As I stated in my previous post, I was fortunate to spend three nights at Zephyr Ridge Observatory over the 4th of July weekend. The first two nights were clear throughout, and on the third night I had to wait until about 1 AM before a passing cloud mass disappeared. So, altogether I was reasonably productive, and below I present my observing report.
I mention a few highlights. First, I took a last look at the supernova (SN 2011by) in NGC3972 that I first saw on April 30 (see report here). The supernova is continuing to visually weaken, as I estimated its visual magnitude to be fainter than 15.0. I will not be able to see it again on my next trip, as it was already very nearly obstructed by the north side of my building at the end of astronomical twilight.
I focused my observing on galaxies, galaxy clusters and planetary nebulae. Many of these were quite challenging, even with a 20” telescope. No matter what aperture one has, most amateur astronomers push the limit! One planetary nebula, Abell 63, was quite difficult. When I first tried to see it, during the July 2-3 evening, I failed altogether. The next night I succeeded, although the view was confined to intermittent glimpses.
Why was I successful the second time and not the first, even though in both instances I was looking at the same position in the sky? My answer is fatigue. I was quite tired the first night, whereas the second night I took a long nap prior to observing and felt more refreshed. The sky was actually a little better on the first night than the second, but I was better on the second night. This is a lesson for all visual astronomers; while well-made optical equipment and pristine skies are important, we must also remember that the last link in the chain leading to human perception of deep sky objects is the eye/brain connection.
I hope to make another trip to Zephyr Ridge Observatory at the end of July, and will report shortly thereafter.
All observations were made with my 20” f/5 reflector, with the exception of M62 (second observation below).
7/1/2011 11:32 PM
SN 2011by (NGC3972) Supernova/Galaxy UMa Mag 13
RA 11h55m45s Dec +55°19’12” Size 4’
This was an observation of supernova SN 2011by, which I discovered on April 30, four days after the original discovery (read the story here). The purpose of the observation was to make a formal magnitude estimate for the American Association of Variable Star Observers. The estimate was made at 212x. I used an AAVSO chart and referenced a single magnitude 15.0 star. The SN and reference star were of approximately equal brightness, although I think the SN may have been a tiny bit fainter. With no fainter reference star on the chart, I am only able to state that the magnitude is fainter than 15.0.
7/1/2011 11:37 PM
NGC6266 (M62) Globular Cluster Oph Mag 8
RA 17h01m12s Dec -30°07’00” Size 14.0′
Very low altitude view, so I used the 4” Borg refractor to get above the south wall. At 52x, this globular is quite bright, of moderate size, and has a large, bright core. No stars were resolved. There is a faint field star just off the halo to the SE. Another faint star is near the halo to the SW, and beyond that along the same line is a much brighter field star. To the NW there are three field stars. Directly north, and much further away there is a pair of very bright stars.
7/1/2011 11:50 PM
UGC8201 Galaxy Dra Mag 12.9
RA 13h06m27s Dec +67°42’14” Size 3.5’x1.9’
This galaxy is located near a nice 5-star asterism that was easy to spot. Just south of a pair of stars that form the south edge of the asterism, I was able to see a very faint hazy cloud, best seen with averted vision. It was extremely faint, and would be easy to miss if I did not have a map to guide me. The galaxy is fairly large, almost as wide as the separation of the two southernmost field stars just mentioned. No central brightening or other features seen.
7/2/2011 12:06 AM
NGC5280 Group Galaxy Cluster CVn Mag 15
RA 13h42m56s Dec +29°52’07”
A large and faint group. At 363x I hopped from galaxy to galaxy using a map generated from Voyager software. NGC5280 is a dim fuzzy with a brighter core area. The halo was tiny. Slewing to the NW, there is a small 4-star rectangle, and east of this group I found NGC5277, which is a very faint hazy spot, which I was able to hold with averted vision. Returning to NGC5280 and slewing west, I found NGC5274 and NGC5275. NGC5275, located WNW of a field star, is a very faint spot, and averted vision revealed a stellar nucleus (intermittent). Just north of NGC5275 is NGC5274, also very faint with a stellar nucleus. UGC8682, located just to the east according to my map, was not visible. I slewed from there to the SW, where a pair of stars pointed to PGC1877944 according to my map. I found the two stars (and one additional star), but was not able to see PGC1877944. At this point, I decided I had seen as much as I could see, concluding with four confirmed galaxies (there are six in the group according to my reference).
