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Summer Starhop - EXTREME!
"Hot enough for you, yet?"

"the astronomer" cordially invites you to go to the...

SUMMER STARHOP CHALLENGE

"Beer is proof that there is a God... and the He loves us and wants us to be happy!" --Ben Franklin

So, have I got you "warmed up"? Then let's throw some Coronas on ice for later... and let me get you into the "backyard" for some fun!

Let's dance...


Ophiuchus

So... are you ready for a REAL challenge now? Then Ophiuchus is the place for us! Take my hand and let's rock and roll...

In the southern region, we begin at Sabik, and drop the field to the southeast to capture the NGC6356 globular. This one resolves well, and contains a bright "football" shaped core area, and a delightful chain of stars to one side! Now, hop again to the southwest to net the M9... This is one TERRIFIC globular! Containing handfuls of yellow and blue components, the very stars about the area seem "drawn" into it! There are several chains of bright stars... with enough doubles, triples and quartets to please any eye! Very bright, the cluster full of varying magnitudes and sizes is an exceptional target! Hop south, and fade east to gather in the NGC6342. Nestled in a "box" of four bright stars, this globular is small, and has a triangular core region. The outer edges resolve quite well, and contain many doubles and triples! Continuing on our southeast trajectory, just below the ecliptic is the NGC6401. A globular of loose structure, it has a strange core... it looks like a slash of light! Surrounded by doubles, it was a difficult "hunt", but very worthy.

Hop west now, and just above Omicron we find the NGC6325. Tis' a dim fellow, containing no real nucleas, but it does resolve well... and is home to several decent triples. Take a hop north west, and directly on the ecliptic plane is the NGC6287. Very dense, and yet loose in structure, this globular appears as a series of overlapping doubles, with a hazy, grainy central region. Let the scope fall due south now, and capture the NGC6284. An unusual globular, this one. It central region is quite dense, but instead of being "haloed" by stars, this one looks like a "pinwheel" formation! It is very worth a look, just because of its' strange structure!

Keep drifting south... and you will find the M19. Very blue in color, it has the strange appearance of being "flattened" or "squeezed" together, if you will. It's grainy right to the core, and brighter than most, containing "filament-like" chains of stars, and a nice yellow triple! A worthy Messier.... Now let's dance to the east, and call on the NGC6293 to be our partner. This one has an irregular central region, with many bright resolvable stars at the edges... those high wattage doubles! (Swing your partner, round and round...)

And in the east we find the NGC6355... this one is a "soft core" star! Yep... it's loose. There are many bright central stars, but its' feature is a collection of doubles.

So, let's hustle west to Theta (a decent orange double, by the way... easy split... components are the same size! :) and dip south for the NGC6316... and back up to Theta... and back south... and up... and down... (Oh my! This one IS a bit of a challenge!) When at last the NGC6316 was (ahem!) identified, I had a hard time believing this was classed as a globular! To me it appeared as a pin-point of concentration... an overlapping of stars in a field that only slightly gathered toward the center. And south of it... the NGC6304. Whose general appearance is that of a lost nucleas, sitting in a field of stars waiting on company!

Let's go for one a bit more exciting, ok? Sweep the scope southwest, (or go the the M19, and drop due south, if you prefer...) and collect the M62. Ahhhh... this is more like it! The M62 is a "true" globular. A nice, dense core... totally unresolvable, surrounded by stars that can... fielded by the grainy ones that make you want an even LARGER scope! This absolutely "stellar" Messier object resembles a "gone to seed" dandelion... comprised of stars! (Yeah, baby!)

Now... I feel like being "difficult" just one more time before we go have some fun. Let's track down the NGC6440. This globular borders on Saggitarius, and is best found by knowing where the M23 and M9 are... then making a shallow triangle with the NGC6440 as the southern-most point. It's tight... it's compact! Only the edges show definintion... but this one is... very, very globular! (and we like 'em well defined! ;)


Saggitarius

Al Nasl. It is the "tip" of the spout of the Saggitarius "teapot", and it is the anchor for this section of a star hop. North of here is NGC6522, a globular of little resoultion, that shares the field with NGC6528. This globular is also comprised of dim stars, and offers no resolution what-so-ever, regardless of how much magnification I tease it with! Another hop to the north brings up NGC6520, a compact, open cluster whose stars come out to play! Only a breath northwest is Barnard 86... this is a "dark" nebula. Fascinating... because it is a very conspicuous "gap" in a field of fine stars!

Now let us travel south along the "spout line". About halfway point is globular cluster NGC6569. It is grainy.... very grainy. What a delightful suggestion of hundreds of stars begging for resolution! Very nice... And even better? There's a sweet little double hanging out in the field, too!

