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m_j_lyons

January 1, 2013 - My first light of the year!

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First stargazing trip of 2013 to the California foothills. As a matter of fact - first stargazing in WAY too long. The location was Cronan Ranchabout an hour from Sacramento, CA, at an elevation around 890' MSL. Skies were clear but moisture in the airmass brought seeing down to average if not slightly less than average. Stars boiled in the eyepiece all night when not overhead. Temps were near freezing...and despite gloves my hands froze. With skyglow from Sacramento on the SW horizon up to about 30-40 degrees I tried to limit my viewing from East to overhead...with a single target to the south (more on that later). The Milky Way was visible overhead...but really only overhead with direct vision.

The night had three goals - observe objects in the Deep Sky section of the February issue of sky and Telescope, observe objects in the Deep Sky section from the January issue of S&T, and observe SN2012fr. Observing was done primarily with my 10mm EP for 120x but for some targets I added a 2x Barlow to go deeper...but I found that conditions did not favor the Barlow tonight.

New finds. Old friends. Missed observations.

While waiting for the sky to darken I spent some time with rising Jupiter. I was approached by a hiker while setting up and got the scope centered on Jupiter - unfortunately I let him look too soon because all he saw was a 'star-like' planet. Just after he left I collimated the scope and Jupiter and 4 moons jumped out of the EP. I felt bad because he realy would have liked the view. I'm pretty sure I saw the shadow of Io as it crossed in front of the king of the planets but good viewing was spotty due to less than perfect seeing. Additionally I viewed Albireo, the Ring Nebula (M57), and Andromeda (M31).

With the scope pointed high overhead I opened my first observing list of the night:

NGC 752 - And - OC - mag 6.6 - easily found, lots of stars, 'golf putter' asterism nearby

IC 179 - And - Gx - mag 13.2 - tough find, just a small/faint haze about 2-3x bigger than the surrounding stars, averted only

NGC 266 - Psc - Gx - mag 12.6 - easily found, very faint haze patch, no bar evident

Lovro 2 - And - asterism - mag 10-11 - fairly easily found asterism that looks like double question marks (R.A.: 00h22m13.1s Dec.: +24°51'40" (2000) in Andromeda)

Goal #1 - complete. :grin:

Next I lowered the scope to the horizon and tried to pull faint Eridanus out of murky horizon. It took time with the finder scope, but I was able to ID enough stars to get in the neighborhood of SN2012fr - a 'kite-like' asterism of mag 6-7 stars in Formax that would serve as an easy go-to spot while searching for the SN. From the kite a short hop led to 3 stars mag 9.2-10.8 and then up to a pair of stars around mag 10.5 and on to a final, faint star at mag 11.1. Within the 110x EP view was the very faint (averted) glow of SN2012fr's host galaxy (NGC1365, mag 10.6)...but no star-like SN popped out. I spent many minutes trying to tease out the Sn's faint mag 12.x light...even tried more magnification with the Barlow but that just made things even more faint so i abandoned that quickly. Despite numerous attempts, SN2012fr never exposed itself to me.

Goal #2 - fail (for the night). :huh:

As my third goal covered a lot of clusters in/around Monoceros/Puppis and both constellations hadn't risen high enough for viewing I slewed the scope over to Gemini. A few gems graced the EP for the next 20-30 minutes.

M 35 - Gem - OC - mag 5.6 - an old friend and very easy find due to size, too many stars to fit into the EP at 110x

IC 2157 - Gem - OC - mag 9.1 - a small OC that looked like a bowtie at 110x with the left half being brighter and more filled in than the right half.

NGC 2129 - Gem - OC - mag 7.0 - nice little cluster, a brightish anchor with slight haziness surrounding ... dozen+ stars clearly visible

At this point my laptop battery said it was dead so my star charts were gone...Mon/Pup were still too low to see the target area so I called it a night and let my frozen body warm up.

Goal #3 - epic fail (but I'll be back!) :mad:

Not a complete loss I guess - 3 new galaxies barely seen, 2 new clusters and a few old friends.

Happy Hunting!

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Very nice report. Luckily ive never had any approach me while out with the scope, id be a little bit wary.

You got a good haul of objects there though :)

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Very nice report. Luckily ive never had any approach me while out with the scope, id be a little bit wary.

Agree - this was a first for me...although I'm normally in a more remote location that I was on this night. I didn't write about the four young adult males that came from the trail about 90 minutes after sunset...why were they out so late? What were they doing now? Why are they walking towards me shining A FLAHSHLIGHT IN MY EYES!?! :mad: They turned out to be returning from a long hike and were just returning to pick up the car. They had never looked through a scope previously so I showed them Jupiter and the Orion Nebula ... there were many oohs and aahs from the group. I don't mind outreach...but I don't like people coming up to me in the dark shining a light in my dark adapted eyes.

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Enjoyed reading your session notes - it's also valuable when you convey the mag. used for various objects seen. Too bad about the supernova - but at least others will come along!

Happy New Year from a cloudy Wales.

andrew

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Very nice report, I enjoyed reading this, you make it seem I'm looking over your shoulder.

Happy new year.

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