Monday, January 19, 2009

Observing log: January 18, 2009

For some odd reason, it was noticeably darker than usual at my observing location (about ten miles outside Waco). I wonder if there is some reason why fewer Wacoans would have had their lights on last night? And the transparency was great. I bagged M 1, 31, 32, 35, 42, 43, 44, 51, 65, 66, 76, 78, 81, 82, 97, 108, 109, 110, NGC 136, 457, 891, 1232, 1501, 1502, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, 2023, 2071, 2158, 2194, 3034, 3628, and Hyades. It was marvelous. Some of these were things that I wasn't planning on observing, but I happened on them (e.g., when searching for 1502, I came across a little planetary nebula—it turned out to be 1501). My one regret is that while I was going to go after the nebulosity in the Pleiades, I forgot to put it on my to-observe list before leaving home, so I didn't do it. Four reflection/emission nebulae around the Orion Nebula were lighting up nicely, so I probably had a chance.

Ave regina caelorum!


Athanasius said...

Can you describe the telescope you're using? You seem to be getting plenty of mileage out of it.

I've just purchased a 5inch Newtonian for my son here in Australia, and we're still getting the hang of it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

It's an older 8-inch Newtonian, by Coulter, which I bought used, including the nasty friction-fit focuser (which isn't too bad, unless one uses a heavy eyepiece, which I now usually do). I am using a Palm TX PDA, together with AstroInfo software, for finding objects. The telescope has a red-dot finder on it (adapted from Daisy gunsight by the previous owner), and I added paper setting circles for altitude/azimuth positions.

More important than the kind of telescope, in my (short) experience, is how dark the skies are. Planets and moon excepted, one can see more good stuff with binoculars in dark skies than with an 8" in the city. I drive about 10 miles out of town for nice (but not superb) observing conditions.

But there are some objects that look good in the city. The moon, planets, the brighter globular clusters, and various open clusters are just work fine in the city. So does the Orion Nebula in the northern hemisphere (I don't know if it can be seen in the southern hemisphere). There are various lists of good urban objects, but I think they may be geared to the northern hemisphere. Your local astronomy club may have good advice.

In the southern hemisphere, the two Magellanic Clouds should look good in a 5 inch, and 47 Tucanae and Omega Centauri should be magnificent, even in the city. (I am looking forward to observing Omega Centauri in April, when it will be about 11 degrees above the horizon in the evening in Waco. But the views of this magnificent object from the southern hemisphere are supposed to be much better.)