Sunday, November 27, 2011

Herschel 400 ~ Part Deux

William Herschel
Well, night number two of the official Herschel 400 observation program was more relaxed than the aggressive pace of night number one.  Last night, (Saturday night) I headed out a little bit later to continue my observations.  We are just past new moon, and with a long Thanksgiving holiday weekend it is wonderful to have these dark nights with no reason to get up early in the morning.  Unfortunately, the seeing (atmospheric stability) was basically garbage {I had some better adjectives, but this is after all a family friendly blog} in the best of moments.  Bright stars were blobs of shimmering light and even the faint stars were hard to bring into focus.  I consoled myself thinking about all those great nights we do have here in the desert and went ahead using a maximum magnification of 145x under what were truly very transparent skies.  All observations made with my Meade Instruments 12 inch LX-200 SCT telescope.  I took several breaks to drink some mint tea and just gaze naked eye at the milky way.  Last nights constellations were in the same general areas as night number one and consisted of Auriga, Taurus, Orion, and Eridanus.  While it may seem like a lot of sky, (and in truth, it is) these four constellations only represent 19 of the Herschel 400 objects.

Auriga- The Charioteer:

NGC 1664 - An open cluster that displays several relatively bright stars, spread well apart, with a nice line of faint stars leading away from the cluster.
NGC 1857 - Another open cluster with many more stars than the above cluster; more condensed and generally a more pleasing view.
NGC 1907 - A fainter cluster than the ones above, but I'd still consider it bright overall although it contains many more faint stars.
NGC 1931 - As stars go this is nothing unusual for an open cluster...however, near the center is a very bright patch of nebulosity that contains three very close stars.  Most of the time, due to seeing, only two stars were visible but at high power during the fractions of a second where things steadied, a third star popped into view.
NGC 2126 - A medium sized open cluster with about 20-30 stars.
NGC 2281 - Another typical open cluster.  Unremarkable.  About 10 bright stars with a smattering of fainter ones.

Taurus - The Bull:

NGC 1647 - A very large cluster nearly filling the field of view (eyepiece TFOV = .7 degrees) with several brighter stars.
NGC 1817 - A pretty open cluster with well over 100 stars, the richest cluster yet tonight!  Less than .25 degree in size.

Orion - The Hunter...I've spent a lot of time in this constellation and previously observed most of these objects:

NGC 1788 - A bright patch of nebulosity with two stars embedded.  It is irregular in shape.
NGC 1980 - Another bright nebula at the end of the sword of Orion.  Small, surrounding the star Iota Orionis.  Often ignored in favor of it's famous neighbor, the Great Orion Nebula.
NGC 1999 - Another "bright" nebula.  Not much to look at visually, but photographically this is the famous "keyhole" nebula, containing a true dark void (not dust) in it's center.
NGC 2022 - Yes, a planetary nebula...probably my favorite class of deep sky object due to their subtle nature.  This one is definitely blue/green with a brighter center.  No sign of the central star.
NGC 2024
NGC 2024 - The Flame nebula- have seen this in much better detail from a darker site...still obvious in the suburbs, but rather ghostly.  Dust lanes most visible when Zeta Orionis is moved out of the field of view.  Image at right copyright Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona
NGC 2169 - A nice compact grouping of similarly bright stars that exactly form the numerals "3" and "7"...I recognized this cluster at once as the "37" cluster but did not recall the NGC number!
NGC 2186 - A compact group of fainter stars, maybe 30 of them...a deep sky stepchild in this constellation.
NGC 2194 - An unusually shaped cluster, almost a rectangle.  Fairly bright and rich and well condensed.

Eridanus - The River:

NGC 1084 - This is an elongated galaxy that appears a little brighter than its listed 12th magnitude.  No details seen.
NGC 1407 - A round galaxy with an obviously brighter nucleus.  These targets are low on the horizon making observations challenging.
NGC 1535 - A striking planetary nebula that is quite blue in color.  Quite round.  The central 2/3 of the nebula is markedly brighter than the outer 1/3.

59 objects down, 341 to go!


  1. You were missed far to the west at KOFA Wildlife refuge....where we had much of the same conditions. Truly horrendous seeing and superb transparency. I used the weekend as well to dive headlong back into some serious visual observing. Very much a good it's interesting to follow your H400 progress as I begin the task of consistently logging visual observations for the first time.

  2. Yeah- the seeing was as bad as I can remember it in a long, long time. But I had fun nonetheless...Any plans for the January new moon?

  3. Just getting back around to seeing what you've been up to and saw this. I have no plans for January yet - save it to say that I'm going to try and make it an extended trip beyond the usual Friday/Saturday now that I have the trailer. I'd like to make it a 4 or 5 day trip, but I don't know if work will cooperate at that point. I could be talked into heading south for a few days....and it probably wouldn't take much convincing to get Chris to come along too.