Sunday, April 30, 2017

February 2017 Observing Report

Feb 16, 2017
Has been quite cloudy and stormy of late so I haven't been able to view. This is a work night but this weekend is not projected to offer good weather and tonight does, so here I am. It is cold and dry with temps in the upper 40s and humidity in the 55% range.  I will setup again with the full MFR-5, 50 mm ext tube, 1”focuser ring, and 2-1-1/4” reducer for a F 4.43.  This setup give my Mallincam XT-418 a 20.6' x 15.45' FOV.  I may try adding a spacer or two later on to test the FOV change and vignetting & coma effect.  Standard setup, AGC = 6, APC = 0 , ATW, Gamma = 1.0, cooling set to -5C.  I have the Lumicon Deep Sky filter on.

My tracking is horrible with image shift after 40 sec images.  I found the w azimuth lock bolt was loose so I tightened it.   I need to spend some time polar aligning and getting my guiding scope operational.  However for now I want to knock out a few objects.  The constellation Cassiopeia is nicely oriented so I'll concentrate on the Herschel 400 objects in that constellation.

Herschel object H 35-6 (NGC 136) is a small tight cluster of ~ 15 stars in nearly circular pattern The SE corner has a straignt line of 3 stars running NNE to SSW that are brighter than the other stars in the cluster.  The cluster looks almost like Scorpius with the 3 stars and then to the NW is a curving tail that bends to the SW.  Following this line of stars to the SW .

H 78-8 (NGC 225) is a large OC of around 2 dozen stars that are much larger and brighter than the background stars.  The stars are arranged in an amorphous pattern with a 6 star wavy line at top running E to W.

H 159-1 (NGC 278) is a small face on spiral galaxy.  At only 2 arc minutes in size, the image scale is rather small.  I would do better without a focal reducer and perhaps with a Barlow.  I am only seeing the object at ~ 1' in size.  It is however unmistakable as a galaxy.  I would note that even the Deep Sky Survey image of this galaxy reveals little structure. 

H 64-8 (NGC 381) is an open cluster in a rich star field.  There is a line of over a dozen stars running ENE to SSW.  The cluster is comprised of > 3 dozen stars and one that is brighter than the rest & larger

H 45-7 (NGC 436) is a small triangular shaped cluster of around 2 dozen stars.  
The triangle points to the center star of a 3 bright star line to the NW.   The line runs NNW by SSW. There are long curving lines of stars extending from the cluster to the SW, SSW, and S.

H 42-7 (NGC 457) is a bright cluster consisting of two quite bright stars and a spinal run of stars with appendages off to the top and bottom.  
The spine consisting of 15 - 20stars runs NW to SE.  The top "eye" star is the largest and has 5 small stars arranged into a square to the star's E.  The third brightest star in the group is in the top appendage, which runs N.  The southern appendage "arm" or "wing" is 2 stars wide and curves to the W.  Whether you see a dragon fly or ET, this is a nice cluster.  First a short exposure to show only the bright stars of the cluster.

and a longer exposure for a deeper view.

H 48-7 (NGC 559) is 
a broad convex line of stars running SW to NE through the FOV.  In the SSW is a line of 6 stars running NW to S.  The cluster is roughly spherical and sits near the apex of the convex line.  It is comprised of a couple dozen stars,  many fainter than the stars comprising the convex line.  The surrounding star field is rather sparsely populated.

H 49-7 (NGC 637) is 
a cluster with hard to recognize boundaries.  There are 4 brighter stars and 10-16  smaller stars in a roughly circular patter.  There is a line to the E that curves toward the SE that is comprised of around 15 stars.  At the end of the line is a concave semi-circle of 5 stars.  The FOV includes 2 bright stars to the NNW of the cluster and one to the SE.  There is also a larger star just on the edge of the FOV to the WSW.  is rather sparse of stars but there one to the SW that is bigger than any in the cluster

H 46-7 (NGC 654) is 
a bright large star with a cluster of > 2 doz much smaller stars to the SE.  From the bright star there is a z shaped line that leads to a long line of 9 stars extending to the NNE .  There are few stars to the E of the cluster, but to the W is well populated.

H 65-8 (NGC 659) is another cluster with hard to discern boundaries as it is in a rich star field.  9 bright stars litter the core of the cluster with many faint stars surrounding.  There are many other stars to all directions.

H 31-6 (NGC 663) is a broad cluster of nearly circular proportions comprising some    20 or more stars. The star field is sparse to the E of the cluster but full in all other directions.  

