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.
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.
Our next club dark sky star party will be June 1st at the usual Kaʻohe site.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
It was a very nice night, clear dark skies and bright stars.
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.
It has been too long since I really got out with a telescope. The ‘scopes have been out, but usually doing public work like last weekend’s Winter Star Party at CFHT in Waimea. Time to get a good night for myself.
As president of our little club I make the schedule and choose the night. Last month was a bust, bad weather rolling in both weekends either side of new Moon. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when this particular Saturday I had chosen looked perfect, not a cloud in the sky over Mauna Kea.
It was the wind that was likely to spoil the night. In Waimea and Waikoloa strong trade winds roared and rushed. A pall of dust could be seen over the whole area from Waimea to the sea. The Kaʻohe site has a particular blessing, it is directly in the lee of the mountain when the trades come out of the nor’east.
Today I learned of the passing of Steven Coe, an amateur observer well known and admired in the Arizona community and elsewhere. He had been having health issues on and off for the past few years, but would usually bounce right back and you could again find him out in the dark with a telescope somewhere.
I spent many nights observing with Steve and the rest of the usual gang at star parties in Southern Arizona. Nights at Sentinel or Farnsworth Ranch, he was nearly always there, one of the most dedicated visual observers in the community.
Go to the new moon events in southern AZ, wherever they were that month, and you would find Steve, AJ Crayon, Tom Polakis, and the rest. If everyone was there, it was going to be a good night. They were very memorable nights indeed.
If you saw Steve setting up at a star party you always wanted to setup nearby, you would learn so much just listening through the night. You were always welcome at his eyepiece, and what I saw there was so often something I had never seen before. A distant quasar, or some obscure gem of a nebula not found in the usual guides. Steve knew so much about the sky, and would cheerfully share that knowledge.