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Old 09-05-2013, 07:58 AM
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shelltree (Shelley)
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Observation Report 08.05.13

Time: 7:30 - 8:45pm

Seeing: Pretty poor, lots of passing cloud and the sky seemed fairly washed out

Eyepieces: 25mm Plossl and 10mm Pentax
Location: My backyard, Brisbane (40 mins from city on acreage)

Managed to get some observing done last night though the weather ended up being extremely iffy and quite odd. Got the scope out when I got home, let it cool for about an hour or so while I had dinner. By the time I took the rest of my equipment downstairs, the clouds had started to roll in.

I refused to give in that easily as I had spent the time getting the scope out and everything else set up so I sat back and waited for the clouds to pass by Crux where my challenge of the evening lay. NGC3918, the elusive Blue Planetary, fondly dubbed "The Gumball Nebula" by my friend and I. I have searched for this high and low for what seems like months and months. Each time I observe I give it another crack but alas...

Well, tonight I was absolutely determined I would finally find it! There was cloud rolling in from the North and North West and I was a bit concerned everything would be soup in a matter of minutes. Thankfully a lot of low cloud and as JJJ said last night, easy to see, so I watched it float across the South and disappear. In the mean time, I had a peak at Saturn but the seeing was utter rubbish and it was wobbly and seemed smaller than last time (even in the 10mm). Could barely make out any detail on the surface or in the rings.

By this time the cloud had moved out of the way of Crux (for the time being at least) so I got out StarMapsPro and my binos and tried to figure out where exactly I needed to get to to find NGC3918. Boy was it difficult! I had my observing chair so that gave me the patience to keep at it and I'd just got a group of stars in view that I was sure was the small cluster where NGC3918 was located and then...cloud came over again! Grrrrr!


Then there was a random rain shower. It literally felt like mist, I almost wondered if I'd just gone crazy and it wasn't actually raining at all lol. There was just a few scudding clouds so I was pretty perplexed. Weird weather indeed!



Turned the scope around to the North East and had a look at M104, found easily enough without referring to star maps, woohoo! Just looked for the Jaws asterism and there it was. Not much in the way of detail at all but averted vision gave me the slightest amount of clarity in the dense core, it almost began to sparkle every time I looked away from it. The disc of fuzziness running through it was pretty average low, just a smudgy line, no detail at all.


Finally, the clouds parted again. In the mean time I ran upstairs and got my star maps as I'd grabbed the wrong folder to begin with. So I studied that while waiting for more cloud to pass and got StarMapsPro up again. Once the cloud passed over, I took the opportunity to hone in on the same spot again and finally began to see definite patterns in the stars that I could recognise on StarMapsPro. I started to get a little excited but it still took me awhile to study the patterns and get the positioning right.


To find NGC3918, I mainly used the finderscope to line it up. The view I could see, was a cluster of stars, a few brighter than the others. There was a long triangle shape of brighter stars that gave away this cluster as definitely being the right one. This got me really excited then as I knew that if I just took it slow and was patient, that I'd eventually find it. So, I used the triangle of stars to navigate, used the point of the triangle and joined that to the next brightest star in line with it. Okay, so far so good. Then I knew NGC3918 was the next star over, or very close. That star is a lot dimmer so I got that into view and hesitantly had a peak through the 25mm plossl....


AND THERE IT WAS!!!! I couldn't believe it and I giggled happily like a crazy person and I think I may have even pumped my fist followed by a ridiculous happy dance In went the 10mm and woah! Even though it wasn't the best observing conditions, so turquoise! A round gumball in the night sky and I found it all by myself! (with the wonderful help of my astro buddies of course!)

With averted vision, I could every now and then see a halo, almost some detail in the structure. It went in and out of focus very easily though but wow, what a sight! I was so very happy that I finally found it after months of looking! I had a look at Omega Centauri after that, beautiful as usual and detail shifted in and out, the centre seemed to have patches of dark sky between stars, it was really quite stunning, especially in the 10mm.


After that I decided to go for Carina, I had a look at the Southern Pleiades, very pretty and sparkly though still not the best seeing. I was just about to try for Carina Neb and the clouds rolled in again... So I called it a night.


Thankfully I did because when I went down later to put my car away, it was completely overcast and in the middle of a very light shower.


Still, all the same, I found what I had set out to find and under such horrid conditions, I was pretty impressed if I do say so myself!
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  #2  
Old 09-05-2013, 08:34 AM
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Robh (Rob)
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Well done, Shelley!

An encaptivating rendition of the hunt.

Next time, it will be so much easier.

Regards, Rob
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  #3  
Old 09-05-2013, 09:12 AM
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shelltree (Shelley)
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Well done, Shelley!

An encaptivating rendition of the hunt.

Next time, it will be so much easier.

Regards, Rob
Thanks very much Rob, I felt really accomplished!

I did go back to it once more before I packed up and found it with ease, using the same star hop as before. I will continue to observe it each session so I don't forget how to find it!

Such a great feeling finding an object after so much time spent researching and hopping around. Makes the frustration worth it in the end!
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:06 AM
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ngcles
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Well done!

Hi Shell,

Very well done mate in finding NGC 3918. In my experience it only very rarely shows much in the way of detail apart from being evenly illuminated, round and a strong turquoise/cyan colour.

