October 30, 2008

A Taurid Fireball

I was out last night around 12:15 pm and saw a bright fireball. It streaked through southern Gemini and appeared to come from Taurus, around Aldebaran. It shone quite a bit brighter than Jupiter, which was visible above my tree-line earlier. The streak covered probably between 25 and 30 degrees across the sky. I suppose this would be a Taurid.

October 28, 2008

A Dash Through Perseus: NGC 1342, Struve 425

Tonight I observed NGC 1342 in Perseus with the 100mm f/6. I counted 22 stars in the cluster. Many of the brighter stars form a long, rough arc along one side of the cluster, and others are scattered around inside the arc. It's worth the trip halfway from Algol to Atik.
From NGC 1342, I moved to Atik itself and then northwest 40 Persei. 40 is a double star. At 60x, I could see the bright primary (magnitude 5) and the much dimmer secondary (mag. 9.5) off to the upper left. The secondary is so delicately dim. It looks so fragile there, floating near the brighter star.
Next to 40 Persei, in the same view at 60x, is Struve 425. At 60x, it looked like one star, but at 120x, the two components split to reveal two equally bright stars (mag. 7.6) just 2" apart. They looked like a dimmer Gamma Virginis. With clear seeing, the 100mm f/6 put black space between the two.
I also observed M31, M32, and M110. I could see all three in one 17.5x view, though M110 only with averted vision.

October 26, 2008

NGC 891, Vesta

In my light-polluted skies, NGC 891 in Andromeda was just a slight smudge, barely visible in averted vision, but the smudge was elongated roughly northwestish to southeastish, and it was exactly where I later confirmed it in Uranometria. I also found the asteroid 4 Vesta, which passed through the head of the whale in the constellation Cetus (the whale) this month. Observations were made with the 100mm f/6 achromat.

October 21, 2008

Trapezium, Star E, 4" Refractor

This morning I saw the E component of the Trapezium in my 100mm f/6 achromatic refractor. I was using a 10mm Vixen Lanthanum eyepiece and a Celestron 2x barlow for 120x magnification. I was surprised. I've seen the E and F components in my 8" reflector but never either one in a 4" scope. Probably it's just for lack of trying. The E and F components should both be visible with more magnification and without the last quarter waning moon in Gemini as it was this morning.

October 20, 2008

Gamma Andromedae

Gamma Andromedae, or Almach, is a wonderful double star! At 120x in the 100mm f/6, the primary star is a glowing, twinkling, brilliant orange, and the secondary is a small, white diamond beside it. I've seen it before, but it is better each time I look at it. I'd be interested in other's impressions through other scopes. Apparently the secondary is itself a double star, but I'll need a bigger scope to split it.

October 19, 2008

Luna Early this Morning

Here is the waning moon early this morning. This was taken with the XTi through the AT66ED.

October 9, 2008

M42: One (Now Two) More Iteration(s)

OK, I'll stop, but I like this one the best in some respects. The colors are more respectful and pleasant, and the stretching has stopped short of graininess.

Nope. Here is one more still, processed in PSE7, which gives me better tools to show lowest light levels in the image and still not white out the brightest part of the nebula:

October 8, 2008


This morning very early I found M77 for the first time. The galaxy was obviously there at 40x in the XT8, but the view brightened and sharpened considerably at 240x. At that magnification, the sky darkened down, M77's oval core was obvious, and I could see some of the next most bright band of stars around the core. This is another Messier object checked off.

October 6, 2008


Tonight I found M73, those four little stars. This is another first for me. It was not nearly as good a sight as the Saturn Nebula nearby, or M2 further north. Wow! That M2 is a stunner, big and bright. Some stars around the edge were resolved in the XT8, even through heavy light pollution. The cluster was plainly visible in the finderscope.

October 5, 2008

M42: New Renditions

These iterations were processed in Photomatix. A Huntsville Amateur Astronomy Society member suggested hdr processing for astrophotos at the star party I attended in September. I had tried it with single astronomical images but not with different stretches of the same image. The technique helps, I think. It enhances the fainter parts of the nebula and helps the brighter parts not to look blown out.

October 2, 2008

M42 & M43

This is actually why I was aiming at M42. I've wanted to take a decent image of it since I was thirteen. This image is roughly 35 minutes worth of 10" and 15" exposures combined and processed in Neb 1 and touched up in DPP. It was taken from my backyard between 4 and 5:30 am on September 27 using a setup similar to that below but with only one scope on the mount: the AT66ED with the 400D attached.

October 1, 2008

M30 and the Outer Planets

Tonight I found M30, a fairly large and bright globular cluster in Capricornus. I was observing with the 100mm f/6 on the Giro III. In that relatively small scope, in my light polluted skies, with M30 so low to the horizon, and magnification at most of only 120x, I saw no stars, but it is a nice sight nonetheless. Moreover, it is one more Messier object I have now seen for the first time. I am slowly working towards seeing every one.

I also found Uranus and Neptune. Neptune is so far away and appears so small that 120x is not enough magnification to resolve it into a disk, but Uranus is a small green ball at that power. For a final treat, I turned to the Pleiades, which were just coming up over the trees. At 17x, they nearly filled the view---bright blue jewels on a dark blue sky.