Winter 2017 Visual Observing

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Winter 2017 Visual Observing

Unread post by Pete » Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:34 am

Wishing Star Observatory 20 Dec 2017, 18:30 hrs.

Had some trouble opening dome shutter tonight. Teflon slide may have come off and be jamming. It’s calm, temperature’s about 32°F, but the transparency isn’t the greatest. Powered up 14” and synced on Aldebaran just as Aaron P arrived. The camera’s still down but tonight’s objective is to refine the scope’s go-to.

One of the LX600s at Wheaton has very poor go-to, and since Aaron’s tasked to fix it I’ll be talking him through the procedure. We’re using the 9mm illuminated reticle eyepiece.

First Aaron verifies polar alignment using the drift method. There’s no drift in AZ or DEC. So the pier alignment is still dead-on after 10 years.

Then we train drives to reassess backlash. Since I’m on a wedge Aaron does AZ mode only.

And finally, Aaron runs Meade’s Smart Mount program, where the scope’s synchronized on about 40 different stars to eliminate any inconsistencies in Go-To. This is similar to the T-Point program.

We’re done with the scope adjustments. To give Aaron a feel for the use of filters we view M42 unfiltered and then thru an Orion Ultrablock. The narrow band filter really makes the contrast jump out.

The December issue of Sky & Telescope has a cornucopia of observing plans, but we embark on Sue French’s look into Cassiopeia viewing thru a Nagler 31mm eyepiece.

M52 is a moderately bright open cluster with maybe 100 stars, the brightest being around 7th mag. Transparency is improving.

NGC 7789 is another open cluster with about 80stars, the brightest around 10th mag.

Eta Cas is a double star, with the white primary being 3.4 mag and the red secondary being 7.4 mag. There’s good separation even at 115X. At a distance of 19.4 light years, the secondary iso one of the few red dwarfs close enough to disclose their color through a small telescope.

NGC 281 is an emission nebula overlaid on open cluster IC 1590. Neither of us can see the nebula, even through the recommended O3 filter. And stars in IC 1590 are dim and no great shakes either.

NGC 457 (the Owl cluster) is brilliant and a fun final object on Sue’s listing.

We step outside and view M42 thru a Celestron 15X70 binocular. And then Aaron leaves and I shut down the observatory.

In at 21:20 hrs. Temperature’s down to 26°, the air's still and the sky is crystalline clear. A great night for visual observing. And it's worth noting that all slews were right on the money.

hgp logged 11:00 hrs, 21 Dec 2017
Pete P.
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Re: Winter 2017 Visual Observing

Unread post by Apollo XX » Thu Dec 21, 2017 6:07 pm

Awesome report, Pete! I was out too for awhile last night, and the sky was beautifully clear over my way with outstanding transparency. I've been playing around visually with a new-to-me galaxy up in Camelopardalis, NGC 2403. Compared to the dim ones I've been chasing as of late, this thing is a welcome contrast. I first saw it in 20x80 binos last weekend, and decided to go back with a 4" refractor last night. 2403 is a virtual replica of M33, except that it's about four times further away so it only takes up about a quarter of a degree on the sky. It's bright though at about mag 8.6, and even in such a modest scope I could begin to discern structure. I plan to keep going back with progressively larger scopes to see how good it gets. If you're still set up for visual tonight you might want to give this one a try.
Mike M.
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