Observing notes from the evening of Sunday, September 16, 2001
As we go through our daily routine, some things are note worthy while others are taken for granted. Two things can happen when you have a routine going. Either you can count on something being in a certain spot, or you get so use to seeing it that you don't give it a second thought or look. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a very detailed oriented person. I try to be constantly aware of all my surroundings. I remember way, way back, about a million years ago, when I was still in college. One semester I had a calculus course that was very early in the morning. On the way to class every morning I would see a mocking bird in a small tree. He would be singing all of his songs to his heart's content. I came to count on that bird being there every morning. As I walked to class I would always make a mental note to glance and look for the bird. And I like to think that I became part of the routine for the mocking bird. I imagined that his day started something like.....get up early, eat the worm, fly to favorite tree, sing songs, and watch the nerdy, nosy human walk by.
And when things change we sometimes look back to see the things we remember, to see if they are still there. So tonight, I return to the stars. It's been about 6 months since I've had an official observing session. I know the celestial heavens are observed by countless people, on any given night. But sometimes I like to think that I'm special, and I give a certain significance when I do my observing. So after my long absence, I ask of the stars, "Remember me?". Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone? I remember you and I'm back again to take note of your beauty.
This particular Sunday started out in a way that pretty much guarantees a failed observing session. Yes you guessed it, I woke up to a beautiful deep blue sky. Such a clear blue sky usually means that I'll get my hopes up for a coming night's observing session, only to have my hopes dashed by clouds in the evening. And I must say, this time was no exception. Like clockwork, the clouds started rolling in during the late afternoon. And this time I decided to forge ahead anyway and try my luck. And although clouds did eventually send me home, I managed to work a little on my Herschel 400 list of objects. The skies had wispy clouds here and there but where you did find a hole, you found bright glowing stars.
The night actually started out with more frustration that usual. For some reason I just couldn't find the first object I went after. I couldn't see the object, I couldn't match the stars in the eyepiece to my chart, nothing seemed to work. Had I been away too long? I finally decided to start over again and I reset my setting circles and took a slow methodical approach to finding that first object. Bingo! An obscure open cluster slid into my field of view. From then on, when clouds weren't in the way, I found every object I went after. I was back in the game! And before long, it felt like I had never been away. Although I've had more productive observing session, this one was a good start after being away for so long. You can see the objects I observed listed below. So again I ask of the stars, "Remember me?". If not, let's get reacquainted!
Here's a list of objects I observed, using my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at the Big Woods, Lake Jordan site:
NGC6540. Open cluster in Sagittarius. Very, very faint. Irregular shape. Faint flow. Has patchy nebula look. Actually looked more like a cluster to me when slightly out of focus than when it was in focus.
NGC6568. Open cluster in Sagittarius. Nice, big scattered cluster. Kind of roundish, but some irregularity in one section toward the western portion (not quite filled in with stars). Better than previous cluster for sure.
NGC6569. Globular cluster in Sagittarius. Faint, small, and fuzzy. That's about it. To the north of a relatively bright star. Clouds in this area of sky are hampering my views. I just can't seem to resolve the star cluster.
NGC6583. Open cluster in Sagittarius. Very, very faint. Small and compact. Looks like a faint glow in the background. Barely can see it. Seems more stars in the east-west direction (more stars on the western portion).
NGC6624. Globular cluster in Sagittarius. Small but relatively bright. Core very bright and dense.
NGC6629. Planetary nebula in Sagittarius. Very, very small. Looks like a slightly fuzzy star. Not much beyond that. No detail seen.
NGC6638. Globular cluster in Sagittarius. Small, relatively bright. Not much to resolve. Maybe a few stars along the edges are resolving, with kind of a sparkling appearance.
NGC6642. Globular cluster in Sagittarius. Again, very faint and small cluster. Looks like a little fuzz spot. Can't resolve it. A couple of fields of view over I find M22, a huge globular cluster. Beautiful! NGC6642 looks like it could be just one "fuzzy" star compared to M22.
M57. Planetary in Lyra. Had to finish up with a nice object. Cool looking smoke ring, floating among the stars.
As I said, clouds did finally shut me down. If I didn't have to get up so early the next morning, I might have stuck to it a little longer. On my way home I did notice bigger "holes" opening up in the clouds, so it might not have been all that bad. But I still had a pretty good session. I hope my next stargazing adventure comes a lot sooner than later.
Jeffrey L. Polston
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