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11/30/-1
    
Friday, September 10th, 2004
Tonight was a sweet success. I took a chance on the weather and headed back to Indian Trail Spring in the Ochoco National Forest in central Oregon. Though the forecast said it would be mostly cloudy on Friday and rainy on Satrday, I went anyway. Even if I had to observe through sections where the clouds were not, this spot is worth every minute of observation.
Well, just as thhey said, it was 85% cloudcover once the sun went down, but Sagittarius was completely open. I started with a few observations there. M59, M22, Ptolomy's Cluster, Lagoon Nebula, Triffid Nebula, Omega Nebula, Eagle Nebula, and a few others came and went through the only open patch in the sky.

Low and behold, my prayers were answered as by about 10:30 the ENTIRE sky was completely cloudless! There was a nasty haze that kept the sky from being as dark as it can be out there, but none the less, is was very dark and naked eye objects were popping up everywhere. The Coathanger cluster, Andromeda Galaxy, Perseus Double Cluster, and many more. The night was turning out to be fantastic for something that was only supposed to be mediocre at best.

I logged all of my last Messier objects and a few from the SAA 100 list I started tackling simultaneously. Before the trip, I purchased an H-Beta filter because my goal for the night was to see the Orion complex of nebulae. I was after the Great Nebula, the Horsehead nebula, Barnards Loop, and whatever else Orion offered.

Here are my observations ordered by constellation. As usual, the * denotes a new object for me:

Aquarius
*Helix Nebula
This is much larger that I thought it was. Probably a quarter degree or so. I was disappointed to not see any structure in it though. It was large and bright, but I could not detect the central ring at all. I tried both the UHC and H-Beta filters on it, and it simply would not materialize with more detail. I also looked at it in an 18" with an OIII filter, and also, no deeper definition.

*Uranus
This is my first time seeing Uranus on a decent night. It was clearly a planet. A nice blueish-green disk. Much larger than the stars around it. I had to zoom to about 300x power to really see it well. Very cool.


Auriga
*Flaming Star Nebula
A very large, faint nebula. It was only about 15 degrees off of the horizon on a relatively hazy night, so that was a contributing factor. I also tried the UHC and H-Beta filters on this nebula. The UHC drew it out a bit more, and the H-Beta made it disappear.


Camelopardalis
*NGC 2403
A very easy find. At 8.9 magnitude, this galaxy was very bright. I saw no structure or modeling at all, but I'm aware of a supernova recently logged in this galaxy. Perhaps if I looked at it longer, or increased my magnification I may have seen more detail. The info on the supernova can be found at the Hubble Site.


Capricornus
*Neptune
Hmmm... okay. Starry Night said it was the object I was looking at, but it looked exactly like the stars around it from my perspective. I'm not sure if I should expect more from this distant planet.


Cetus
*NGC 1055
In looking at Cetus A (M77) I noticed this faint galaxy. In pictures I've seen of NGC 1055 it's possible that on a clearer night I may see the dust lane in it.

*NGC 1073
This galaxy was extremely faint. I could barely make it out. It's relatively large for an NGC galaxy, but has an 11.5 magnitude so the light is spread out.

M77 - Cetus A
Though M77 is a galaxy, it was very bright and small and looked more like a tiny globular cluster. It had the appearance of a large bright fuzzy star. I did not increase my magnification because I was sidetracked by NGC 1055 which was also in the field of view.


Eridanus
*NGC 1232
An elusive 15th magnitude face on spiral. A nice central nucleus with slight fuzz around it. Definitely there, but a hard one to catch.


Gemini
*M35
An easy binocular object and beautiful in the scope. A good sized open cluster off of Castor's foot star Propus. There are many bright stars in this cluster and many more dim ones. I did not notice any color variation tonight. I'll look again as it gets higher in the sky.


Lepus
*M79
Low on the horizon and small to begin with, this object looked a great deal like a comet. Even in my 12" scope, there were no details signifying it as a globular cluster of stars.


