Observing session - 17.5" f/5 - 14th December 2009

By amar_universe; Published 16 Dec 2009

The morning of 14th December
began with a deep blue sky devoid of any clouds or
haze. Only sometime before did I realize that our deep-sky observing
session was perfectly coinciding with the Geminid meteor shower,
expected good for this time! Akarsh and Me left his home @ R.T.Nagar by
3:30 pm, slightly late in order to reach before sunset. It was indeed
after a long time spanning months (even years!) that he and me were off
on a private session, a successful one. We loaded the
17" parts in a Qualis and headed via Dodballapura towards Koratgere, to
save time being delayed in congestion and road-work on the hassled
Tumkur Road. At a total distance of 90 km, we passed through some
amazing and simple rocky-hilly terrain near Devarayandurga, the locale
of which impressions us of having 6.5 mag skies. Sadly, this doesn't
seem to be the case any longer with any dark sky you go to, in all my
petty travels to local places around Bangalore city.

witnessed a beautiful evening twilight in a clear sky at the site.
There were some problems with the scope, touch-wood, not too bad to
hamper our night's observing. Whole night as we realized, so
fortunately for us it wasn't cold nor windy, and not dewy. There was
considerable background glow from the upper atmosphere haze; initially
it was rated "terrible" by me but funnily "very good" by Akarsh. Skies
darkened slightly only after midnight. After a little collimation and
fix on the scope, we began with Jupiter (An Akarsh quote : Lets observe
Jupiter first, not as an object, but use it as a collimation tool. It
is always a collimation tool for a 17.5" f/5
:-D) It was indeed
beautiful even through the wide 31mm eyepiece, with lot of bands.


NGC 7793 - Akarsh wanted to begin the session with Sculptor galaxy. He
pointed the telescope at a location badly away from the correct
position, plus the Telrad finder was slightly off. He stumbled upon
something medium bright, round and which within seconds revealed to
have a mottled (sprinkled on surface) appearance to both of us. It was
surely not a new comet as he asked me, since after few checks with the
finder chart we were not sure what existed there.

considerable scanning and spending time, and antics with adjusting the
finder scope around, he managed to get it once again. When we return
home and check the image of this in NGCICProject.org, we see the
mottled appearance is actually the several knots (of gaseous nebulae)
on the galaxy...which was so easily revealed in average skies...power
of a 17.5" aperture! This I would rate was the highlight of the night.

Helix nebulae (NGC 7293) - Found by me, and nothing striking with the
wide eyepiece. However, putting an OIII filter it showed the central
hole clearly and Akarsh even managed to see the wisps around as seen in
high-res images.

3) NGC 253 (Sculptor galaxy) - Nothing
impressive shockingly, just as with a 8" scope! Waiting for darker
skies to get the most jolting view of this.

4) NGC 55 - Appeared
pretty bright and very long. Was condensed towards one end of the
length, appeared disconnected progressing toward the other edge and
knotty at the end.

5) NGC 247 - Nothing impressive, just an elongated fuzz. Close to NGC 253 region.

NGC 246 (Skull Nebula) - In the region above both the galaxies
mentioned above. This one showed three stars in the center of a small
round fuzz. When switched to an OIII filter, it showed a hole in the
center (just like Helix Nebula has a big one).

7) NGC 210 - A tiny condensed smudge. Region below NGC 246.

M77 and region; NGC 1055, NGC 1087, NGC 1073, NGC 1090 and NGC 1094 -
M77 Impressive condensed smudge. 1055 Surprisingly nothing impressive,
as should have been displaying the central dust lane. 1087 a condensed
patch. 1073 a faint glow, quite similar to NGC 1042 (mentioned below).

reminds me while writing this report that I found the last 2 galaxies
beside NGC 1087 without having them in the finder chart, and by just
looking around (not impressive skills, its a 17.5"). 1090 is at 11.80
mag and 1094 is at 12.5 mag. Total 6 galaxies in the region.

NGC 1042 and NGC 1052 with NGC 1084 - After dinner we started with this pair of
galaxies found by Akarsh at the Cetus-Eridanus border. 1042 appeared
fainter, larger and round. 1052 was condensed in center. We discovered
another thin small pencil-like galaxy below this which is NGC 1035,
listed in 2 sources as 12.2 and 12.6 mag. Close by, while scanning for
additional galaxy-probables I stumbled upon something fainter and just
a very tiny fuzz barely perceptible; NGC 1047, and listed as 13.5 and
15.00 mag in 2 sources!

