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Old 30-05-2007, 09:52 PM
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StarLane
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Location: Gold Coast QLD Australia
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Arrow Observational Report: From the backyard

It was Thursday May 17th 0345 in the morning. I originally planned to observe comet Encke but when I got outside and looked up I was pleasantly surprised. I was greeted with extra clear skies, transparency 10/10, seeing 9/10, air temperature around 17 degrees C, humidity at around 45%, zero wind, no moon. The moon was due to rise at 0637.

My suburban backyard on the Gold Coast is not the best place for observing the heavens. I can only see about 20 degrees above the horizon to the east, 35 degrees above the horizon to the south and west due to double storey houses and trees, and I can not see to the north at all as my house blocks my view. I am surrounded, and the best time for me to observe is usually when the object is as high in the sky as possible. Sometimes I can get a shot of something lower in the sky if itís in the right position between buildings and trees.

At that time of the morning, Sagittarius and Scorpius were both high in the sky a little to the southwest of zenith. The whole point of me being out there so early was to observe comet Encke, but I couldnít resist a look around Sagittarius and Scorpius, and besides, the comet was in Cetus and at that time was not visible to me yet (behind a house). The whole area around Sagittarius and Scorpius looked amazing. That part of the Milky Way is packed full of stars, open clusters, globulars and nebulas, and of course Jupiter. The Milky Way looked like a faint cloud, of course it was clouds of billions of stars. I have not seen this from my backyard before. It is common to see these details from a dark sky location not usually from suburbia. I guess that time of the morning the light pollution was at a minimum as everyone was in bed with lights off. This, plus the fact that the seeing and transparency was so good, enabled me to see these exceptionally clear skies from my backyard.

I guess at this point before I talk about my observations, I should mention my scope is a 10inch F5 newt/dob. My eyepieces of choice for that morning were my Pentax 30mmXW, Baader Hyperion 17mm, Burgess/TMB planetary 7mm and 4mm, these two mainly for Jupiter. After the scope had cooled and equalized to the outside temp (didnít take long as the differential this time of year is not too much) I started by checking out the Lagoon nebula (M8) and the Trifid nebula (M20). The Lagoon nebula was bright and prominent, framed up nicely with my 30XW with lots of detail and easy to see with a magnitude of 3.5, the dense Hourglass section was beautiful. The Trifid nebula was also impressive even though it is obviously a lot smaller and darker. I then made my way slowly to the Swan nebula (M17) and the Eagle nebula (M16) stopping along the way to check out open star clusters M23 and 24, a couple of nice clusters worth the visit. The Swan or Omega nebula was clearly visible. Not as bright as the Lagoon but bright enough to see with direct vision. The Eagle nebula was visible but seems to look a lot darker than the Swan, I could just make out the T shape. I guess size has a lot to do with luminosity? All these nebulas appear slightly brighter when viewed from dark rural skies, but I was impressed with what I could see from my suburban backyard. I had never seen this much detail from my backyard before.

After the nebulas, I ran into a few globular clusters around the Teapot in Sagittarius. Not exactly sure which ones I was looking at as there is a large number of globulars in this area. I think the most impressive one may have been M22. Only Omega Centauri and 47 Tuc are larger and brighter. So I guess itís third on the list for the best globulars. I was switching between eyepieces (30XW and 17 Hyp) to get a different point of view for each glob. The 17mm gave me a higher magnification to get closer to the core, the 30mm allowed me to take in the whole expanse of the globulars and gave me a good gage of the size of each. These EP`s were a good range for a lot of the DSO`s I was observing that morning.

Next, I couldnít resist a look at Ptolemy`s cluster (M7) just under the hook of Scorpius. M7 is a bright mag 3.3 cluster that is easily visible with the naked eye. In a telescope it stands out like a sore thumb. A good test for your EP`s edge of field performance.

By this time, Cetus was high enough in the sky for me to look for comet Encke. According to my guide, Encke would be less than a degree from star Eta Ceti and about the 7th magnitude. After a couple of minutes looking around, I found what I was looking for. I was a little disappointed to see how dull it was. I knew it wouldn`t be too bright, but it would have been nice if it was a tad brighter. There was not much of a tail visible to me, I guess this is one of those times I wish I had a comet filter??? Although it was quite dull, I had seen what I had come to see and I was satisfied to have actually spotted it, although I think nothing will come close to the spectacle we saw with comet McNaught.

After this I went south and looked up 47 Tuc. This was a first time viewing for me with this scope. I purchased the scope in Jan this year, and since then, 47 Tuc had remained illusive. Maybe I didnít look hard enough before or I was never up early enough, not sure. From here I can`t see anywhere near the southern horizon because of the buildings in the way. When I go to a dark sky site, I am usually spending most of my time looking north and at things I can`t see from here, and I always forget about 47 Tuc and the SMC. This morning I finally saw it and was immediately impressed. I reached for the 17mm Hyperion to get a closer view. It was very clear, bright and sharp. There was lots of granuality evident in the dense core, my jaw had dropped. Next time I`ll try the 7mm BO/TMB for a high magnification look at the core. Previous to this, the major glob I had observed was Omega Centauri. They are both impressive globulars but different in many ways. Omega Centauri is a large more open globular, where as 47 Tuc has a smaller more compact/dense core, looking like a small fuzzy planet or large star. Both equally impressive and I had a gratifying feeling to have finally observed 47 Tuc.
The whole morning I had witnessed a large amount of shooting stars. When I was observing 47 Tuc, a shooting star streaked through my field of view leaving a trail behind it that was visible for at least a second or so, very bright and fast. I jumped, I thought a scud missile was on itís way.

It was now 0530, there was a fair amount of twilight creeping into the sky so I moved my attention to Jupiter. Perfect timing. It was around this time that an occultation was in progress and a re-appearance of the moon Europa had just started to occur. I had changed to the 7mm BO/TMB eyepiece and had a great view of the moon re-appearing from behind the massive planet. The seeing was good and the cloud systems on Jupiter, and the moons re-appearance were clearly visible. Because of the exceptional seeing I moved down to the 4mm EP to get a closer look and continued to observe the re-appearance of Europa.
This was the first Jupiter moon re-appearance I had observed. I`m usually on the hunt for DSO`s and never really pay much attention to the planets. I enjoyed it so much I also observed a shadow transit that night of the moon Io, around 2110. That was equally interesting.

All in all a really good morning of observing. In the couple of hours I had, I observed a lot of celestial object including clusters, globulars, nebulars, a comet, a planet and moon re-appearance and shooting stars, what can be better than that for a few hours of observing in the backyard??

Along with the Carina, Centaurus and Orion regions, Sagittarius and Scorpius complete the list as my favorite parts of the sky.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures around the heavens. I was surprised by the exceptional early morning seeing form my suburban backyard. I enjoyed it so much I will definitely be getting up early again for more.
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Old 30-05-2007, 10:10 PM
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astroron (Ron)
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Great report, I am glad you enjoyed your morning observing the glorious milkyway and other objects
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Old 30-05-2007, 11:19 PM
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jjjnettie (Jeanette)
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An enjoyable report. The serenity of early morning observing. Should be more of it.
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Old 31-05-2007, 12:00 AM
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erick (Eric)
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Loved reading your report, Paul. What impresses me is understanding that there is always a new experience out there, waiting to be observed! Thanks.
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Old 01-06-2007, 11:12 PM
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Ric
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Top report Paul, just like being there as well.

Cheers
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