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Old 23-11-2010, 07:10 AM
SteveG (Steve)
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Observation Report w/76cm Nov 2010 (part I)

Although as a US observer from California I've lurked in IIS for awhile, this is my first observing post. Last weekend, I returned from a week-long star party at Coonabarabran. Several months ago I noticed the Three River Foundation (3RF), which sponsors the OzSky Star Safari each year in March or April was planning a second no-frills (observing only) 7-night star party in early November 2010.

Although I've made three previous observing trips to Australia in July 2002, July 2005 and April 2008, the different season appealed to me as the LMC and SMC would be well placed along with lots of galaxies that are too far south for an ideal view from northern California in Sculptor, Fornax and Grus and a chance to view constellations which are below my horizon such as Indus, Phoenix, Hydrus, Reticulum and Dorado. I've made a 30-year observing project to view the entire 7500-object NGC (now 94% complete across the sky) and this was a perfect opportunity to pick up many of the remaining southern objects in these constellations.

For this trip I was able to use 3RF's fully equipped 30-inch f/4.5 SDM scope so there was no observing gear to drag along, except for a few Ethos eyepieces and several of my binders filled with Megastar-generated finder charts. Lachlan McDonald and Tony Buckley were gracious Aussie hosts and during the day escorted me to several local sites of interest including an inside tour of the Siding Springs Observatory to see the 154-inch Anglo-Australian telescope (AAT) and the 48-inch Schmidt telescope (UKST) as well as the Compact Radio Telescope array near the town of Narrabri.

As far as the weather, the prospects looked pretty dismal the few weeks leading up to the star party, as there was consistently cloudy conditions and rain throughout New South Wales. In fact, the clouds continued throughout the week at Coonabarabran, but at least for the first 4 days the skies cleared by sunset and we had mostly clear nights with some impressive SQM readings (21.85-21.89). The one negative was high relative humidity, though the 30-inch was equipped with dew heaters for the secondary and eyepieces. On the 5th day, though, the clouds thickened, thunderstorms arrived and we were shut out from observing on the last 3 nights.

NGC 87, 88, 89 and 92 form a distinctive compact quartet in the southern constellation Phoenix. As a fan of the Hickson Compact Groups (HCG), I was looking forward to observing this quartet as it would qualify as one the better HCGs if located further north. The group is sometimes referred to as the "Phoenix Quartet" or "Robert's Quartet" and carries the catalogue designations Arp-Madore 0018-485 and Rose 34 (see Alvin Huey's Rose Catalogue at http://www.faintfuzzies.com/Files/RoseCatalogue.pdf). The quartet is clearly interacting with a long tidal tail extending 100,000 light years pulled out from NGC 92. In addition, NGC 87 is a distorted Magellanic-type galaxy with bright knots of starburst activity.

NGC 87
00 21 14.2 -48 37 42
V = 14.3; Size 0.9'x0.7'; Surf Br = 13.6
30" (429x): fairly faint, fairly small, irregularly round, 0.7' diameter, low even surface brightness. Second faintest in the Phoenix Quartet with NGC 88 1.5' SE, NGC 89 2.8' SE and NGC 92 2.9' E. The arrangement is distinctive with the three brighter galaxies (NGC 87/89/92) arranged in an equilateral triangle with NGC 88 in the center, forming a "Y" or propeller shape. ESO 194-13 lies 12' ENE of the quartet.

NGC 88
00 21 22.0 -48 38 24
V = 14.4; Size 0.8'x0.5'; Surf Br = 13.2; PA = 145d
30" (429x): faint, small, slightly elongated NW-SE, very small bright core. An extremely faint star is attached at the SW end. This galaxy is the faintest in the quartet and centered in the equilateral triangle of galaxies with NGC 87, 89 and 92.

NGC 89
00 21 24.4 -48 39 55
V = 13.5; Size 1.2'x0.6'; Surf Br = 13.0; PA = 148d
30" (429x): moderately bright, moderately large, elongated 2:1 NW-SE, 1.0'x0.5', very small slightly brighter core, faint stellar nucleus. Has a slightly higher surface brightness than NGC 92. Furthest southern member of the quartet. NGC 88 lies 1.5' N and a faint star is 43" N (at the midpoint to NGC 88).

