This entry s coming after 4 amazing nights with my brother and son at Indian Trail Spring and the Oregon Star Party.
The sky was very dark. During twlilight we could see the Perseus Double Cluster and the Andromeda galaxy naked eye. We knew we were in for a treat. With the exception of one night (Friday) that hazed out for about an hour due to some smoke from a nearby forest fire blowing our way, we had 360 degree horizon with treeline to treeline Milky Way. Simply amazing.
Instead of journaling each night I thought I'd summerize it all in this single entry.
I had no problem picking up 14th magnitude galaxies in my 12" scope and could push to about 14.5 before I really had to look hard to pick them out.
This is the second time I've taken my equatorial platform from Round Table Platforms
out to a dark sky location. The platform makes all the difference in the quality of observing. I can spend more time soaking in the image in the eyepiece and less time chasing the object in the field of view. I initially set the platform down with a very rough alignment and the tracking was excellent. I spent a few more minutes performing a drift align and the tracking was well dialed in.
I spent quite a bit of time working in Aries pulling up rather faint galaxy groups. 2 or 3 in each field of view for most of them and actually using galaxies to hop to other small groups. 13th Mag. Galaxy hopping. Sweet! IC 167, NGC 674, NGC 678, NGC 680, NGC 691 to name but a few.
Faint fuzzy observing was so much fun in Aries, I turned to Draco for some more. NGC 3147, NGC 4236, NGC 4291, NGC 4319, NGC 4386, NGC 4589 were some I pulled up there. Some of these were as bright as 11th mag and as dim as 13th. Very little distinguished them other than their brightness and whether or not they were edge on, face on or eliptical. Some, like NGC 4319 I see in photographs is somewhat barred - or at least has some significant arms - but I could not detect that level of detail in any of these.
Barnard 143 - "Barnard's E" - Dark Nebula
In Aquilla we looked up Barnard's "E". A dark nebula in the Milky Way. This was an easy binocular object. Just a little over one degree it did fit in my lowest poewr eyepiece in the 12", but it was a touch harder to distinguish simply because there weren't many stars to contrast the dark nebula with. A better binocular object it seemed to me, though the view in the wide field 102mm short tube refractor was nice at about 20 power.
NGC 281 - "Pac Man Nebula" - Nebula (not sure what kind)
I've not looked at this one before, though I'm not sure why. It's up nearly all year long. The magnitude is 7, but it's half a degree wide so it's pretty dispersed. It was evident in the eyepiece with no filter and I could even make out the "Pac Man" shape. The OIII filter was a bit too harsh on it cutting out too much light, but the UHC filter was perfect. It nearly doubled it's brightness and the shape was much clearer. I tried to photograph it, but I'd need to take a much longer exposure (probably somewhere around 15 minutes I'd guess) to actually get the shot.
NGC 604 - H2 Nebula Region in M33
I've been interested in looking at objects in other galaxies. My first extra-galactic object was the G1 globular cluster in M31. This trip to dark sky I was highly interested in NGC 604. It was considerably brighter and larger then I expected it to be. There was a slight elongation at one side, but other then that it looked similar to M32.
Obviously, I looked at many many more objects than this as we stayed up until sunrise nearly every night.
One of the nights I took a bunch of pictures of various brighter objects. Here is the list of pictures though I won't go into all of the exposure detail. Suffice it to say at the moment that the camera is a Digital Rebel XT (Canon EOS 350) and the majority of the pictures are taken through the Celestron 102mm Short Tube f/5 Refractor at prime focus. The images are all single exposures ranging from 10 seconds to 3 minutes. I have still not learned how to do the whole stacking thing yet.
Wide Field Shots
M45 - The Pleiades
Solar System Objects