February 2007





February 24, 2007 - Nova Scorpii 1 and 2...

Comments: I couldn't believe there were still clear skies this morning - but I knew I wasn't going to waste them. Dawn is coming earlier and earlier now and you don't dawdle or miss an opportunity if you want to catch a nova!

Back out again with binoculars at around 5:00 a.m. and lovin' every second of it. Nova Scorpii 1 has now dimmed to the point that I cannot make it out unaided without aversion and even then it's on the edge of knowing where it's at. To be honest, if I didn't know its position, I probably wouldn't have seen it without help. In binoculars, it still snaps right out and has faded in the last 24 hours to almost the identical magntiude of RV. Again, I don't like making magnitude calls professionally, but personally I would say that it has dropped by slight more than a factor of 1. Where it was really close to 5 yesterday morning, it's more like 6.5 now.

The next hunt is for Nova Scorpii 2 located three degrees south. OK. I'm on the field, but I can't differentiate it from background stars. I would say with 100% certainty that I "saw" it - but it's not the same as saying I "identified" it. (anyone who's ever looked for pluto knows what i'm talking about.) For now? I'm just happy that I got to catch anything at all and even more delighted that my friend Stephen got a picture of it!

Lucky bird... ;)

"And they're watching us... Watching us... As they all fly away."



February 23, 2007 - Da' Moon and Da' Fuzzies...

Comments: Tonight I wasn't so energetic about observing... Or else it was just a binocular kind of night in my world. While the dogs went out for a run, I found a dry (ish) spot and decided to enjoy the wonderful world of low power. Don't sell it short if you haven't tried it!

The Moon is actually quite good when you can be steady and it's not hard to see Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catherina. Nor to spot Atlas and Hercules! Deep sky objects are also very fine and I am pleased to repeat M42, M41, M46, M47, M48, M50, M35, M67 and M44. I like Dolidze clusters, too, and despite the moonlight they also fair very well. Take the time to really look at the association around Orion's head and belt... Or Alpha Perseii.

And cross your fingers those clear skies hold...

" And they say that a hero can save us. But, I"m not gonna stand here and wait.
I'll hold onto the wings of the eagles. Watch as they all fly away."




February 23, 2007 - Nova Scorpii 1...

Comments: I didn't want to anticipate clear skies this morning - but I was sure hoping we'd have them. Several days ago one of my great friends in Australia, Stephen Boyd, had sent me an image of a newly discovered nova in Scorpius. Well, I knew the moment I laid eyes on his image that the good folks "down under" weren't the only ones that could see this and I also knew darn well that Scorpius was going to be plenty high enough before dawn to see down low...

And I was right.

When I first got up and saw Jupiter out the window, I was ready to go folks. Last report had the nova around magnitude 3 - but that was days ago. Epsilon, 27 and k Scorpii was all you needed to see it... and by golly... it's not quite as bright as 27 - but I can see it unaided!

Next came the binoculars. With a little visual aid, it was easy to note that Nova 1 was far brighter than any star surrounding it and brighter definately than RV. By using a low wattage star chart, I would assume that it's somewhere in the neighborhood of around magnitude 5. Next step? The scope.

The old Celestron once again got the honors and confirmed Nova 1 to be far, far brighter than any companion star around it. Unfortunately, my eyes are not interferometers so all I can do is just guess at magnitude. (comets are easier because you just defocus on a known magnitude star or DSO). My guess is that its idential to 27 Scorpii in magnitude - but who cares?

I got to see it!!

"Now that the world isn't ending, it's love that I'm sending to you. It isn't the love of a hero, and that's why I fear it won't do."



February 22, 2007 - The Moon, M41, M46, M47, M48, M92, M35, M50, M67, M44 and Saturn...

Comments: A clear night at last in Ohio! The weather is warming up again and things are melting at last. The snow observatory walls are getting shorter and its floor far more sloppy. Although I would greatly admire taking the big telescope out tonight, it's better to stick with the old workhorse Celestron. It doesn't mind getting its feet wet and besides...

