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Hazy (Non)-Observation - Hubbles Variable Nebula

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28 March 2011


4” refractor x45 and x90 binoviewer

Despite being clear for several nights, I had not been out observing for some time due to ongoing pressures at work. As it was still clear at dusk, I decided to roll back the obsy roof and enjoy an observing session. They sky was clear but very hazy as the high pressure continues to build over the UK.

To the naked eye, the Pleiades and UMi were barley visible so clearly not a great night for observing DSO. Having found the planetary nebula NGC 2392 the Eskimo nebula in Gemini while my eyes became dark adapted, I decided to star hop to Hubble’s Variable Nebula, NGC 2261 in Monoceros. I have wanted to observe Hubble’s Variable Nebula since listening to Grant Privett’s talk on variable nebula at the BAA Deep Sky Section meeting and hearing the call for observations of this object.

I often use these poor nights to starhop to new objects so the route is familiar when it is next brilliantly clear. I starhopped down from Gemini into Mono using Uranometria as a reference. Although I found the field of view, there was no sign of any nebulosity. Whether this was due to the hazy atmosphere or lack of aperture I will not know until the next suitably clear night.

I then enjoyed the brighter open clusters: M35, M36, M37 and M38 but none really stood out as the haze was acting as an excellent filter. So I concluded my short observing session as the sky was not cooperating fully and rolled the roof back into place.

I'll swing the 8" across when it is next clear and see if I can find Hubble's Variable Nebula, fingers crossed!

Has anyone else seen this one? Monitoring it's changes sounds quite an exciting project.

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Nice report. I have not spotted Hubble's variable nebula yet, and should give it a try with the 8". I probably will use the UHC filter to get a bit more contrast. The Eskimo nebula is a nice one, and its central region is bright enough to be picked out in less than optimal conditions.

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Lovely report Mark. I thought I had seen Hubble's Variable Nebula, but try as I might I cannot find the entry in my log books.

I do remember it as being quite easy to star hop to but very hard to observe. It's small at 2.0' x 1.0' in size.

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Nice report, i'm glad you were finally able to get an observing session in. Hubble's Variable is a little cutie pie, it looks like a miniature comet. :icon_eek:

You mentioned a hazy sky... i'm guessing it bleached out the nebula. Here's a sketch done with the 120ST (no filter). The aperture isn't much larger than what you used, but my transparency was 'average' that night. Try it again, you should be able to pull it in with the 4".

From what i understand, the changes in nebulosity were discovered by Hubble when he was comparing photographic plates... i honestly don't know whether the difference can be noticed visually or not, but it's worth a try.


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We have our SPOG observing meet tonight so I am hoping to have first sight tonight. The only downside is that I am only taking my 15x50 canon binos as I am giving a talk in Swindon first so I will have to borrow a fellow observer's scope when they are taking a break!


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