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OR: A few random star hops

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Old September 30th 03, 05:46 AM
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Default OR: A few random star hops

Location: near Eagle Lake, TX
Date: Saturday September 27, 2003
Telescope: 8" f/6 Newtonian reflector
Seeing: 8/10
Visibility: Mag 6 to 6.5
Moon: none

A cool dry front came through just in time for the weekend, leaving us
with gorgeous weather here in SE Texas. Saturday night at Eagle Lake
was perhaps the darkest I've seen it there. I was able to barely make
out a Mag ~6.5 star immediately southwest of Kappa Aquilae with
averted vision, and that wasn't even near the zenith.

I got to my usual observing site well after the last apparent vestiges
of twilight had disappeared (about 8:45 PM), so I had to set up with
my truck's headlights on. Mosquitos quickly proved to be a nuisance
and would remain so the rest of the night; a few were hungry enough to
completely ignore the Deep Woods Off repellent I'd sprayed on. But
the can is pretty old and perhaps the active ingredients have gone
inert by now, who knows.

This night I did some star hopping in Aquila, Aries, and Cassiopeia.
Struve double star catalog references below are to the RA-ordered

I. Looking for Palomar 11

Palomar 11 is a faint globular cluster in Aquila that needs lots of
aperture to see but I was hopeful to catch a glimpse.

Starting from the pure white Kappa Aquila and moving 1.5 SE, I
stopped at Struve 3603. This is a wide, unspectacular, nearly
equal-brightness double at 55x. According to the MSA, the components
are at 193 and 195 light years distance; their relative proximity to
each other implies that S3603 is a true binary system. It's
impressive that they're gravitationally bound at 2 light years from
each other!

Star hopping along a "mini Northern Cross" pattern in the same FOV as
S3603, I reached where Palomar 11 is supposed to be. Nothing jumped
out at 55x. At 100x and 175x I still couldn't see anything, even with
averted vision. I had to abandon this one!

II. On to NGC 6822 (Barnard's Galaxy)

For this star hop I started at 57 Aquilae, which happens to be the
double star Struve 3650. This is an attractive double at 55x, both
members being white and one slightly dimmer than the other.

Bearing SSW from 57 Aql, I passed 56 Aql and arrived at 51 Aql.
According to the MSA (Hipparcos parallax data), 51 Aql is relatively
nearby at 86 light years. A pretty but dim equal-brightness double
lies immediately west.

Continuing SW I arrived at Struve 3634, an attractive but somewhat
wide double at 55x. The secondary is listed as being Mag 8.8 in the
Struve catalog, but it seems much dimmer than that. Perhaps it's a

Crossing the border into Sagittarius, I star hopped my way to NGC
6835, an extremely faint elongated galaxy (at 101x and 174x) next to a
12th magnitude star. I was unable to spot NGC 6836 right next door.

1 SE of NGC 6835 is Struve 3657. Is there a color contrast in this
nice faint double? 55x.

Through the finderscope I star hopped almost 3 east to Struve 3611, a
fine equal-brightness double of 5.4" separation with Mag 9.5
components. The MSA indicates a tertiary component in nearly the same
PA as the secondary, but I was unable to spot it even at 304x.

Moving down to NGC 6818, I immediately identified the non-stellar
planetary nebula at 55x. In the NSOG this object has the nickname the
"Little Gem". At 175x this planetary is surprisingly large and
bright, though the bluish color the NSOG mentions was invisible to me.
I only saw gray. Mottling was evident with averted vision, perhaps a
hole in the center or something. But the structure was too faint to

As for NGC 6822 (Barnard's Galaxy) itself, what can I say? Nothing,
really. I saw quite a few faint foreground stars where the galaxy was
supposed to be, but no smudge indicating the object itself. I tried
101x, 55x, and even 40x (completely unbalancing my scope with the big
gun Nagler 31), but still no hint. Then I read the description in the
NSOG and realized that this galaxy was likely out of my poor scope's
league. At least the sights along the way were worth it.

III. A Look at Mars

Mars was high by now so I swung the scope over to the bright planet.
I started off at 203x unfiltered and it was clear that the seeing was
quite good. The planet was stable and steady. The tiny SPC was
intensely white against the light orange surface, and it seemed that
the edge of it wasn't exactly circular. The southern hemisphere
showed good detail much of the time, with 304x providing the best
overall view.

Solus Lacus looked like a fat bullseye in a ring, the ring composed of
several features blending together (Aonius Sinus, Bosporus Gemmatus,
Protei Regio, and Mare Erythraeum). Mars Previewer shows no prominent
dark feature to the north of Solus Lacus, but to me the ring looked
complete. The software does show a couple small spots there
(Daedalia, Phoenicis Lacus, Tithonius Lacus, Juventae Fons). I
probably merged these unwittingly in my mind to form a single
continuous feature.

To the west of Solus Lacus, Mare Sirenum was quite evident as a
scimitar-shaped feature. The northern hemisphere was featureless
except for a slight whitening at the northern limb.

Backing down to 55x just for fun, I could just barely make out the
bright white SPC. The markings in the southern hemisphere blended
into a single dark mass. The six diffraction spikes were strikingly
bright and extended almost entirely across the 82 FOV!

IV. Uranus etc.

I made a quick stop at the seventh planet. I was surprised to find
that I could see it quite easily naked eye, not far from Mars at all.
At 55x the tiny disc stood out among the myriad stellar points all
around. It wasn't green like I've seen in the past. It just looked
white, strangely. Usually it's the color that gives it away for me.
At 174x the pale green color came out, but it was subdued.

