December Observing List

Our next club dark sky star party will be Dec 28th at the usual Kaʻohe site, in the lull between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The Pleiades, color image through LRGB filters
The Pleiades, color image through LRGB filters

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, with a couple more suitable for binocular viewing.

While most of these will be easy to locate and observe, there are a few more challenging objects in the list.

Continue reading “December Observing List”

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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

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

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

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.

The List

I usually have a list of things that need done on the summit. Mostly manini things, stuff that takes a few minutes, or maybe an hour. Not enough to justify a day on the summit, this stuff can usually wait for a week or two, until I find time. When a more serious issue takes me to the summit, something that must be done, it may take an hour, or half a day. When the main thing is done I always have the list to fill in the remainder of the day.

Summit To Do List
The list of things to do on the summit.
There were three things on the list, one that had to get done. No problem, I will be on the summit tomorrow. A phone call added another item to the list. A co-worker stopping by my desk with a favor to ask… One more item added. When the end of the day was finally upon me, the list had grown to ten items. It usually works that way.

A small yellow-lined piece of paper pulled from a pad, a scrap that would rule my day on the summit. I slip the list into my left breast pocket beside a black ball-point pen.

Attach a data logger to the K2 shutter drive controllers and move the top shutters. The data looks… Ummm… interesting. That will wait for another day to analyse. The shutters have been faulting out a bit lately, there is something wrong with the VFD drives, but I am not sure what. Hopefully the answer is in the data. Much of the morning is consumed with getting the test done.

Align the WYKO interferometer under the AO bench… No problem, takes five minutes… After I gown up to enter the AO enclosure. I can replace the wave front camera controller while I am in there, just swapping the unit with the controller from the development lab at headquarters. Alignment complete, nice fringes on the video monitor… Sam will be happy with that.

Time for lunch and a game of cribbage, a busy day makes this break all that much more enjoyable, It is a fun game, even if we do lose. We do not keep score, we play for fun and bragging rights for the day. All is forgotten a day later, with years of experience the skill level is pretty even and everyone takes a turn winning or losing.

A tour at 1pm, some family friends from Portland getting a tour of the telescope, always fun. A meeting at 3pm… I forget what for now… It must have been terribly important. The day was just a mite hectic, hurrying from task to task. Slowly the list dwindled as I cross off items.

As we headed down the mountain, I pulled the now well tattered list from my pocket. Not complete, a couple items will wait for another day. But still… A sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment. None of these tasks were of major importance, none would stop the telescope from going on-sky that night, just the routine minutiae of keeping the telescopes operating.

Naked Eye 100 Challenge

Amateur astronomers love lists… The Messier observing list, the Hershel 400, the Hershel II, and on. Some lists can be complete on a night or two, some lists may take years, or even a lifetime to accomplish. Amateur astronomy is not the only avocation to use lists like this. Birders attempt to see all of the birds known to occur in their home country. Aircraft spotters love to see each model of aircraft in the air. Divers keep lists of species seen underwater.

Rainbow Wheel
A rainbow and cloud shadows produce a rainbow wheel
Lists like these are not only fun, but allow the list chaser to sample the wonders our universe has to offer. The challenge of finding and observing each of the items is worthwhile. Each object is a lesson into the science, hunting each object allows skills to be practiced.

Most of the astronomy observing lists require a small telescope to accomplish, or at least a pair of binoculars. One list is a bit different, it does not require any optical aid at all… The Naked Eye 100.

Continue reading “Naked Eye 100 Challenge”