7/2/2011 12:19 AM
IC4349 Group (includes Hickson 69) Galaxy Cluster Boo Mag 12.2
RA 13h55m31s Dec +25°03’46” Sep 1.9’ (Hickson 69)
Hickson 69 and the IC4349 group are located in close proximity; in fact, the IC4349 group includes Hickson 69. I used a map and keyed off of a bright three-star triangle, touring these galaxies at 363x. Just to the east of this triangle, I found IC4344 and IC4345. IC4345, the more northerly member of the pair, is the brighter of the two. It has a bright stellar nucleus and small, circular halo. NGC4344 is a little fainter, exhibiting a stellar nucleus (seen with averted vision) and a small halo. Slewing to the NW, I found IC4343, which is a small dim spot with stellar nucleus suspected. From there, I slewed to the SE towards another small triangular asterism, where the four members of Hickson 69 are located. I found the triangle, but the galaxies were challenging. In between the easternmost pair of stars of this triangle (which form a line SSE to NNW), I was able to detect a very faint haze with averted vision (PGC49507). Just to the north of the same pair of stars (approximately in line with their vector), I could see another patch of light. I could see a small pinpoint, and then to the west of that a small hazy spot. Perhaps these were PGC49505 and PGC49502, respectively, although the observation was very difficult and uncertain. From here, I slewed approximately north to find additional galaxies on my map. I found a pair of field stars oriented roughly N-S, and in between this pair and to the west, I found the namesake galaxy IC4349, and just west of that is another galaxy, IC4346. Both were extremely faint. IC4349 was a little larger, with no detectable core brightening. IC4346 appeared as a smaller wisp of haze. Moving north of this pair, I was able to see another extremely faint galaxy, IC4348, which is even fainter than the previous pair, requiring averted vision to catch glimpses of its presence.
7/2/2011 12:41 AM
NGC6565 Planetary Nebula Sgr Mag 13
RA 18h11m53s Dec -28°10’41” Size 0.2’
I caught this object at transit, but still at only about 15 degrees altitude, so my Obsession was barely clearing the south wall. I was able to pinpoint the location of this nebula at 98x using a detailed Voyager map. Switching to 363x, this nebula was clearly nonstellar. Blinking an OIII confirmed the sighting. The disk was tiny, circular, and gray/white. The central star was not visible.
7/2/2011 12:51 AM
NGC6620 Planetary Nebula Sgr Mag 15
RA 18h22m54s Dec -26°49’17” Size 0.1’
Once again, a very low altitude view. At 363x, I was able to pick this out of the crowd as a “soft” star, although I would characterize it as stellar, as I really did not really perceive a disk. I confirmed the location with a map. There is a bright field star to the SE, and another field star to the west, and a little further away. Both of these were brighter than the nebula. Inserting an OIII brightened the nebula to at least the same brightness as these field stars, confirming the sighting.
7/2/2011 1:29 AM
Abell 2162 Galaxy Cluster CrB Mag 13.7
RA 16h12m30s Dec +29°32’23” Sep 72.0′
A very large group of galaxies, which I had hoped to sweep at 98x (wider field), but I had little luck seeing much at this power and so switched to 212x. I was able to see only four of the members altogether, as the remaining 26 members are apparently just too faint. I found NGC6085 and NGC6086 near a curving arc of stars. NGC6085 is a tiny pinpoint with a little haze around it, located just west of a bright field star. NGC6086, located north of there, is a little brighter and had a slightly larger halo. There is a bright field star to the NNW. I slewed carefully to the west of these galaxies to seek out other members. I was able to pick up UGC10258 as a small hazy spot with no core brightening. I also scanned to the NNW of the above-described NGC pair and found UGC10262, located east of the triangle of field stars. UGC10562 had a stellar nucleus and a small halo. I was unable to see any other members of this group.
7/2/2011 1:57 AM
PK053+24.1 Planetary Nebula Her Mag 12
RA 17h54m24s Dec +28°00’00” Size 5.2″
Viewed at 363x. This nebula is easy to find, as it forms one corner of a nice equilateral triangle with two field stars, the westernmost being a double and the southernmost being the brightest. The PN is the northernmost member of the triangle, and is stellar. To confirm the PN, I inserted an OIII, which resulted in the PN being brighter than the southernmost star, confirming the sighting.
