Archive for January, 2016

Lunar sketching with the best

Evening of Jan 16th 2016

I had been watching the moon in the sky for most of the day as I worked in the garden cutting and splitting logs. Luckily it was still visible as darkness fell. I flew over the terminator in my office watching the amazing view on my 2 b&w monitors delivered by the video cameras working through the 6 & 20″ scopes. I picked out a complex region right on the terminator where some features just appeared as spots and lines of pure white against the blackness of space, like sea break post being exposed by a retreating tide.

I got stuck in laying out my drawing trying to concentrate hard so I got the proportions correct, I must admit they weren’t perfect, working around almost in a circle I came to filling in a gap and realised that my gap was bigger than it should be so I had to slightly ‘stretch’ the infil structures, but we won’t dwell on that too much 😉  I pressed on and completed the sketch in around an hour I guess, I had frozen the image with the 20″ when I started but let the 6″ video run live.

Considering the complexity the sketch didn’t turn out too bad, but it rather lacked the 3D view I would have liked, there was one impact whole in a crater wall that really caught my eye, unfortunately my rendition makes it look flat not standing up like a wall with a break in it! I still have a long way to go!

I was getting emails through my good buddy in the US, I told him I was sketching, but I hadn’t yet identified what, because I until I looked it up I wasn’t sure! I’m getting better at matching my sketches with atlas pictures for id purposes, there have been times in the past where I have struggled and have ended up emailing my sketches to other lunar observers and asking “do you know what this is?” So I identified it as Maurolycus with Stofler just breaking the surface of the inky black terminator. I emailed my sketch to Frank in the US hoping that he would get a clear sky and would follow up with a sketch of the same region. Well blow me down, despite his -16F he got out and did just that with his 10″ scope, it took him 2hrs, he had to have a thaw break half way through, bless him! Sorry Frank.

Maurolycus in the middle with Stofler  as a pool of inky blackness

Maurolycus in the middle with Stofler as a pool of inky blackness

He kindly sent me a combined image of our 2 sketches rotated to match, Frank (not his real name, his nick name, real name Thomas McCague) is a master lunar sketcher and joint author of “Sketching the Moon” by Springer.

The composite image, 6 hrs apart, mine on the left

The composite image, 6 hrs apart, mine on the left

I’m delighted with the result 🙂 see from the above images how the terminator has moved on exposing the grey lunar surface, features are easy to reconcile between the two sketches made 6-7 hours and very close to 4000 miles apart…brilliant. I can’t wait to do this again.

 

Dale a happy sketcher, thanks Frankie 🙂

A good haul in Leo

Blog Sat 16th Jan 2016

So after my Lunar observing and sketching on Friday night I went indoors when it clouded over and did some family stuff and then went to bed. I set the alarm for 4am, but awoke at 2am and saw it was clear. I made a brew of tea and was outside pretty quickly. I noted that my neighbours outside light was on, this shines into my garden and spoils the southern view! I was hoping to follow up on a couple of small galaxies that Andrew Robertson had challenged me with observing, that wouldn’t help!

I soon had the roof open and the scope running, with Leo high to the south I decided I would have a dig about and see what was new for me there. Using Mark Bratton’s complete guide to the Herschel objects I picked out a few galaxy targets that looked promising and that my 1- 4000 NGC file showed I had not yet sketched.

I started with a nice face on spiral NGC 3686 of 12th Mag and 3.2’ x 2.5’ in size. Pleasing detail was shown on the monitor; of particular interest are the ‘tooth’ like structures in the upper spiral arm emerging from the central bar.

NGC 3686

NGC 3686

I moved onto a galaxy group close by that had showed up on my planetarium software , I managed to get 4 galaxies into the same field on the monitor the largest galaxy  of the group is NGC 3801, an inclined lenticular galaxy it has a nice dust lane and in my drawing looks rather ‘squid’ like, the galaxy below it is  NGC 3802 is mag 14.4 it has a star very close to one edge that I have drawn in which looks like a spike! The smaller galaxy to the far right is NGC 3790, mag 14.7 the tiny galaxy at the top I have not identified.

