December 20, 2007

December 18, 2007 Lunar Shots

On the evening of December 18, the air was quite still and the moon was a waxing just-past-quarter. I had the XT8 out with a ClearVue 30mm 80-degree eyepiece. This eyepiece sports threads under the eyecup which allow the eyepiece to be directly attached to my Sony DSC-75 digital camera. The images here are the result (click on each image for a larger, clearer view). In particular, the area from Copernicus (the very dramatic crater in the top image) to Montes Apenninus (the mountain range to the crater's left) is interesting. Also, I was able to catch the Straight Wall, a curious fault line that runs in nearly a straight line north and south, allowing a shadow to be cast that makes the feature stand out. My favorite discussion of this Straight Wall, by Charles Wood, is found here. Notice (after reading Wood's commentary) that in the image focusing on the Straight Wall, part of Rima Birt is visible as is the dark area at the northern end of Rima Birt (north is down in this image). You may have to enlarge the image quite a bit to see it.

December 17, 2007

Deep Sky Standby Survey!

Do you keep coming back to the same objects each time you observe? For me, some objects continually find their way into my scope, often at the beginning or end of an observing session. M57, M42, the Double Cluster, the Double Double, Albireo, Polaris---these are my permanent friends in the sky. Please take the survey and name your old standbys. I would like to know what objects bring you back again and again.

December 16, 2007

December 16, 2007 - NGC 40

Tonight I was looking for Comet Tuttle again but ended up observing NGC 40. This planetary is an exceptional sight at 240x in the XT8, even from the light-polluted Woodlands skies. The central star is obvious in the 8-inch, and so is the blobby nebulosity that surrounds it. Burnham's says the central star is mag 11.5. It sits in between and just to the north of two slightly brighter stars. After I had seen the nebulosity at the higher magnification, it was obvious at 40x, also. I believe I had a glimpse of it at the lower magnification before looking more closely. Definitely worth the look!

December 12, 2007

December 12, 2007 Comets

The clouds broke last night for a few minutes between 12 and 1. Comet Holmes is still visible to the eye, even from my moderately light polluted street! It was more visible with averted vision, but it was plainly there, a ghostly glow about twice the diameter of the full moon. It is just southeast of Iota Persei, and forms a glowing corner of an isosceles triangle centered on Mirfak. The long side of the triangle runs between Delta Persei and the comet, which are both about the same apparent distance from Mirfak. I could see the comet a week ago at this time when the sky was last clear. This week I was sure it would be too faint, but there it is still!

Last week I tried to find Comet Tuttle, but nothing like a comet appeared in my XT8. Polaris is pretty low and through the trees here in my neighborhood, however, and the comet is not bright yet. Even a non-observation is an observation!