Back on Track

Observing notes from the evening of Friday, February 11, 2005

As with any hobby, there are up times and there are down times. It's been quite a few months since I've been out under the stars, at the eyepiece of a telescope. With so many distractions from our daily lives, sometimes even the most passionate hobby can collect dust. And if you throw in another hobby or two, the time you can devote to any particular aspect of one hobby becomes even more precious. Astronomy is a hobby that has the extra complicating factor that you need clear skies in order to pursue a big portion of it. You can only do so much reading and planning. There comes a time when you need to get out under a dark, star studded sky and track down the galaxies and nebulas and various other objects that light the fires of your interest. The intersection of having the energy, having the time, and having the clear skies has become an increasing rarity.

Well, this past Friday the odds turned in my favor. The club had a scheduled observing session that not only came on a clear night, but I had the desire and ability to get out there with my fellow stargazers. A group of us assembled at the Big Woods observing site, located at Lake Jordan, NC. I arrived after sundown so I was surprised to find that I was the first one there. As I unlocked the gate to the site, a small deer bounded across the path in front of me, briefly illuminated by the headlights of my truck. In the back I had my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, which has been my workhorse in my astronomical pursuits. I have found that I'm increasingly wanting more aperture as I go after fainter and fainter objects. Although I appreciate the power of what I have, I do expect to upgrade to a larger telescope sometime in the near future.

My quarry for this night's session was a continuation of my Herschel II observing project. I have found that if you don't have a goal, or at least some sort of plan, you'll find yourself observing the same objects over and over again. While I'm thrilled at every view I get of the Orion Nebula or even some of the more obscure deep sky objects, I still realize that I've only seen tip of the iceberg of what's up there. Everyone needs to venture out into new territory every now and then, to keep the hobby exciting, and prevent stagnation. I was joined by observing partner Jeff McAdams, club members Mark Lang and Doug Lively, new club member Jeff Loving, and a few others on this very cold February session. When I left for the night, the temperature read 25 degrees, which might explain why my toes were numb. Even so, the observing fire within me has again been rekindled and I'm once again back on track with the astronomy hobby.

Below you will find the Herschel II objects I tracked down. Enjoy.

NGC1832. Galaxy in Lepus. Oval shape running north south. Gradually brighter toward the center. Right on top of a star. Star is on the eastern portion.

NGC2139. Galaxy in Lepus. Very faint. Oval shape running north south. Gradually brighter toward the center. Need to use averted vision to get a good look at it.

NGC2196. Galaxy in Lepus. Very faint. Round shape. Little speck of light in the center, which might be an involved star. "Star" not quite in the center, toward the east or southeast of galaxy.

NGC2415. Galaxy in Lynx. Very faint, very small. Kind of round, faint glow. Brighter toward the center.

NGC2493. Galaxy in Lynx. Very faint. Round or oval. Brighter core.

NGC2500. Galaxy in Lynx. Very, very faint. Medium size. Shows up as faint glow in background. No detail beyond that.

NGC2339. Galaxy in Gemini. Very faint. Small size. Need averted vision. Uniform in brightness.

NGC2236. Open cluster Monoceros. Not much to look at. Barely can distinguish cluster from background. Dimmer, faint stars in background. Star over the top, probably foreground star. Dim members.

NGC2252. Open cluster in Monoceros. Large and scattered. Veins or concentration of brighter stars running through it. Kind of like streams or rivers of brighter stars over dimmer stars.

NGC2254. Open cluster in Monoceros. Tiny and concentrated. Circlet of brighter stars.

NGC2259. Open cluster in Monoceros. Very faint conglomeration of stars. Brighter star to the north, might be a foreground star.

NGC2269. Open cluster in Monoceros. Very faint, very small. Barely shows up as a concentration of stars with averted vision. More like a dim glow in background.

NGC2302. Open cluster in Monoceros. Very faint concentration of stars. Small. Not that impressive. Scattering of brighter stars around it.

NGC2309. Open cluster in Monoceros. Faint and small. Concentrated. Shows up as a definite cluster. Scattering of brighter members.

NGC2346. Planetary nebula in Monoceros. Medium brightness. Small. Shows up as a small, gray disk with the central star easily visible.

Jeffrey L. Polston

* Back to home page *