It's my friend.

We looked at the Moon for awhile, enjoying the views of Crisium, Proclus, Cepheus, Franklin, Langrenus, Taurantius, Vendelinus, Guttenburg and the Pyranees. The dogs are schmucking about and I live in fear of being pounced on by a black and tan kangaroo... Or charged by an enormous black wolf. I remember when H had all the energy this young one has - and I can only laugh as it harries him the way he did Ranger I. Name him? He has one... But not my own name. For now he's "Dibble" and we'll see how long he stays before we become attached.

As they lose interest in what I'm doing, I head off to visit the bright and beautiful. It's hard not to be spoiled with large aperature, but the objects I chose tonight are just as interesting to small optics as to large. Perhaps better in some respects. The 25mm suits them well and although I have seen these Messiers time and again over the years, I still enjoy them. There's something very pleasing about just being out under the stars again...

And seeing the moons dance around Saturn's rings.

"I'll hold onto the wings of the eagles... Watch as they all fly away."



February 16, 2007 - Arp 327, Hind's Variable Nebula (T Tauri), Cederblad 34 and Bochum 1...

Comments: Clear skies? Yessir. Not too bad at all, even though they were short lived. A little unsteady... But steady enough. Passible 5.0 at the zenith and maybe a decent 7/10 stability. It's time to wheel that big old telescope into the snow observatory and have a go at these stars!

Who let the dobs out?

Do you know what sound a dog with frozen lips makes? That's right. Arp! And tonight's first destination was Arp 327. If you can't figure out which one it is, try looking for NGC 1875 just a breath northwest of Gamma Orionis. Visually it's a snappy little skipper that shows up with mid-range power and pops into a small elliptical with a very bright core region. The galaxy appears to be more round than elongated. This one is also part of Hickson compact group 34. but I'll be arped if I can see anything but this faint galaxy.

Next up is Hind's Variable nebula, an old favourite of mine which I have always just referred to as T Tauri. Even at mid-range power (17mm) it's easy to see the accompanying shine to the west of the primary star, but kick in the juice (12.3mm) and it lights right up into a bold crescent. This is a highly recommended study and one that smaller scopes should not have a problem with.

The next is a new one on me - Cederblad 34. It isn't hard to find because all you need to do is center up easy 72 Tauri in the finderscope. At first I didn't see a doggone thing. The reality check was I just wasn't relaxing. The snow sharks are leaping and playing, scaring the heck out of me by jumping over my frozen snow walls, and I even had to yell at the young one because he was trying to pee on the wheel of the Grasshopper. Finally they wandered off further into the frozen wastelands on whatever little doggie errands they seem to enjoy and I got back to just lookin' at 72 Tauri. I don't know how long I stood there, but all at once it hit my blonde brain that what I was seeing was a soft reflection - just like the Merope.

Hot dog!

The last for tonight was also a new one - Bochum 1. If you can find the star between the two feet of Gemini, you can find this impossibly distant star cluster. Exciting? Not particularly. It's a very loose association and perhaps the brightest stars in it are around magnitude 10, but it's the thought that counts. In this case...

It's the study factor.

"And they say that a hero can save us... But I'm not going to stand here and wait."



Feburary 13 and 14, 2007 - Boy, Did It Snow!

Comments: Although this isn't anything astronomical, I'm often curious in later years as to the history of our current meteorology. So far in my haphazard sort of way, I have discovered that a lot of folks cry doom and gloom without ever really looking back to see what the weather trends were for any particular year. Do I believe in global warming and coming ice ages? Yeah, there's probably a ring of truth to that... But El Ninio is the real deciding factor.

