Old 21-06-2009, 03:26 PM
beefking (Nathan)
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Observation Report 20/06/09

Observing night at the Lake Moondarra observatory at Mount Isa.

The site is close to Mount Isa, though most of the light from the town and mine is blocked by hills to the south of the observatory. There is one security light at a nearby youth camp that can be rather annoying, but on the whole it is a good site. The weather was clear, and transparency and seeing were generally good. As a bonus, it stayed warm until about 9pm, when a breeze picked up and it was no longer t-shirt weather.

I arrived at 6:30, which didn't leave much time to set up my dob. The collimation had held well despite the half hour drive, so I was able to get set up quite quickly. I tend to pick objects out as I go along, but tonight I decided to look at a few of the lesser known (but still bright) objects in Centaurus using the Celestial Profiles articles, as well as a few globulars around the place.

I started off with NGC 5617 in Centaurus, close by to alpha. It's a pretty nice open cluster with a bright figure 8 pattern. Sky Atlas has a Trumpler cluster nearby, but I couldn't confirm it. I followed 5617 up with NGCs 5316 and 5381, two quite different clusters. 5316 was not well defined against the background, but 5381 was, and it had a distinctive streak of bright stars running through it.

M51 was just about culminating, so I turned around to have a look - this is close to my favourite object. I saw many details fleetingly, and the bridge to the companion galaxy was clearly visible a few times. M51 itself had shading across the face that indicated the spirals, but I couldn't say I actually saw them.

I turned back over to Centaurus and located Xi 1 and 2 Cent, with NGC 4945 situated under Xi 2. I couldn't make out much detail in the galaxy, but it is very large, and it's a striking view. Somewhere in here someone asked to see the Jewel Box, so we had a quick look there as well.

As detail in M51 had seemed so close, I though M83 might put on a good show, and it did, spiral detail was visible in the disc - it seemed to me that the central glow seemed a bit offset. Anyway, the wide-field view (31T5 - 2 deg) of the galaxy was incredible.

While looking over some charts, I noticed a globular, NGC 5286, sitting right next to M Centauri, a naked eye star. That's too easy not to look at, so I had a quick look and it's a typical looking globular, not especially bright, but I will definitely come back to it for a proper look.

I seem to be a bit of a sucker for deep-sky objects that have big celestial signposts - they don't have to be showy, but if there's a bright star nearby, I'm there.

Continuing on, NGC 6397 in Ara was next, and it is a very impressive globular. It appeared to fill the 43' field of the 13T6. It seems to fade out more slowly than other globulars, though it is apparently very close, so that could be the reason.

I moved on to NGC 6352 next, also in Ara. This one was fainter and a lot smaller, but worth looking for.

Hercules had risen over a nearby building, so I thought I'd compare what I'd been seeing with M13 the "Great Cluster" in Hercules. I dunno, it's not "m'eh" but neither is it "Great". More exciting was quickly tracking down NGC6207, a faint galaxy 30' north of M13.

See what I mean, 'so-what' object, big sign post.

As a challenge object, the "Celestial Portraits" article on Lupus and Norma suggested the planetary nebula Shapely 1, or PK329+2.1. The article suggested it would be visible in an 8" telescope, but I think it would have to be an experienced observer on a dark night.

I was going to try using the two nearby globulars NGC 5927 and NGC 5946 as pointers, but it was easier to use Eta Norma.

NGC 5927 was a fairly small, but well defined globular, whereas NGC 5946 was tiny and seemed barely separated from the background star field. It was fairly obvious, just very small.

After a few minutes identifying Norma, then finding eta, I set about trying to find PK329+2.1. It was difficult and the contortions of using the finder scope close to the zenith were getting tiring, and the previously mentioned security light was not helpful to maintaining good dark vision. However, perserverance is the root of all evil (or something) and I managed to hit on an asterism of 6-7 mag stars I could use to find it. I've attached a finder if anyone's interested.

Anyway, I found it, and spent quite a few minutes convincing myself that it was there. It's very faint, and pretty big for a planetary. There is a very narrow ring shape to it that I was able to slowly piece together. Someone had an O-III filter handy, so we gave that try and while it did knock out all the stars, the nebula was not really enhanced by it. The increase in contrast did make it slightly clearer though, and the confidence boost from the O-III meant that it was now much more obvious unfiltered (a case of averted vision as opposed to averted imagination).

I rewarded myself with quick look at Omega Centauri.

M57 was high enough now, so we compared one ring with another. M57 is better.

I finished up with a quick look at M8 and M20. Awesome objects. Sadly, I was unable to get them both in the same field. I could get half of each in, but it's just not the same.

It was getting pretty late, so it was time to go after a quick look at the just risen Jupiter. It was pretty low, so the seeing was terrible. A lot of detail was visible, just not all at once.

all in all, a good night.
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Old 22-06-2009, 10:36 AM
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Great report Nathan, and very entertaining! Lots of good stuff there!!

Cheers -
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Old 22-06-2009, 10:46 AM
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jjjnettie (Jeanette)
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Thanks Nathan.
Great report.
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Old 22-06-2009, 12:40 PM
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astroron (Ron)
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Nice report Nathan,I am glad you got some observing, as we down here where clouded and rained out
But we had a good time anyway
Look forward to more of your reports in the future
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Old 22-06-2009, 04:04 PM
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M83 -- A spiral

Hi Nathan,

A good report mate I enjoyed reading. Probably like most who have replied, I'm more than a little envious. This is probably the most consistently cloudy period I can remember for about 15 years and I'm starting to suffer from photonic deprivation!

I seem to remember discussing the arms in M83 with you a few months back -- I'm glad you saw them. The arms in M51 are probably easier to see than M83 but its low altitude at culmination makes it difficult for us in Australia -- though you in Mt Isa would have it somewhat easier than most of us.

I have seen the arms in M51 from the dark skies of Mudgee in my old 10" in the late 90s (1998 I think) though it was only a few degrees above the horizon at the time. Quite a few of us marvelled at it that night.

Shapley 3 is also a really beautiful object and unlike other ring type nebulae, it may actually be a true torus as opposed to us looking down the axis of a tube -- like M57. And yes, M57 is a stunner and so easy to find.

Even if I'm not seeing the stars, I'm glad someone, somewhere is. Onya!


Les D
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Old 15-07-2009, 07:10 PM
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seanliddelow (Sean)

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What size telescope where you using?
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Old 20-07-2009, 09:16 AM
beefking (Nathan)
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ah, I always forget an important detail - a 12" dob
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