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.

Keep it Running

Some equipment around the observatory is thirty or more years old. As you would expect, keeping it running can be a challenge.

A redesigned small signal PCB for an Inland Motor FCU-100-30 amplifier power supply
A redesigned small signal PCB for an Inland Motor FCU-100-30 amplifier power supply

There are two ways of dealing with this old equipment… Replacing it with something new is the preferred way. When it becomes difficult to locate spare parts, when it breaks down too often, just replace it with new gear. For much of the equipment this is the usual answer and is often a major part of the job.

Some equipment is not so easily replaced. When replacement would require wholesale redesign of a system it becomes more of a challenge. Sometimes the only choice is to keep that old gear running.

This is the case with our servo amplifiers. Twelve amplifiers supply the power that drives the telescope, one amplifier for each motor. Eight amplifiers and motors drive azimuth, four drive elevation. Three hundred and seventy tons moved by twelve relatively small DC motors. While much of the telescope control system was recently replaced, it was decided to keep the old servo amplifiers.

You might notice that these servo amplifiers are just a wee bit critical.

Continue reading “Keep it Running”

A Calm Night at Kaʻohe

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.

Awaiting dark with the 20" telescope
Andrew Unger beside the 20″ Obsession while waiting for properly dark skies at Kaʻohe

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.

Continue reading “A Calm Night at Kaʻohe”

Steve Coe 1949-2018

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.

Steven Coe
Steven Coe set up at the 2004 All Arizona Star Party
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.

Continue reading “Steve Coe 1949-2018”

Justice Wilson’s Dissent

In the wake of the supreme court decision on the TMT conservation district use permit last month, many like myself have been reading the opinions of the court. I was pleased to see that the justices were very clear in their views, there is very little room for any future legal steps in this case. This decision sets clear precedents for future land use cases that will certainly occur over the same issues.

Aliʻiōlani Hale
Aliʻiōlani Hale housing the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. CC Image by D. Logan/Wikimedia Commons
The majority opinion is a systematic refutation of each argument made by telescope opponents. This is particularly true in the numerous trivial matters that opponents attempted to inflate into major issues. Issues like Judge Amanoʻs ʻImiloa membership, or the brevity of some responses to the absolute snowstorm of submissions in the contested case.

In addition to the majority opinion you may read the quite interesting concurring opinion by Justice Pollack. He agrees with the majority on the final result, but promotes using existing frameworks to judge land use cases such as this. It is also interesting the dissenting Justice Wilson joins in this concurring opinion, at least for the first three parts.

The dissent written by Associate Justice Michael Wilson was published almost two weeks later than the majority opinion. The reason for this delay is not given, it is possibly a result of Justice Wilson analyzing the majority opinion and responding to it in his dissent.

As is often the case with decisions like this, it is more interesting to read the dissent than the majority opinion. Any flaws or weaknesses in the case can be examined and can be more informative. This case is an exception to that, the dissent is interesting, if for somewhat different reasons.

Continue reading “Justice Wilson’s Dissent”