BCS Backyard Astronomy class of 21 Feb 06

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BCS Backyard Astronomy class of 21 Feb 06

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Tonight’s class objectives include:
1. Get a “feel” for observing with different types of telescopes
2. Further familiarization with the night sky
3. View stuff and have fun

Once more we’ll work from west to east as we observe. Some of these objects were viewed in our 2nd class. Now that students are a bit familiar with them I’ve asked them to see if they can see more than in the first round. February is a month rich in open clusters, so we’ll take some extra time enjoying clusters.

Bob Magnuson and Alan Harris have come by with their scopes to help out – Bob with his 15” Dob and Alan with his 10” Dob. I’ve also got the 15X70 binoculars set up on “Pete’s Pipes” for the class to use on their own. And I’ve got my 14” SCT cooled down and ready.

First, we identified some constellations.
Cassiopeia – the queen
Auriga – the charioteer (Poseidon, his chariot drawn by sea horses)
Taurus – the bull – is he charging Orion?
Orion – the hunter
Gemini – the twins. Castor and Pollux are the two bright stars in the heads of the twins
Ursa Major – the big bear

M31 The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.3 million LY distant. Can you see nearby galaxies M32 and M110?

Eta Cassiopeia – a double star 19 LY distant with wonderful color contrast. The brighter star is 3.5 mag, while the dimmer star is 7.magnitude. These 2 stars circle each other once every 480 years.

C14 (NGC 869) The Double Cluster in Perseus is 7.3 light years distant.

Mars is moving away from us, and its now 1.3 AU (120million miles) distant. This is too far to see detail or its small moons.

M45 – the Pleiades The light we’re seeing tonight from the Pleiades left the stars 440 years ago (the year 1556).

M1 The Crab Nebula This supernova remnant is 6300 LY from Earth. This star went nova in the summer of 1054 according to Chinese documents, and at the time it was “6 times brighter than Venus” and “as brilliant as the full moon”.

The Hyades is an open star cluster only 150 LY away from us. The only nearer star cluster is only 75 LY from us – and it contains most of the stars in the Big Dipper.

M35 This very rich open cluster containing about 500 stars is 2,800 LY distant. - Is nearby open cluster NGC2158 (27’ to the left) in your fov? NGC2158 is 6X further away. Can you tell?

M37 A bright open cluster 4,400 LY distant.

M44 The Beehive cluster is only 577 LY away.

M82 The “Cigar galaxy” is actually a spiral galaxy seen edge-on. Distance – 12,000,000 LY.

M81 is part of the same galaxy group as M82 and is also 12 million LY from us. A short while ago (20 or 30 million years ago) M81 and M82 there was a close encounter between these 2 galaxies that left M82 somewhat distorted.

Saturn & its moons Distance is 8.2 AU (763,000,000 miles). See separate chart to identify moons. Note – this chart is for SCTs, as its mirror image matches my scope’s view.

The class ran from 19:00 to 21:00 hrs. Bob, Alan & I made a half-hearted attempt to view supernova SN 2006x in M100, but it was low and in the streetlight. We went in to warm up, and sitting around the kitchen table we reviewed my printed out plots of M100 and the surrounding stars – from which Bob concluded that he’d been on a 13.9 mag star rather than the SN. That happens to all of us. The import thing is that we eventually figure things out, or know enough to assign a likelihood that our conclusions are erroneous.

Thank you Bob and Alan for helping out. For the most part the class was only familiar with my SCTs, and exposure to you guys and your equipment certainly broadened their perspective.