Release the Hounds!

Observing notes from the evening of Monday, June 10, 2002

Sometimes a little motivation will go a long way. As the summer starts up in the south, hot temperatures combined with short nights and hungry mosquitoes conspire to keep even the most dedicated astronomer inside. Combine that with typical hazy summer skies, and you quickly realize why more observing is done under the crisp skies of fall and winter. So sometimes you need a little motivational push to put the effort into setting up the equipment and venturing out in the southern night.

My motivation was two fold. First of all, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in respect to my goal of observing the Herschel 400 list of objects. Getting within the last 25% of the list really helps to inspire one to get out there and finish it up. Secondly, I learned that fellow club member Mark Lang is only one away from finishing. At last count, I had been leading the race but now like the race between the turtle and hare, I've been caught napping. Nothing like a little competition to set things in motion. And while there is no way I'll finish before Mark because of where my remaining objects are located, I still want to observe as many as I can because there is just something satisfying about having a remaining list that can be counted on your fingers.

So with these motivation forces pushing me out the door I say, "Release the Hounds!". And the "hounds" is where the majority of my target objects are tonight. In observing the Herschels, you usually attack one constellation at a time. My last big chunk of objects is located in the constellation of Canes Venatici, the greyhounds of Bootes. Luckily this constellation is high overhead at this time so it's above some of the sky glow of the surrounding cities and somewhat removed from the horizon haze.

Despite the occasionally kamikaze mosquito, it was a pretty good night of observing. The skies were a little hazy, but I was still able to locate all the objects I went after. The lightning bugs were out too, which always delights me on a summer's night. Every now and then one would circle me and the telescope, illuminating everything with its eerie yellow-green flashing light. On top of my Herschel objects, I also tracked down Comet Ikeya-Zhang. It has faded significantly since its previous glory. All that remains now is a small, faint glow. I also finished out the night with a view of M57, the Ring Nebula. This is such a cool object to observe and show to others if you get the chance. It looks just like a ghostly, smoky ring, floating in space.

Here's a list of objects I observed, using my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope in my backyard in Holly Springs, NC:

NGC4527. Galaxy in Virgo. Elongated oval. Faint. Running east to west. Relatively large, or medium size.

NGC4111. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Relatively small. Medium to faint brightness. Oval running northwest to southeast. Bright core or involved star in center.

NGC4143. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Faint and small. Round. Bright core.

NGC4151. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Faint. Medium size. Bright stellar core or involved star. Also a tiny star to the northern edge.

NGC4214. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Oval or round glow. Uniform in brightness. Maybe gradually brighter toward the middle.

NGC4258. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Huge galaxy. Bright. Oval running northwest to southeast. Bright core. Also known as M106

NGC4346. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Faint and small. Oval running east to west. Need averted vision. Brighter in center.

NGC4449. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Oval shaped. Large and bright. Oval running in the northeast to southwest direction. Gradually brighter toward the center. Almost seems irregular for some reason. The edges seem patchy or something, especially on the northern side.

NGC4485. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Tough! Extremely faint. Need averted vision to the max. It is in the same field of view and right next to NGC4490. NGC4490 is a larger brighter oval so it kind of steals the view which is not good when using averted vision. NGC4485 is a faint round glow, on the northwest corner of NGC4490. It pops in and out with averted vision.

NGC4490. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. In same field of view as NGC4485. Oval shape running northwest to southeast. Large and relatively bright. Gradually brighter toward the middle. Almost seems like the southeastern portion of the galaxy is brighter than the rest for some reason.

NGC4618. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Very faint. Averted vision needed to see the round glow.

NGC4800. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Very faint. Round. Brighter core.

NGC5005. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Relatively bright. Oval running east to west. Brighter core.

NGC5033. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Faint oval shape running north to south. Gradually brighter toward the center. Southern tip looks brighter.

NGC5195. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Actually the companion to M51, NGC5194. Both show up bright and easy. Hint of spiral structure or at least the glow of the face showing. NGC5195 looks like a round patch of light.

NGC5273. Galaxy in Canes Venatici. Faint glow in the eyepiece. Small. Extreme averted vision needed. Every now and then it seems to be brighter toward the western side.

Comet Ikeya-Zhang: Comet in Serpens. Nowhere near it's former self. Faint, cottony glow in the eyepiece. No tail. The core is brighter, but not really standout stellar.

NGC7044. Open cluster in Cygnus. Very faint. Kind of spread out. Dim stars. Doesn't really stand out as a cluster. Just can see a concentration of faint stars in the background.

M57. Ring Nebula in Lyra. Ghostly smoke ring floating in space. Cool sight!

Jeffrey L. Polston

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