for the York students, we arrived around 8pm and were greeted by Dr. Paul Delaney and 2 of his undergrad students: Christian and Ian. All were very knowledgeable, friendly and patient as they showed us around the observatories and the 2 main scopes: a 40cm Meade LX200 and a 60cm f/13 Cassegrain.
York's 40cm LX200 and opening the dome in hopes the sky may have cleared.
HAA member Brenda standing beside York's 60cm to show scale of this big scope.
And for the IYA, they are running a 2-hour live web cast from the observatory on Monday nights. From this link, you can participate in the blog at any time and at select times, see what is being captured by the telescopes or the all-sky camera.
After our tours, we retired to one of the staff lounges where donuts were served and Paul held court to a captive audience. He answered questions on a wide range of topics including Mars exploration, telescope design, imaging technology, space tourism, manned missions to the moon and Mars, and more. As always, he was very gracious and very accommodating. He also had a selection of the official IYA Galileo moment cards and planispheres which he made available to anyone who wanted them.
Dr Paul Delaney entertaining and educating the group which he does so well.
Some of the goodies that were provided.
We extend our deep and sincere thanks to Paul and his students for such an enjoyable night. Even though we weren't able to observe, I hardly seemed to miss it with all the other interesting things being shown and discussed.
We got out to our Burlington observing site Sunday evening (the 15th)with my 6 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain and Moe Chaput's 10 inch reflector. Comfortable observing conditions, especially as compared to January! I re-acquainted myself with some targets from this time last year including the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392) - very nice, could see some detail that hinted at the heart shape but to me it looked more roundish and irregular. I also looked at Tau Canis Majoris Cluster, an open star cluster, and a favourite of mine, as the bright blue-white star that shines from about the centre of the cluster burns with the brightness of 50,000 suns. Then I keyed in the specific RA and DEC to get to my next target, V Hya, a carbon star in Hydra, the part of the constellation near Crater, roughly RA 10 hrs 51 min and DEC -21 deg (sorry I don't have exact coordinates right now - It is marked as a variable star "V" in the Sky & Tel Pocket Atlas on page 36 and it also appears in Sue French's book). This is a very reddish looking star - I thought it looked brighter a year ago, maybe it is piling up carbon soot in its' atmosphere and shining less brightly. Finally checked out Saturn: the seeing was still very nice on Sunday night. Wow! Saturn's rings are really skinny! I could see subtle banding on the planet's surface and that ever so slim shadow of the rings across the surface. Only saw three moons for sure: Titan, Tethys and Rhea - been more successful at moon-hunting on other nights. My observing partner, Maurice Chaput, bagged a couple of Messiers he was looking for: a couple of globulars, M68 and also M3, which was quite spectacular in his 10 inch hand-made reflector. I gave M63 (the Sunflower Galaxy) in Canes Venatici a shot, but I had no luck. I am really looking forward to spring-time observing!
I will keep my impressions of the night brief in hopes that others will add to it. With about 15 people on the hill there was so much going on that this will need to be a group effort.
With the sky clearing nicely I checked the collimation of our 12" dob to make sure we'd make the best of it. Glad I did as it was way off. However, with a barlowed laser collimator and Gail calling out directions as I adjusted the primary screws, we got it perfectly aligned within minutes.
Pretty well anything we looked at was a delight. We cruised through the usual popular items, sharing some views with a Ukrainian family that Ann Tekatch had adopted at the gate.
For me, the best part of the night, though, happened just before midnight. I'd decided to look for the Eskimo Nebula, and after aiming the scope to the general area with the aid of a Rigel Quickfinder I fine-tuned the aim with a 9x50 finderscope. To my surprise, I could see the nebula in the finderscope. When I got to the eyepiece, however, the nebula looked very comet-like. Then it hit me - I'd stumbled across Comet Lulin making a close pass to the Eskimo Nebula. In fact they were about 1/3 of a degree apart making for a nice pairing in the same FOV.
