Mid Atlantic Star Party 2004

Observing notes from the evening of Friday & Saturday, October 15 & 16, 2004

The fall season means a variety of things to people. It signifies the approach of cooler temperatures and the donning of long sleeves. The North Carolina State Fair is held in October for those that want to brave the crowds. And what would fall be without the spooky holiday of Halloween? But for southern astronomers, fall usually brings an end to the hazy summer skies, which means better viewing. It's also the time when the Mid Atlantic Star Party is held. Situated near Carthage, in the sand hills area of North Carolina, MASP offers relatively dark skies and a time to fellowship with others that share a passion for astronomy. This years event fell on October 12 through October 18. Although I hauled my camper down earlier in the week, I officially arrived on Friday afternoon and stayed until Sunday morning. Fellow astronomer and observing partner Jeff McAdams decided to join me this year. Though the event is attended by several hundred people, it was nice to have some personal company. Jeff and I are pretty much equal on our astronomy interest so we observe similar objects. We were also camped next to Bruno Pancorbo, who has attended a few Raleigh Astronomy Club observing sessions. I remember doing some observing with him at the club observatory a few years ago. He had a nice 20" StarMaster and was pursuing Abell objects.

Unlike last year, this year's event greeted us with clear skies on both Friday and Saturday night. It was wonderful to got to bed only because you're tired and not because the sky is cloudy. Both nights found us at the eyepiece into the wee hours of the morning. After the hazy and urban skies of the Raleigh area, I relished the ability to see the Milky Way breaking through, even before it was officially dark. The sky was ablaze with stars, from horizon to horizon. The Milky Way's majestic flow was broken by the rift seen in the Cygnus region. The night was punctuated by various meteors, zipping silently across the heavens. One particular meteor lasted long enough for me to do an orangutan impression of "ooh….ooh" while pointing, and fellow club member Mark Lang turned in time to see it.

Although I had brought my photography equipment along, I dedicated both nights to visual astronomy because I had been away from the telescope much too long. I continued with my Herschel 2 observing program. The darkest skies I had seen in a quite a while were not to be wasted on fidgeting with a camera. As the list below testifies, I got a lot of work done. Not shown in my notes are various other objects that I viewed through Jeff's and Bruno's telescopes, plus the occasional objects I tracked down at the request of others, such as the asteroid Vesta (requested by club member Ian Hewitt) and a couple of comets. My optical instrument was my Meade 8" LX100 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. From time to time, I would sit down to relax, and casually roam the skies with my 9x63 binoculars.

The event itself seemed to be well organized. I was actually the vendor coordinator for this MASP event. The site was packed with astronomers which has become the norm over the last couple of years. Although the "roads" weren't painted (apparently the paint ran out), they were clearly labeled with signs. The canteen once again provided around the clock food and beverage for those that wanted to partake of it. My only disappointment is that they once again wanted to charge people money for door prize tickets, instead of giving them with your registration as they use to do in years past. But I'm not in charge so I don't make those decisions. This was my 6th time attending the Mid Atlantic Star Party and because of the skies and company, I think it was probably my best. I'm hoping next year will be even better.

Listed below are all the official objects I observed:

Objects observed on Friday, October 15, 2004

NGC6804. Planetary nebula in Aquila. Relatively bright and concentrated. Easily shows up. Looks like it has a central star, or some kind of brightening. To the northeast there looks like a star involved on the edge.

NGC6772. Planetary nebula in Aquila. Very, very faint. Dim little glow. Not much definition. Kind of an oval shape.

NGC6058. Planetary nebula in Hercules. Dim but visible. Medium to small. Central star easily visible with direct vision.

NGC6155. Galaxy in Hercules. Relatively faint. Round to oval. Double star to the southwest of it, with a bright primary, and a dimmer, bluer looking secondary. Not much to the galaxy.

NGC6166. Galaxy in Hercules. Oval glow. Very dim. Medium to small. Brightens toward the center.

NGC6181. Galaxy in Hercules. Faint oval, running north to south. Even brightness across it.

NGC6239. Galaxy in Hercules. Small, and very, very faint. Oval in east to west. Barely shows up with averted vision.

NGC6548. Galaxy in Hercules. Relatively faint. Small. Oval or round glow. Looks like a star involved, or a bright core.