NGC 92
00 21 31.6 -48 37 30
V = 13.1; Size 1.9'x0.9'; Surf Br = 13.6; PA = 144d
30" (429x): this galaxy is the brightest member and furthest east in the compact Phoenix Quartet. It appeared moderately bright, moderately large, elongated 2:1 NW-SE, 1.2'x0.6', broad concentration to a bright core. The faint tidal tail to the SE was not seen. ESO 194-013, a fifth member of the group, lies 11' ENE.

ESO 194-013
00 22 38.1 -48 34 52
V = 13.6; Size 1.1'x1.0'; Surf Br = 13.6; PA = 47d
30" (429x): picked up while viewing the compact Phoenix Quartet located ~12' WSW and part of the same group. At 429x, appeared moderately bright, moderately large, elongated 4:3 SW-NE, 0.9'x0.7', broad concentration with a slightly brighter core but no distinct zones. A distinctive string of three mag 13 stars [length 1.4'] is centered 2' E.
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Old 23-11-2010, 07:34 AM
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mental4astro (Alexander)
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Hi Steve,

30" SDM, eh! Couldn't find anything bigger!

Now that's a scope!

With a puppy like that at your disposal, ANY night with it is great. To get a few nights under your belt with it is sensational.

That's quite a project you've set yourself with the entire NGC. Could only really be a long term project.

The clarity of your object report shows you've done this a couple of times, . I hope there's more.

Another IIS member, Paddy, is building a catalogue of the objects within the SMC & the LMC, many of which are NGC objects. Might be worth your while dropping him a PM to nail a few of these down. Paddy's got a thread going in the Observation & Visual forum on this very topic.

Are you still in Oz, or left for home?

Cheers,

Mental.
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Old 23-11-2010, 08:21 AM
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mental4astro (Alexander)
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I hope there's more.

Hmmm, I guess there is over a couple more threads!!
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:31 AM
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Paddy (Patrick)
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Fantastic reports Steve. What a swag of galaxies! And great notes on the LMC. As Alex mentioned, I am building a web site devoted to the Magellanic Clouds. I'd love to post a link to your excellent notes if that's OK.

The areas around NGC1955 and NGC 1763 are truly wonderful bits of sky to browse. Must be amazing with such a scope.
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Old 23-11-2010, 10:37 AM
SteveG (Steve)
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I'm back home and finally recouped from jet lag. Although they haven't been updated in a couple of years (one more thing to do), most of my NGC visual descriptions are over at Adventures in Deep Space (I'm the one on the right in the photo -- at least when I had a little more hair!) or on the NGC/IC Project site.
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Old 23-11-2010, 06:13 PM
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Paddy (Patrick)
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Steve, that is an amazing compendium of observations and an incredible undertaking. I am flabbergasted. I reckon I'll do a fair bit of browsing there. Well done!
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Old 24-11-2010, 09:36 PM
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ngcles
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Hi Steve & All,

Great observations and notes Steve as always. I note in particular your affection for the NGC 1763 complex which is, as you have noted, a wonderful nebulous/cluster/star cloud region that is so often completely overlooked in favour of the Tarantula Nebula (NGC 2070).

So glad you had such a good time up at Coona -- at the same time I was up at Mudgee and I suppose you suffered the same on/off weather conditions we did about 200km away. The best night we had up there, the SQM-L hit 21.91 for a time and was better than 21.85 basically all that night until the false-dawn started. I cleaned up a stack of about 100 galaxies in Eridanus over the two nights of four we were able to observe.

Glad to hear Tony and Lachlan looked after you so well. The field out the back of the motel is a very good spot to observe. Pity we weren't able to catch up in Sydney before you went up to Coona, but there's always next time.

Great to see you have popped in here on IIS and I'm sure I would echo everyone's thoughts that are here regularly (IIS Visual Observers), that we'd love to have more of your sage advice, contributions and input.

All the best and hope we can share a 'scope one night again soon.


Best,

Les D
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Old 25-11-2010, 01:03 AM
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glenc (Glen)
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Thanks Steve for your report and for all the others that you have posted on the web.
Here is an image of those galaxies http://www.capella-observatory.com/I...7-88-89-92.htm
by Josef Pöpsel.