But the best was yet to come. Just as the scope's tube was getting a layer of frost on it, I turned it in the direction of Saturn and WOW!!! I have rarely, if ever, seen Saturn so well-defined. Although the rings are nearly edge-on, at 214x magnification I could easily make out the difference in shading between A and B. The ring shadow across the globe was a dark, razor-thin line, and the gap between the rings and the planet appeared large enough to drive a truck through. The North and South Equatorial bands were tan lines across a creamy background and the moons Titan, Dione, Iapetus, Rhea, and Enceladus were bright points of light - the latter two sitting together right on the edge of the rings. What a fantastic sight on a frosty night.
Sorry I'm a little late with this... I finally got around to processing the images that I took of this comet back when it was at opposition. Since this is a relatively large target I should have imaged it with my 80mm scope but instead opted for the longer focal length 6in SCT since the camera was already hooked up to it. Anyway I hope you like this more zoomed in perspective.
This is an odd designation that I wasn't aware of. From SpaceWeather.com's website, here's an interesting (if unromantic) moniker for the full moon (which we're unlikely to see in the next day or two).
"Tonight's full Moon has a special name--the Worm Moon. It signals the coming of northern spring, a thawing of the soil, and the first stirrings of earthworms in long-dormant gardens. Step outside tonight and behold the wakening landscape. "Worm moonlight" is prettier than it sounds."
Our own John Gauvreau had one of his photos posted on SpaceWeather.com recently. It's a beautiful shot of Venus being reflected off the ice at Binbrook. Here's the link to the image:
AP Reuters - Greenwich:
Emboldened by their success in declaring Pluto not a planet, the International Astronomical Union determined this week by a close vote that February is too short to be considered a true month. It has, however, been granted the newly created status of "dwarf month." It shares this dubious distinction with several other calendar time spans, including Labor Day Weekend, Christmas Vacation, and the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did.
"It only seems fair," said IAU President Ron Eckers. "February reaches a peak size of 29 days, averaging only 28 days for 75 percent of the time. Recent research has shown that other periods, such as the Time Between When You Were Supposed to Get Your Oil Changed and When You Actually Did, often exceed this meager time frame. In fact, this erratic behavior only strengthens our case that February does not belong in the same classification as the eleven 'true' months."
Eckers also warned that the crop of 30-day "so-called" months should be careful to maintain their number of days. "They're already cutting it pretty close in my book."
(Written by Michael Haber)
Gail and I arrived at the gate at 7:20pm and I was switching the locks when Mike Griswald drove up. “I’m not a member,” he kindly informed me. “Not a problem,” I replied. “You soon will be!”
Down by the boat launch we found the parking lot surprisingly dry and firm for this time of year so decided to set up there. Mike assembled a nice Stellarview Nighthawk 80mm refractor, with an 18mm Televue Radian, on a quick and easy alt-az mount, and we had brought our 6” dob and binoviewer set-up. As we were aligning finderscopes Ann Tekatch pulled in. From her collection she’d brought her “scope of the week”, a Meade 80mm f11 refractor, also on an alt-az mount. Within minutes we were all aiming at our first target – the Moon.
Gail found an interesting crater beside the terminator, near the South Pole. Using the Virtual Moon software she identified it as Newton. One of the older craters, Newton is about 82km wide and 8000m from rim to floor. Mike and I came across the crater Clavius almost at the same time. Clavius contains an interesting subset of craters, evenly spaced in an arc, and graduated large to small like a set of measuring cups. Inside the arc is a dome-like feature that is an eroded massif (mountainous region).
Ann then went hunting for the Davey crater chain, and after referring to Ruckl’s Atlas of the Moon, and Charles Wood’s Modern Moon, soon found it and showed us a thin bright line across the floor of the crater Davey. Bumping the power in our binoviewers to 210x, we were just able to distinguish the line of small craters as a linear series of bright dots.
Humidity was fairly high, yet the clouds that had covered our drive to the park had gone East and the sky steadily improved. The wind had died down considerably from earlier in the day and the record-setting temperatures of the afternoon were still a few degrees above freezing.
Mike’s scope gave us a nice wide field view of the Pleiades, and after Ann had finished her sketch of the crater chain she switched ep’s and gave us a sharp view of Saturn. We were spoiled by the all of the fine optics on hand and soon found 4 of Saturn’s moons despite the low altitude of the planet and the fair to middling transparency.