NGC5879. Galaxy in Draco. Relatively faint. Elongated in the north-south direction. Brighter star to the north of it. Brighter in the center, bright core.

NGC5985. Galaxy in Draco. Medium size. Very, very faint. Need averted vision. Oval shape in the north-south direction. Uniform brightness. Just to the west is a brighter, round galaxy, NGC5982. If people aren't careful, they may think this is the NGC5985 galaxy.

NGC6015. Galaxy in Draco. Very faint. Oval or elongated running northeast to southwest. Need averted vision. Faint little glow in eyepiece. Maybe brighter to the center. Faint little star just to the west.

NGC6340. Galaxy in Draco. Relatively bright. Round. Not much structure. Brighter in the core or involved star. Just to the north is a double star with a bright primary, and much dimmer secondary.

Vesta. Asteroid currently in Aquarius. Looks like a bright star. About magnitude 6.7.

NGC6824. Galaxy in Cygnus. Relatively bright. Small, concentrated. Little star just to the north. Brighter core. Looks like an involved star or something on the southern edge.

NGC6857. Nebula in Cygnus. Shows up pretty well. Looks like little patch of glow in a rich field of stars. Relatively bright though small. Looks like some involved stars.

NGC6888. Nebula in Cygnus. Large and faint. Spread out among some bright field stars. Irregular shape with a darker region to the northeast. Also called the Crescent nebula.

NGC6894. Planetary nebula in Cygnus. UHC filter used. Small but shows up nicely. Faint disk among the stars. Larger than eyepiece field of view.

NGC6960. Nebula in Cygnus. Veil nebula. S-shaped nebula snaking by 52 Cygni. Relatively bright with UHC filter.

NGC6992. Nebula in Cygnus. Other side of the Veil nebula. Bright and irregular. I call it the claw. Filaments and twists and knots. Seems to glow. Beautiful.

NGC6997. Open cluster in Cygnus. Spread out. Bright easy concentration. Not uniform. Kind of boxy in northwest to southeast direction. Framed very nicely by three bright stars in a triangle, with one star to the north.

NGC6991. Open cluster in Cygnus. Pitiful excuse of a cluster. Barely shows up as separate from background stars.

NGC7031. Open cluster in Cygnus. Small and tight. Few brighter members. Seems to be fainter ones in background. Brighter ones form a corner of a box, on the eastern side.

NGC7067. Open cluster in Cygnus. Small and tight concentration of a few stars. Double star to the east with a brighter primary and dim secondary.

NGC7082. Open cluster in Cygnus. Huge, spread out. Rich part of sky. Eyepiece full of stars.

NGC7623. Galaxy in Pegasus. Faint dot with averted vision. Barely visible. Glow at the edge of detection. Also in same field of view is galaxy NGC7626, galaxy NGC7619. Both to the south.

NGC7742. Galaxy in Pegasus. Small and bright. Almost looks like a planetary. Brighter in center. Faint little star off to the east side.

NGC7832. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint, small. Shows up pretty well. Brighter toward the center

NGC125. Galaxy in Pisces. Just to the west of galaxy NGC128. Relatively faint and small. Looks like involved star on a stellar core, giving it a double star look in the center. Galaxy NGC128 is elongated in north-south direction with a stellar core or involved star.

NGC198. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint little smudge of a glow. Uniform in brightness.

NGC315. Galaxy in Pisces. Bright, medium size. Oval shape. Brighter center. Bright star to the southeast of it.

NGC410. Galaxy in Pisces. Roundish or oval shape. Bright core or involved star in southwestern part.

NGC499. Galaxy in Pisces. Oval shape in the east-west direction. Stellar core or involved star in center. Just to the west I'm barely picking up galaxy NGC495 as a tiny, round glow.

NGC514. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint oval glow. Uniform in brightness. Star just to the east.

NGC660. Galaxy in Pisces. Larger. Strong oval shape in north-south direction. Seems brighter on southern end of galaxy.

NGC665. Galaxy in Pisces. Small and faint. Need averted vision. Looks like it gets gradually brighter toward the middle.

NGC706. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint, small. Pretty uniform in brightness. Round. Faint tiny star just on the north edge. To the southeast there is a partial circlet of stars that make a C shape.

NGC718. Galaxy in Pisces. Small, round glow. Stellar core or involved star, off center toward the south.

