Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Some Pages from the AstroCamp notebook.

Astrocamp Saturday Observations

Following from my summary of AstroCamp, I wanted to flesh out the observations I made for the record, as, in part, this is what my blog is for. 
Seeing conditions were brilliant for the Saturday night.  The light cloud that was flowing up the valley and around the mountains dissipated as the dusk approached and darkness fell.  I had set my scope up on The Common in amongst everyone else’s scopes.  It’s from here you can really get a great sense of the communal observing that makes AstroCamp quite special.  It was obviously going to a wet dew ridden night as the signs were there from the outset.  As soon as the sun disappeared, the moisture levels on the ground increased.
In preparation for the dew, I used my home made dew shield for the Telrad, and I must say, it actually worked really well and remained clear throughout.
My first target for the evening was M57, the Ring Nebula.  Easily found in the constellation of Lyra, the pale smoke coloured ring stood out against the background of the darkening sky.
I wanted to go and find some new targets where possible, and, due to bad planning, I didn’t have a copy of my target list with me.  So, I went from memory and from the notes that I already had in my book.
Next object observed allowed me to give first light to two new pieces of kit.  The 40mm Explore Scientific 2” eyepiece, and the 2” UHC filter.  I bought the eyepiece specifically for the large nebulae that seem to overspill out the edge of the field of view of even the 32mm Panaview.  I turned the scope to the region of the Veil Nebula and popped in the eyepiece.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I specifically looked at the Western Veil as I had seen the Eastern previously, but not been able to make out the Western aspect of it so well.  That night was a different story though.  The whole of the shape fitted in the field of view of the new eyepiece, and the UHC filter aided vision exceptionally well.  It was a lovely wispy grey coloured curving through the eyepiece, and can only be described as quite awesome.  I did take a quick look at the Eastern Veil and was equally impressed, but I had earned the first new tick of the night.
Another nebula in the region of Cygnus is the North American nebula.  This is very different, and appeared to me quite dark, almost only identifiable to me by the lack of stars in a rather extended patch of sky when compared to the rest of the background sky in this busy region of the Milky Way.  The UHC filter didn’t help at all in this instance, perhaps because the nebula appeared too dark anyway.  I assume that this is what I was looking at.  I checked and re-checked my navigation using the Telrad and Sky Atlas, and come to the conclusion that this was definitely the correct area.
I decided to move on and looked through my book of overlooked objects and noticed NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula.  There seemed to be a nebula theme developing to the evening, which I was quite happy with to be honest.  I found the Bubble Nebula, although I did find quite hard to pick out at first.  It was surprisingly smaller than I expected, but then most nebulae look small after looking at the Veil I suppose.  I used the 40mm EP to start with and was helped a little with the UHC filter.  I decided to change down to the 25mm BST and use the OIII filter with that to get an idea of the difference between the filters.  I must admit though, I struggled to pick anything out of note, so decided that the UHC filter was the better tool for the job.
It was now that I took a little break from my list of targets and my own mission while I spoke to some visitors to the site.  I’ve recounted that part of the evening in my main AstroCamp post, so won’t repeat myself here.
During the evening, there were many meteors seen, of all different characteristics.  Very quick and short trails, to trails stretching miles across the night sky.  If only I was able to capture them on camera!
Unfortunately, it was then that I noticed problems with the secondary on the SBT starting to mist up with dew.  I knew that this would be the end of the session as I don’t yet have any form of dew heater or additional prevention.  It was a big shame given the conditions, but some good observations were made.

Post AstroCamp Blues.

With the weather forecast for the final night of AstroCamp not looking particularly good for observing, and the main events all over, I decided to put in the call home for a lift back that evening.  It meant that I could pack up all my camp kit in the dry and have the day at home to sort it all out again.  Nevertheless, the forecast for Tuesday was brilliant.  After feeling quite rested and awake from my weekend, I decided to set the SBT up out the back garden.  This time, I made sure I had my full list of new targets with me, so was able to be a bit more specific.  The evening consisted of picking out the smaller targets around the popular constellations of Cassiopeia and Cygnus.
First object of the night was a Caldwell.  C10/NGC 663 is defined as an open cluster.  From what I could see, it seemed to be a pretty cluster of pairs of stars.  The stars were much too far apart to be called true double stars.  It soon became apparent, that the use of my Star Atlas and the Stellarium app on my phone would be needed to positively ID the targets.  I was happy to be able to identify stars HP 8305 and HP 8325 at the edge of the cluster giving me an excellent start to the session.
Next I moved onto another cluster.  NGC 654 was very easy to locate, but pretty tricky to see if that makes sense?  I was able to confirm it using the positions of HP 8014 and HP 8106, but most of the cluster only began to reveal itself after a few minutes at the eyepiece.  In all, I could make out around 15 to 20 individual stars.
Perhaps the toughest target of my nights observing was NGC 659.  It is cluster containing no brighter stars to draw your eye to it.  From the notebook…

“A very small open cluster with a dozen to 15 stars visible with averted vision”.

It can be found only around 1 degree lower than my first target of the night.  The only way I could confirm that I had found the target was by the presence of 44 Cas and HP7989 nearby.  A tough, but well-earned tick indeed!
Whilst scanning around for another target, I accidentally came across NGC 7789 which is a large open cluster, but one that I had viewed before, so after a brief look, I moved on.  I decided to give IC 1396 a go, another nebula.  My main point of reference for this many deem a target in itself.  Herschel’s Garnet Star is a lovely sight and was almost at zenith when I looked at it.  I have only seen it once before, and it was nice to come back to it again to be reminded of why it is so popular.  I was battling the curse of the outside light from two neighbours that evening, and try as I did, I never did get to see my original target of IC 1396.  Maybe next time.
Finally for the evening, I moved to Cygnus where I wanted to locate NGC 6910.  A small open cluster.  It was a great find, and quite unusual.  It consists of several lines of stars linked up to form a miniature constellation of its own almost.  The visible stars were quite equidistant apart giving it the appearance of a somewhat uniformed structure.  It is very easy to find too, being about only 1 degree away from Sadr, the centre star in the cross of Cygnus.

That brings an end to the more detailed observation notes of the last couple of sessions.  Thanks for taking the time to read through them, and feel free to comment or subscribe to future posts.

Cheers,
Tony

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