Last edited by glenc; 25-11-2010 at 02:31 AM.
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Old 25-11-2010, 04:24 AM
SteveG (Steve)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ngcles View Post
Hi Steve & All,

So glad you had such a good time up at Coona -- at the same time I was up at Mudgee and I suppose you suffered the same on/off weather conditions we did about 200km away. The best night we had up there, the SQM-L hit 21.91 for a time and was better than 21.85 basically all that night until the false-dawn started. I cleaned up a stack of about 100 galaxies in Eridanus over the two nights of four we were able to observe.

Best,

Les D
As far as on/off weather we had a pretty spectacular lightning storm roll through on Sunday night (the 7th), but around 1:00 AM it started to clear and we ran out to the back field and uncovered the scopes. I was in shock with our apparent good luck to see clear skies, but by the time the Argo was initialized and the scope pointed at one object the whole sky shut down -- it was just one big sucker hole.

When you have the time, I hope you'll post some of your Eridanus observations.

Steve
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Old 25-11-2010, 10:51 AM
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ngcles
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That storm

Hi Steve & All,

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveG View Post
As far as on/off weather we had a pretty spectacular lightning storm roll through on Sunday night (the 7th), but around 1:00 AM it started to clear and we ran out to the back field and uncovered the scopes. I was in shock with our apparent good luck to see clear skies, but by the time the Argo was initialized and the scope pointed at one object the whole sky shut down -- it was just one big sucker hole.

When you have the time, I hope you'll post some of your Eridanus observations.

Steve
I remember seeing that storm from time to time on the northern horizon -- we just got the occasional distant flash and a lot of high cloud. While the Sunday night was cloudy until 11.30pm, it cleared pretty quick after that. Concerned it was a sucker-hole, I waited for a half hour to pass before I dragged the 'scope out of John's shed, collimated and aligned the Argo. After a while out in the dark I could see M33 naked eye without undue difficulty so I figured this looked good and took a reading with the SQM. To take a reading, I actualy take four of the same spot: I discard the first and then average the following three.

The individual readings were 21.93 (discarded) 21.90, 21.91, 21.91. I pick non-milky way spots as close to zenith as possible. Good nights at Mudgee are normally about 21.70-75, top nights 21.85 and my best ever reading (usual method) in April 2009 was 21.92. You know you're going to be happy when it beeps 10, or 11 or 12 times before readout ! I was so excited when 21.93 came up, I went to show my observing buddy Gary Mitchell, but the SQM powered off before I got there. He then saw the 21.90, 21.91 & 21.91 sequence. It never dropped below 21.85 until the high-cloud started creeping in about 3am and the false-dawn about 4am. Seeing was quite to very good initially and fell away slightly as the morning progressed.

I wound up that night just before 3am re-observing (haven't done them in this aperture) all six of the Fornax Dwarf G.C's that are for the most part tiny but pretty simple, reasonable to good S.B objects in those conditions with that aperture. The high-cirrus started to gradually creep in after that and with a long drive the next day and a plane flight to Hawaii the day after that again, I hit the hay just after 4am after packing up. Yeah, 4am I know I'm a sissy.

The conditions on the Saturday night were pretty good and I remember (haven't transcribed the notes yet) the SQM-L hit a peak around 1am in the high 21.8's. Considering the very best (sky-darkness) conditions in Oz (like on top of Siding Spring Mountain, Mt Kaputar, Flinders Ranges etc etc) are a fraction over or under 22.0 mag/sq arc-sec, I'd call my spot at Mudgee pretty good, reasonaly convenient and I've got either a a caravan or a small house there to use at my leisure.

If I get a chance soon to do some "recreational writing" I'll transcribe the notes on Eridanus soon and post.

Hawi'i was sensational. Already making some preliminary plans to return there, maybe even next year if the pacific peso maintains its form against the greenback. Hopefully my daughter can come which will leave me more time to go to the Big Island (they can go shopping together) by myself and do a few nights at the visitor centre or perhaps go to Molokai where I'm told it is a superb deep-sky amateur site.



Best,

Les D
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