On now to Kaus Meridionalis... and fade south to NGC6624. This globular cluster appears as a bright ball of light. Virtually unresolvable, to the mind's eye it simulates a large planetary.... and speaking of which, let's go anchor again! Now hop to the northwest... and hold your breath! Because this one is tiny!! NGC6565 is a planetary nebula. It took a great deal of concentration and map work to find, because it appears as nothing more than an "out of focus" star. (But it is a confirmed one!! ;)

Let's go back to the "dome", and Kaus Borealis to anchor again. Shifting east brings up NGC6638. It is a very "textured" globular cluster, and magnification brings several bright members forward to direct vision. Splendid! Now, due north for NGC6642. This is a nice, bright globular cluster which shows the beginnings of resolution even under lower power. This most beautiful feature of the NGC6642 is its' proximity of the M22... one of the better Messier objects to hunt. Excellent choice!

Moving west along the ecliptic plane brings up NGC6629. This planetary nebula makes its' home very close to the M28. Reminiscent of "the Ring", it shows its' form quite well, with an "Are you? Or are you not?" teasing glimpse of a central star. (It is one of those that I simply cannot confirm... even though my mind says it is there!!)

Let's cruise the M8 again, ok? And run a southeast line to find NGC6544. This is an unusual irregularly shaped globular... the best part? It sits in a "rich" field of stars! Now for NGC6553. Also a globular, but one that is NOT giving up any detail. Just a ball of light, but one that also has a double star joining it!

Now, back to the finder and pick up the M20... (hey, Trifid! nice to see you again, buddy!) and head north. The NGC6537 is classed as a planetary nebula. I also had quite a time finding this one, because it just looks like a hairy star! Keep moving toward the Saggitarius Star Cloud, and the NGC6567 comes next. This one is very recognizable as a planetary nebula, but there is not even the slightest "hint" of a central star!

OK... bottom's up!! Let's go to the base of Saggitarius for the next study. The M75 sits near the border of Capricorn. It is a bright, yet "soft" globular cluster. It's texture reminds me more of powder more than sand... and magnification only brings that forward! Now for M54... This is a great globular. Extrememly textured, almost "prickly" in appearance. this one does benefit from higher power. How about the M70 next? Very bright, this globular is very happy to share its' brighter members with averted vision! Then the M55... also a globular cluster, it has a very "soft" look to it. One that says "Go ahead... try all you want, but I'm not resolving!!" Stubborn cuss... ;)

Now let's go back to the M17, and smile! (Saggitarius is great, isn't he?) Say howdy to the M18... all twelve of them! And the M24... sweet! Sitting a a well resolved field, this open cluster is a patch of fuzz! Of course, the M21 is in the field with the M20, but it is trick because it resolves so well. And the M23?? Too many to count!! (I just love it when you're being "bright" like that!!)

Now, let's grab a cup of coffee and take a short break... because I'm ready to fly with the "Eagle"!


Aquila

Up with you now! Break is over... let's rock!

Aquila... I'm ready! We all know Altair... now get to know Altair's companion... Tarazed. Because here is where you will find the B142 and B143, the "Double Dark Nebula". This is one impressive sight! To look into the dob is to see more stars than you would have ever dreamed possible. The sky is simply awash with them... and that is why I have some difficulty with asterisms. But when you view the B142 and B143, it is startling! These are loops of deep blackness... that simply blot out the star field that surrounds them!! Absolutely astounding...

Go west now... for NGC6803. This is one tiny, tiny planetary! Power up... and tell me if you see a central! I want to believe I could... but a wink in the dark is so... so... indecisive! Ah, how it makes me wish I could hold it direct! South of here is another... NGC6804. The nebular structure itself is not as bright as the last, but I know I can see a central with averted vision here! Spectacular!

Now for that "Fox"...


Vupecula

Hey there, Vulpecula... I've come for you! (Yeah, yeah... you know I'm temporary lost in the M27! I JUST CAN'T HELP IT! ;) But the "Dumbbell" is my anchor here, and let's go west. NGC6823 is a open cluster. It contains a couple of dozen even magnitude stars, but it's stand out feature is the fact that it is part of emission nebula, NGC6820. Like the Plieades, the "smear" of light around the stars is very rewarding to view. Ready for a real "fox hunt"? How about NGC6940? When I finally found it again, I was quite pleased to see that it was very bright, with way too many stars to count! Very nice! East of here is NGC6802... a highly unusual open cluster!! Shaped like a "rod", its' north/south orientation delivers wonderful resolution, revealing countless stars! Go to it... it's grrrrreat!! Slightly north of the central star in the constellation of Vulpecula is the NGC6800. This is a decent open cluster, and home to a couple of dozen soft, small stars. I know there's more here in Vulpecula... but I am quite happy with what I have found!!

So... can I go play now?? ;)

That was GREAT!! There is no one in the world that I would rather work up a sweat with than YOU!! Now let's open one of those beers, shall we? ;)

--the astronomer