NGC741. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint, little glow. Bright star or stellar core. Star just to the northwest.

NGC7541. Galaxy in Pisces. Elongated in the northwest to southeast. Irregular brightness. Mottled. Southeast or eastern edge there's a star. Just to the southwest is galaxy NGC7537.

NGC7562. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint and small. Round tiny smudge. Brighter core.

NGC7785. Galaxy in Pisces. Faint and small. Little smudge. Brighter core. Surrounded by three stars that kind of make a squished triangle.

Objects observed on Saturday, October 16, 2004

NGC6596. Open cluster in Sagittarius. Pitiful excuse for a cluster. Irregular shape. Circlet of stars. Elongated in the north south-direction. Concentration of fainter members in the northern section.

NGC6907. Galaxy in Capricorn. Medium size, very, very faint. Averted vision needed. Oval shape running northeast to southwest. Uniform brightness.

NGC206. Nebula in Andromeda. Emission knot in M31. Barely can see it with averted vision and UHC filter. Tiny little glowing patch. M32 in same field of view.

NGC214. Galaxy in Andromeda. Very faint and small. Kind of an oval. Brighter core.

NGC513. Galaxy in Andromeda. Very faint at edge of detection. Averted vision needed. Brighter core, kind of stellar.

NGC7640. Galaxy in Andromeda. Large, elongated, thin. Running north-south. Brighter in southern section.

NGC7171. Galaxy in Aquarius. Faint glow. Need averted vision. Three little faint stars to the northeast.

NGC7184. Galaxy in Aquarius. Very faint, elongated in the northeast to southwest direction. Southwest portion seems brighter. Couple of faint stars on northeast edge.

NGC7218. Galaxy in Aquarius. Very faint, medium size. Elongated in north to south direction. Southern region seems brighter.

NGC7377. Galaxy in Aquarius. Very faint, relatively small. Round glow. Brighter core.

NGC7392. Galaxy in Aquarius. Small, faint, little glow. Gradually brightening toward the center.

NGC7600. Galaxy in Aquarius. Small, faint, tiny oval running east-west. Brighter core.

NGC821. Galaxy in Aries. Faint, little, round glow. Stellar core. Star involved on the northwestern edge.

NGC1012. Galaxy in Aries. Very faint. Round. Seems to be brighter on southern end.

NGC1156. Galaxy in Aries. Faint, small, oval shape. Involved star or stellar star, but it seems off center towards the northern region of the galaxy.

NGC151. Galaxy in Cetus. Oval faint glow, running northeast to southwest direction. Brighter in southwest portion. Involved star in northeastern section.

NGC175. Galaxy in Cetus. Very, very faint. Round glow. Maybe gradually brighter in center. Averted vision needed.

NGC217. Galaxy in Cetus. Very faint. Elongated in east-west direction. Brighter toward the center or mottling involved.

NGC337. Galaxy in Cetus. Shows up relatively well. Medium size oval. Irregular brightness over the galaxy. Group of stars with it form almost a perfect pentagon shape.

NGC357. Galaxy in Cetus. Small, faint glow. Oval shape. Western edge seems brighter.

NGC428. Galaxy in Cetus. Oval shape running northwest to southeast. Small. Very faint. Tiny star just at the northwestern edge.

NGC636. Galaxy in Cetus. Yet another faint, round, glow. Bright core.

NGC991. Galaxy in Cetus. Extremely faint. Barely could see glow with averted vision. Tiny pinprick of a star involved on top.

NGC1032. Galaxy in Cetus. Very faint oval running in the northeast to southwest direction. Brightness is irregular. Involved star or brighter toward the southwestern section and it looks like an involved star on the northeast edge.

NGC1035. Galaxy in Cetus. Very, very faint oval glow. Brighter in southern section.

NGC1045. Galaxy in Cetus. Very faint. Small. Brighter in center.

NGC1070. Galaxy in Cetus. Faint oval glow. Gradually brighter toward center.

NGC1073. Galaxy in Cetus. Extreme averted vision needed. Appears as a slight glow when I tap the eyepiece. Little triangle of stars to the northeast.

NGC1087. Galaxy in Cetus. Oval glow running north-south. Brighter toward southern region. Shows up nicely, medium size.

NGC1090. Galaxy in Cetus. Oval running east-west. Very, very faint. Brighter on western portion.

Jeffrey L. Polston

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