Archive for the ‘Observer’s Challenge Reports’ category

Planetary Nebula IC 1295 In Scutum: August 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

September 20, 2018

AUGUST 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – IC-1295-1

Image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts, using a 32-inch reflector

IC1295

Planetary Nebula NGC 6818 “The Little Gem” and Galaxy NGC 6822 “Barnard’s Galaxy – Sagittarius

September 1, 2018

The September 2018 Observer’s Challenge object is PN, NGC 6818.  Several observers have already observed this beautiful and easy planetary.  It’s interesting to note that Sue French covers this planetary in her latest column. (Pages 54-56, DSW’s)

“…..is the Little Gem, NGC 6818 in Sagittarius.  John H. Mallas claims credit for its name and writes, “Of all the planetaries in the heavens, ‘the Little Gem’ is probably the bluest.  Its color is beautiful, and I have yet to see an artist’s paint to describe the color.”  (The Review of Popular Astronomy: June/July 1963)

When my brother bought a 60 mm f/15 EQ refractor in ~1962-63 (the telescope that spawned my life-long interest in astronomy)

My brother also had a subscription to “The Review of Popular Astronomy” and with this magazine, gave me some valuable information on amateur astronomy.  

However, it would be about five years later before I would begin to effectively use this small refractor at 14 years of age.  The fall of 1967, was my official starting point as an observer.  It was this year that I gave my first astronomy presentation to my 8th grade science class.   Roger

Using PN, NGC 6818 to locate NGC 6822, Barnard’s Galaxy:

NGC 6818 is also a great starting point to find the “most difficult” NGC 6822, known as “Barnard’s Galaxy.  So when you are observing NGC 6818, consider giving galaxy NGC 6822 a try.  This galaxy has always been a tough object for me. 

It was ~30 years ago when I first read about NGC 6822 in Burnham’s Celestial Handbooks: 

“….and was discovered by the sharp-eyed E.E. Barnard telescope with a 5-inch refractor in 1884.  For the small telescope it is not a particularly easy object.  though its visibility depends chiefly upon the darkness of the skyand the type of telescope used.  Hubble found it “fairly conspicuous” in a short focus finder with a low-power ocular, but barely discernible at the primary focus of the 100-inch.”   BCH Volume three, Pages 1616-1619 

Interesting and coincidental:  Also in the October S&T, Peter Tyson; discuses NGC 6822, Barnard’s Galaxy.  “The Big Empty” P-4, a lonely outpost between the Milky Way and the Local Void.”

NGC 6822 (Barnard’s galaxy) in Sagittarius:

AUGUST 2014 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6822

It should also be noted that a very low surface brightness, extended object can often times be better observed at low magnification with a small refractor.  A good example of this would be NGC 6822 (Barnard’s Galaxy) in Sagittarius.  

“A weak glow but definite glow in 6 cm, where it appears elongated N-S and shows a very slight central concentration.  In 25 cm motion of the field helps in showing the low surface brightness galaxy, but it is difficult and ill-defined at best.” Observing Handbook and Catalog Of Deep-Sky Objects by Christian B. Luginbuhl and Brian A. Skiff.  

Finally…after almost 25 years (many years I attempted with my 10-inch reflector) but had never been successful.  In September 2014, I was able to sketch and make notes of this elusive galaxy, NGC 6822, using the 102 mm refractor.  Much of my problem has been due to light glow from a pesky unshielded street light in close proximity to my backyard.  A dark sky is critical for locating and observing this faint low surface galaxy.  So…..another difficult object checked off my list. 

The following sketch was made using a 102 mm refractor, a blank 5 x 8 notecard and a No. 2 pencil with the colors inverted using a scanner.


Rogers NGC-6822

The following image by James Dire of Hawaii using a 190 mm Orion Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope.

NGC6822

Messier 4 – Globular Cluster in Scorpius – July 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

August 24, 2018

Click on the following link for the complete report:  

JULY 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-004

Notes from my backyard:

Globular cluster, M4 is easy to see with a 60 mm refractor, appearing as a faint circular glow at low magnification.  When using a 3.5-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain at 78x, there is a resolve of some of the brighter members.  The cluster has a subtle elongated shape.  A very faint chain of stars was noted in the central region, oriented N-S.  With 102 mm refractor, there is a greater number of stars resolved within the cluster, and much greater concentration of stars, elongated and with more stars in the central chain. A prominent double star is located on the SE edge.   

10-inch reflector at 140x, excellent resolve of the cluster. The center chain of stars is very bright and with many stars counted, both in the central region and around the outer edges.  A chain of stars makes an arc, the entire length of the cluster on the NW side.  The elongation shape becomes much more apparent with the larger aperture.      Roger Ivester 

Pencil sketch with the colors inverted using a 102 mm refractor @ 140x 

Rogers M-004 Inverted

 

 

M51 and Companion Galaxy NGC 5195 – June 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

July 12, 2018

JUNE 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-051

Observing notes: 

Messier 51 is visible along with companion NGC-5195 in a 60mm (2.4-inch) refractor.  M51 was mostly round with a bright stellar nucleus and a very faint halo.  The small companion galaxy, NGC-5195, just to the north was very faint and small.  If sky conditions are poor, this galaxy pair can be extremely difficult to see using a telescope this small.