7/2/2011 2:02 AM
PK038+12.1 Planetary Nebula Oph Mag 12.4
RA 18h17m36s Dec +10°09’00” Size 7.0″
Viewed at 363x. This planetary nebula was puzzling. I found the precise location using a detailed map from Voyager software. The nebula is listed as 7″ in diameter, but it appeared stellar even at 363x. I inserted an OIII filter, which resulted in the nebula disappearing altogether, which is unusual. I scanned the nearby vicinity with the OIII in place just in case my map is incorrect, but saw no nonstellar objects. I conclude that this could be a stellar PN that does not respond to an OIII. Perhaps this is misclassified as a PN?
7/2/2011 2:26 AM
PK032+07.2 Planetary Nebula Ser Mag 12.2
RA 18h24m42s Dec +02°30’00” Size 14″
I spent considerable time with this object at 363x as I expected a nonstellar object give the reported size of 14”, but this was not the case. It is a stellar PN, forming a nice triangle with two bright stars, one directly west and one SSW of the nebula. Blinking an OIII easily confirmed the sighting, as the PN remained visible while the two other stars disappeared altogether.
7/2/2011 2:41 AM
M1-92 Minkowski’s Footprint Planetary Nebula Cyg Mag 11.7
RA 19h36m18s Dec +29°33’00” Size 0.13’x0.27′
I found this using a detailed Voyager map and viewed it at 363x. The first impression is that this nebula appeared as a resolved double star, because there is a bright star next to the nebula. But, M1-92 looks like a “soft” star – still stellar, however – and had a bluish tint. It did not respond to the OIII filter.
7/2/2011 11:29 PM
Hickson 70 Galaxy Cluster CVn Mag 12.1
RA 14h04m13s Dec +33°19’40” Sep 3.4’
I was able to see several members of this cluster at 363x. The most prominent member is IC4369, which is the southernmost galaxy. I saw a large hazy halo with a little central brightening. The halo may be slightly elongated. Directly north of this galaxy, I saw two points of light, with one of these exhibiting a little haze around the point, which I identified as IC4370. (The other may have been a field star.) To the east from there, I saw IC4371, which appeared as a very faint streak of light that I could only see by gently slewing the scope. To the west of IC4370, I saw something that seemed like a field star at the location of PGC50123.
7/2/2011 11:40 PM
NGC5490 Group Galaxy Cluster Boo Mag 13
RA 14h09m57s Dec +17°32’43”
Observed at 363x. NGC5490 was easy to see, with a bright, nearly stellar nucleus surrounded by a small circular halo. NGC5490B and NGC5490C, to the E and NNE, respectively, were barely visible patches of light that I was able to see with averted vision while gently slewing the scope, but could not hold with averted vision while the scope was stationary. Moving northward, I found IC982 and IC983, located near a very bright field star. The southernmost, IC982, has a circular halo with only a tiny bit of brightening in the core. IC983 showed a smaller halo with some core brightening and an intermittent stellar nucleus. My reference indicates this galaxy is actually larger than IC982, but perhaps it seemed smaller due to being very close to the disturbing light of the nearby field star (HD 123930, mag. 9.03). I was unable to detect any other galaxies in this group.
7/3/2011 12:01 AM
NGC5529 Galaxy Boo Mag 13
RA 14h15m34s Dec +36°13’34” Size 5.9’
At 363x this is an attractive elongated streak, with the long axis oriented NW-SE. The central area is bracketed on the north and south sides by two nearby field stars. The halo is fairly large, and is mottled, mostly on the north edge. The core is only slightly brighter than the halo. There is a pretty line of three field stars just off the eastern tip of the halo. Nice galaxy.
7/3/2011 12:15 AM
NGC5544/5545 Galaxy Boo Mag 13
RA 14h17m03s Dec +36°34’17” Size 1.1’
At 363x, this is evidently an interacting galaxy pair, as their halos are connected. I was able to discern two main concentrated masses of the overlapping galaxies. The western galaxy, NGC5544, showed a circular halo and stellar nucleus. The eastern galaxy, NGC5545, has an elongated halo with very little core brightening.
