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Old 30-03-2011, 08:28 PM
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My Night With Centaurus (and a fling with Crux).

MY NIGHT WITH CENTAURUS (AND A FLING WITH CRUX)




Date: March 2011.
Equipment: 10" dob.
Eye Pieces: Vixen LVW 22mm, Pentax XW10mm, Meade Series 5000 6.7mm UWA





THE LEGEND OF CENTAURUS
(Exerpt from "A Walk Through The Southern Sky", by Milton D. Heifetz)

Among the people of the Andes mountains in South America those who breed Llamas believe good fortune will be theirs
if during the birthing season of the Llamas (November), the eyes of the celestial Llama appears over the southeastern horizon. The eyes of the celestial Llama are Hadar and Rigil Kentaurus of Centaurus.
Among the Greeks, centaurs ere mythical creatures, half horse half man. Most centaurs were considered to be savage. There was one exception, the son of Kronus and Philyra. When Kronus, who was married to Rhea, was discovered making love to Philyra, the beautiful sea numph, he turned himself and Philrya into horses. When Philyra gave birth her child was half horse, half man, a centaur. Philyra was so distressed that she changed her form into a linden tree. Her son was named Chiron. Chiron grew up to be the wisest and gentlest of the centaurs. He lived at the foot of Mt Pelion and established the finest school in Greece. Chiron learned the art of medicine from Artemis the Huntress and the science of astronomy and music from Diana. Jason, Achilles, Hercules, Hylas the Fair, Pollux, Castor and Orpheus all spent part of their childhood studying under Chiron. He was asked to teach Apollo’s son Aesculapius the art of healing.
Chiron died as a result of a strange accident. He had taught Hercules how to overcome and capture the wild boar. At the celebration of this deed and during an archery exhibition in which Chiron also participated, a poisoned arrow shot by Hercules accidently struck Chiron in the knee. The pain would not end and was so intense that Hercules begged the god Zeus to grant Chiron's wish to die. After his death Zeus honoured him by placing him in the sky where he remains as a symbol of wisdom, goodness and kindness.





NGC 5128/CENTAURUS A - GALAXY.
Finally after 12 months of searching, I found the Centaurus A galaxy. At 120x and 60 deg. up, it was small, yet bright. I couldn't make out the central dark bar– only the bright halo glow. Next time I will need to use higher magnification. It beautifully rests on 3 large stars. A close pair of stars is noted above left of the object which I used to help line up this object. I've tried several star hops in the past and failed, but this time I was successful using Zeta Centauri as my launch pad, heading straight up and once I arrived on the same line as Omega Centauri, I measured and proceeded 4 deg further up. Interestingly enough, I was recently able to get this object in my 10x60 binos (albeit extremely faint) on a particularly good night of seeing.


NGC 5139/OMEGA CENTAURI - GC
At 170x mag. It fills up the entire field of view of an 82 deg eye piece. Amongst the numerous dark lanes which can easily be seen, lay countless stars resembling numerous necklace strands shining with a dim soft glow. I rarely do a session without having a peek at this incredible object. We are so lucky to have the largest and brightest globular cluster in our skies.


NGC 3766/PEARL CLUSTER - OC
One of my favourites, at 120x mag. shows such a beautiful cluster- bright and compact with two gorgeous yellow stars sitting on either side of the cluster. This object actually carries a bit of sentiment for me as it was the first object I’d ever seen through a telescope- my old 6" dob, and came by it at the time quite by accident, not knowing what I had found as it was my first session. I thought it was a globular cluster until I investigated further.


IC 2944/LAMBDA CENTAURI NEBULA (RUNNING CHICKEN)
120x didn't reveal too much to see on this night. On a very good night of seeing I could make it out quite bright in binoculars, but tonight it showed up to be a very dim object. A halo of stars seemed to encircle the nebula.


ALPHA CENTAURI
Split A and B using 120x. The pair sits, side by side with no room to spare - much like getting two balls and holding them together. I much prefer this view using this power than at 240x which splits them further apart.





AND A FLING WITH CRUX .....



CARBON STAR - RUBY CRUCIS - CRUX
This red giant star displays a beautifully sharp, blood red dot against the dark black sky. The contrast between sky and this star is truly breathtaking. This is one of the reddest carbon stars out there.