Only twice before have I ever suspected further detail and here is an observation from 2009 when the seeing was a "good" 8/10 allowing very high magnifications (x634) to be used successfully while retaining sharp, near pinpoint stars:

x634 8' TF
NGC 3918 Planetary Nebula *
RA: 11h 50 18.1s Dec: -57 10' 58"
Mag: 8.4 (P) Size: 19.0" Class: 2b Mag C. Star: 15.6

Astonishing seeing -- never seen detail in this thing like this before. Unfiltered at this magnification the disc of this PNe is about 15" diameter and a pale steely blue -- different from low magnification view. Never seen it other than round before. There are two nearby stars mag 10 to the E 4' and the SE 5' and from those the nebula is elongated in PA 0, more correctly, it is round but has two small, low protrusions from the disc N and S that make it look slightly oval in PA 0. The protrusions from the disc are slightly lower in SB than the rest of the disc and *occasionally* there seems to be a hint of some mottling over the disc. No Central star. Lots of mag 14 & 15 *s in the field. Fantastic seeing.

Since I have owned this 46cm, on nights where the seeing is exceptional (very rare) I spend almost all my time on PNe. I see I have recorded the colour as steely blue rather than the familiar cyan. This is almost certainly the result of high magnification that spreads the disc over a larger area of the focal plane, decreasing the colour-effect.

Best,

Les D
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:33 AM
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astroron (Ron)
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Great to see another observing report from someone other than the usual few observers
Well done Shelley
Fingers crossed for Saturday Night
Cheers
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:37 AM
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shelltree (Shelley)
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Originally Posted by ngcles View Post
Hi Shell,

Very well done mate in finding NGC 3918. In my experience it only very rarely shows much in the way of detail apart from being evenly illuminated, round and a strong turquoise/cyan colour.

Only twice before have I ever suspected further detail and here is an observation from 2009 when the seeing was a "good" 8/10 allowing very high magnifications (x634) to be used successfully while retaining sharp, near pinpoint stars:

x634 8' TF
NGC 3918 Planetary Nebula *
RA: 11h 50 18.1s Dec: -57 10' 58"
Mag: 8.4 (P) Size: 19.0" Class: 2b Mag C. Star: 15.6

Astonishing seeing -- never seen detail in this thing like this before. Unfiltered at this magnification the disc of this PNe is about 15" diameter and a pale steely blue -- different from low magnification view. Never seen it other than round before. There are two nearby stars mag 10 to the E 4' and the SE 5' and from those the nebula is elongated in PA 0, more correctly, it is round but has two small, low protrusions from the disc N and S that make it look slightly oval in PA 0. The protrusions from the disc are slightly lower in SB than the rest of the disc and *occasionally* there seems to be a hint of some mottling over the disc. No Central star. Lots of mag 14 & 15 *s in the field. Fantastic seeing.

Since I have owned this 46cm, on nights where the seeing is exceptional (very rare) I spend almost all my time on PNe. I see I have recorded the colour as steely blue rather than the familiar cyan. This is almost certainly the result of high magnification that spreads the disc over a larger area of the focal plane, decreasing the colour-effect.

Best,

Les D
Thanks so much Les, I am positively chuffed about finding it Nothing like that rush when you find an elusive object! Thanks for your help yesterday, it really did make it easier to find keeping that knowledge in mind!

Goodness, that observation sounds incredible! I hope one day to get a view of it as good as that! It was very in and out viewing it, it would be crisp then blobby then crisp. I swear I did see a bit of a halo but who knows, could have been my eyes playing tricks on me. But from looking at pictures of it, I think I did see the slightest hint of detail. But very, very slight and pretty blah conditions.

Oh well, I found it Now I know where to look next time!
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:40 AM
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shelltree (Shelley)
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Originally Posted by astroron View Post
Great to see another observing report from someone other than the usual few observers
Well done Shelley
Fingers crossed for Saturday Night
Cheers
Thanks Ron It's been really great finally getting back out there after so long. I hope to keep that up in the future! I even did some voice recordings of my observations while I was at the eyepiece, to keep it fresh in my mind!

I've got my fingers and toes crossed for Saturday night! Skippysky is still looking good, a bit of cloud but doesn't look too bad. Hopefully we won't be identifying cloud types instead Will be great to catch up all the same
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:32 AM
Rob_K
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Top job Shelley, what a great report! For some reason (probably because I'm always confident I know exactly where it is ) I always have difficulty locating this one and inevitably have to refer back to charts. It's a lovely little planetary nebula and at low powers it's obvious how William Herschel originally gave them the 'planetary' part of their name.

Cheers -
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:25 PM
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shelltree (Shelley)
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Top job Shelley, what a great report! For some reason (probably because I'm always confident I know exactly where it is ) I always have difficulty locating this one and inevitably have to refer back to charts. It's a lovely little planetary nebula and at low powers it's obvious how William Herschel originally gave them the 'planetary' part of their name.

Cheers -
Thanks Rob!

I'm the same with Centaurus A, mate. I always think I know where it is then I get bamboozled I have the patterns in the stars burnt into my mind, so I'm hoping I can find this again without difficulty but seeing as I had such a hard time finding it to begin with, I may still have trouble

Yes, it definitely looks like a planet under low mag and it's a beautiful one at that Next on the list is Ghost of Jupiter! Determined to find that over the weekend, will see how I go
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