Seen'em All Club

Observing notes from the evening of Friday, August 1, 1997

Although I was lethargic from a late night observing session the night before, I couldn't resist the call of clear, starlit skies yet again. I was too tired to attempt to drive anywhere, so I set up the 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain on the deck behind the house. As soon as it was dark I had the scope somewhat polar aligned.

My first target of the night was the globular cluster M4 in Scorpius. Since I had only seen it in the finder the night before, I thought I would revisit it. This large cluster really fills the eyepiece. Although I've labeled it as unimpressive before, I think it deserves better. It really is a nice cluster and while not as glorious as M13 or M22, it does wet the appetite for globular hunting.

I then decided to actually take in one of the "big" clusters. The globular cluster M22 in Sagittarius was an easy target. A multitude of stars greeted me. They blazed in unison to form an image of one of the best globulars in the sky. Could you imagine living on a planet around a star near the center of the cluster? With so many stars in the sky, would it ever be truly dark at night?

My next target is what inspired the title of these notes. Someone on the Internet mentioned joining the "Seen'em All Club", which means you have observed all the known planets. Of course the one planet that keeps people out of the club is Pluto, since it is so faint and small. Well on this night I gained membership to the exclusive "Seen'em All Club". It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Armed with star charts created from my astronomy software program The Sky, my original intentions were just to try and identify the correct star field. I had about five charts that ranged from a naked eye view to a zoomed in high power view. I went as far as I could with my 8x50 finder, carefully identifying the star patterns and making sure I knew exactly where I was at. I then switched to the telescope and continued narrowing my field of view. I was working without the diagonal so I wouldn't have to worry about mirror images. I finally reached about 200 power and had all the stars identified in the eyepiece. Then, low and behold, there was Pluto sitting in the center of my field of view. Since it glowed feebly at magnitude 13.7, I had to used averted vision, but I could clearly see this remote world, exactly where the star charts indicated it should be. I was amazed that I actually had found Pluto. It is just a pinprick of light, but it is one of the most satisfying views I have had. With this find, I have accomplished one of my major goals. Now I'm ready to take on other challenging objects I keep reading about.

My next target was the double star Albireo in Cygnus. I love the contrasting colors of blue and gold. Albireo was used to align the setting circles on my mount. I have never been able to use setting circles accurately, so I wanted to give them a try. I dialed in the coordinates of the globular cluster M10, located in Ophiuchus. M10 could be seen in the finder scope, so the setting circles were quite close. With a little adjustment, I had a beautiful globular in my eyepiece. This little jewel was a new observation for me.

Next I "dialed in" the globular cluster M12 also located in Ophiuchus. It resembled the many other clusters around Sagittarius. After M12, I reeled in the globular cluster M14, which is also in Ophiuchus. It was large and kind of dim overall. It reminded me of M4. Both M12 and M14 were new observations for me.

Next I decided to gaze upon M17, the Swan Nebula in Sagittarius. With the swan shape quite evident, it really amazes me how bright this nebula is. It's no Orion Nebula, but it may come in a close second. I then moved down just a bit to find the open cluster of M18. This is my first documented observation of this sparse cluster in Sagittarius. It is almost lost against the star clouds of the Milky Way. Next up on my observing list was the globular cluster M55 also located in the constellation of Sagittarius. This southerly cluster showed up well in my eyepiece.

I finished out the night by taking a glimpse at Jupiter in Capricornus. I didn't go for any details, I just enjoyed the view of a banded planetary disk. The four Galilean moons were visible. The moons Ganymede and Europa were so close that they looked like a close double star. I also saw about 3 meteors during this observing session. Of course, the highlight of the night was locating the tiny remote planet Pluto. With Pluto under my belt, I went to bed with a smile on my face. Look out Horsehead Nebula, I come!!!

Jeffrey L. Polston


Listed below are all the objects observed. Objects with an asterisk are new objects for me.

M4 (NGC6121), globular cluster, Scorpius

M17 (NGC6618), Swan Nebula, Sagittarius

M22 (NGC), globular cluster, Sagittarius

* M10 (NGC6254), globular cluster, Ophiuchus

* M12 (NGC6218), globular cluster, Ophiuchus

* M14 (NGC6402), globular cluster, Ophiuchus

* M18 (NGC6613), open cluster, Sagittarius

* M55 (NGC6809), globular cluster, Sagittarius

* Pluto, Scorpius

Jupiter, Capricornus

Albireo, double star, Cygnus


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