NGC 3801 group

NGC 3801 group

 

I next moved onto an interesting pair, again close by, all my observations on this night were close together in an area just below the belly of the Lion. NGC 3800 is an interesting galaxy, a highly inclined spiral showing a fair amount of detail with my set up. Close to one end of this elongated galaxy is a much smaller what looks to be a barred spiral of just around 0.8’ in length, this I have subsequently read is interacting with the larger galaxy and together they make up Arp 83!

NGC 3800 & 3799 Arp 83

NGC 3800 & 3799 Arp 83

 

My final observation of the night was a truly spectacular larger face on spiral, NGC 3810 spans 3.9’ x 2.7’ and shines at mag 11.4, its 6 spiral arms are studded with bright condensations, I think this cracker needs to be known a little better by astronomers.

Stunning NGC 3810, best of the night

Stunning NGC 3810, best of the night

 

A quick look at Comet Catalina, up by the handle of the Plough with my 10×50 Zeiss binoculars and then back to bed, not a bad haul.

 

Pax Stellarum, Dale

 

A cracking lunar view

Early evening on Friday 15th Jan 2016 I got out around 18.00 ut for a lunar sketching session, it was a lovely crescent moon and I was looking forward to it.

I settled on using the 6″ refractor with video camera view as it was beating poor seeing and considerably sharper than that delivered by the 20″ on this occasion.

I selected my target on the terminator as Aristoteles which is a 87Km wide lunar impact crater that lies near the southern edge of the Mare Frigoris and to the east of the Montes Alpes mountain range. To the south of Aristoteles lies the slightly smaller crater Eudoxus 67 Km wide and these two form a distinctive pair for a telescope observer. An arc of mountains between these craters bends to the west before joining the walls. The smaller crater Mitchell is directly attached to the eastern rim of Aristoteles. To the west is the low, flooded feature Egede which meets the Montes Caucasus range of mountains the peaks of which you can see illuminated in my sketch.

Aristoteles & Eudoxus through a 6" refractor

Aristoteles & Eudoxus through a 6″ refractor

By the time I got this sketch completed, the sky had completely clouded over. I closed up hoping that it would clear again later in the night so I could do some deep sky sketching.

Dale

Scratching about in a Crater

Blog 12-1-2016
I forced myself out of bed and into the obsy at 2am, skies were good, then bad, then OK then total cloud cover all in a very short period. So most of my time outside was spent waiting for improvements! I got 2 sketches, nothing exceptional apart from I guess not much in Crater gets observed let alone sketched by UK observers!
First up a barred spiral NGC 3660 of which I could only make out the most rudimentary detail, a child could have drawn it! 
NGC 3660

NGC 3660

 

Then an interesting group NGC 3636 & 3637 plus other tiny faint pals! 3637 described in some places as a ring galaxy, it certainly as a pronounce halo, 3636 is similar but dosent quite have such a strong halo. I was intrigued by the tiny faint smudges,1 o’clock from the bright field star and another at the bottom of the sketch at 6 o’clock. 
NGC 3636 & 3637

NGC 3636 & 3637

Spent a while on Comet Catalina with both 6″ & 20″ scopes but sky was terribly hazy so no tail detail so I gave up.
Not a lot for a very disturbed nights sleep but at least not empty handed.
 
Pax Stellarum, Dale

Having it in Sextans

Blog 10-Jan 2016

 

I managed to get out for an hour and a half early morning and sketch a couple of galaxies,  02.30-4.00

 

The galaxies are in Sextans, the first a lovely mag 12.3 face on spiral NGC 2967 1.3′ x 1.2′, this is a first observation.

NGC 2967

NGC 2967

 

Then onto NGC 3023 & 3018 an interesting pair 3023 is quite peculiar but rather surprisingly I find not an Arp! Again this is a first time observation.

10-1-16- NGC 3023 & 3018 -505mm-Watec120N+ DHolt.jpgb&w

 

 

Took a look at comet Catalina with binoculars before returning to bed

 

Dale

A good haul :)

Blog Thursday 7th Jan 2016

 

The message was that is was going to be clear tonight, and it was going to be clear all night!

This gave me time to line up a few targets for the evening ahead.

 

I started off in Orion with a revisit to a tiny planetary nebula to the west of Betelgeuse NGC 2022, my previous sketch was with the old 350mm Newtonian and I’m pleased to say the view was much improved in the 505mm mirror, with a whole extra outer fuzzy shell visible.