7/3/2011 12:20 AM
NGC5557 Galaxy Boo Mag 11.1
RA 14h18m26s Dec +36°29’36” Size2.4’x2.2’
NGC5557 is near the interacting pair NGC5544/5545. At 363x it was quite bright, with a bright nonstellar core and a slightly elongated halo. (The elongation was only apparent with averted vision.) There appears to be a field star overlapping the halo, SE of the core, that is not shown on my map. (Images on the web showed the star, so my map is incomplete.)
7/3/2011 12:52 AM
NGC5714 Group Galaxy Cluster Boo Mag 13.4 (brightest)
RA 14h38m12s Dec +46°38’16”
I toured this group at 363x. NGC5714 is located just south of a row of three bright stars. It appeared as a faint edge-on spiral of moderate size, and averted vision revealed only slight core brightening. Slewing WSW, I was able to pick up PGC2284110, which is located right next to a field star and appeared as only a tiny fuzzy spot. Returning to NGC5714 and moving eastward, I found the faint NGC5717, which had a small circular halo and a stellar nucleus. Continuing eastward, I was able to see a small fuzzy spot with suspected stellar nucleus, which was either NGC5721 or NGC5722 (a close pair, of which it seemed I could only see one member). I was unable to see NGC5723 just NNE of this pair. Continuing ESE, I found PGC2284455, which was an extremely faint hazy spot that was difficult to hold with averted vision.
7/3/2011 1:52 AM
PK051+09.1 Planetary Nebula Her Mag 11.6
RA 18h49m42s Dec +20°51’00” Size 3.0″
This nebula completes a long and thin isosceles triangle with two nearby field stars. At 363x it appeared as a “soft” star, with perhaps a bit more diameter than nearby field stars. Blinking an OIII confirmed the sighting, as it became much brighter than surrounding stars with the OIII in place. I tried my friend Jerry’s 3.7mm Ethos SX eyepiece, which provided 686x, and again the PN appeared slightly thicker than surrounding field stars, although I was unable to achieve pinpoint focus at this power despite the excellent seeing.
7/4/2011 1:29 AM
NGC5613/5614/5615 Trio Galaxy Cluster Boo Mag 16
RA 14h24m06s Dec +34°53’32” Sep 3.2’
At 363x, I was able to easily see NGC5614, which is fairly bright with a roughly circular halo and a bright nonstellar core. There is a bright field star to the SE. Due north from there, I saw a very faint spot that required averted vision, which is NGC5613. I was not able to see NGC5615. Just west of this group, my map shows NGC5609, which I thought I glimpsed once, but was unable to confirm the sighting a second time.
7/4/2011 2:03 AM
PK053-03.1 (Abell 63) Planetary Nebula Sge Mag 11.8
RA 19h42m12s Dec +17°05’00”
I spent a lot of time with this object, and used a map printed from Voyager software to pinpoint the precise location. At 212x I saw nothing at all. Inserting an OIII filter, I intermittently glimpsed a small, extremely faint disk. At 363x with OIII filter, I again saw the disk using averted vision, which I was able to glimpse but could not hold. Quite difficult.
7/4/2011 2:20 AM
NGC6852 Planetary Nebula Aql Mag 11.4
RA 20h00m39s Dec +01°43’41” Size 28″
This one was easy to find, as it is located ENE of a very bright field star. At 363x it appeared as a small glow with a hint of elongation, although this was difficult to pinpoint precisely. I was able to see some mottling in the gas, most of which seemed centrally located, and so I suspect this PN may be annular. Adding an OIII did not enhance the view and I preferred the unfiltered view. The nebula was gray in color and the central star was not visible. There are two field stars just to the west and another just south of the edge, almost touching the nebula.
7/4/2011 2:42 AM
NGC6857 Planetary Nebula Cyg Mag 11.4
RA 20h01m48s Dec +33°31’33” Size 38″
This is a nice, relatively bright planetary nebula. At 363x, my first impression was that it appeared to be a reflection nebula with several stars inside lighting the gas. The surrounding star field is, in general, quite rich, and several are superimposed on the object. But there is one bright star that is just north of the center of the nebula, and may well be the central star. The grayish gas cloud was roughly circular with a ragged, irregular perimeter. Four stars form a diamond around the nebula, and with the nebula included the overall shape suggested a crucifix. Adding an OIII enhanced the view by brightening and enlarging the nebula, but the irregular perimeter remained. A nice object.