Ring Nebula, Crab Nebula, Pleiades, Uranus and then some!

Posted by XTSee on 4th October , 2008

Tonight has been quite a satisfying nights viewing. Just in my back yard which has street lamps shining in from a couple of directions, but I put my big patio umbrella up to shield the light, and I’ve also recently flocked the interior of the XT10, which makes a noticeable difference to the view contrast, and I have my new Baader UHC-S Filter which in a previous post I couldn’t be sure of what difference it made. Well tonight was a much better, clearer, brighter night, and the filter does indeed make the sky blacker, so it must be cutting out some of the white light glow from the mercury streetlamps.

The objects I viewed were:-

  • Albireo (Cyg A) and Cyg B double. My friend JamesB had told me this was a nice colourful double to view, Cyg A is spectral type KIII+ and Cyg B is B8V. A is the primary member of the system, a golden yellow or “topaz” star shining at 3rd magnitude, while B is known as the companion, a fainter 5th-magnitude star with a beautiful bluish color. Ref link.
  • Ring Nebula in Lyra. I’ve wanted to view this nebula for quite a long while, and tonight I found it, purely by star-hopping. It is quite easily found, and I viewed it with a variety of eyepieces and Barlow to see what I could make out, the actual ring was fairly clear, but I was unable to resolve the central star. Ring Nebula on Wikipedia.
  • M56 Cluster. This again I found by star-hopping, and lies about half way between Albireo and Sulufat in Lyra, near the Ring Nebula. A nice but quite faint cluster.
  • Uranus. Next I noticed in Stellarium that I might be able to see Uranus between the head of Pisces and Aquarius. Again this would be a first for me so thought I would try to locate it according to the position shown on the laptop. I figured it might possibly be visible through my 20×80 binos, so got those out and set them up on the tripod with the ST90 counterbalance. After some hunting around familiarising myself with the stars in the area (in particular a pretty rocket/arrow shape formed by HP114914A and 3 surrounding stars, with 3 small stars in a line), and comparing with the view in Stellarium, I was surprised at how visible it was at around mag 6. I was just able to see if with the naked eye, also easily with the binos, and I could clearly make out the disc of Uranus with the XT10, but didn’t think to pay attention at the time whether I could make out any of its moons (didn’t think about that until back at my computer indoors looking at Stellarium again). The moons reminded me of the song Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd - “Oberon, Miranda and Titania”. However, Uranus was fairly low in the sky, and also there was some light wispy cloud cover over that part of the sky which was not helping. Still, it was a nice catch!
  • Pleiades. Well I just love these stars, and always enjoy looking at them. I love their clear bright view. For amusement I tried counting how many I could see in this cluster with the XT10, but gave up at around 60 stars! I think I could even make out some of the faint nebulosity around the stars.
  • Aldebaran in Taurus. Next I worked my way down to the Taurean stars and marvelled at the orange/red of Aldebaran and pondered for a while the immense size of this star.
  • NGC1647 (Open Cluster). Just about 3 degrees to the north of Aldebaran is this nice open cluster.
  • Crab Nebula. While in this vicinity I thought I would try to find the Crab Nebula. This is a nebula I have tried to find before, but conditions weren’t good enough the last time.  This time I discovered it was just barely visible with the 20×80’s (with averted viewing) and quite pronounced through the scope.

This was approx 3.5 hours stargazing from 9.30pm to 1.00am. I would have liked to continue, but by now the night air was getting pretty chilly, and dew was starting to become a problem. Also my dog Ben was getting a bit bored and wanted to go in!

I wonder how folk are getting on at the Kelling Heath Star Party this week and weekend, and whether the weather has been kind for them?

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