A Night Between Hurricanes at Kaʻohe

Our monthly dark skies star party had been originally planned for the night of July 27th, a few days before full Moon. With the governor’s emergency order all access to the mauna was closed, and the gals at the DLNR office let me know I could not get a permit. With that I put out a message I hate to post… Star party cancelled.

The NexStar 11 setup under the Milky Way at Kaʻohe
The NexStar 11 setup under the Milky Way at Kaʻohe, photo processed with Prisma

One week later and things look better, the emergency order has been rescinded and we again have access to the mauna, no problem getting our permit.

The problem this time looked to be weather, no big problem… Just a couple of hurricanes.

Continue reading “A Night Between Hurricanes at Kaʻohe”

A Crisp Night at Kaʻohe

I was a bit concerned as I drove to the site, a heavy fog all the way up Saddle Road persisted as I turned off on the old Saddle Road to climb the ridge to Kilohana. It was not until halfway up the gravel access road that I broke out of the fog, just a hundred yards before the Kaʻohe site.

The restored 8" f/6 Cave Astrola under a dark sky at Kaʻohe
The restored 8″ f/6 Cave Astrola under a dark sky at Kaʻohe

On top of the fog it was gorgeous, a beautifully clear sky overhead with the first stars peeking out. Time to setup a telescope!

I brought the restored 8″ Cave Astrola expecting to spend the evening exploring the clusters and nebulae of the southern Milky Way in Scorpio or a bit further south. This rich region would be well positioned through the night.

We had a small group this particular evening, just six of us… Andre and Anna, Maureen, Andrew, Cliff, and myself set up by the gravel pile. There were pleasant conversations in the night, cookies and brownies to share, and views through each other’s telescopes.

Continue reading “A Crisp Night at Kaʻohe”

June Observing List

Our next club dark sky star party will be June 1st at the usual Kaʻohe site.

Omega Centauri
Omega Centauri, NGC5139

For the evening I have again assembled an observing list for those who want to explore some of the more interesting objects available in the sky this month.

These are all visible in the early evening, all suitable for average telescopes of at least 6-8″ aperture.

M5
RA: 15h 18′ Dec: 2° 4’N Mag: 5.8 Globular cluster in Ser
A nice bright globular, about 15′ in diameter

Iota Cnc
RA: 8h 46′ Dec: 28° 46’N Binary star in Cnc
A pretty yellow and white pair, 4.0 and 6.6 separated by 30″

V Hya
RA: 10h 52′ Dec: 21° 15’S Mag: 8 Carbon star
Reddest carbon star known variable from 6.5-12 magnitude with a period of 533 days

M92
RA: 17h 17′ Dec: 43° 8’N Mag: 6.5 Globular cluster in Her
This nice globular cluster is often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbor M13, but M92 is also worth the stop.

NGC6207
RA: 16h 43′ Dec:36° 50’N Mag: 11.6 Galaxy in Her
Just 28′ north of M13 this faint 11th magnitude galaxy is a nice challenge object for eight inch or larger optics.

NGC5846
RA: 15h 6′ 29.3″ Dec: 1° 36′ 20″N Mag: 10.2 Galaxy in Vir
A bright elliptical, those with larger aperture may note a small companion galaxy on the south edge of the halo

M99 Coma Pinwheel Galaxy
RA: 12h 18′ 49.7″ Dec: 14° 24′ 59″N Mag: 9.8 Galaxy in Com
A nice spiral galaxy, larger aperture will show some of the spiral structure

NGC5128 Centaurus A
RA: 13h 25′ Dec: 43° 1’S Mag: 7 Galaxy in Cen
A large bright galaxy with an obvious dust lane

Proxima Cen
RA: 14h 29′ 43″ Dec:62° 40′ 46″S Red dwarf star
The closest star outside our solar system, a challenge object to be sure, you will want good charts to find this one. The coordinates given above are from the Gaia mission data release 2 and are recent enough to be accurate, this high proper motion star moves about 4 arcseconds each year.

NGC5286
RA: 13h 46′ Dec: 51° 22’S Mag:7.6 Globular in Cen
Another nice, but oft overlooked globular star cluster

Keep in mind that this list is assembled for the usual West Hawaii Astronomy Club observing site at Kaʻohe, on the side of Mauna Kea at 20N latitude. It may include southern objects out of reach for anyone much further north.

April Observing List

For our late April West Hawaii Astronomy Club star party I have put together a short observing list. This in my effort to expand our skills and knowledge of the sky.