NGC 2022

NGC 2022

 

Now Orion isn’t know for its galaxies but it has a few, NGC 1924 is one and shows Some nice detail and mad a pleasing first observation for me, please note also in my sketch below a faint unidentified galaxy to the upper right of 1924 and what appeared to be another spiral directly below the main galaxy, again unidentified.

07-1-16- NGC 1924-505mm-Watec120N+ DHoltb&w

NGC 1924

 

Next I moved onto Eridanus (The river) and picked up a new Arp peculiar galaxy, Arp 186 or NGC 1816, this is a highly disturbed galaxy with multiple arms and what is described as a “faint tail projecting in a SW direction” I’m delighted to say that I was just able to make this out.

Arp 186

Arp 186

 

Next I dropped down lower into the constellation of Lepus in search of galaxy NGC 1964 which looks quite spectacular in images. However when I got iot up on the monitor I was rather disappointed, it was simply a bright elongation with a defined core region. I went out into the observatory to see if it had clouded over? I was surprised to find the scope was almost horizontal, the target was very low in the SSW and therefore in my ‘murkiest’ region of sky, I was surprised that the camera was able to pick up anything down there. I returned to the office and completed a sketch, feeling fortunate at what I had!

NGC 1964 low down in murky Lepus

NGC 1964 low down in murky Lepus

 

OK time to go back up into the sky away from the murk, I slewed the scope into Gemini and selected Beta Gemorium to sync onto for my approach to an old favourite planetary nebula I knew as ‘the peanut’ NGC 2731-2 an object that I had first observed with my 14” Dobsonian telescope some 15 years ago. As with my previous planetary observation of the evening this was a revisit where my previous sketch had been made with the old 350mm Newtonian quite a few years previously, and again this visit showed detail on a whole new level. I was very pleased to see 2 areas of detached nebulosity at a distance away from each end of the main nebula, looking to me rather like knee caps or perhaps shields; these are of course the outer shell of the PN being forced outwards by the central stars cataclysmic demise, how amazing to see this from ones own back garden. The central star incidentally is listed at being mag 14.8, with the nebula itself as mag 13.

Planetary Nebula NGC 2371/2372

Planetary Nebula NGC 2371/2372

 

Next I pushed onto a very attractive galaxy trio, still in Gemini, again a constellation like Orion not noted for galaxies. NGC’s 2385, 2388 & 2389 consist of 2 small inclined spirals of approx mag 15 or a bit brighter and a much more attractive NGC 2389 which is a somewhat larger slightly inclined barred spiral of 2.0’ x 1.4’ it’s arms are fragmented and knotty a fact that my set up managed to show and I have hopefully captured in my sketch.

Left to right NGC's 2389, 2388 & 2385

Left to right NGC’s 2389, 2388 & 2385

 

The time was now past 2am, so I went out into the observatory with my 10×70 Takahashi binoculars to look for Comet Catalina, I soon located it hiding behind one of my neighbours rapidly advancing conifer trees! It would be 2 hours before I would be able to train the scopes onto it so I closed down the observatory and headed for bed at 02.30 quite pleased with my haul of observations and sketches.

 

Dale

 

 

 

Quite a haul, Comets, craters and nebulae

Blog evening of Jan 3rd & morning of Jan 4th 2016

 

A very wet day surprisingly yielded a brief, hazily clear sky which I grabbed to a follow up on observations friends were making in Norfolk with a variety of instruments. Abell 12 is a very interesting circular planetary nebula very close to bright star Mu Orionis just one hop away from Betelgeuse. Because this PN is quite faint and very close to the star it is challenging visually.

It didn’t take me long to get the scopes onto my target, Abell 12 was shown easily by the 20” and Watec camera. As soon as I saw it on the screen I knew that I had observed and sketched it before! Still it was a very pleasing object, so a revisit wasn’t a problem.

