Observing session report - 18th June 2009

By amar_universe; Published 20 Jun 2009

INSIGHT : This was an observing trip which for the 3 of us, would go in our personal record diaries. This observing session re-established all the psychic, obscure, unfathomable (whatever you call it) laws we strongly experience, connecting - Human Trust and Mother Nature!

Unlike anyone elsewhere, we are a league of amateurs who have made it an excuse to depend on 'Mother Nature' for clear skies, assuring ourselves, and even getting out of rainy homes, rather than cowardly sheltering under our roofs. For phrases like "It clears after dinner...it clears after midnight...or it clears after 2am" I have had solid experential base for creating such catch-phrases.

WEATHER REPORT (You could skip this part entirely) :

Vivek, Santosh and Me left Bangalore in a cloud-layered sky. We carried our 10x50 binoculars, star-charts and my mighty 25x100 binocs with p-mount. By evening it was the regular rain type clouds, and we only carried a bag of positive hope that it no doubt would clear later on, even if late. By dinner the situation was still bad and we actually tried to sleep as early as 10 pm. This continued till 12 am, when the situation actually ' worsened ' - there was a uniform thick sheet of pervading thick haze covering entire sky. We thought it's the END OF IT ALL, and actually started invoking the Nature Gods, emotionally intimidating them! BTW, we had heard the previous 2 days here were very clear. And just 2 days before, Bangalore city produced the BEST sky it could in many odd weeks!

By 12:30 I was woken up by a shriek from Vivek who pointed out at a small clear patch in the sky. We waited and as it got clear in South, we could see the Sagi MW through some haze. Clearance followed in the West and zenith, and we setup the school's 8" f/8 scope. A short breather of sky we got, and it started covering up again with an army of slow lazy clouds approaching from the East, which indeed this time convinced us the ceasure of the session. It stopped at zenith and did not proceed beyond Sagittarius...by 2 am it had already dispersed giving us one the clearest skies! (See it DID clear after 2, if not after dinner or midnight :-P ) This happening was BIZARRE...

MILKY-WAY : The Sagittarius branch of MW had it's lower arm bright and with some structures visible. When skies finally cleared early dawn, the arm stretched until Cygnus, and this time below it...not always we've seen this sight here. Cygnus appeared mottled, and Sagittarius, darker. More than 100-degrees in length, it was stupendous!!

The zenithal limiting magnitude (only guesstimating) could be 6.1.


First we started with globular M4, which was surprisingly showing details - the central 'bar' of stars. Vivek found M80 globular on his own, as condensed, but I did not see it. Small NGC 6541 in Scorpius globular appeared fuzzy. Later on at night we observed the other regulars like M54, M70, M69, M28, Swan Nebula (M17).

Ring Nebula (M57) was very good, showing it's central hole. Albireo double star in Cygnus was exquisite, with two outshining colors. Dumbbell Nebula (M27) was also very good and bright, with the shape discernible.

We also saw M22 globular in Sagi (big and bright), M13 in Hercules (appeared resolved at edges). Andromeda galaxy was not impressive, being smudged out due to some background glow.

We did not unfortunately use my 25x100 binocs to scan the MW vistas and observing, since it was pretty late that we got clear skies.


I was successful in finding Neptune first, which was close to Jupiter. Jupiter itself was resplendent with 4 Galilean Moons aligned. Not knowing that it would be at the other edge of field with the gas-giant, I had to find 51 Mu Capricorn star and then Neptune was there, matching the field of faint stars. It didn't exhibit any specific color.

Uranus at mag 5.8 came in next, after hunting for a 5.5 mag star 20 Pisces. It was in the same field, barely vying to rival the star. It was blue.

Saw Venus and Mars below the Moon in sort of a rendezvous. Venus appeared half in phase through the telescope, and it did no good to observe the dark orange speck called Mars.


We missed out on the bright anticipated 7th mag diffuse comet C/2008 Q3 (Garradd) in evening, due to weather. Here was another comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen) in my short list for this month, which I was not expecting to find, since there was little haze and reflection from lights in the East-rising-Pegasus.

I found the reference small spiral galaxy NGC 7331, and it showed side-way oriented spiral arm features, which indicated the quality of skies! I precariously star-hopped following the detailed finder chart for less than 3-degrees. Before I was at the last eyepiece view, I saw something bright in the field ! Not only that, it was very beautiful (in terms of what comets mean to me)

I estimated the magnitude using nearby stars as 9.5, and coma size to be 3-arc minutes (using distance between field stars). It showed a clear extension from the coma, which had a visible nuclear condensation. That extension should be the stubby tail. There was no difference in coma and tail...it merged together. So the 3-arc minutes comprises the entire gradient of the comet. It was nearly alike in appearance of Comet 4/P Faye observed by me on my Birthday of 2006 (17th Oct), one of my best small comets.

I know my attempts to track down comets are among the very first among fellow amateurs, as soon as they are announced. But I wonder why my first observation attempt for this comet dates way back as early as Oct 2008, from Mumbai! Maybe this has a slow brightening phase and has maintained since then, until it's approaching perihelion in early July. Surprising...

I tried for Comet C/2009 E1 (Itagaki), thinking this is among the last chances before it gets out. There was nothing around the field I was. Missed out Comet 22/P Kopff near Jupiter / Neptune which should also be possible in medium-apertures. But no success here, atleast I am so glad I nailed this Christensen comet.


This session revealed astonishingly many meteors, too many to be called a sporadic (random) shower. The source after midnight was traced back to East, either from one of Pegasus, Pisces or nearby.

After some looking up, I guess this must be the not-famous June Lyrids which, according to one source "...is a low-rate shower during which you could see up to 10 meteors per hour during its peak". The peak dates are listed as June 14-16.

In all 3 of us, in less than 3 hours post-midnight spotted
atleast 30 meteors combined (roughly, we never kept a count). Could it be an outburst? Because many of them left smoke trails behind (persistent for 1-3 seconds), incinerating not with any color. Some meteors followed each other after few seconds (and were visible in hazy skies). On average they could be between 2 and 0 magnitude. It was atleast appearing pretty active.

We ended the session after the Crescent but bright Moon rose. The skies were still clear, and we had a short nap from 5 am, till departure. A really turned-over trip, of this kind we always expect, happens for the time to come.

ASTRO-SKETCHES - I have decided to make some astro-sketches of objects. Drawings of the Comet Christensen and other DSO's like Ring Nebula, Dumbbell Nebula, M54 / M70 globulars etc to be ready soon.