1084 at 10.70 mag was slightly elongated, brighter towards the center.

NGC 936 and NGC 941 - Akarsh insists I found this, and I dont recollect
who of us was it. Anyway 936 appeared brighter towards the middle and
nucleated. 941 was just a small patch.

11) NGC 772 - Just fuzzy and nothing more.

12) NGC 2903 - Appeared elongated and bright, and unfortunately didn't reveal much details for the large aperture.

M53 - Globular condensed and appeared resolved toward the edge at first glance.
This was used to star hop to a comet by memory (but in vain; see Comet
Section - Q3 Siding Spring)

15) M101 - Akarsh couldn't find, so
I did it, and there was nothing more than a ghostly glow with slight
condensation toward the center.

16) M109 - Only he saw it, and got an average view of it. Felt hints of spiral structure.

M42 (Orion Nebula) and Markarian's Chain (Virgo Cluster) - Akarsh saw
something in these, and I wasnt even bothered for a peek. For the
latter object, it was a different reason; I was pre-occupied with a
worry (see below for Comet Section - Q3 Siding Spring).

Here I was, all anticipative of nailing atleast 5 comets upto a
brighter magnitude range (12-13th), given the 17.5" aperture. I had
observed 27 comets on own till date, and 3 new ones here could make me
well touch the 30-mark! I had prepared charts for:

1) 81/P Wild
- Name vividly strikes a comet where the Stardust mission was sent, to
collect dust samples. Was visible in small to medium telescopes.

Did not aim for this in Leo, somehow, inspite of being bright for medium telescopes.

2) P/2009 Q4 Boattini - No clue of this new one except we could have tried for it. In the same region as 81/P, but didnt try.

29/P SW-1 - An old buddy, but an unpredictable one (for the not-rare
outbursts it undergoes in a year). Moreover I was fancying if our
coinciding observation could make us the first ones to witness its yet
another outburst. Maybe using an old finder chart made me end up star
hop to Mars instead of this...ha ha. Could not try for this.

C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring - This was the brighter one of the lot, also
exhibiting a nice small tail in a pic I viewed. Expectant of this,
since I had _already_ targeted for this some sessions back. Moreover,
this was in a rendezvous with the famous M53 globular and nearby
ghostly NGC 5053 brother.

Now what happened with this is quite
interesting (and nothing exceptional or new); in our usual fun-talk in
evening I had challenged Akarsh that 'Murphy's Law' will not get to us
this time. I had all my finder charts intact until time of this
observation, when I noticed _only_ this comet chart is missing. Looked
around nearby, in the car I "didn't find the finder chart", and Akarsh
also wasn't interested in observing 'comets' so I could get no help from
there too. Tried hunting for Q3 from memory looking at M53 (eventually
at wrong location, sadly I hadn't felt the necessity of remembering
position by heart). It so happened that after the entire observing
session was over, Akarsh found this finder chart inside the car in the
place where I hadnt looked! I lost a bright comet. :-|

5) &
6) 118/P Shoemaker-Levy and 217/P LINEAR - Even though the latter one
was not a new for me, the one first above was, and interestingly
sounded quite historic (for the one with same name that crashed into
Jupiter in 1994).

This is the only NEW comet I managed to get
this time. After precise star hopping from Betelgeuse I spotted an
invisible fuzz, an arc minute big nearly, and which could well be 13th
mag. Good enough reasons for a comet-aficionado like me to rejoice!
(the more fainter the more exciting it is...)

Pointing back to
the Alpha Orionis star, I star hopped now in the opposite direction to
see how the other comet 217/P compared to what I had seen last. I only
managed to see a little impressive meaningless fuzz, a little bigger
than the 118/P dot. But both comets were new to Akarsh.

7) I got bored to include 88/P Howell (!!) seen earlier and in the low western sky; I managed by even skipping this!

: I only saw 2-3 in the span of night, since I didn't bother to look up
(shows the unconditional love for the deep sky). I didn't even bother that we have a meteor show this day! Akarsh was luckier to
spot literally a dozen, and some nice ones.

SECOND DAY 15th December : The
second day we were all expectant and increased list to
objects more challenging, like globulars in Andromeda galaxy and Fornax
Dwarf, along with details in faint galaxies. But...Mother Nature would
have it Her way...She kept it cloudy and hazy all night long, with
rains in the region, before we reached the site. Unfortunately, we
slept all night in the room without even taking a peek up, outside.
Couldn't observe anything new, nor could I reach my personal historic
30-comet mark. :-(