The Gathering

Observing notes from the evening of Sunday, February 23, 2003

It had been a while since my last observing session away from the house. It has either been too cold, too rainy, too icy, or I've just plain been too tired. So when fellow astronomer Jeff McAdams called to suggest we go out stargazing at the lake, I decided it was worth the drive and loss of sleep. And to make it more of a star party, I also invited Michael King and co-worker Donald Major along. We had quite a gathering by the lakeside, at Jordan Lake (Farrington Point boat landing). I had my 8" SCT, Jeff had his 8" SCT, and Donald has his 8" SCT (seeing a theme here?). Michael decided to take it easy and just brought along a pair of binoculars. There was also a member of the Chapel Hill club setup on the boat ramp, but we stayed up in the parking lot since it would have been too crowded with all of us down there, and the tree line obscures some of our "hunting" areas.

It was quite a nice gathering of folks seeking astronomical interests. Michael did some binocular observing and gazed through our scopes. Donald was getting to use a scope that has been sitting idle since he bought it. And Jeff and I searched out quite a few faint denizens of deep space. I worked on the Herschel 400 II list a bit. Judging by how faint those items are, I think I'm going to need a bigger scope!

A good time was had by all. I think the neatest view of the night was Jupiter, which had a shadow transit going on. We did track down one of the visible comets, but were disappointed with the view. I made some headway on my observing list and have narrowed the remaining un-observed items my Herschel 400 list down to only one. Unfortunately it was still below the horizon when we packed up, but it won't be long before I get to observe it.

Although I didn't really feel like getting up the next morning, I'm glad I got out and observed the night sky. And once again, I'm happy to have gathered with some fellow stargazers on that cosmic quest.

Here's a list of objects I observed, using my 8" SCT, Farrington Point, Jordan Lake:

NGC1058. Galaxy in Perseus. Barely can see it. No form. Faint background glow. Impression it is running northwest to southeast. Very faint.

NGC1003. Galaxy in Perseus. Very faint. Averted vision needed to see glow, which runs east to west. Star just to the south of it.

NGC1161. Galaxy in Perseus. Faint but visible. Relatively bright core. Stars all around. Two stars to western side, looking like two tiny headlights. Faint and small.

NGC1175. Galaxy in Perseus. Very, very small and very, very faint. Averted vision needed to pick up a faint little glow. Needed field stars to confirm.

Comet Linear RX14. In constellation Ursa Major. Very, very faint smudge or glow of light.

NGC3067. Galaxy in Leo. Faint and small, but can see it well. Kind of elongated in east to west direction. Pretty uniform brightness.

NGC3162. Galaxy in Leo. Medium size. Round glow. Framed by three stars. Pinprick of light to the south side that seems to be an involved star. Might be gradually brighter toward the middle.

NGC4038. Galaxy in Corvus. Medium size. Faint. Oval round glow. Uniform brightness, but with a hint of brightening in the center.

NGC4361. Planetary nebula in Corvus. Bright and easy. Medium size. Central star blinks in and out. Nice little planetary.

NGC3962. Galaxy in Crater. Round, relatively bright. Small. Almost has a planetary look. Bright core or involved star gives it the planetary look.

NGC3621. Galaxy in Hydra. Relatively large. Oval shape. Couple of involved stars toward southern side. Bright and easy.

Jupiter. In constellation Cancer. Could see a shadow transit of one of the moons. Assuming it was Io since Io was in front of Jupiter. Although, I didn't see Io until it started to move away from Jupiter, appearing as a little "bump" of light. The shadow transit was neat, since it was a small, inky black spot on Jupiter's disk.

Jeffrey L. Polston

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