With a shorter exposure depicting only the brighter stars you can see 4 "rays" emanating from a point on the southern edge of the cluster.

H 66-8 (NGC 1027) is a cluster comprised of around 10 bright stars in a very dense star field.  There is a central star that is much larger and brighter than the others.  As is often the case with me, I have insufficient artistic abilities to describe a shape in this cluster.

I completed all the Hershel 400 objects in Cassiopeia !  A very productive night.   It is late for a work night and I'm shutting down at 2326.

Feb 22, 2017

Came out at 6:45 on a warm clear night, very unusual for February. Set up with the Mallincam at prime focus and worked on getting the polar alignment better. Using standard camera settings: AGC = 6, APC = 0, gamma = 1. Got the scope polar aligned with the polar scope as best I could and then performed a drift alignment on Mirzam (front foot of Sirius) and then Mirach.

I left the camera at prime focus (11.4 x 8.5 arc min FOV) with no filter and jumped into viewing Hershel objects in Leo. First object NGC 3227 and I'm seeing significant image shift between 1 minute exposures. Very disappointing.  Apparently my drift alignment procedure is not as sensitive as imaging.  I had hoped to avoid guiding in my setup but it looks like that will be needed, especially at prime focus.  I'll hit a few of the brighter targets tonight and work on the autoguider and software next session.

H 29-2 (NGC 3227 & 3226) is a pair of interacting galaxies (ARP 94).   The two galaxies have cores of similar size and brightness but the galaxy on the lower right (NGC 3227) is more face on, bigger, and elliptical.  The long axis is towards the smaller galaxy. The smaller galaxy (NGC 3226) appears to be more circular.  I can't discern the outer edges of the two galaxies at this exposure level and tracking is insufficient to allow a longer exposure.  Would be a good object to revisit when I get the autoguider going.

H 50-2 (NGC 3607 and 3605) is another pair of galaxies although these two are not interacting.  The larger one (NGC 3607) is elliptical  with a halo that is a couple of core diameters wide.  The smaller galaxy (NGC 3605) is at the 2 o'clock position to the larger one  It appears to be more elliptical.   NGC 3608 is just out of the FOV to the S of NGC 3607.

Packed it in around 10:45. Next time I'll fire up my Orion Awesome Autoguider to address the poor tracking

Feb 25, 2017
Set up with the 2” FR + MFR-3 for a FOV of 18.6 x 13.9' and F 4.91 and the 2” Lumicon DS filter. I also setup the Orion guide camera tonight to see if I can improve my tracking.   After climbing the learning curve with the autoguider &PhD2, I found the guiding to work quite well as I was able to take 120 second images and stack them with well shaped stars.  This is a huge improvement in my capability to capture faint details in objects.  Continuing with the Herschel 400 object hunt.

H 27-1 (NGC 3412) is a nearly face on elliptical galaxy oriented NW to SE.  There is a bright core and the halo extends 1 core diameter to each side and 2-3 diameters to the NW & SE. No details in the halo are discernible.   The galaxy resides in a nice star field of all similarly sized and brightness stars.

H 44-2 (NGC 3190) is a near edge on galaxy oriented Nw to SE with a bright core visible on the SW side.    there is a prominent dust lane running just below the visible core.  A remarkable FOV with 2 other galaxies visible and another just at the southern edge of the FOV.  This is the Hickson 44 compact group.  

Sky meter reading at 0048 = 18.97 at 55 F with 50% humidity.  Shutting down for the night.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

January Observing Report

Jan 7, 2017
First observing session of 2017 on a very cold (34 F at 1900 ) and clear night. Will see how long I can last in the sub-freezing temps forecast for tonight. I logged into the Gemini with the web browser before plugging in the Mallincam and I appear to have retained connection, although I haven't fired up the Mallincam yet.

Setup the Mallincam with the MFR-5 and no spacers and the 50 mm ext tube & Baader 2 to 1-1/4” reducer. Turned on Mallincam and still have Gemini connectivity. Fired up Miloslick MallinCam Control version 3.3b,   The new version has blank menus and appears not to communicate well with the camera. It won't read settings but will display color bars and a live image from the camera. Even after restarting the program. Shut down the Gemini interface and unplugged the USB hub. Restarted Miloslick MallinCam Control, no change. Reinserted the USB hub and reestablished the Gemini web interface.  Fired up MallinCam Extreme Control version 2.8b and it talks to the camera just fine. Apparently a bug in the new Miloslick version. Took some screen shots to share with Bill tomorrow. While the Gemini web interface appears to be talking to the mount it won't initiate a slew to a target either from the hand controller window or the catalogs menu. Argh !! Shut down the web interface and but left the Ethernet cables hooked up. Will use the handset. Realized I had left the handset at the startup menu. Once I told it to do a warm restart, the web interface works fine. !! Yea!!  While I don't mind using the handset to control the mount, I would like to control via computer.