Monoceros
Christmas Tree Cluster
This one I had to work a little harder for. I have seen it once before in my 6" from my backyard when I first got my scope. This time, in the 12", I also tried my UHC and H-Beta filters to see if I could pull out some nebulosity. Nothing. I'd like to research if I can see the nebula with a telescope, or if it only comes out in photographs.

*M50
An medium sized open cluster with beautiful white and yellow stars. it gets a little lost in the Milky Way band, but a very nice object. It reminds me of M39 in Cygnus.


Orion
*M78
About as large and very similar to M1, this nebula is interesting, but not spectacular. There is no real detail or shape to it.

*NGC 1977
A cool wide open cluster with nebulosity. Not many stars in this, but what's there is bright an beautiful. They light up the nebula seen well with the UHC filter. I didn't notice any color in the stars. They all looked white.

*NGC 1980
Below the Great Orion Nebula, this smaller, fainter nebula lurks. It looks cool in the "shadow" of M42. It looks like an expansion of the larger nebula and lit by Nair Al Saif.

*NGC 2071
I thought I'd pull this up because it was there. And there wans't much to it. A small faint fuzzy patch in the same field of view as M78.

*Orion B
Orion B was very faint. The N-Beta filter made it disappear and the UHC enhanced it only slightly. The diffuculty with this one is that it's so close to Alnitak. I had to keep tweaking the view to get the bright star out of the image so I could make out the nebula. As faint as it was though, it looked cool. The structure of this one is very unique. A large dark lane running down the center with flaming shapes coming off of it like a giant torch. Very cool.

M42 - The Great Orion Nebula
The Great Orion Nebula. Holy moly! I have literally never seen anything like it to date. Even without a filter it looked completely three dimentional. The detail in this nebula was simply outstanding. This was also one of the first objects I've noticed color in. There were clear blue and white hues. With the H-Beta filter it essentially turned things shades of grey, but it definitely displayed other highlights than either unfiltered or the UHC filter. The core of this nebula lit by the Trapezium was stunning. Large and bright. The light dissipated as it the clouds around it thicken. Words can hardly describe the incredible visual impact this object had. With the exception of the Hercules Cluster (M13), this is the only other object I've seen that almost looks like a Hubble image to the observing eye. Spectacular.

*Trapezium
This was awesome. The Trapezium looked great all all levels of magnification. When I pushed it up to 300x the 4 stars were split so perfectly. It looked incredible. The first time I saw this was in my 6" in February or so, and I didn't even see the quad group. This time, I looked specifically for it.

*M43
I suppose M43 is the small companion of M42. It all looks like one giant nebula to me, but... whaterver. My description of M42 encapsulated M43 as well.


Sagittarius
M8 - Lagoon Nebula
Once again, the Lagoon is an incredible object. Tonight I tried something a bit different though. In checking things out with the H-Beta filter, I put it on this nebula. Wow! What a difference. Not in detail, but in size. And as I followed the nebulosity it just went on and on. There is a ton of H-Beta gas in that region. It was the best use of the new filter that night.


Scorpius
*NGC 6144
I saw this globular by mishap. I was simply looking at Antates and I noticed this globular in the field of view. At first I thought it was M4, but it seemed to be not quite in the right spot. Nearly as large as M4, but somewhat fainter I'm suprised this is not an M object. Though I have to admit, I have not seen it before and the night was very good.


Taurus
*M1 - Crab Nebula
This object surprised me, but not in a good way. Much like the Helix, I expected to see more from this large nebula. It also seemed like the filters did nothing. M1 only looked like a fuzzy blob in the sky. A mere cloudy patch. Perhaps whe this object also gets higher and I have a better night I will see it clearer.


What an amazing night! I saw much more than this, but these were the new objects for me. I spent some time also looking at objects I've seen may other times like M13, M31, M51, M101, etc.

The downside of the trip was that Saturday, though it didn't rain as forecasted, was completely cloudcovered all day and all night. Not a star in sight that enntire evening. Oh well, but at least Friday night made it worth the long drive to central Oregon.





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