NGC 4349 - OC IN CRUX
Les D's latest binocular target in this month’s "Aust. Sky & Telescope" magazine. Though I cheated - used a telescope! A large and loose cluster, however, using 120x power I really couldn't make out the true defining shape of this cluster as it was so highly magnified. My observing night was coming to an end and I just wasn't up to changing eye pieces, so will re-visit on my next session.


NGC 4755 - OC IN CRUX
How could I end the night visiting Crux without taking what must be my zillionth view of this next show stopper- The Jewel Box - and very aptly named at that. My (materialist!) eyes see a diagonal chain of three evenly spaced gems of topaz, aquamarine and diamond amongst a bed of Shiny, bright, sparkling little diamonds. Oh to have a basket full of that in my drawer.



ALSO, A QUICKIE ON THE SIDE .....


A quick fling with NGC 3772 (Eta Carina Nebula). I was surprised to find that within my light polluted location, I could actually see this star naked eye - very faint - but very much there!
Gamma Vela: A revisit on this using 120x. Magnificent double star with the brighter star being the hottest known example of a Wolf-Ryatt star. The huge, thick diffraction spikes coming off this very large and bright star just screams "hot hot hot".

Last edited by Suzy; 31-03-2011 at 12:34 AM. Reason: Forgot to list observing equipment.
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Old 30-03-2011, 08:38 PM
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barx1963 (Malcolm)
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Nice report Suzy and well done on getting 5128. It is fairly bright galaxy although it is large and evenly illuminated so can be a challenge. Low power certainly helps so binos should have no dramas with it. The dark lanes on the other hand are challenging. I had several attempts before I was confident I was seeing them, then one really clear still night with great seeing they just poped out and I was seeing filaments and that lovely curve in the lane. Also when it is really good the glow from the galaxy is wider than the lanes, thats a breathtaking sight! Now you have the star hops worked out, keep revisiting as it will be easy for a few months yet and you will satrt to see more detail.

Malcolm
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Old 30-03-2011, 09:02 PM
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Thank you Malcom.
And thank you for your encouraging words for Centaurus A.
It is much further out from Omega Centauri than I'd imagined. It wasn't until I got it with binos that I realised how far (even though it's only 4 degrees - working with an ep which gives true fov at only 1 deg in a 22mm wide view can still get tricky for a beginner.
I just wonder how much power (on an average night of seeing) I should use on this object? I only went as low as 10mm (120x) in my obs report.
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Old 30-03-2011, 10:08 PM
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Great Report Suzy, Oh how I wish my reports could show how much I enjoy observing as your's do.
That you found Centaurus A after all that time is a credit to your persistence
Now it is time for you to look for some really difficult objects
keep up the good work
cheers
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Old 30-03-2011, 11:07 PM
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madbadgalaxyman (Robert)
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Really good descriptions, Suzy. Were you in a dark sky or an urban area?
Most amateurs have very little descriptive power when describing objects...."Just the facts...."

It is nice, for once, to read object descriptions that give the reader a sense of what it is like to observe the object.

Your efforts to find NGC 5128 remind me of some of my first visual observations of galaxies in the early-to-mid 1970s; from a very light polluted site not far from the geographical centre of Sydney. I found Cen A. and also the rather unusual edge-on spiral NGC 4945 in Centaurus...... but I do remember how difficult it was to find them.

I undertook a good 27 years of regular visual Deep Sky observations, in the ensuing years, but now I mainly spend 6 hours every day analyzing galaxy data that I dredge up from the length & breadth of the internet.

What one really needs is a really good star chart, in order to find galaxies effectively. A star atlas with a magnitude limit of 6 just does not display enough stars to be able to localize the sky position of most galaxies. Really, a Chart magnitude limit of at least 8 to 8.5 is necessary in order that there should be enough stars to orient the astronomer.

I, personally, do not use computerized finding/pointing devices, but I print out customized finding charts for objects that I want to see in my telescope, using some Star Chart software.