In a 10-inch reflector on an exceptional night at 190X, spiral structure was easily visible.  I could trace the prominent eastern arm almost in contact with companion galaxy, NGC-5195.  The nuclei of both NGC-5194 and NGC-5195 were both stellar, with the smaller galaxy, 5195, having a brighter, more intense nuclei.  M51 had a mag. 13.5 star a couple of minutes to the SW of the core, still within the halo, and a mag. 14 star, (requiring averted vision to see) just off to the east, but outside of the halo.

One of my most memorable views of NGC-5194 and NGC-5195 came during an early spring night in 1993, using a 14.5-inch reflector.  The connecting arm of M51 (NGC-5194) was incredible and it reached far out toward the companion galaxy to the north.  This view rivaled that of many photographs.

On the night of April 14, 1994, supernova 1994I was visible.  I estimated the mag. of the SN on that night at 13.8.  The following pencil sketch was made that night. 

 

Rogers M-051 New a Inverted
 

Epsilon Bootis – Double Star – W. Struve’s “The Most Beautiful One”

June 19, 2018

Observer’s Challenge object for June 2019:  

Epsilon Bootis:  Called “Pulcherrima” or “the most beautiful one” by Struve.

At one time, observing double stars was the most popular facet of amateur astronomy, however, I think we can all agree, this is not the case as of current.  Sad indeed!   I say….fortunate indeed is the amateur who discovers the joy of observing double stars.

Nothing is more beautiful than a close pair with vivid and contrasting colors, such as Epsilon Bootis.

Want to have some fun tonight?  You don’t have to be concerned with the brightening moon, or ambient lighting, but take a look and try the very challenging double star Epsilon Bootis.

Good seeing is definitely required to see the companion of Epsilon.  On many nights with less than good seeing, I’ve failed to see the companion, even with a 102 mm refractor, or a 10-inch reflector with an effective aperture of 4-inches, using an off-axis stop-down mask.  

It is an unequal double with the primary being magnitude 2.37 and the secondary at 5.12, with a separation of 2.9″ which makes this double difficult for many observers.

I see the colors as a beautiful yellow and a vivid blue, with a clean separation at 175x using a 102 mm refractor.

This is an opportunity to observe one of the 2019 objects….a full one year early, but after viewing, you will want to observe this famous double many more times, now and in the future.

Quoting from Celestial Harvest by James Mullaney:

! Izar, Magnificently-tinted but tight pair. “Most beautiful yellow, superb blue.” Rather difficult in apertures under 4-inches.  A 3-inch at 150x shows two beautifully-colored diffraction disk nearly in contact!  ….called “Pulcherrima” or “the most beautiful one” by Struve.  JM

Many have seen the companion with a 3-inch, and from Webb, even a 2-inch, however, for me, it’s always been at least 4-inches of aperture.  What will be the smallest telescope which will allow you to see the companion?

After all….every amateur should attempt to see a double star called “the most beautiful one.”

Roger Ivester

 

NGC 4236, Extremely Faint Galaxy In Draco – May 2018 – Observer’s Challenge Report #110

June 7, 2018

To read the complete LVAS Observer’s Challenge report, click on the link:

MAY 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-4236

Rogers NGC-4236 Inverted b

10-inch reflector, and spending four hours in my attempt to see galaxy NGC 4236, of which the first three were unsuccessful.  However, during the forth hour, at well past 1:00 AM EDT, could glimpse an extremely faint, elongated NNW-SSE oriented blur of light as shown in my sketch.  The galaxy appeared featureless due to the extreme low surface brightness, and visible only intermittently with averted vision. 

Sky conditions were poor with a NELM of 4.9, which is about normal for springtime in the foothills of North Carolina.  There is a distinctive tilted half-circle of five stars, NNE of the galaxy which works well to assist in determining the exact location of this very faint galaxy, or better said, extremely faint galaxy. 

On the previous night, under the same conditions, using a 6-inch reflector, the galaxy was invisible, despite spending two hours in my search. 

Roger Ivester

 

Image by Dr. James Dire from Hawaii

NGC4236

NGC 4236 By Dr. James R. Dire

NGC 4236 is a faint, nearly edge-on barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Draco.  The constellation is often overlooked due to its low surface brightness.  The galaxy is relatively large in our sky, spanning 24 x 6.8 arcminutes. Its integrated magnitude is 9.63. NGC4236 is located 11.7 million light years away and is part of the M81 galaxy group.  It rivals M81 in size. However, M81 is 3 magnitudes brighter!