I had the 6” refractor and another (uncooled) Watec camera displaying onto another monitor, with a moderate setting no nebula was seen, I turned the setting up to the standard max, played around with monitor contrast and brightness and the camera gain, there was a merest hint of the circular nebula close to the saturated and bloated star. On this particular camera there is a setting whereby you can basically open the shutter or rather run the image integration as long as you want then when you switch it off the image displays, this is what I tried next, leaving it for around 30 seconds,  now the nebula was pretty clear, the b &c stars of the Mu Orionis didn’t show as they did with the 20” but at least the nebula was clearly seen and I could sketch it, not bad for a 6” as I know the PN is a struggle for an experienced observer with very fine 12” Cassegrain inc O111 filter under far better skies than mine.

 

I sketched in pencil on white paper, scanned and inverted the images, posted them online to my friends in Norfok and went to bed, by which time zero stars were visible!

Abell 12 as seen with the 6"

Abell 12 as seen with the 6″

Abell 12 as seen with the half meter scope

Abell 12 as seen with the half meter scope

 

I got out to a clear sky at 6am, I wasn’t expecting a ‘double ender’ session but I was getting one!

I was straight after Comet Catalina, I used a chart on the SPA site and soon located the comet, in the ep of the 6” it was obvious but certainly not bright, I think the best of this comet is over sadly. I soon had 6” & 20” views on the monitor; I played with settings, much as I did for the Abell 12 observation, no hint of any tail with the 6”. To get any tail structure with the 20” required lots of gain from the camera making the image grainy so it is hard to make out where any potential tails start and finish!

As with challenging eyepiece observing one has to make a judgement call on what is real and what isn’t and make a clean sketch of it. At the time of writing I still haven’t seen any images of the comet this morning to know if my sketch is accurate or not?

Comet Catalina C/2013 US10 in Bootes

Comet Catalina C/2013 US10 in Bootes

 

Ok comet sketched, time is getting on and there is a nice crescent Moon that requires inspection, as tends to be my way with the moon, I don’t know what I want to sketch until I see it. This morning I settled on the region around Schiller, that wonderful long slender foot print shaped crater towards the margin of the visible face. The region is craggy, pock marked with craters, there were 3 craters behind Schiller that I fancied sketching, but to combine them and Schiller would have been complex and I wasn’t ready for that Challenge, so I opted for the 3 round fairly equal craters, which turned out to be Kircher, Bettinus & Zucchius, I ended up adding a somewhat lesser crater Segner in the finished sketch to complete the picture. In my sketch the list above can be reversed to match the craters L to R i.e. Segner is the first.

Craters Segner, Zucchius, Bettinus & Kircher

Craters Segner, Zucchius, Bettinus & Kircher

 

A should have less difficulty explaining the Schiller sketch! This is a favourite crater of mine; this is the 2nd time that I have sketched it. At 178Km long and 71Km wide it is truly massive. The lovely bright illuminated crescent crater rim to the lower right of Schiller in my drawing is Bayer at just less than 50Km across it looks insignificant in contrast to Schiller.

Marvelous Schiller

Marvelous Schiller

 

Some very enjoyable observing, hope you like the read and sketches?

 

Happy New Year, Dale

A good start to the New Year

Socialising kept me away from a gin clear sky during the evening, a sky washed by torrential rain! We returned home at 01.30 after celebrating with friends. Having been up since 5am, and with the Moon high and bright I opted to grab 3hrs sleep and rise at 5am for the comet (no wind today) and then finish on the moon. Well 5am came and the sky was now decidedly milky someone had drunk the Gin!

I quickly had Comet Catalina on the monitor, it was very close to Arcturus , comfortably in the same FOV through the ep of the F9 153mm refractor at 60x. Unfortunately due to the foggy haze, neither scope and video cam set up showed tails, they showed off circular fuzziness no matter what setting I used. I made a couple of quick sketches of the views, just for the record before moving onto the terminator.

01-1-16-C 2013 US10 Catalina- 05.30 505mm-Watec120N vidcam-DHolt

After a few moments of deliberation I decided up a small section of craggy bombarded crater territory illuminated and showing dramatic shadow on the terminator. My observation and sketch centred on the near 130Km wide shattered crater Stofler, with it’s 3500m terraced wall smashed through to the SE where crater Farady intrudes as a later impact.

A Lunar Battlefield, Stofler bombarded

A Lunar Battlefield, Stofler bombarded

Quite pleased with this lunar sketch, I had tried to cover too much area in the previous morning’s sketch, this looked better to me.

Not a bad start to 2016, more observations this way please 🙂

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