Let the star party season BEGIN!
The first star party of the year and a wonderful trek to northern central Oregon at the local science museum's camp, Hancock Field Station.
Friday night was simply amazing. The forecast called for partly cloudy sky throughout the evening, but at HFS the sky was dark and perfectly clear. We observed from Twilight to near dusk. 10 hours of drinking in the wonderful heavens.
Though I looked at some Messier favorites (how can you not look at M13, M27, M42, M51, M57 and other wonderful bright DSOs?) I took advantage of the dark sky and went in for the really deep, really faint objects that I simply cannot see in my backyard.
The list of what observed for 10 hours is pretty long, but I'll highlight a few favorites of the evening:
IC 443 - Supernova Remnant
In trying to find this object I was using the 35 Panoptic. I knew it would be faint or invisible, so I was mostly ater the star field in the eyepiece. Sure enough, there was nothing to be seen. So I threw on the OIII filter and *pop* there it was. Not very bright, in fact, down right faint. I had to use Starry Night to confirm the angle and the exact area in the star field that I was seeing it. The magnitude of IC 443 is 12, but the large, highly diffused nature of it makes it extremely faint. Though in photographs I've seen just how spectacular this object is, in my scope it looked like a mini version of the California nebula. The best view was in the 21mm Stratus with the OIII filter. I looked at it with the UHC filter as well, but the OIII definitely did better.
NGC 2392 - Clown Nebula - Planetary Nebula
What a neat bright planetary. I think I just found a new favorite! Planetary nebulae tend to look the same. Last year I went on what i called a "Blue Snowball" hunt because every one I pulled up basically looked like the Blue Snowball. This one however is very different. It has detail! Not just a small fuzzy ball, but a ball that is modeled with dark and light sections. A nice bright central star (which I think was a binary though I never did split it if it is) surrounded by a glow of varying intensities. It almost looked like it had dust lanes in it, but I think that was just the brighter and darker portions of the object.
Perusing through the galaxy fields of Virgo and Coma Bernices there were two particularly stunning sights.
Markarian's Chain - Galaxy Grouping
I'm not sure if this is technically a galaxy cluster, but the grouping in the eyepiece is outstanding. All of the galaxies at 13 magnitude or brighter so the entire chain is easily visible. In my 35mm Panoptic, there are 14 galaxies present in the field of view. Here is a screenshot from Starry Night Pro Plus showing the field of view:
NGC Galaxy Grouping
Similar to the Markarian's Chain grouping (though not quite as spectacular), this grouping in Coma Bernices is another wonderful galaxy view. There are 9 galaxies, in this field of view. The faintest one is NGC
4286 at 14.5 magnitude. Here is a screenshot from Starry Night Pro Plus showing the field of view:
NGC 4038, NGC 4039 - Antennae Galaxies
I've looked at these once before, and though the sky was dark and there were no clouds, the actual seeing was somewhat mushy. That mushiness made the view of these small interacting galaxies a bit fuzzy, but still an incredible sight. The fact that I can see interacting galaxies, each with it's own distinction and also where they come together in my modest equipment astounds me. The object looked a bit like a moth with it's wings slightly parted. Amazing.
Though there were many many amazing views over the course of the 10 hour session (which I think may well be my longest session to date), these were my favorites of the evening.