Even though it was getting pretty crappy on the 13th when I left for work, it wasn't nearly as bad as it got later for the trip back. Wild storm stories about driving through 18 feet of snow and having to eat my car seats to survive? No. The reality check was the snow was coming down faster than the plows could handle it and if you've ever driven through sand you'd dig when I'm coming from. I'm all for caution,,, But don't slow down!

Well, that snow just kept coming and coming. Dry, cold, unpackable snow driven by a nor'easter that left anything on the southwest side under 4 ft. drifts. Can you imagine seeing two full sized german shepherds walking around and all you can see is their heads and backs? They looked like snow sharks....

By the next morning, there was no leaving. Work called and told me not to even try it. Almost all businesses, etc. were shut down and it would be hours yet before the snow stopped and the dig out began. Roads turned into tunnels and parking lots into giant snow forts. By nightfall, the snow had stopped and the temperatures dropped.

We're dug out now. It will be quite some time before it warms up enough to melt all this... But it was a grand adventure. There's never a dull moment in Ohio.

"A world full of killing... And blood-spilling... That day never came."



February 10, 2007 - Finishing Orion...

Comments: As quickly as the constellation of Orion seems to be moving westward, I think I'd better get on the ball tonight and finish up them Herschels before I have to wait until it comes round again!

Mush, you huskies...

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Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
Feburary 10, 2007 8:00 pm
Sky: 5.0 Stability 9/10
12.5" 25mm 12.3mm ultrawide

NGC 2024 - Involved with Zeta. Most of us know this bright nebula (bright, huh? riiiiite...) as the Flame. It's not a difficult object, but the hardest part is seeing the dark dustlane. The best way this can be accomplished is by using high power (even though it kills the nebula somewhat) and scooting Zeta out of the picture. It's actually a lot nicer at low power and just take your time.

NGC 2169 - Is definately one of the happiest clusters in Orion... It's the 37! Tonight you can't miss its markers - Xi and Nu. It triangluates with that pair and the point of 2169 is back towards Betelguese. Easy and very fun!

NGC 2186 - Is a fairly bright, small and decently compressed cluster, but you wouldn't stand a chance of resolving it without larger aperture. These are some very tiny little stars!

NGC 2194 - A well compressed and well resolved little cloud of stars near Kappa and also near (east/southeast) of the 37. This is a surprisingly nice little cluster and fills the eyepiece at hight power.

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And that will do if for Sir William and the Hunter. I look around and grin widely at Leo. Look at these stable skies! Holy crap... Even Sirius doesn't twinkle. About the only problem tonight is we've got a little low cloud cover down near the horizon, but other than that? What the heck... Make the change over to the 2" eyepieces and get that much treasured 32mm out...

It's time to dance with the stars.

"But how can that be? Look what love gave us...."



Feburary 9, 2007 - Sir William Tackles the "Twins"....

Comments: Waiting on a clear night? Oh, no. We've had them, but I also had a dang-blamed cold. Before you start hollering at me, it wasn't brought on by being outside - but being exposed to others that had the germs. Even as careful as I am, the drugs I take leave me with no immunity, but I've got a real strong will, eh?

And even stronger antibiotics!

In other words? Ah, hell... Give me a day or two and I'll bounce back. And speaking of bouncing? Hola! Take a look at the superb sky!!

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Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
February 9, 2007 - In at 9:00 pm EST
Sky: 6.0 Stability: 9/10
12.5" 25mm and 12.3mm ultrawide

NGC 2129 - Small cluster west of 1 Gem. It is fairly small, but bright enough to be spotted as a fuzzy in the finder. Well resolved at low power and has around two dozen members.

NGC 2158 - Most of us know this as the little "fuzzy" that is part of M35. Bright in larger scopes and fairly well-resolved at high power. A double handful are brighter than the core area stars behind them.

NGC 2266 - An easy hop north of Epsilon Gem. Bright, small and very rich for an open cluster. A very nice object that should show as a little compression to larger binoculars.

NGC 2304 - A little harder to find in a line between Gamma and Zeta. A faint semi-circle of low wattage stars.

