Saturday, April 21, 2007

20070420 - A mix of galaxies with bright stuff

Session name: 20070420.1900

A wonderful session prepared with the finest ingredients: seasonable temperatures, clear skies, wonderful people, fraternity, and a fine scope.

Over the course of this session, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that 4 dozen people passed by and took peeks. Moon, Venus, and Saturn with his 4 moons were shown to all of the new passersby and regular visitors. Highlights included:

A beautiful crescent with a good dose of earthshine. Grimaldi and Oceanus Procellarum could easily be seen. A double star had egressed from a lunar occultation. When I noticed it, it couldn't have been greater than the 1° from the northern bright cusp. In the lunar morning sky Mare Crisium and crater Langrenus were the most blatant features in the north. Craters Snellius and Stevinus were west of and flanked by Petavuis and Furnerius in the central region.

Saturn was beautiful and drew many reactions from the observers but poor seeing prevented a higher power than 100x. (Later in the evening past 11:30pm the seeing improved considerably where we observed Saturn at 181x with some fine details of the rings and on the planet.

Venus burned brightly once Sun set and was only shown when requested. Earlier some had observed her while there was still daylight and lower contrast. Seeing was poor but with some effort the gibbous phase was discernible at 100x.

For some of the folks that stayed with us, like Daniel who left and returned, or Christian & Tim, I mixed it up a bit by showing brighter deep sky objects. In no particular order and at different times over the session, we put in the eyepiece open cluster - M35, globular clusters - M3 & M13, and nebula - M42.

With expectations set, I shared with Daniel the passerby and Didier the duo galaxies M81 & M82. This wasn't too easy for them but they got M81. Didier may have gotten M82. From his description, I believe he got it and wonder if he can appreciate that he learned how to identify a very faint fuzzy.

I admire Kiminori Ikebe's hand at sketching the deep sky objects. The opening picture is Ikebe-san's rendition of 3 galaxies: M81, M82, and NGC3077. In the field, we didn't see NGC3077 and M82 was just better than averted, tough with direct vision.

Charlie arrived after 11pm from the Columbia University outreach. Both of us looked at a number of galaxies, detecting them and describing them in terms of their location relative to the starfied, shapes, orientation, and brightness profiles. Personally, I think that is a lot of information to gather from these very difficult objects in the urban sky. Under darker skies the objects will be larger and finer detail can be observed. The list of galaxies we observed included M81/82, NGC2903 was suspected but not definitively seen, M94, M51/NGC5195, and M63. This was my first time seeing M106 from Central Park. The range was great from M94 being easy to moderate like M82 to difficult with M63. M106 was almost as difficult as M63, but with adapting in the eyepiece, we still were able to describe a lot of their features.