A lot of finders have narrow fields, and this makes it hard to know where your telescope is pointing in the sky. I used to use one half of a pair of binos as a finder, which gave me a 7 degree finder field. Also, I used various pointing devices such as Telrads etc, to firstly get my telescope at least close to the object. My first telescope had a couple of rusty nails sticking up from the tube, and these allowed me to line it up fairly close to the target object!

Also, remember that for finding objects, make sure that you use the lowest possible magnification in the telescope itself. Using a BIG ultra-low-power eyepiece that has a very wide field means that you are much more likely to be able to put the object in the field of the telescope. Trying to find things with the telescope at medium power is difficult and traumatic!

A very good way to orient the relative positions of stars and the target object is to firstly get to know the desired region of sky by using binoculars.


While I do spend a whole lot of time these days reading very heavy stuff in the professional literature of astronomy, your post reminds me that astronomy is really about beauty, discovery, an a sense of inspiration.

cheers,
madbadgalaxyman
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Old 31-03-2011, 12:26 AM
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Hi Robert,
What a truly lovely, touching and heart felt reply. I thank you so much. It is so rewarding knowing that what I'm trying to convey is well received.

Thank you also for the helpful hints and I very much enjoyed your story.
I start looking with a 22mm and then bring the object in. I know the pain of trying to find things at high mag- it's torturous, and the silly thing is determination (or sillyness) goes with the challenge, until eventually, one gives up after wasting precious clear sky time. All because one (moi) can't be bothered to change eye pieces. But then I always manage to knock the scope when I change eye pieces and have to go and find it again (no finder scope remember) . Someone please give my hubby a boot to hurry up and do it for me...
Oops, I actually just realised I forgot to list all my equipment used on my obs report, so I must go and edit.

I use a combination of charts as well as printed software charts. My dear astro friend and mentor calls me "lady of the star charts". I haven't got my finderscope on my dob yet- need to drill more holes and another dove plate put in as my red dot finder is on the scope instead. So, on that alone, I think I'm legendary just to find anything!

And in answer to your question, I was observing from light polluted suburbia. Tho it's not too bad I guess if I can make out E.Carinae and it's nebula & 47 Tuc naked eye.

Your galaxy work sounds very interesting, I would love to hear what it is you do.

Last edited by Suzy; 31-03-2011 at 02:15 AM.
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Old 31-03-2011, 06:18 AM
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Congratulations on nabbing Centaurus A!

I must have another look at NGC 3766 - the Pearl Cluster.
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Old 31-03-2011, 08:47 AM
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Equipment that makes Object finding easier

Suzy, to some degree, the following comments on equipment are also designed for others who are relatively new to observational astronomy. So, apologies if you already know some of this stuff. But it is the fruit of my long experience with using many & varied telescopes.

Regarding your equipment, as I mentioned, having some means of lining up the telescope, before you move to an accurate lining up with a finder, is an essential....at least in my view. I use a Telrad, with some of the glowing red rings (that are superposed on the sky) blocked out; because their brightness tended to wipe out the object that was supposed to be behind the rings. Cheaper option is the "two rusty nails on the tube" trick.

They say that a bad workman always blames his tools, but really, the right equipment can make finding objects 1000% easier! If the telescope moves so much that the object is moved out of the field, even when you give it a very slight tap, it is time either to adjust the mount or to get a better mount.
( I once had a heavy german equatorial mount that "weighed a ton", and a tap on the telescope tube barely moved the object that I had already centred in the field)
(Despite all the raves about how wonderful Dobsonian mounts are, the smoothness and stability of some heavy equatorial mounts beats most Dobsonians. )

Your mount problems remind me of those with my first telescope at age 10...... when the slightest knock caused the telescope to move well away from the object I was viewing.

Seriously, get a 30-40 mm eyepiece when you are trying to find objects and to get them into the field of your telescope. (Preferably an eyepiece with a 60-75 degree apparent field)
This avoids the "narrow porthole in the sky" that is your telescope field, missing the target object.
There are plenty of eyepiece experts about in the equipment form, and I used to be one of them, but I am not up on the very latest hardware.