NGC 2355 - South of Lambda and has a finderscope star caught on the northern edge. Fairly rich, bright and large, closer examination shows the finderscope star to be a nice yellow! This is a very good open cluster.

NGC 2371 - Planetary nebula southwest of Alpha. It's not overpoweringly bright, but it is very noticable as a planetary. Elongated and shows hints of detail in one edge at power. Definate central star held steady.

NGC 2372 - Indentical location and object... Is this a Herschel mistake? Or is he giving two designations to the same planetary because the southern end is brighter and shows details?

NGC 2392 - The "Eskimo" planetary and an old favourite. Shows some annulus structure at high power and easy central star at both powers.

NGC 2395 - East of NGC 2355. Also a very nice cluster! Easily bright at low power and well resolved into several dozen stars at high power.

NGC 2420 - Northeast of Eskimo. Also a nice cluster. Bright and fairly large. It is compressed and also contains the background shine of unresolved stars.

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For Herschel hunting, Gemini is a really easy constellation to navigate around in, or else I'm just having a really good night. It started getting a little tougher as it got straight overhead, but it really wasn't that bad. All in all, these are some very pretty and very easy open clusters and the planetary nebula are both bright enough to have been spotted in far smaller telescopes.

Now I'm cold and these two silly dogs are waiting at the back door like I'm punishing them or something. Good grief! You'd think as much as they ran by they wouldn't be cold! There isn't a virgin spot of snow anywhere... Looks like a daggone troop of bears was wrestling!

And one of 'em had wheels.

"Someone told me love will all save us...."



Feburary 5, 2007 - Sir William... Wabbit and Wabbit Hunter....

Comments: Time to do a little work again? You betcha'. The cold right now is downright painful, but the skies are so transparent and stable that even I can't say no.

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Herschel 400
Tammy Plotner 40.6 82.9
Skies: 10/10 clarity 10/10 stability
LM: 7.0
12.5 reflector, 25mm 12.5mm

NGC 1964 - Southeast of Beta Lepus. A freeking incredible spiral. Birght core, well angled like a backslash against a very stellar field with an apparent double at the edge. High magnification shows a hint of arm structure at the edges and a twinkle of line of sight stars. Very nice.

NGC 1980 - Both open cluster and very faint nebulosity which involves Iota Orionis. This cluster is best a lowest power and contains many bright, mixed magnitudes. The nebulousity is faint and tricky - like the Merope. You have to be very careful to make sure you aren't fogging your own optics or looking at a filament of M42.

NGC 1788 - North of Beta Erindani. This is a bright nebula that isn't so bright. It's very patchy and amorphus. High power totally destroys it.

NGC 1999 - South of Orion Nebula complex. This is also a bright nebula... And one I really don't recall seeing right off the bat. At low power it is best, and the upper section seems to be slightly brighter than the rest of the patch. Some dark obscurations?

NGC 2022 - Very tough. This is a planetary nebula and not an easy one. It's almost stellar in size and I had to go over and over the field again. High power finally revealed a greenish "star" that didn't have stellar properties. This one is tough. Find it by going to the DoDz cluster around Lambda and low power and drift towards Betelguese. You can't pick up planetary signature at low, but something about the movement clues you on the point.

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And that's all I can stand. The Moon is beginning to rise enough to cast some shadows and I am chilled to the bone. My last eyepiece switch finished what feeling I had in my hands and the 12.3mm is going to have to stay in place because I'm afraid of dropping a set screw. I head back to the garage to fetch the cover, hands jammed into coverall pockets to get some feeling back. I started to cover it... Really I did. But I couldn't help staring at the Orion nebula and wondering if there were seven or eight stars there tonight...

I looked at the Trap, Ray.

"I hold on to the wings of the eagle... Watch as we all fly away."



February 3, 2007 - RAS Meeting and Incredible Skies...