This time of year the Orion area is an irresistible target.  I took a series of 20 second,  AGC 6 captures of the Orion nebula

Took a series of 90 second,  AGC 6 captures of the running man nebula but they the exposures weren't long enough for the nebula to clear.
At 2309 sky reading was 18.64 and the temp is 31 F with 69% humidity, 22 dew point, and winds out of NNE at 3 mph.   Stephan's software hung up twice. The second time at 2336 and I quit for the night.

Jan 13, 2017
Earlier today I uninstalled Miloslick 3.3b and reinstalled 3.1.3, which is the next newest one on the website.  Came out at 10 pm to find the clouds had cleared after being cloudy all day. Nice surprise. It is 64 F, with 98% humidity, dew point of 63, and no wind. Will setup again with the full MFR-5, 50 mm ext tube, 1” ring, and 2-1-1/4” reducer for a F 4.43 and a 20.6 x 15.45 FOV.

Interesting, I'm having the same issue with version 3.1.3 of Miloslick in that it displays the camera's image but wont control the camera. I wonder if the serial to USB adapter is broke. Probably not as the Mallincam Extreme Control software worked last time. I unplugged the USB to Ethernet adapter and the camera started responding. I plugged the Ethernet adapter back in and the camera control died again. So obviously I have some kind of conflict that I'll work on in the day time. For now I'll use the Gemini hand controller and unplug the Ethernet adapter. 

Continuing my Hershel 400 observing list with H 3-8 (NGC 2251) in Monoceros. A nice cluster with 4 segments.   To the SW there is a row of 4 bright stars and several fainter ones running SE to NW.   Perpendicular to the southern most star in this line to the NE is a is a semicircular cluster of 5 bright stars and many fainter ones. There is a dark lane running between these two clusters at this magnification. Then SE of the second cluster is an elongated inverse ? of about 14 stars.  Then NW  of the second cluster is a single bright star with 2 somewhat fainter stars further to the NW and many fainter stars in the region.  

H 27-6 (NGC 2301), also in Monoceros is a sprawling cluster nearly 20 ' across.  To the E are 4 bright stars in an arc.  In the center is a cluster of 3 bright and many fainter stars.  To the W is a vertical line of 3 stars with a fourth star to the NW of the top star.  Further W of the southern star in the line is another bright star.

Continuing in the constellation Monoceros we come to H 60-8 (NGC 2311).  At the S end is a V of 6 stars with the opening back to the NNW.  The central cluster is oval in shape and composed of roughly 2 dozen stars  The surrounding star field is rather sparse.  Sky glow from the nearly full moon is becoming apparent as I'm not using a filter.

H 38-7 (NGC 2324) is in Monoceros.  Looking towards the full moon with no filter my contrast on the image was poor but sufficient to bag this cluster.  To the SW is a slight arc of 4 stars and 2 parallel star to the NW.  To the NE is a region of stars all of nearly the same intensity that forms the shape of a sword pointing to the NW the blade is about 5 ' long.  there are blade guards extending from the base of the sword to the SW and NE and then a handle composed of two small circles of stars.  Very nice object.

The cluster H 31-8 (NGC 2286) is hard to pick out.  I located it by finding the 3 bright stars to the E with the 4 star line arcing away to the S.  The main part of the cluster is due W from the star trio.  It is oval in shape and comprised of at least 2 dozen stars.  Looking near the full moon without a filter so my contrast is quite poor.

Moving onto the constellation Lynx we find H 200-1 (NGC 2683).  A spiral galaxy at an angle, nearly face on.  It is oriented NE to SW. A bright core is visible but no structure of the rings is evident with such poor contrast.  The star field is sparse in the immediate vicinity.

Moving over to Ursa Major we find H 242-1 (NGC 2681).  It is a small face on galaxy with a very bright core.  I can't make out but a hint of the halo extending about 1 core diameter in all directions.  I'll need to visit this object again and take longer exposures to pull out the structure.