Even with the bright Moon, you can’t ignore the Orion Nebula and we were soon comparing views of the Trapezium. But at this point, the air over the park reached the dew point and within moments all surfaces were wet. It was time to pack up.
After a long cold winter with all too infrequent observing opportunities, it was nice to share some photons with friends. Thanks Ann. Thanks Mike. We had a good night.
A group of astronomy students from Mohawk College were out at Binbrook Conservation Area, for a night of observing. A beautiful but cold night offered good viewing, and several club members were at the park that night as well.
Venus showed a beautiful, thin crescent, and not to be outdone, Saturn showed some equally thin rings. Not surprisingly, the views of Saturn actually elicited gasps and exclamations from the first-time observers! Jim W. showed some clusters and asterisms through his fine 8" scope and Andrew B. offered up some excellent deep sky views through his 12" Lightbridge. Don brought along his refractor and Jackie made everyone feel at home. My refractor offered up some wide field views as well, and before the night was through they (and we) had seen M81 and 82, the Double Cluster, The Pleiades, the Beehive, M42 and a smattering of other objects. Of particular interest was a view of the minor 'dwarferoid' planet Ceres, and all 6 stars in the Trapezium! Ann called in her contribution on her cell phone and pointed out the Lunar X on the first quarter moon. It was a beatiful sight and we all enjoyed finding it (I almost called this blog entry an 'X File').
One student brought her own scope and another brought a pair of big binoculars. All brought a great deal of enthusiasm that was certainly matched by the HAA members present. The mixing of these two great groups made for a really fun night for everyone.
Recently, while reading some forum posts on the website, Our Dark Skies, I learned of an upcoming opportunity to view an optical feature on the moon called the Lunar "X". During a narrow window around 1st. quarter moon, sunlight illuminates some of the crater ridges near the craters Werner, Purbach, Blanchinus & La Caille, forming the letter "X". I've never seen or heard of this feature and I was curious to see if I could view it. Using an 80 mm f/11 refractor with a 24mm eyepiece (about 38x), I was able to spot the white "X" about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the moon along the terminator. It was small but obvious. I made a sketch of the view.
The Lunar "X"
For more information on the Lunar "X", check Wikipedia: http://the-moon.wikispaces.com/Lunar+X
Here is a picture of the Lunar X that I took tonight, after Ann brought it to our attention, and you can see how closely it matches Ann's drawing. Thanks Ann, it was really worth seeing.
The Lunar X
Great photo, John! I'm so glad you were able to photograph it. The "X" is only visible for about 4 hours at 1st. quarter. Its appearance began at about 2230 UT (5:30 EST) last night, so you caught it just before it disappeared.
I stacked and processed the sequences of images I took of Comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin) on February 23, 2009, when it was beside Saturn. Here are a couple of results:
Saturn and Comet Lulin, by Bob Christmas
Were it not for a large system below Lake Erie doing some cross-border hopping, last night would have been a lot more fruitful for this backyard observer than it was.
I'd spent the afternoon making up a hit list of targets but ended up chasing sucker holes instead. But the evening wasn't a total bust as Anthony Tekatch dropped by to join Gail and I, and we had nice views of the Moon and Venus, both showing a beautiful crescent phase. Comet Lulin, in the 6" dob was a small grainy fuzz spot, and Saturn was a small olive on a toothpick - Martini's anyone!
However, I was successful in one quest, and that was to see the fifth, "E", star in Orion's Trapezium. This we did with the 12" dob. The seeing was somewhat turbulent but, surprisingly, it could still be seen even when a cloud passed over (under?) the nebula. The E star is mag. 10.3 and nestled between A & B which are the two stars in the Trapezium that are closest to each other. Apparently, a sixth star, "F" can also be had on a good night, but F is fairly tight to the C star and would need a fair bit of magnification in steady air to split the two.
If you want more information on the Trapezium, the following link will take you to an excellent web page on the subject:
So, the next time you have the Great Orion Nebula in your sights, see if you can go a little deeper and pick up some bonus stars.
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