NGC 4236 is located “above” the open cup of the Big Dipper Asterism. Its distance above the cup is approximately the same as the distance between the two starts forming the top of the cup – Dubhe and Megrez.  NGC4236 lies just over a degree west of a linear trio of stars: 4, 5 and 6 Draconis.  Both 4 and 6 are 5th magnitude and are orange and yellow, respectively, while 5 is 4th magnitude and blue in color.

Despite its brightness and location near naked-eye stars, NGC 4236 can be very difficult to find, even with a GOTO mount.  The Image was taken with a 70mm f/6 apochromatic refractor using a 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener.  The exposure was a whopping 3 hours.  In the image, north is up and east is to the left.

In the image, the bright blue star on the left edge is 5 Draconis.  The orange star is 4 Draconic. Those two stars are separated by 40 arcminutes.  The smudge just above the center is NGC4236.  The exposure captured about half the actual length of the galaxy, essentially the galaxy’s central bar and the inner, brighter spiral arms.

To help identify the galaxy in the eyepiece, note the arc of three stars on the northeast side of the galaxy.  The top star is magnitude 8.3, while the lower two are magnitude 10.5.  There is also a magnitude 9.8 star on the south end of the galaxy’s major axis.  Seeing these four stars in the eyepiece allows one to center the galaxy in the eyepiece and then using averted vision to see the galaxy.

I viewed NGC 4236 this month in three telescopes.  The first was a 190mm f/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian reflector using a 14mm eyepiece (71.4x).  I centered the galaxy using the four stars around it as described above.  Direct vision did not produce the galaxy. However, with averted vision I was barely able to make out the elongated shape of the very diffuse galaxy.

I next viewed the galaxy using an Orion 12-inch, f/4.9 Dob using a 20mm Televue Nagler eyepiece (75x).  The galaxy was just as difficult to see in this scope as the Mak-Newt.  This was probably because the Dob’s optics are nowhere as good as the Mak-Newt.  Plus, I later discover that the primary mirror on this astronomy club telescope was extremely dirty (I have since professionally cleaned it and recollimated it).

Finally, I viewed NGC4236 with a friends Orion 14-inch, f/4.6 Dob with clean optics and a good collimation. Through this telescope, the galaxy could be seen directly.  I could see about the same visual detail as in my image!   JD 

Messier 81 and M82: Galaxy Pair – Ursa Major – April 2018 – Observer’s Challenge Report #110

April 29, 2018

April 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report:  APRIL 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-081-82-1

Messier 81 (NGC 3031) Galaxy in Ursa:   10-inch f/4.5 reflector.  Sketch magnification; 12 mm eyepiece 95x.  

80 mm refractor at 33x, M81 is large, bright, mostly round with a brighter nucleus, and is nicely framed with companion galaxy M82.   

10-inch reflector at 95x, M81 is bright, large, well concentrated, elongated, but subtle, NE-SW.  Very bright nucleus, almost stellar.  Only on nights of excellent seeing and transparency can the spiral arms be seen from my moderately light polluted backyard.   RI   

Rogers M-081 Inverted

 

Messier 82 (NGC 3034) Galaxy in Ursa Major:  10-inch f/4.5 reflector @ 191x magnification.  Eyepiece:  12 mm plus 2.8x Barlow 

80 mm f/5 refractor:  Surprisingly bright, elongated with a lens shape, smooth texture at low magnification.  When increasing the magnification to 75x, the galaxy becomes very uneven and mottled, with two brighter knots toward the middle, and an outer elongated halo.  This galaxy is much fainter than it’s companion, Messier 81.

10-inch reflector:  Bright, very elongated, dark band in the central region is almost separating the galaxy, and is very easy at 114x, but really comes out at 200x.  At the higher magnification the galaxy becomes very mottled, and with a faint surrounding halo extending the length of the galaxy.  The NE and SW edges or tips of the halo are smooth.   RI   

Rogers M-082 Inverted

Notes from April 1978:  

It wasn’t until the mid-70’s when I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Scientific reflector, a Palomar Jr. which was not my first choice, but the best my budget would allow.  

I’ll never forget one special night using this telescope. I was attempting to locate M81 and M82, two of the most beautiful galaxies in the heavens. By this time, the fabulous skies of my early years were gone. I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights, and the light pollution was very severe in my back yard.

Attempting to find even the brightest deep-sky objects under these conditions proved to be difficult.  I had tried on many occasions to find M81 and M82, without success.  I wanted to see this galaxy pair, which appeared so striking and beautiful in the magazines.

One night, while observing, time was running out.  It was already after 11:00 PM, and needed to get up early the next morning.  I used my hands in an attempt to block the ambient light from entering my eyepiece, and then it happened: A small, faint fuzzy object entered my telescope view.  I then nudged the scope slightly and then another…..finally M81 and M82.  What a beautiful sight!  I savored the view for the longest time and to this day and I can still feel that excitement.  RI 

Below:  Wide field image of M81/M82 and also NGC 3077, by Dr. James Dire at Wildwood Pines Observatory in Earl, North Carolina:

Image 1