2011-12-15, 21:00-00:30 CST
Location: Home, backyard, 41d44’N 93d36’W
Seeing: 3-4/5, Trans.: 3/5
Half moon after ~10:30pm
Temp: 30-22F, slight occasional breeze
Very humid, no visible clouds
Zhumell Z10 10″ Newtonian reflector
Celestron Skymaster 15×70 binoculars
Nikon D3100 DSLR (see lunar photos and videos below)
What I saw
* NGC 7662, Blue Snowball Nebula
Viewed at 80x, 138x, and 277x. NGC 7662 was a surprisingly bright nebulous disc shape, much larger than the surrounding stars, but difficult to discern structure or pattern. UHC filter made it appear smaller. A night with better seeing or darker skies may allow me to resolve some detail. Using the homemade push-to system made finding this quite easy. I’m worried that will start to be a crutch…
* NGC 457, Owl Cluster (failure)
I looked for the Owl Cluster but was unprepared and hadn’t studied enough to find it. I didn’t want to bore my friend who had stopped by and do more searching. Turns out I was looking around the wrong “hump” of Cassiopeia. I’ll be prepared next time.
* NGC 884, Double Cluster, Cassiopeia
Viewed at 208x. Looked nice as always. I want to spend more time in Cassiopeia and focus on all the other cluster-y wonders that I have overlooked.
* M42, Orion Nebula
Viewed at 40x, 80x, 208x, and 416x. Awesome tonight. I could easily make out details in the nebula clouds enough to see the dark sections as well. The UHC filter really made it pop out, and the trapezium and surrounding cloud was sharp and clear all the way up to 416x.
Viewed at 208x and 416x. Awesome! Seeing had become nice enough (around 4/5) that we could resolve swirly details in the cloud bands, and not just swaths of color. My best view of Jupiter yet. Galilean moons looked relatively close to the planet. It was very bright tonight, at least bright enough to make it difficult to look at. I used one of my circular polarizer filters to attempt to tone it down a little, which helped.
Viewed at 208x and 416x. Viewing the lunar surface at 416x was amazingly sharp, at least to me. It was much sharper than I’d seen it in the past at that magnification. 208x was wonderfully sharper, but it was good enough at 416x that we stuck with that. I took the opportunity to take photos and high definition video with my Nikon D3100 afocally from a tripod, with good results. (scroll down for photos and movies)
Viewed at 416x. Mars looked like a small reddish/orange disk, somewhat mottled, but barely discernible. I thought I was possibly able to see a light white or yellow section on the bottom right (upper-left) of the disk of the planet. That should have been a polar ice cap, but I’m not sure if I really saw it or not. Mars was located about 20 degrees above the eastern horizon when I viewed it.
Lunar surface photos
Lunar surface movies
720p HD is available! (but not default)