Observing notes from the evening of Saturday, February 21, 2004

Anyone who might have looked at my observing notes lately should have noticed the large gap between observing sessions. The past year has been quite dismal. Months seem to go by before I get to do any observing. On top of that, there have been several astro-washouts. The daytime hours presented clear blue skies which turned cloudy not too long after sunset. I've commented to several of my fellow enthusiasts that I longed for a night where I quit observing and packed up the equipment because I was tired, not because the stars were obscured by clouds.

Well, I finally got my wish on Saturday night. A beautiful clear day gave way to a clear night. Well, there was a short time during the night that it did cloud up a bit. Luckily I was setup in my Fuquay-Varina, NC backyard. Had I been at a remote site, I might have packed it in. But a quick glance at satellite images on the Internet showed me that it was a localized phenomenon that would eventually move out. It did and I was presented with clear skies until I was just too tired to do any more observing. Using my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, I continued working on the Herschel II list of objects.

The title of these notes make reference to what I did during those times when the sky seemed to have more clouds than stars. There were still stars here and there, so I decided to work on optimizing some of the gadgets I have for photography. First up was to get my Celestron Off-Axis guider working. The last time I tried to use it I discovered that when my camera was in focus, the eyepiece in the guiding port was not! It didn't have enough inward travel. My solution was to order a ¼" t-ring extension to put the camera a little further out, thus pushing the focal point in the guiding port a little further out. That seemed to do the trick. I also worked on determining the point where my Meade 201xt autoguider is in best focus. The 201xt is about the cheapest autoguider out there so it doesn't have many bells and whistles. I bought mine used and I discovered that the previous owner had worn a slight groove in the eyepiece tube with the set screws. Turns out that this is the best focus so far as I could tell, so I put a parfocalizing ring on it so it will always be at the right spot. That's a lot easier than having to go through the hassles of trying to focus an autoguider that only gives you numbers as output, and you focus by sliding it up and down in the guiding port. So far as I know, I'm now set to try my hand again at deepsky photography.

I also played around with a few other gadgets while the skies were clearing. I hooked my telescope up to my laptop computer for the first time. It was pretty neat to click on an object with my laptop and have the telescope automatically point to it. I also discovered that I apparently have recorded some voices for different functions and put them on the computer. I had forgotten all about them and was shocked to hear my computer talking to me in my southern drawl. It was corny too since I was imitating StarTrek commands. Good thing I tried this out at home first!

Anyway, after tinkering with a few other gadgets the skies cleared completely and I was able to do what I had been wanting to do for a while. So with my list of objects in hand, I set about tracking down the faint little fuzzies that all of us astronomers long to see. You'll find the objects I observed listed below. At the bottom I also tacked on the objects that I observed during my last horrible session. It got clouded out and I only managed three new objects for the night. Luckily on this night I not only tinkered with the gadgets that go with the hobby, but I also managed to observe until I just couldn't observe anymore. It was an astronomy buffet! Enjoy.

NGC3338. Galaxy in Leo. Very faint. Slightly oval in east-west direction. Barely can see it with averted vision. Relatively bright star on western edge of galaxy.

NGC3507. Galaxy in Leo. Very faint. Roundish. Star right in the middle. Three faint stars in a row and the center star is where the galaxy is. It looks like a star with a nebulous glow around it.

NGC3646. Galaxy in Leo. Faint little smudge that shows up with averted vision.

NGC3681. Galaxy in Leo. Faint little smudge. Round. Bright core.

NGC3705. Galaxy in Leo. Relatively bright. Long oval in the northwest to southeast direction. Brighter toward the center. Asterism of four stars to the north of it make up a parallelogram.

NGC3177. Galaxy in Leo. Faint and small. Pinprick of a star right in the center.

NGC3301. Galaxy in Leo. Small, oval shape running in the northeast to southwest direction. Star right in the center.

NGC3596. Galaxy in Leo. Little bit larger than others. Very faint. Gradually brighter toward the center.

NGC3599. Galaxy in Leo. With averted vision, small, faint, tiny, round glow and that's it.

NGC3605. Galaxy in Leo. Very small and tiny. Barely registers with averted vision. Part of the problem is two prominent galaxies in field of view, NGC3607 and NGC3608. They form a line of galaxies. NGC3607 is much larger and shows up brighter. NGC3605 is faint, little fuzz spot to the southwest of NGC3607.

NGC3158. Galaxy in Leo Minor. Faint little glow and that's about it. Small.

NGC3254. Galaxy in Leo Minor. Very faint, relatively large. Elongated oval running northeast to southwest. A couple of stars just to the east.

NGC3430. Galaxy in Leo Minor. Very faint, oval shape. Uniform brightness. In the same field of view as NGC3424.

NGC3424. Galaxy in Leo Minor. Same field of view as NGC3430, to the southwest. Narrow, elongated. Just barely shows up with averted vision. Skinny. Runs east to west, or more northwest to southeast.

Jeffrey L. Polston

The notes below are just tacked on to this one for reference.  They represent some objects that I observed, but the observing session was cut short for whatever reason, so I didn't write up full notes on it

Friday, January 23, 2004: Big Woods, Lake Jordan, NC

NGC1762. Galaxy in Orion. Very faint glow with averted vision. Bright core.

NGC1990. Nebulosity in Orion. Around Alnitak. Very faint glow with averted vision.

NGC2071. Nebulosity in Orion. Glow around a couple of dim stars. In same field of view as M78.

Friday, March 12, 2004: Big Woods, Lake Jordan, NC

NGC2639. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Small. Oval or elongated shape running northwest to southeast direction. Brighter toward the middle, or southeast end of it. Something going on there.

NGC2880. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Small, little galaxy. Brighter core, or at least brighter in the middle. Little star just to the east of it.

NGC3359. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Relatively large. Faint. Pretty uniform in brightness. Oval shape running in the north-south direction.

NGC3583. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Small. Brighter center. Kind of oval, in the northwest to southeast direction.

NGC3642. Galaxy in Ursa Major. Faint, small, round.

Jeffrey L. Polston

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