At this time the Pleaides and Hyades were rising in the east. The
summer Milky Way still cut a bright swath nearly overhead. The Great
Square of Pegasus was directly overhead. M31 was quite apparent naked
eye with direct vision. I couldn't see M33 naked eye, but it was
moderately bright and quite large in my 10x42 binocular.

V. Doubles in Aries

It was time for a double star session, starting with the wonderful
Mesarthim (Gamma Arietis, Struve 260). This is an equal-brightness
double looking like a pair of headlights at 55x.

Moving 1 EES, I found Struve 272 to be a closer split than Mesarthim
but still easy at 55x and attractive to boot.

Half a degree east, the galaxy NGC 772 was visible as a faint round
smudge. I thought I glimpsed the small companion galaxy NGC 770 but I
can't be sure.

Moving to Sheratan (Beta Arietis), I noticed that the diffraction
spikes were apparent even at 100x. This star is nearby at "only" 60
light years.

Struve 249 is about 1 west of Sheratan. It's a nice double at 101x,
with a touch of red in the secondary.

1 Arietis (Struve 247) is a somewhat close but stunning double at
101x. Both components are yellowish.

There are several galaxies around 1 Arietis. NGC 680 stood out pretty
well as a round smudge at 101x. Its elongated spiral neighbor NGC 678
was just barely visible. Though I couldn't see NGC 691, there's a
nice faint equal-brightness double right next to where it's supposed
to be. NGC 697 is a very faint elongated galaxy right next to a bunch
of faint stars. There are a couple other tiny galaxies I didn't even
bother with.

Next I moved down to Struve 276, which is about 1 east of Sheratan.
This is a nice double at 101x, with an apparent color contrast.

Moving 2.5 EES, I found Struve 314. Another fine color contrast
double, though fainter than the last. In addition, a faint Mag 12.3
tertiary is much farther away than the secondary.

Struve 341 is about 1.5 NE of Eta Arietis. It's a fine Mag 9
equal-brightness double, comfortably split at 101x.

Just over 1 NE of Hamal (Alpha Arietis), Struve 320 was very close at
101x. 174x made it a nice split. Though the separation is 2.4"
according to the Struve catalog, the components are quite unequal.

1 east lies Struve 340, yet another fine double at 101x. White
components, almost equal-brightness.

Another 1 east, Struve 349 is an attractive unequal double with a
strikingly similar apparent separation to several of the doubles so
far in Aries.

Going back to Hamal and moving 1.5 NWW, Struve 289 is a fine Mag 10
equal-brightness double. The MSA shows a tertiary but I couldn't see

Struve 274 is about 1 NW of S289. This double is great! Quite close
at 1.2" and consisting of Mag 8.4 and Mag 8.7 components, 101x barely
split the pair. Very similar in appearance to either pair of the
Double Double at say 60x. I was unable to glimpse the galaxy NGC 765
immediately west.

Moving NE to 10 Arietis (Struve 299), I found it to be the tightest
double of the session so far. At 2" with very unequal components, it
took 174x to see the tiny companion on the primary's first diffraction
ring. Moving up to 304x made the double look even better.

Struve 304, another fine close double at 101x, is 1 SE of S299.

VI. NGC 7789 and Environs

I decided to revisit one of my favorite open clusters, NGC 7789. This
is a stunning object at 101x, dominating the already rich star field.
The members of this cluster are rather faint but there are so many.
The stars seem to form arms as in a spiral galaxy!

Sigma Cas (Struve 4302) is a beautiful close double at 101x, located
1 south of NGC 7789.

Struve 2499, on the other side of NGC 7789 from Sigma Cas, is a rather
close double at 1.1". 174x split it well.

I hopped through the finder to Struve 4257, a nice double about 1.5
west of Tau Cas.

Just to the south is a variable known as Osama's Star. I hoped to see
a deep red color like in many variables but was disappointed to find a
nondescript white star. Not even a companion!

On my way north I glanced at the extremely wide double star Struve

Just across the galactic equator I got to M52 and its companion open
cluster Czernik 43. Interesting contrast at 55x. M52 is rich and
shaped like a fat slice of pizza with an isolated clump of several
stars off the "tip" of the slice. Czernik 43 is much looser and less
impressive, though perhaps the same overall apparent size. I was
unable to spot the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) right next door.

While panning around I stumbled across NGC 7510, a really neat open
cluster in Cepheus that's shaped even more like a slice of pizza than
M52 is. This one's a real treat! Quite rich, stands out well from
the surroundings.

1 east of Struve 4264 is the stunning double star Struve 4279.

NEE of this double is NGC 7790, a small but fairly rich open cluster.
It contrasts nicely with NGC 7788 lying just north in the same 101x
field. NGC 7788 is larger and looser, whereas NGC 7790 looks better
at 174x.

Orion has just risen and it's getting late. Time to pack it in.
Old October 1st 03, 04:25 PM
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Default OR: A few random star hops

Actually, NGC 6822 does not require much aperture. It is slightly
easier to see in my 12.5" scope than in my 7", but quite visible
in both. And I have heard reports of people seeing it in 7x50
binoculars, which isn't all that surprising if you think about it.

I usually find it easier in 16x70 binoculars than in a larger scope. =
With the scope it tends to fill the field and sometimes you can't tell =
you're looking at it at all until you pan back and forth a bit. I =
"think" i've seen it in 10x42 binoculars but i checked my logs and don't =
see that i actually said that i could.



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