2011-11-28 Sight Report, impromptu outreach, new Messier object, new sketch

2011-11-28 18:00-19:00, 21:00-23:30 CST
Home, Ankeny front (East, early) and back (West, late) yard.
transparency: 3/5, seeing: 2/5
30F, clear, very slight breeze, light clouds started moving in around 23:00

This was the first night with a little time to test the Zhumell 2″ “see it all” filter set I recently purchased. I was interested to try the UHC, OIII, and sky glow filters to see what they could produce. Both the OIII and UHC filters really helped to make M76 pop out for me. I actually liked the sky glow filter, for general observing. I wouldn’t use it all the time, but I could see value.

I was also interested to try out the new internal OTA semi-flocking opposite the focuser I recently did to my scope. I honestly got caught up in the observing, and didn’t really think too much about it. Thinking back, there seemed to be a difference in contrast, based on other nights and binocular views. I clearly remember thinking the background looked a bit gray before, and last night it was definitely blacker.

What I saw:

* Moon
– 15×70 Celestron Skymaster binos

How cool this was — I had an impromptu “astronomy outreach” with some neighbor kids from about 6-7pm. Imagine five kids ranging in age from three to 6 years old, all clamoring around the binoculars getting a nice view of the waxing crescent moon. I was able to explain the shadowing and they even noticed (and sketched!) the Earthshine on the dark side of the moon. It was neat to see their excitement. My son (4) asked “why is it a rock?” He’s a funny dude.

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We were also able to get a little indoor viewing of the moon through our South/West facing windows. It was fun to have the kids see and understand the motion of the moon and “prove” to them it is not just standing still. Ava was taking note of the largest visible craters on lunar surface. She seemed excited to know they had a name, but I don’t have any moon-mapping knowledge at this point to tell her.

* M45, Pleiades open cluster
– 15×70 Celestron Skymaster binos

This was another one that my mini astronomy outreach with the neighbor kids. It was fun having them count the “seven sisters”. Ava made a nice little sketch of it as well. I tried to point out where it was in the sky with my handy (cheap) green laser, but it apparently just doesn’t work when cold. At all. I guess you get what you pay for at $5.

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– 30mm (~40x) EP, 10″ Zhumell Z10 Newtonian reflector (clean, UHC, and OIII filters)
Later in the evening, I tested out my UHC and OIII filters on Pleiades. Honestly I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t more blue haze, but I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the transparency was maybe around a 3/5, so I’m hoping it would be better sometime. It did seem to show a tiny bit of hazy nebulosity, however.

* Jupiter
– 15×70 Celestron Skymaster binos
– 30mm EP + 2x Barlow (~82x), 10″ Zhumell Z10 Newtonian reflector

Jupiter was the third and last stop before the kids got too cold. They enjoyed moon counting and just the fact that they were looking at another planet. Really neat. This was also the time I had to issue a verbal “look out, dude” to a young teenager who was screeching and running down the sidewalk…otherwise he would have slammed into a pack of five kids, one adult, and binoculars on a tripod. Suburban wild animals.
– 6mm EP (~208x), 10″ Zhumell Z10 Newtonian reflector
I took a quick look at Jupiter right before I called it a night, due to the incoming clouds. I really wanted to watch and see if I would be able to notice the shadow of one of the inner moons on the surface as it transited the planet, but too many clouds. Regardless, there were a few seconds here and there of nice clarity at 208x where I could see differentiation (“barges”? GRS?) in the equatorial cloud bands, and some coloration differences in other parts of the planet.

* M13, Hercules globular cluster
– 15×70 Celestron Skymaster binos

I’m getting good at finding this really fast (not that it’s hard, though). And I swear I was ALMOST able to resolve some stars in it through the binoculars, but I’m not sure. If so it was with averted vision, and sighting it in between two trees above our neighbor’s roofline. Good times in the ‘burbs. Regardless, it’s pretty sweet to know I’m looking at a mass of somewhere around 300,000 stars ~25,000ly away.

* Caldwell 14, NGC 869 & NGC 884, Double Cluster in Perseus
– 15×70 Celestron Skymaster binos

I never tire of looking at this. Ever. I think I have at least snuck a quick peek every single time out. It’s always a winner.

* M76, Little Dumbbell Nebula – new Messier object for me
– 30mm (~40x) EP, 10″ Zhumell Z10 Newtonian reflector (clean, UHC, and OIII filters)
– 30mm EP + 2x Barlow (~82x), 10″ Zhumell Z10 Newtonian reflector (clean, UHC, and OIII filters)

M76 was difficult to catch at first. At 40x I used my DIY push-to alt/az system to get a bead on the area, and after panning around just a bit, I thought I saw something of a small smudge in the eyepiece. It was hard to know if I was on it, since it’s a new one for me, but once I used the UHC filter to try and make it pop (which it did!), I knew I was onto something. I then added a 2x Barlow to my 30mm eyepiece to bring the magnification to ~80x. I decided to make a sketch of what I saw so I could verify it later, and ended up spending some decent time on it before the clouds starting rolling in. The UHC and OIII filters helped a bit to tease out darker/lighter areas of the smudge, and I think my sketch shows that pretty well. I wasn’t able to get all the stars I saw into the sketch due to the incoming clouds, but overall I think it turned out well, and was enough to allow me to verify it using wikisky.org, as Stellarium didn’t have enough stars around it to make a decent identification. I’m really enjoying sketching so far.

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