Over in constellation Coma Berenices is globular cluster H 19-1 (NGC 4147).  It is a small faint GC in a relatively sparse star field.  The cluster's core is packed with few individual stars that are discernible.   Some stars to the NW can be picked out but they likely are more than  individual stars. Another object I need to revisit to pull out more detail.

 At 1 am it is down to 58 F and 99 % humidity. Everything is wet. Sky meter reading is a dismal 13.98 with a full moon nearly at zenith. Shut down at 0144.

Jan 23, 2017
Binocular viewing on a cool clear night with no moon. Observed the Orion nebula region and then spent some time in the interesting region around Mirfak (see the Cosmic Pursuits article Attendants of Mirfak.  Later I took in the Pleiades, Hyades, and NGC 457.   A relaxing evening under the stars.  I really enjoy using the Orion paralleogram binocular mount. It provides good stability to the binoculars and is easy to move between targets and to make small adjustments.

Jan 28, 2017
Came out a little after 10 pm after the clouds finally cleared. It is a cold, dry night: 48 F, 49% humidity, with no wind and no clouds. Will setup again with the full MFR-5, 50 mm ext tube, 1” ring, and 2-1-1/4” reducer for a F 4.43 and a 20.6 x 15.45 FOV. I may try adding a spacer or two later on to test the FOV change and vignetting & coma effect. Standard setup with Miloslick software; AGC = 6, APC = 0 , ATW, Gamma = 1.0, cooling set to -5C. Running the mount from the HC as when I plug in the USB Hub with the Ethernet socket, I lose control of the camera in Miloslick. Need to work on this during the day time.
Earlier in the week I installed the Belleville washers that Michael Herman sent me on the azimuth lock knobs so first order of business will be to check the polar alignment via drift and lock it in.  It wasn't too far off and the washers seem to give a tighter lock down.  Will see how it holds as the mount is used.

In the constellation Leo I found H 56-1 (NGC 2903).  It is a nice barred face on spiral approx 3 x 2 '  a bright nucleus   Bar is running NE to SW arms are trailing clockwise and more visible on the Bottom (S) than the top.

H 114-1 (NGC 2964) is a A smallish (2 x 1.5 ') face on spiral galaxy.  Elliptical in shape  One arm visible to the South, the North region is diffuse.  The core is rather elongated in the N - S direction.  There is smaller galaxy (NGC 2968) at the 7 o'clock position about 5' from the core

Continuing to browse the constellation Leo we find H 13-1 (NGC 3521).  It is an elliptical galaxy of approx 3' x 1 ' in size  angled toward us around 45 degrees.  It has a large bright core around 45 '' x 30 ''.  No arm detail can be made out .  It is in a star field populated by 4 largish stars and numerous dimmer ones.

Continuing in Leo, H 28-2 (NGC 3226) is a dwarf elliptical galaxy that is interacting with the spiral galaxy NGC 3227.  NGC 3226 is face on with a bright core and little other distinguishing features.  It is approximately 1' in diameter.  NGC 3227 is more elliptical measuring  2 ' x 45'' and running NW to SE.  Its core is about 2 ' from the first galaxy's core.  The star field features 10 bright stars and a relatively sparse field of dimmer stars.

H 17-1 (NGC 3379) in Leo is a circular galaxy with a large bright core.  The diameter is roughly 1.5' in diameter  with the core measuring approx 45 '' in diameter. There is no visible detail in the halo .  This object is also known as Messier 105.  In the FOV are 2 other galaxies.

Elliptical galaxy H 18-1 (NGC 3384) that is roughly 3 ' x 1 '  and it is core is about 7' SW of NGC 3379.  No detail in the halo is evident.

Also in the FOV is the much smaller NGC 3389.  It is a roughly 1.5 ' x 45 " in size and is around 9 ' SE of NGC 3379 and about 6' ESE of NGC 3384.   These 3 galaxies make a nice field.

H 8-5 (NGC 3628), also in Leo, is a large edge on galaxy with a dust lane roughly 6 ' long.  It is oriented nearly due N & S.  There is no detail evident in the dust lane or the halo, which is brighter near the center West side.  At its widest point it is approx 45 ".  I can see the galaxy is larger than 8 ' but the edges are very diffuse and hard to make out the boundaries

Sky meter reading = 18.99 @ 0155 and it is 44 F and 53% humidity with no wind and no clouds.  I shut down at 0200.