Observing session report - 07/08/10

By admin; Published 25 Oct 2010

This trip turned successful out of the blue. And I am writing a report among the few times in this changing time and age. An announcement on the b-a-s google mailing list previous midnight, resulted in calls from Subhankar (with car), and others eventually confirming for trip. The surprise came in earlier the day of observing, when Akarsh confirmed with his 17" scope (he was to leave for US two days since then!) so did Keerthi, making it totally 8 participants.

There was initial great confusion and students Gautam and Akshay were hardened to stay back by me to help Akarsh load his "Monster" in the car. Subhankar, Udayan and Me proceeded in the former's Honda City. When we left city it was overcast, and even drizzled enroute North Bangalore. Stopped at Yelahanka FoodWorld for snacks as usual, and picking up the kid Abhilash at Hebbal Flyover. Akarsh was supposed to leave at 7pm, which did not.

Skies were bad and I only calmly tried convincing all to "Wait and see" knowing somewhere deep inside, it should, and will. Skies were the regular monsoon thick ones. Closer to Hosahalli we started seeing stars through the haze, and it only slightly improved. On way when stopped at road side, we glimpsed Mercury easily quite above. Let me tell what happened directly when we reached Hosahalli - North stayed put with South Sagi-Scor MilkyWay (MW) still in haze. Slowly that too improved and we were thrusted with a fantastic MW stretching from North to South, with good stellar density, after a long time! It was hard for Mr Subhankar to believe its not a local cloud, even after repeat assurances! The Cygnus & Sagittarius MW showed rifts and details/structure, as ever.

We just setup our equipment, binocs and scope, headed for dinner shortly with the clear spell overhead. The light-gathering equipments only swept over known common celestial objects like M7 and M8 / M20, and others here and there. We waited for Akarsh to arrive and setup the grand equipment. Unfortunately it happened he could only leave Bangalore as late as 10pm, reaching the venue at 12am! Its so unfortunate the 4 arrivals could not witness the Southern MW we did at dinner time.

I noticed atleast two meteors flash in the night. The highlight of the night would be observing Veil Nebula with UHC filter on the 17.5". [Some observers in our team know I have a certain disliking aversion towards observing "Nebulae" as contrary to the rage for galaxies and comets with globulars, in order of preference] I have never even bothered observing the elusive and cumulatively appreciated HorseHead Nebula. But for once I was moven observing the wispy veil of the Veil, just as in photographs! Everyone liked it.

Skies at this wee hour were only clear overhead in North, Cygnus region, so we all were focussed there. We also attempted observing North America Nebula, and eventually I too showed interest in the "Nebula" :-) With careful star hopping as in the huge SkyAtlas 2000.0 charts, we could see a white / black discoloration in background. My 25x100 zoomed in to show only part of the generally-photographic Nebula. This was NGC 7000, yet once more observed it!

A queue was lined up later for a view of Jupiter through the 17" and everyone sure liked it. I stared for quite sometime to 'discover' something new in the changing Jove, but no new spot, nothing. Uranus was just around there, I could easily point at the 'dot' with my 25x100; as the second star away from Jupiter. Oh yes, it was just visible as a naked-eye dot too, just away from Jupiter's glow fogged by clouds! Now when the skies got covered with haze, it didnt improve.

I remembered Cepheus offered a good glimpse of the very elusive yet photogenic Fireworks Galaxy (NGC 6946). The 17.5" was pointed and with some luck we did see it as an extremely faint object, having no distinct boundary. The prodigious observer Akarsh claimed he saw a "Knot of emission nebula" in the galaxy, where to me the galaxy itself was extremely hard to observe! We later on saw the neighbor open cluster NGC 6939 equally fared hard. Observing experience here of both of us helped resolve a couple tiny stars mottled in the center, virtually not visible! However, I did manage to glimpse both objects with my faithful 25x100 Oberwerk binoculars!

Akarsh's only fancy for the night was the planetary nebula "Pease-1" embedded within M15 globular; a challenge object for only the most brave-hearted of experienced observers! Oh, and on contrary to me, was yet another "comet". [I never run out of them in any session ;-)] I believed I could spot 10/P Tempel-1 through my 25x100 in Cetus, even aimed over the spot, but bad glow reflected from foggy clouds never let me. Sure, the next time, very soon, this will be my 33rd observed comet!

Eventually everyone hit the sack, and none of us managed to get up to check later on, until the Sun rose. After a photo-shoot session, and coffee at our regular village house, we headed back. Oh, this observing session witnessed a last formal good-bye and hug to our inspiration Akarsh by the members there!