Horsehead Nebula - NOT!

Observing notes from Sunday, February 18, 1996

Well, the club observing session definitely got snowed out on Friday. When I left work, I had about 4 or 5 inches of snow on my car. The session was rescheduled for Saturday. It stayed clear all day until sunset, then clouded over. The snow was pretty much gone by the end of Saturday. There are still some patches in the shady areas. Anyway, Sunday night proved to be somewhat clear, and after escaping from watching a movie with the wife, I set up the 10" to do some hunting.

I had one target in mind, I was after big game...the Horsehead Nebula. After letting the scope cool down, I zoomed in on M42. It is such a cool nebula. Small scopes just don't do it any justice. I hope to look at it one day through a giant telescope at some star party!!! Anyway, after getting my fill of Orion's Nebula, I moved the scope to the star Alnitak, where the Horsehead Nebula runs wild. I used a bitmap I printed out to make sure I was in the right area. I can easily find the Flame Nebula (I think that's what it's called) on one side of Alnitak (Zeta Orionis). After identifying most of the brighter stars in the field, I kind of narrowed down where the Horsehead was suppose to be. BUT, I just couldn't find it!!! I searched and searched. I used different eyepieces, wiggled the scope, tried the UHC filter, but nothing,...well, almost nothing.

Using the UHC filter (which is NOT the one designed for the Horsehead), I was able to pick up a little nebulosity in the area where the Horsehead is suppose to be. Wiggling the scope, and using averted vision, I could tell there was something there, I even "thought" I found the Horsehead a couple of times, but nothing I could be sure of. I think if I have decent skies, and a darker site, I could probably find it. Too many porch/flood/spot/street lights in my neighborhood. After studying the bitmap image some more, I think I now know EXACTLY where to look. I'll keep you informed on my progress. Giddyup.

After I gave up the Horsehead, I decided on seafood, the Crab Nebula. EASY. I pointed the scope right at it with the finder. I played with some powers, noting the different contrasts. I finished out the night with the open clusters M35 in Gemini and M37 in Auriga. I think M37 is the prettiest of the two. Although it appears a little dimmer, it is more compact. M35 is interesting because it has the more distant cluster, NGC2158, right at it's edge (kind of looking like a diffuse comet). When I first observed this, I actually thought it might be a comet until I look it up in the books, and resolved it using higher powers.

As for the Dobsonian mount, I purchased the plywood and have cut it up. I also bought some Teflon and Ebony Star laminate. I picked up some PVC pipe scraps for the altitude bearings on Monday. The next big part is trying to make the pieces fit together. My cuts aren't all that straight. I don't have the proper experience or tools, but I'm giving it a try. If I can build a decent Dobsonian mount, I know I'll observe a lot more and it will be easier. I bought the paint for it yesterday. I'm still in the planning stages for the tube box. I want to make it simple to use so I can easily go from the box to the equatorial mount. Hinges and latches seem to be the answer but they are more complicated and might not fit because of the altitude bearings. I'll figure out something. I'll keep you updated. I'll send you a picture when and if I ever finish it.

Jeff Polston

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