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The ye old objects-of-the-month club, and any other observing tidbits we come up with like observing reports from members.
2019-01-03: Comet 46P/Wirtanen Nears Polaris
A view of the north celestial pole with Polaris (brightest star at left), and the blue-green comet (at arrow). A RegiStax composite of 5 images using a Canon EOS T3 and 18mm f.l. lens at ISO 800; and f/3.5. Each image is a 2 min. exposure taken at 10 min. intervals from 9:00 to 9:53 pm MST. No Quadrantids (or sporadic meteors) were seen or imaged between end of twilight and 1:45 am. This image is slightly cropped and contrast-enhanced; and suffers from some astigmatism and a slightly misaligned polar axis.
R. B. Minton, Olney Springs, CO
2018-12-04: Comet On The Move
Last night, I had a great view of comet 46P/Wirtanen. It was clearly visible. naked eye, as a soft dot just below pi Eridani. This was at an elevation of about 20 degrees, around 7:30 pm. Two hours later, it was quite a sight. The 'great view' was in 15x70 binoculars. It was about 1/5 of the field width (about 0.9 degrees), with a soft dot core (nucleus), a large, bright spherical glow (coma) and a nearly 2x larger faint halo (gas 'tail'). The faint outer zone was larger at 9:30 pm (around 40 degrees elevation). I had a sense of asymmetry (offset nucleus), but couldn't quite 'see' it.
Around 7:30, the Milky Way was overhead. I scanned the Deneb area with the 15x70's and was blown away by the numerous dark nebulae, and the visible range of darkness (opacity). It was one of those truly moving experiences. Most of these were irregular and quite large relative to most galaxies observed by amateurs. When I tried to identify some of them, I was frustrated by the lack of detailed mapping of these features. No doubt, this is due to a lack of interest by amateurs, likely the result of the sky quality needed to appreciate them.
The dark nebulae around Deneb were considerably reduced two hours later (about 30 degrees lower elevation). However, M31 was incredible -in the 15x70's it was huge (spanned most of the 4.4 degree field), looking very much like a inclined spiral galaxy. :-) M110 was large and M32 was visible but obscured by the disc of M31.
I then turned to the Orion region. The sword area and belt (with Collinder 70) were amazing. In the sword, NGC1977 and 1980 were both visible as soft glows. I then caught sight of a soft arcuate glow on the edge of the field. I was able to trace the entire Baranrd's loop in the 15x70's without a filter and with direct vision. Changes in brightness and width were easily visible.
The Rosette nebula (in the 15x70's) was huge (around 1 1/2 degrees dia.) and highly varriegated - wreath like.
Quite a night! All with 15x70 AP binoculars (kindly loaned to me by Larry Arbeiter).
The wind was calm and the temperature was 21°F - cold but easily manageable. Light meter reading (10° version) was 21.58 mpsas, overhead, in the Milky Way. The Milky Way typically decreases such a reading by about 0.2 mpsas.
Taken with a ASI1600MC on a C8 HyperStar lens, 30 seconds, gain 250 at Box Canyon, NM. That's Pi Cet to the left. Maybe the start of a tail if you squint a lot.
Bob G (Bob2)
2018-06-11: A Couple Of Observing Alerts
1) Last chance to observe Omega Centauri this year. It is now visible at the end of astronomical twilight almost due south, within a binocular field of the horizon (less than 5 degrees). By midnight it is below the horizon. Don't miss this spectacular DSO.
2) Mars is rapidly approaching opposition (end of July) when it will be 24 arc seconds in diameter. It is already over 16 arc seconds and appears very similar in size to the disc of Saturn. Much detail can already be seen in small scopes at only 150 - 200x.
3) We are now getting periods of a few days of monsoonal circulation (though not the rain, which is likely a few weeks off). The monsoons bring a lot of clouds and fewer nights, but the best seeing of the year. Take advantage of any clear nights and treat yourself to some superb views.
2018-05-12: Challenge Accepted
Dr. Dan and I were taking a peek at Omega Centauri through some binoculars at Etscorn Observatory...and then M13...and then the idea came up to take a picture with the same settings of both objects to compare their sizes. M13 is on the left, and Omega Centauri on the right. The pictures are intrinsically crap, because I was testing the mount and the scope, and not planning on taking any good pictures, but you can get the idea. These are the same scale, and were the same exposure length, so the size difference is real. The Omega one is hazy, because of light pollution.
Bob G (Bob2)
If you have a low southern horizon, scan the horizon around 11:30 pm for a view of the Omega Centauri globular cluster. Look between Corvus and Spica (along the horizon). It is visible to the naked eye under dark skies, but more easily spotted in binoculars as a large (moon-size) granular glow. If you place Omega Centauri at the bottom of the binocular field you will spot the Centaurus A galaxy near the top of the field as a small dim 'spot'. The famous dust lane is easily seen (with averted vision) in small telescopes.