|An OUTSTANDING evening. From a backyard perspective, it simply doesn't get much better than this. The sky was very clear (3 of 5 for transparancy I'd say), the seeing was very good (3 of 5 for disturbance), the light pollution was decent (3 of 5 for LP probably) and I brought out all of my gear. Yes, ALL of my gear, and I used it all. See my equipment page for the list.
Tonight I tried somethig a little different. I am not very methodical in my observations. I look at stuff. I try to find new things. I gaze around and go... "Oh, I know of something there and it looks dark enough to where I might be able to find it." Point the beast at it and I may or may not see what I was thinking of.
Tonight was different, I took the objects constellation by constellation. It probably doesn't qualify as "star hopping" but it's the closest thing I have at this point. I was able to take in far more objects in one night than I have before, and get a good long look at each one of them over my 4 and a half hour observation. Here is the list by constellation:
Dumbbell Nebula - Planetary Nebula
Wow. It is getting higher in the sky, and with the combination of the 2" 16mm eyepiece and the UHC filter, this planetary nebula looks incredible. The hourgalss in the center is very bright, hazed by a more oval surrounding nebulosity. Simply stunning.
Coat hanger Cluster
Too wide for the scope, I observed this in the 10x50 nocs. This is such a cool object. The very bright stars are in a near perfectly strightline.
North American Nebula - Diffuse Nebula
I've been looking for this for some time now. I always try to see it, but it's never been quite dark enough. The object is so HUGE that it cannot be taken in by my telescope. But I have no filters for the nocs, so I hunted the edge only. I found a nebulous edge of a cloud, but I'm not sure if it was the North American or the Pelican.
The Crescent - Diffuse Nebula
I've also looked for this one many time to no avail. Perhaps I will see it one night, but it was not this night.
Veil West - Diffuse Nebula
An amazing sight. This huge nebula consumes my entire field of view. From the long thin fingers to the bulky cloud, this nebula is fantastic. I can't wait to see this in deeper, darker skies.
Veil East - Diffuse Nebula
A smaller partner of the Veil West, this is also a large nebula. It nearly consumes the same field of view as the Veil West, but is much thinner. There is a darker side and a much brighter side. You can make out the forking in the more faint portion of the nebula. Beautiful.
Albireo - Binary Star
The only binary I've seen in Cygnus. Easily split at low power. I looked at this in my 12" and 6" telescopes.
Epsilon Lyrae "Double-Double" - Multiple Star
Though this one is initially split in my 6" scope, that one cannot split the more subtle binaries. This requires my 12" at 300x power to even begin to reslove the "double-double".
Ring Nebula - Planetary Nebula
Another amazingly bright, but small planetary nebula. Easily discerned in both the 6" and the 12", the nebula really comes to life with the UHC filter and the 9.5mm eyepiece in the 12" scope. To date, I have not seen the tiny star the lights up this nebula, but I'm looking forward to seeing it in the right conditions with the right equipment.
M13 - Globular Cluster
Simply stunning. M13 has got to be one of the most brilliant objects I've seen. Tonight, it was nearly straight up at the blackest part of the sky. For the first time, in the 12" scope with the 2" 16mm eyepiece I was able to make out the spider-like shape. It has always been a spectacular object, but tonight, it was exceptional.
M92 - Globular Cluster
Again, high in the darkest area of the sky this globular has never looked so brilliant. Substantially more resolving stars than in previous observations. What a beautiful object.
M3 - Globular Cluster
Though M3 is not nearly as stunning as M13 or M92, it is still a wonderful object. Nothing more than a fuzzball in the 6", but well defined in the 12" at 90x power anf higher.
Mizar - Binary Star
An easily split binary at low power for both my 6" and my 12".
Owl Nebula - Planetary Nebula
Very very faint as the light pollution and cloudiness was increasing. Even with the UHC filter, there is little to no detail in this planetary nebula. Though there is a hint of variation in the cloud, I certainly would not say that I could see the definition of the owl face.
Pinwheel Galaxy - Face-on Galaxy
Very faint face-on spiral. Tonight there is no definition in the galaxy, but I'm looking forward to seeing it on darker, clearer nights.
M108 - Edge-on Galaxy
Bright, but little detail in the edge-on spiral. After staring at it for some time, I think I saw a faint glimpse of dust in the galaxy. Next time I may devote more time to this object.
Bode's Galaxy - Face-on Galaxy
Very large and very bright for a face-on galaxy. It has a very bright nucleus and a great deal of fuzz around it. I'm not sure what it takes to see detail in the fuzz, but this is always a spectacular object.
Cigar Galaxy - Edge-on Galaxy
Even in low power and without averted vision, this edge-on spiral displays it's vertical dust lane running right through the center of the galaxy. Also a bright and easy object, though not quite so bright, or easy in the 6".
Whirlpool Galaxy - Face-on Galaxy
Tonight, this was the only spiral showing off it's arms. Two distinct spiral arms, one reaching towards the companion NGC5195 which is equally as bright, though not half as large.
Cat's Eye Galaxy - Face-on Galaxy
The Cat's eye is very bright, but can possibly be mistaken for a very large star. It has an immense nucleus that is clear, but many tiny little spiral arms that cannot be made out in my backyard, or perhaps with my equipment.
Sunflower Galaxy - Face-on Galaxy
Another faint object. Contrary to the neighboring Cat's Eye Galaxy, this galaxy is all arms and a very small nucleus. The detail within the arms is too faint for me to make out tonight, and I doubt I will ever see them from my back yard, but I will continue to observe this object.
M53 - Globular Cluster
M53 is an old friend as it is the very first globular cluster I found without it being pointed out to me. Though it is not super spectacular, it is still a wonderful object. The 12" scope resolves the stars in the cluster nicely.
Blackeye Galaxy - Face-on Galaxy
This medium sized galaxy has a clear dust cloud consuming nearly half of the nucleus. It really does look like this galaxy has a black eye!
Coma Berenices Open Cluster
Too large for the telescope, the entire open cluster fits into my 10x50 binoculars. I have not gotten it to look like hair in my minds eye (as it supposedly does), yet it's still spectacular sight.
Leo Triplet 1 - Face-on Galaxy
Very small, very faint, no detail whatsoever.
Leo Triplet 2 - Face-on Galaxy
Very small, very faint, no detail whatsoever. A perfect companion for it's faint neighbor.
Leo Triplet 3 - Edge-on Galaxy
The NGC edge-on is completely invisible tonight. I fully expected to see it as I have seen it a few times before, but there must be just too much light pollution in the growing misty sky.
As always, Jupiter is cool. 4 clear moons, Ganymede eclipsing on the planet, many stars in the field... wonderful.
In the end, this evening was one of the best yet. I observed just about every object in both my 6" and 12" as well as many objects with my 10x50 nocs mounted on a cheap tripod I picked up at Walmart. With the increase of gear, it's taking me longer and longer to set up and break down for observing sessions. It's interesting to me though that I don't mind setting it all up anticipating a great session, and I don't mind tearing it all down in the afterglow of an incredible evening of observation.