Observing notes from the evening of Friday, March 31, 2000
The weather forecast was good and the entire day presented clear, blue skies. In fact, I was so sure about going observing that I actually packed up my car before heading to work so I wouldn't have to go home. I actually left work, grabbed a bite to eat, and managed to get to the observing site (Big Woods at Lake Jordan) before the sun had set. There was a fellow there flying a radio controlled airplane and it was fun to watch. That's another hobby that I've always wanted to pour money into.
I had my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope setup before dark and was ready for a night of hunting down Herschel 400 objects. As night fell though, things started to get wet. It wasn't from rain drops but rather it was from dew drops. Okay, dew drops were not actually falling from the sky. But before long they were dripping and dropping from my equipment. The dew formed with a vengeance. It wasn't the worst I've seen, but it was pretty bad. Luckily I have dew zappers on my optics. Even so, dew still started to collect on my corrector plate during the course of the night. I basically had my scope pointed straight up because I was going after a lot of objects high in the sky. A quick blast of my dew zapper blower and a more concentrated effort to deter the dew served to keep my optics clear for the rest of the night. I turned my Kendrick system on high and when I wasn't observing for any length of time, I would put the corrector cover back on my telescope. Of course, my charts and books, and everything else got soaked. When I lifted my eyepiece case lid, pools of water would form on my table from the dew running off. It took quite a bit of time the next day to get everything dried out before I stored it away.
Even with the wet night, and even though I was rather tired, I still managed to get in a decent observing session. When you're working on Herschel objects, there's always something to be hunting down. Here's the list of objects I viewed for this observing session:
NGC651. Planetary nebula in Perseus. Showed up pretty well. Also known as M76, the Little Dumbbell nebula. Lives up to its name. Pretty bright. It really has a dumbbell or peanut shape. Almost seems like a central star present. I could see something every now and then.
NGC2419. Globular cluster in Lynx. I've seen this one before. Also known as the Intergalactic Wanderer. Two nearby stars. Shows up pretty well, but faint. Really can't resolve it. Like a speckled glow in the eyepiece. Boosted up the power, but didn't really seem to help.
NGC2424. Faint, thin galaxy in Lynx. Not too far from previous object. Could see a little brightening toward the core, but not much detail beyond that. This is not a Herschel 400 object. It was just close enough to NGC2419 that I thought I would try for it.
NGC2683. Galaxy in Lynx. Pretty bright and extended. Pretty much uniform, but some mottling. There seems to be a star involved right at the tip. Brighter center, but not stellar.
NGC2782. Galaxy in Lynx. Very faint. I needed averted vision to see it. Basically round. Not much detail at all.
NGC2681. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Kind of oval or round shape. Not much definition. Star involved or central core could be seen.
NGC2742. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Basically nothing much too it. I have to use averted vision to see a faint glow at the spot where the galaxy should be as shown by my software, but that's about it.
NGC2768. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Same field of view as previous object. Relatively much brighter and easier to see. Oval shape. Averted vision seems to show a central core or star popping in and out.
NGC2787. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Faint, tiny, round galaxy with bright central core. The galaxies have been kind of disappointing so far.
NGC2841. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Finally a nice bright galaxy. Elongated with a stellar core. Relatively thin and on the edge is a foreground star.
NGC2950. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Faint, small, and round with bright core.
NGC2976. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Huge galaxy with low surface brightness. Relatively uniform with a star at the edge. Oval shape.
NGC2985. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Round galaxy with bright core. Star involved right at edge, toward the eastern side.
NGC3077. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Round glow. Averted vision shows a star to the east, but not centered so that's why I say star instead of core. But still not positively sure it's a star instead of the core. Rather featureless to me. Moved the scope around a little bit and was able to get M81 in the same field of view.
NGC4147. Globular cluster in Coma Berenices. Really bright core, but not much detail. Mottled but not resolved. Similar to faint Sagittarius globulars.
NGC4150. Galaxy in Coma Bereneices. Tiny little oval with bright core but other than that it's pretty pitiful.
NGC4203. Galaxy in Coma Berenices. Small galaxy with a relatively oval shape. Bright core. Brightness falls off pretty quickly toward the edges.
NGC4303. Galaxy in Virgo. Also known as M61. Large and extended. Bright stellar core off center.
With this last object, I called it a night. I knew the wife and kids would have me up bright and early the next day so I decided I better get home and salvage the rest of the night for sleep. Still, even after packing up my dew drenched equipment, I wondered around for the next half hour, speaking and chatting with the other observers. Fellowship under the stars can't be beat.
Jeffrey L. Polston
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