Finders: In my view, a finder with a 5 degree field is not nearly optimal. A seven degree field shows a sky area that is twice as large. The object is therefore much more likely to be in the field of the finder after your initial lining up of the telescope.
Further, the wider Finder field shows much more of the star pattern, so recognition of "where I am in the sky" is much easier. Don't even consider using a 30mm finder! 50mm or 60-70 mm, is much much much better. The dreaded 30mm finders are a recipe for frustration and time-wasting, during observing.

cheers,
madbadgalaxyman

Regarding Starcharts versus computerized finding & pointing; Someone who never hops from star to star in finding their objects never develops first-hand familiarity with the sky.
It was the strange things that I sometimes found on my way to the target object, that gave me a real sense of the interest of the universe. Me and some of my observing companions got to know some sections of the Milky Way better than our own backyards.

{{ For a hint at my astronomical play/work, look in the astro-imaging forum ; recent posts regarding Malin 1 and NGC 4945

Another hint: I sometimes take a microscope to the observing site, in case it clouds over! Bugs in the soil are the "galaxies" of biology. }}

Last edited by madbadgalaxyman; 31-03-2011 at 10:37 AM. Reason: one more comment to add
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Old 31-03-2011, 06:40 PM
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Suzy that report was just beautiful. Your descriptions convey your enthusiasm so well.
Congratulations on finding some very nice objects, including a couple that I haven't seen yet. Well done, Paul.
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Old 31-03-2011, 07:05 PM
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Nice one suzy. Your reports are the ones that make me wonder what the hell I am doing mucking about with this imaging stuff!

As an aside, I am very intrigued by the theme of your post...a night with centaurus, a fling with crux, not to mention all the drooling over Messrs Cox and Travolta. I tell you what - those blokes better watch out if you ever DO get your hands on them!

Adam
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Old 31-03-2011, 08:42 PM
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barx1963 (Malcolm)
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Interesting discusion here. Suzy, if changing the EP is moving your scope, it may need some mods. If it is mainly in Az that it is moving, go and get some self adhesive felt pads that they use on furniture (Woolies sell them) and pop them between the two parts of your base. Slows it down a fair bit. Sorry if you have already done this but since I did, made changing EPS so simple
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Old 31-03-2011, 11:55 PM
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barx1963 (Malcolm)
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Just in from a nice night, clear crisp and still Lots of galaxies to check out with Leo and Virgo riding high. Just had to revisit good ol' 5128. At 115x the dust lanes show up beautifully, little strands and wriggles - just magic!

Last edited by barx1963; 03-04-2011 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 01-04-2011, 12:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astroron View Post
Great Report Suzy , Oh how I wish my reports could show how much I enjoy observing as your's do.
That you found Centaurus A after all that time is a credit to your persistencehttp://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/..../winking70.gif
Now it is time for you to look for some really difficult objectshttp://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/..../winking70.gif
keep up the good work
cheers
Thanks Ron. It's easy to be enthusiastic this past year (because of the poor weather) - just to get a break in the clouds nearly brings tears of excitement to my eyes.
I'll stick to the easy ones for the time being and slowly work my way up, that way I can learn better, and yes I know you were polking fun at me anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by erick View Post
Congratulations on nabbing Centaurus A!

I must have another look at NGC 3766 - the Pearl Cluster.
Aye, Eric. All that blood, sweat and tears is behind me now.
....until my next challenge . I'm sure it is quite an easy object for most of you'll who are more experienced. I've only gotten two galaxies so far - the other being M104 (from home as well). I'll get better with time. I don't count Andromeda galaxy as a nab for me as Ron lined it up and showed it to me at his star party. I didn't want to find any others until I got Centaurus A under my belt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lismore Bloke View Post
Suzy that report was just beautiful. Your descriptions convey your enthusiasm so well.
Congratulations on finding some very nice objects, including a couple that I haven't seen yet. Well done, Paul.
Thank you so much Paul. I wonder how many different ways I can describe those objects, I'm sure there is a limit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by adman View Post
Nice one suzy. Your reports are the ones that make me wonder what the hell I am doing mucking about with this imaging stuff!

As an aside, I am very intrigued by the theme of your post...a night with centaurus, a fling with crux, not to mention all the drooling over Messrs Cox and Travolta. I tell you what - those blokes better watch out if you ever DO get your hands on them!

