Technical data Date/Time: 14 Jan 2002 - 2100-2300 PST (1300-1500 UT) Location: Novato CA. 38N 122.6W Elev 500' Weather: 6°C, 68% Hum Instrument: Discovery 8" Dob, 7x50 Finder Oculars: Pentax XL eyepieces Seeing: LM 5+, moderate steadiness Visibility: Bay Area light dome obscures horizon to the east.
It was very cold (for California) with a mild breeze, just to add an edge to the chill, but the skies were very clear, so when I arrived home I put out my 8" Dob on the back deck, and after a quiet evening in the house I started observing.
Starting with the usual suspects, to check seeing, and get the blood flowing... M42, Trapezium etc, then to follow up on observations from last Saturday, I split Rigel in the 8" but needed 115x (10.5mm Pentax), below this the companion was lost.
In Cetus, I revisited M77 and NGC1055. The Messier object is easy in the 8", and shows up in the finderscope. However the galaxy 1055 is more challenging, finding it was easy as the star pattern is simple, and it is quite close to Delta CET. Getting detail was difficult, the small triangle of stars noted in the larger telescope only shows the brightest star, and the bar/sharp cutoff on the N side were truly only visible with averted vision.
Moving to Lepus, for Hind's Crimson Star, R Leporis, now near it's maximum in its 14 month cycle. It was certainly brighter than its immediate neighbour, but not the brightest in the FOV, checked by defocussing the view to compare the "donuts". Clearly reddish hued (more orange than red to my eyes), as the tip star of a diamond asterism (65x).
M79 is a very nice little globular cluster in Lepus, flanked by a pair of bright field stars N and S (at 65x), it is easy to see and just visible in the 50mm finder approx 20' ENE from h3752 a mag 4.5 double star. At 85x a field star due N becomes visible and outlying stars are pin pricks in my averted vision. At 115x some shell like arcs seem to show around the core.
NGC 2017 asterism is quite visible in the 8" although the fainter members are more difficult, and splitting them would require dreamlike conditions.
In Canis Major I tracked down two open clusters, beginning with M41 which is a nice loose open cluster with a couple of brighter stars central to the group. NGC 2345 is a much weaker OC, where the brightest triangle of stars can be seen in the finder as a smudge. Numerous dimmer stars can be seen in the telescope at 65x.
In Taurus M1 is still one of my favourite object, and tonight is no exception. At 85x it shows some scalloping around the edges with V shaped incursions pushing into the cloud of nebulosity. With averted vision the central region takes on a jagged S shape; almost like a lightning bolt S. My crude sketches don't do it justice.
Taurus also has a double cluster, NGC 1807/1817, not as bright as the famous one, but well defined against the sky background. The eastern cluster (1807) has more, and fainter, stars. It is a loose assortment with brighter components (which are visible in the finder) on the W side towards 1817, which is vaguely T shaped, and otherwise unremarkable.
My time is up, as observing from home I don't take as many precautions against cold, silly, but the warm house is just meters away...
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