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How many stars can you see with the naked eye within the "Pan" of the Plough?


F15Rules
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Although I didn't have a proper session last night, I did spend a short time outside with my binoculars and naked eye..

It was a really beautiful, very dark transparent night here (Bortle 4 skies), and I finished the short viewing session just looking right up to the zenith at the Plough, (Ursa Major) a lifelong favourite asterism of mine. I also looked across at Ursa Minor and noticed how easy it was to see each of the "mini Plough" stars with direct naked eye vision ( with the exception of Polaris and Kochab they are much fainter than the main Plough stars).

This made me wonder how many fainter stars I could spot inside the main 4 star quadrangle formed by Dubhe, Merak, Phad (or Phecda) and Megrez?

To my 65 year old eyes, all of the stars inside the above grouping are very faint for the naked eye (for example, I could easily see nearby Alcor, the optical visual companion of Mizar, with direct vision..Alcor is about magnitude 4, so, by  comparison, I'd estimate the stars I could see inside the "Pan" of the saucepan, all with averted vision, were between 5 and 5.5 or even fainter. Anyway, I reckon I could see between 5 and 7 faint stars inside the Pan  - I can't be exactly sure of the number, as to my eyes they were all averted vision only, so difficult to count.

I'd be interested to hear how many others can see, and what magnitude you'd estimate them to be?🙂

Dave

Edited by F15Rules
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7 minutes ago, F15Rules said:

Although I didn't have a proper session last night, I did spend a short time outside with my binoculars and naked eye..

It was a really beautiful, very dark transparent night here (Bortle 4 skies), and I finished the short viewing session just looking right up to the zenith at the Plough, (Ursa Major) a lifelong favourite asterism of mine. I also looked across at Ursa Minor and noticed how easy it was to see each of the "mini Plough" stars with direct naked eye vision ( with the exception of Polaris and Kochab they are much fainter than the main Plough stars).

This made me wonder how many fainter stars I could spot inside the main 4 star quadrangle formed by Dubhe, Merak, Phad (or Phecda) and Megrez?

To my 65 year old eyes, all of the stars inside the above grouping are very faint for the naked eye (for example, I could easily see nearby Alcor, the optical visual companion of Mizar, with direct vision..Alcor is about magnitude 4, so, by  comparison, I'd estimate the stars I could see inside the "Pan" of the saucepan, all with averted vision, were between 5 and 5.5 or even fainter. Anyway, I reckon I could see between 5 and 7 faint stars inside the Pan  - I can't be exactly sure of the number, as to my eyes they were all averted vision only, so difficult to count.

I'd be interested to hear how many others can see, and what magnitude you'd estimate them to be?🙂

Dave

In the pan? It’s the handle that always attracts me, Dave 🤔

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Thanks Stu, that's interesting.

Last night was, I think, exceptionally transparent. Interestingly, the stars shown on your graphic do look to be spaced where I recall seeing them. I think I can say with some confidence that I saw 5 stars, two of which were close to the "edge" of the pan asterism, or maybe even just over the "boundary"? The stars were right on or close to the limit of my averted vision, but definitely there.

In hindsight I should have counted them with my low power Vixen 8.5x32 Apex pro bins - but instead I'd taken out my Orion 9x63s, and they would have shown too many stars I'm sure!

Does Safari give actual magnitudes for each star, or just a range such as mag 5-6 or 6-7m?

Thanks Stu 😊,

Dave

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It wasn't just me that noticed the conditions last night then. After the earlier snow and bitter cold, I did not expect it. I had a look out around midnight and was taken aback, it was unusually clear and steady seeing. I took the binoculars out for a half hour or so and whilst out I noticed I could (just) make out all the major stars of the little dipper, naked-eye. Not something I've seen from my back garden before. I also just about spotted the galaxies behind Leo's hind end and made out some fuzziness in the binoculars. When I went in I was kicking myself for not looking earlier and getting a scope out.

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  • 1 month later...

On my last clear night, a few days ago, I noted that it was a very transparent sky. I was pleased to make out most of the wider constellation stars of UMa (it's a big old constellation!) but nothing caught my attention in the bowl. I wasn't particularly looking though and I think my sky/eye combo flat lines at mag 5 or even lower :(

It's an interesting challenge that might have to wait until the far side of the solstice unless we have a clearing pretty soon!

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  • 1 month later...
On 07/04/2021 at 22:17, Stu said:

It does give actual magnitudes for each star. I’ve highlighted them individually in these images and you can see the mag at the top of each image.

9900D2F3-4F72-49BB-B571-537BB612A6A5.png

D8520396-E55E-4545-AB44-D33D61926CF3.png

07ACCBEC-840B-4962-921F-DEFA9A806E61.png

E0A65BF0-D4A9-4CAC-A66B-A79CDC91F940.png

0BBA5E4D-91BC-4329-BED8-CB79F5703F90.png

9159C7B1-5B18-4D4B-9D0E-078BDCCF654F.png

Hi Stu,

My sincere apologies! 

Somehow I forgot to revisit this thread from April and just came across it again..

Thanks for showing the individual stars within or very close to the pan of the Plough..although a couple of them are close to mag 6, I am fairly certain I could just make them out with averted vision on that night back in April..I think their position right overhead gave the best chance of spotting them, it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, when the Plough is much lower down.

Thanks, Stu👍😊

Dave

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12 minutes ago, F15Rules said:

Hi Stu,

My sincere apologies! 

Somehow I forgot to revisit this thread from April and just came across it again..

Thanks for showing the individual stars within or very close to the pan of the Plough..although a couple.of them are close to.mag 6, I am fairly certain I could just make them out with averted vision on that night back in April..I think their position right overhead gave the best chance of spotting them, it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, when the Plough is much lower down.

Thanks, Stu👍😊

Dave

I’m not so interested in the number of stars in the pan. What really counts is the number in the handle

🤣

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