NGC6656
M22 or NGC6656 in Sagittarius, a classic globular cluster

The best upcoming weekend for a star party is May 4th, the same day as new Moon. The 4th is also AstroDay Hilo and many members including myself will be busy. Thus our next new Moon star party will be Saturday, April 27th. With a last quarter Moon rising a little before 2am it is a nice night for a star party with dark skies until long after midnight.

Ten objects, from easy to a few more challenging targets, something for everyone. None of these are Messier objects, a couple are from catalogs you may have never heard of. Trust me in that there are a few nice surprises to be found here…

NGC2362
RA: 7h 18′ Dec: 24° 57′ S Mag: 4.1 Open cluster in CMa
Centered on the bright star Tau CMa

h3945
RA: 7h 16′ Dec: 23° 19’S Mag:4.8 Binary star in CMa
Pan north of NGC2362 a few fields or about 1° north and a touch west, called the Winter Alberio

The Stargate
RA: 12h 36′ Dec: 12° 1’S Mag:7 Asterism in Crv
Very bright, easy to find, just one degree SW of M104, look for a triangle within a triangle

NGC4361
RA: 12h 24 Dec: 18° 47’S Mag:10 Planetary nebula in Crv

Melotte 111
RA: 12h 22′ Dec: 25° 51’N Mag:1.8 Open cluster in Com
Hint: Do not use the telescopeNGC4565
RA: 12h 36′ Dec: 25° 59’N Mag: 9.5 Galaxy in Com

Trumpler 20
RA: 12h 39′ Dec: 60° 36’S Mag 10.1 open cluster in Cru
Large, try binoculars or lowest power, very rich!

DY Cru
RA: 12h 47′ Dec: 59° 42’S Mag: 8.4-9.8 Carbon star in Cru
Put Mimosa in the field, put in an eyepiece for about 100x and look 2′ W of Mimosa, if needed put Mimosa just out of the field of view to cut the glare

Pismis 4
RA: 8h 34′ Dec: 44° 24’S Mag: 5.9 Open cluster in Vela
Large, bright, use lowest power

Trumpler 14
RA: 10h 43′ Dec: 59° 32’S Mag: 5.5 Open Cluster in Car
Part of the Eta Carina nebula complex, 19′ NW of Eta Carina

NGC3532
RA: 11h 5′ Dec: 58° 46’S Mag:3 Open cluster in Car
Big, bright, use lowest power

You may notice a lot of seemingly odd catalog designations… Pismis, Trumpler, Melotte… Just to show that there is a lot to discover beyond the Messier and NGC catalogs.

A couple hints… All of these objects are to the south, setup your telescope to be comfortable looking south. Most of these will not be in your telescopes little computer if you use GOTO. Learn how to enter manual RA and Dec coordinates.

M6 The Butterfly Cluster
M6, the Butterfly Cluster, 9 x 1min Canon 60D and AT6RC

All of these objects should be visible in the early to mid-evening on April 27th. Those in Canis Major should be viewed first, while the last are in Crux which rises around 7pm and culminates around 10pm.

The dimmest objects listed here are tenth magnitude, within easy reach of a six inch telescope. If you do not have a six inch, check out the view in someone else’s telescope. The brightest object here does not even need a telescope, indeed it is too large to fit in the field of view.

Beyond Messier

I have noted a tendency among my fellow observers in our little local club… To observe the same objects over and over.

M6 The Butterfly Cluster
M6, the Butterfly Cluster, 9 x 1min Canon 60D and AT6RC

These are the big, bright, showpiece objects that we observe repeatedly. You know the ones… the Orion Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, Omega Centauri, Eta Carina, Jewelbox, Etc.

I too visit old favorites in the night, stopping by to enjoy the beauty. I will also make it a point to view some new objects each observing session, something I have not seen before. Our universe has more to offer, there are many beautiful sights to be had that are all too often overlooked.

Continue reading “Beyond Messier”

Kaʻohe Observing

A nice night at Kaʻohe last night for the members of the West Hawaii Asrtonomy Club. As usual it was cloudy when we arrived, but cleared just after sunset leaving a very nice sky. While heavy dew shut most of us dawn after 11pm, we had several hours of very nice observing.

New Moon at Kaʻohe

It was a very nice night, clear dark skies and bright stars.

Andrew and Maureen observing at Kaʻohe
Andrew and Maureen observing at Kaʻohe

A usual the club’s dark sky star party was held this month at Kaʻohe. After two months of poor weather I was ready for a good night out with a telescope. A few others were too, and joined the club out in the dark.

Arriving at the site there was a thin cloud deck overhead. With years of experience here I looked up and told Maureen that the clouds would be gone in an hour. It did not even take that long, the clouds dissolved right after sunset, leaving a clear skies before we were finished setting up.

Continue reading “New Moon at Kaʻohe”