Monday, December 7, 2015

OR, U Cyg

I try to observe as much as I can from home. Even with the usual light pollution and seeing limitations, there is still much to see: doubles, bright clusters, and so on. Last night I tried a couple new doubles in Cassiopeia, but even though I had put my scope out in the back yard after coming home from work at 6:30pm, I was still getting some tube currents by 9:30pm. I was going to pack it in, but decided to wait, and revisited some familiar targets (Gamma Delphini the beautiful yellow pair; Beta Cygni copper and blue; the Blinking Planetary) to help pass the time.

Fortunately by 10pm the tube currents and the sky settled down and I was getting very nice steady stars. After the Blinking Planetary I went to Omicron 1 & 2 Cygni; then checked my chart for something else to view, and noticed U Cygni nearby, which was marked as a carbon star. I had seen a few carbon stars before but WOW what a sight U Cygni was! Very small, not bright, but a deep ruby red color. It looked just like a ruby on black velvet. I couldn’t get over its color. There was a nearby white (and much brighter) star which likely helped with the color contrast.

Looking up this star this morning, I find it is classed (Morgan–Keenan C system) C5-C7 which has strong carbon abundance and helps account for the deep red color. It’s also a variable, ranging from 5.9-12.1. To my eye last night it was small and faint; I’d guess 10-11 mag. Checking AVVSO’s light curve generator now, it seems I was in the neighborhood: latest readings are 10.5! The period is 421 days, and it is nearing its minimum. I will revisit this star next year—the bright star near it is 8.0, so it will be interesting to compare U Cygni to it, especially when it is brighter!

All goes to show you need not always go to dark sites to enjoy this hobby. I hope others will give this one a try, it’s really beautiful.

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