Comments: It's time for our monthly meeting and during the winter we don't go the the Observatory. This will be our last before public season begins and I am so glad to see it well attended! As we sit down for our meal, it is my great honour to present awards to Joe, Dan, John N., Robert, Greg and Terry for their outstanding efforts this last year in public outreach. I would have given anything to include everyone, but I am hoping that we have even more participation for this year. It's fun!

And so was our meeting. Everyone of us had good news and plans for the upcoming Hidden Hollow went very well. We are going to have a very busy and wonderful year ahead and I think all of us are looking forward to it!!

There was no loitering outside when we were done, despite what looked like clear skies. No one was dressed for the occassion and it is mind numbing cold here. The thermometer on the garage read 3 degrees F when I got back and what did I do? Go back out...

You can't believe how transparent the sky is!

Thankfully the wind had died off or I probably wouldn't have been able to tolerate it as long as I did. Within seconds, breath freezes to the OTA and you have to sheild to keep it off the eyepiece. What are the rewards? When was the last time you could see the M42 unaided in 15-day Moon conditions, hmmmm? When was the last time you could navigate to M35 and M50 with ease under bright skies? When was the last time you saw the rings of Saturn or the M67? Can you remember the last time you saw the M44 or M65 and M66? I can...

And it was incredible.

"Well, they say that a hero can save us... But I'm not going to stand here and wait."



Feburary 2, 2007 - The Snow Moon....

Comments: When I left work tonight, I was blown away by the brilliant visage of Venus and the rising full Snow Moon. What seems like a late-coming winter is now full force and I regret within minutes that I chose to park so very far from where I work. The exercise is good for me, but the temperture is so low that it only takes seconds to bite unprotected skin.

The car is like a refrigerator, and as I wait patiently for it to heat, I do my best to keep my hands warm. I keep forgetting that I am not young and that I will notice cold. But you know what? All ya' gotta' do is look at that beautiful Moon and you feel it a whole lot less...

The snow has been skifting and drifting, but the drive across the countryside is lovely. I don't know if the groundhog saw his shadow today or not, but he couldn't miss it in tonight's blue moonlight. The flelds, the sky, the snow laden trees and ice... My gosh. It looks like a picture postcard it's so beautiful...

Tonight's full Moon is also known as the "Hunger Moon" and indeed I am. As my pizza bakes, I watch the dogs run across the fields and smile at their energy. In the garage, the old Celestron is peeking out the door, waiting to bathe itself in the cold, hard light. It tells me the stars are out there... Out there waiting...

And I listen.

Is there anything more glorious than the Orion nebula? Even faded it has a charm of its own. Like crystals in the eyepiece, the Plieades spring to life - the Merope nebula like a fine haze around crystal-like stars. The M36, M37 and M38 dazzle and the M41 answers in kind. Running in front of the Moon, the mighty Saturn sings a siren song and I think about the cold region in space where rings of ice circle around that pale yellow world. Sirius is like a frozen diamond - the diffraction spikes playing off every color of the rainbow. And out there... out there in the far reaches of space...

The M81 and M82 embrace.

"I am so high. I can hear heaven.
No heaven, no heaven don't hear me..."



February 1, 2007 - At the Observatory...

Comments: In this weather? Are you nutz? The answer is yes. My purpose was not to go over observing, but to meet with our kind benefactors. The hour is early. I slept poorly and got up in the middle of the night to prepare my proposals... But I am there.

As we look around and talk, I feel a huge swell of pride for the place. The last few years have seen a great many changes and each time I go over it is like looking at everything with new eyes. The care, attention and loving spill out of every corner. Nothing looks run-down or neglected. I think every one of us here at the Observatory feels differently about things now and our pride shows.

Needless to say, our benefactors were equally impressed at the changes and equally proud. There was no shortage of smiles, handshakes, hugs, good wishes and big plans for the future. We've come back from the dead, momma...

And it shows.

"I am so high. I can hear heaven...."