Monday, December 7, 2015

OR, Fremont Peak 1/24/15

This was my first visit to the FPOA observatory area, having joined a couple weeks ago. I figure to get the most out of a 20” scope, I need some more dark and elevation, and Fremont Peak is not too far away for me. I set up at the southeast corner pad, next to the conveniently placed picnic table and park bench. Peter N. and Dave C. set up near the maintenance area, and I enjoyed getting acquainted with them. Ron D. came later to use the Challenger telescope, and he gave me a view of the Orion Nebula. I picked out the H star in the Trapezium; G seemed to be lurking there somewhere but I was not certain of a sighting. The nebula was dramatic, bright, more substantial and colorful than I had seen before. It was wonderful. I partially returned the favor to Ron by sharing a view of NGC 2683 from my scope.

Weather was clear and dry. Temperature started out mild, but fell into the 40s around midnight. Oddly it was 60 degrees on the Peak at dawn, while San Juan Bautista was 34 degrees. A southerly wind picked up after midnight, weathervaneing my scope. So I changed my targets to the north, to keep my own and my scope’s backs to the wind, so the scope would be stable and I would be warmer. Transparency was very good and seeing was good. SQM-L ranged from 20.40 – 20.77 after the moon was down.

I worked many objects in the -20 to -30 degrees declination range, and found even when I waited for them to be higher in the sky, due to focuser position I needed to be on my knees to observe them, as if worshiping them. As Peter remarked, it’s a wonder how Herschel was able to discover them from his higher latitude.

At about 12:20 am, while facing west and hunched over taking notes on NGC 2974, a bright light coming from over my left shoulder cast a shadow of my pen onto my notebook. It could not be a car light coming from that direction, so I glanced over and saw the last flash of a fireball which had broken up into two, maybe three, pieces, with a faint smoke trail behind. I didn’t have the presence of mind to mark the exact location or direction; it was vaguely coming from Corvus heading toward Hydra. Nevertheless I reported my observation to We’ll see if it will be confirmed.

All my targets showed up beautifully. I also re-observed supernova ASASSN-141p in NGC 4666, and tried again for 2014dt in M61. Following are my notes on the more impressive objects I observed. What fun that my first-ever view of most of these objects is through a 20” f/5.25 scope!

NGC 2371 & 2372, PN, Gem. 333x, 1.5mm exit pupil, 0.3* TFOV. Two lobes in a peanut shape SW-NE which had caused Herschel to log this as two objects. Both were clear but the one on the SW, NGC 2371, was brighter. It seemed to have a faint round outer halo around the lobes, and a fairly faint central star in the middle. I preferred the unfiltered view but the UHC helped bring out a little more detail, better than the OIII which to my taste darkened the view too much.

NGC 2392, Eskimo Nebula, PN, Gem. 333x, 1.5mm exit pupil, 0.3* TFOV. UHC. Easily found, bright and overall round shape at lower magnification. Central star and inner ring DV unfiltered; with OIII the central star disappeared and lost detail. 333x with UHC was the best view for structure, showing the bright outline of the “chin” pointing N and “jaw” of the face and the mottled parka fringe.

NGC 2683, Gx, Lyn. 205x, 2.5mm exit pupil, 0.5* TFOV Beautiful long 4:1 edge on spiral, orientated SW-NE, easy DV with hints of dark lane across the southern span of the core, which long and not too bright. AV helped draw out the diffuse halo. Foreground star just involved in the halo to the SW.

NGC 3242, Ghost of Jupiter, PN, Hya. 333x, 1.5mm exit pupil, 0.3* TFOV. UHC. Wow! Lovely double structure with DV, turquoise color. Bright slightly oval inner ring orientated NW-SE, and a diffuse outer halo; central star hinted with AV. Outer halo slightly oval NNW-SSE. UHC lost the CS but helped bring out brighter inner ring and show threads running between the inner ring and halo.

NGC 3115, Gx, Sex. 205x, 2.5mm exit pupil, 0.5* TFOV Large 4:1 easily found [edge on spindle] orientated SW-NE. Compact core. The western tip of the halo seems to twist southward. A dark lane slashes across the core.

NGC 2964, Gx, Leo. 205x, 2.5mm exit pupil, 0.5* TFOV Only NGC 2964 is plotted in my Pocket Sky Atlas, but I was surprised to find three galaxies in the FOV! Time to get deeper charts, I guess. NGC 2964 is bright with a stellar core, 2:1 [actual 4:3], elongated W-E. NGC 2968 was next closest to the NE [5.8’ distant], a smaller, fainter glow with a brightened core, diffuse halo, 3:2 NGC 2970 was also NE [11’ distant], 3:1, faintest of the three but still easy DV.

NGC 2903, Gx, Leo. 205x, 2.5mm exit pupil, 0.5* TFOV Huge, bright enough to see in the finderscope. 3:2 elongated NW-SE. Mottling throughout with scattered bright knots. A bright arm stretches out from the N to NW side [this is NGC 2905].

Supernova ASASSN-14Ip in NGC 4666. 205x, 2.5mm exit pupil, 0.5* TFOV. SQM-L 20.72 The supernova is still there, easy in DV, but my impression is it has dimmed quite a lot since I observed it at Henry Coe on 12/26/14, when it was about a month old. It is about as bright as the south pointing star of the close trio of stars 5’ to the SW of NGC 4666, about 13th magnitude. In December I estimated 11-12 magnitude. I can’t seem to find current magnitude estimates online. Also in FOV, which I did not see from Henry Coe in December, was NGC 4668, which was fairly dim but visible DV, AV helped a lot.

Supernova 2014dt in M61. Tried again and made sure to look in the eastern part of the halo, but I could not convince myself I could see it. Its magnitude was near the limit of my scope last month, so it may have dimmed even further.

As my final object of the session, I tried Copeland’s Septet. It was easy to find and I could observe a faint triangular knot of mistiness. But by this point I was too tired to make a concerted effort to observe. I’ll have to save this for another night.

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