Adam
Then you should read my obs report, "A Night With Binoculars"
I was more faithful with my binos though - no flings and bits on the side. See size really doesn't matter. Why not romanticise the stars I say. They are quite dreamy.
If hubby knew how to track Travolta & Cox down he would present them to me wrapped up in bows just to get me out of my misery. This is his ongoing response to me: :roll eyes:
Why... he didn't even mind spending ages printing out a photo at Hardly Normal of Brian & I, even though it was fake, just to get me out of my misery. (Did I just admit that?! - blame jjj) There is no cure, he just knows it's best to go with it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by barx1963 View Post
Interesting discusion here. Suzy, if changing the EP is moving your scope, it may need some mods. If it is mainly in Az that it is moving, go and get some self adhesive felt pads that they use on furniture (Woolies sell them) and pop them between the two parts of your base. Slows it down a fair bit. Sorry if you have already done this but since I did, made changing EPS so simple
Aye! Malcom, my scope needs quite a bit of attention. Hubby just hasn't had the time to do it as we have been spending the last few months renovating. We've been living amongst chaos .
Heavy and large eyepieces don't help with a wobbly scope. It does help when I tighten the friction handles as tight as they can go and then I have to be ever so careful. When I had my 6" scope, he did mods on it and it was moving so beautifully smooth. The 10" that I bought was tragic. It was extremely stiff to move. Depending on how high the scope is aiming and the tension on the handles at the time, it boings around like one giant spring. Ron will testify to that - I think I made him dizzy . To get my red dot finder to sit on a star takes me a while sometimes. And my focusser isn't on it either. I don't need all these extra challenges, it's hard enough as it is , I think I'm a legend just to get what I do and remain sane . Lucky I'm persistant. Weirdly enough, I've become quite used to it (I've had this dob since July last year). Maybe hubby is fed up of modifying dobs for me
I will remember what you said though (about the felt pads) when it comes time to work on my dob. Honestly though, why can't the manufacturers just go that little bit extra and make them work properly. I don't think there is anyone I know without a dob that hasn't modified them. It would be worth the extra $50 to spend.
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Old 01-04-2011, 12:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barx1963 View Post
Just in from a nice nice, clear crisp and still Lots of galaxies to check out with Leo and Virgo riding high. Just had to revisit good ol' 5128. At 115x the dust lanes show up beautifully, little strands and wriggles - just magic!
Are you in a dark site Malcom? Your scope is 12" yes?
Oh, how I would love to see what you have just seen in 5128.
What magnification do you think I can push that galaxy on at f/l 1200 & 10" and a good night and up high?
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Old 01-04-2011, 12:58 AM
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Well done Suzy for nabbing those targets.

I look forward to you seeing NGC 5128 under darker skies, woohoo!!! It is a delight - large and bright (for a galaxy).

Glad Ruby Crucius was beautifully red for you, I Love it cos its so red, but also cos it is soooo easy to find. Have a look for W Orionis next.

Is Orion around??? Havent seen a star for sooo long, that wont be able to find anything when the skies clear.
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Old 01-04-2011, 09:22 AM
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Great report Suzy and info from Robert.With regards to eyepieces I purchased a 42mm LVW and although $400 + it is my most used in all my scopes due to the great FOV and for some reason shows colour in stars better than others I own. I also own a cheap 56mm plossl but would not recommend it other than to look through a Solar scope.Look foward to more reports .
Derek
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Old 01-04-2011, 02:12 PM
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Lovely descriptions Suzy and well done on Centaurus A. As you keep ging beck to it you will see more and more. I find that this one in particular is a bit deceptive when I have images of it from astrophotographers stuck in my head. It seems to me that they capture a wider view of the galaxy itself and the dark lanes look narrower in relation to the disc than they do visually. When I realised this it helped me get my head around what I was seeing and then pick up more detail.

A delightful read - many thanks.
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:55 PM
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barx1963 (Malcolm)
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Suzy
Yes my scope is 12" and I sometimes get pretty decent skies. I was only using 115x which is only moderate power to see the filaments in 5128. You should be able to see them in a 10" with similar power if the sky is OK. When I have observed at a dark site, the filaments are easy to pick out.

Malcolm
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