I just came inside the house from a nice observing session in my backyard. I had last been out on January 27th, and it started appearing that I was going to lose all of the February dark moon cycle to bad weather.
When the weather finally cleared up decently today, I decided to take my 10" (which I don't use much anymore) in my backyard, which I don't observe from much anymore. My observing program with my 18" is Hickson Compact Galaxy groups, but I wasn't going to do that with a 10" from my backyard, so I decided to work on the February Starrynights Shared Observing List for the Northern Hemisphere. Starrynights is a Yahoo Group dedicated to observing located at:
It was a pretty darn good night. I rated the seeing 8/10 and the transparency 8/10. I could easily see 6 stars in the Trapezium in the central part of the Great Nebula in Orion, aka M42. The nebula itself was strangely muted and tiny compared to what I normally see from dark sites. Whenever M42 is in the sky and I am observing, I look at it in the scope. This is true of no other object in the sky.
To assess transparency, I turned the scope towards the Leo Triple (galaxies), M65, M66 and NGC 3628, but clouds were invading, so I went over to M109, a fine if somewhat "faint" (for backyard viewing in the suburbs) galaxy in Ursa Major. If I can see this, it's reasonably clear. I could indeed see it, so I was reasonably clear. By this time the Leo Triple was free of clouds, so I went back there and immediately saw M65 and M66, but I searched in vain for NGC 3268. So, the sky was pretty transparent, but not wonderfully so. No matter. I was having fun.
I then began the hunt for the open cluster NGC 1893. I started with the open cluster M37, which appeared like delicate lacy gossamer with a bright yellow star in the center. Everything seemed strangely dim to me. I guess I am getting used to observing from dark sites with my 18"!!
Next in line was open cluster M36 as I approached my quarry. It has far fewer stars than M37, but the ones that are there are brighter. It makes for a nice contrast.
Continuing west, I hit open cluster M38 with its much fainter companion open cluster NGC 1907. This pair always reminds me of the similar pair in Gemini, M35 and NGC 2158. M38 is a lovely cluster with more, but fainter stars than M36. It has fewer stars than M37. NGC 1907 lies off to the side and is much, much smaller and much, much fainter, and has only a few resolved stars superimposed on a haze of background stars.
Beginning with NGC 1907 I entered the terminal guidance phase as I followed a bright chain of stars south and west to NGC 1893. It appeared as a huge open cluster, about 23' across with dozens of fairly bright stars in it. If M38 was a Messier object, then this should have been, too!
Next on the Starrynights list was 63 Geminorum, a double star. I began the hunt at Delta Geminorum, and noticed that this star was itself double at 84x, so I took a good look at 191x. Wow! It is very beautiful! A bonus surprise object! The main star is bright bluish and it has a dim, ruddy companion. I love doubles with color contrasts. I was in for a treat.
On my way east to 63 Gem, I hit a gorgeous double with very, very rich colors: Deep blue and golden orange. This one beats the colorful Albireo for richness of colors, but it is not very bright. At first, I thought I had reached 63 Gem, but I realized I was in the wrong place, so I had to do some work to identify what I did see, which was ES 2625 (aka HD 58712).
From here it was a short hop to 63 Gem, which wa a very wide colorless double with one component being bright white and the other being fairly dim.
I can't think of anything more appropriate than seeing three doubles in Gemini!
Technical data Date February 26, 2001 10:00pm-12:00am (6:00-8:00 Feb 27 UT) Location Backyard, in Roseville, CA 121W 16', 38N 44' Instrument Orion DSE 10" f/5.6 dob-newt Oculars 7.5, 10, 17, 26mm Sirius Plössls Seeing 8/10 Very good Transparency 8/10 Very clear
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