View Full Version : A beautiful evening

2001-Dec-07, 11:25 AM
Last night was a rarity. We actually had a clear, moonless night here in Michigan, with temps in the 40's and no wind! So, I took full advantage, and thought I'd describe my evening for at least my own (if no one else's) pleasure. . .

As luck would have it, I visited Heavens-above earlier in the day to check out ISS and STS 108 passes. Just happened to notice my area had an Iridium flare scheduled for just short of 18:00. So, when the time came, I grabbed my wife and pointed in the right direction. As we watched in the darkening West, a bright "head-light" (mag -4) just appeared out of nowhere, traveling slowing due South, for about 2 seconds or so before fading away to nothing! That was the first one seen for both of us. . . Pretty darn cool!

Later, after dinner (grilled pork tenderloin, yum!), I sat in my favorite chair for an hour or so going thru "Turn Left at Orion" marking the pages for things I might be able to see in my 10X50 binoculars. Finally, it was time to head on out. While giving my eyes time to adjust, I took a quick look at the Pleides glowing in the Eastern sky. It's still one of my favorite targets. Man, those young, hot stars glow like beacons in the night though! Next on the agenda was M31. This turned out to be a bit tricky to find, since it was at it's Zenith in my area at the time. Finally had to lay on my back before it sprang into view. With averted vision, the galaxy spanned the entire field of view of the binoc's, with the center glowing softly in the middle. Made me wish for a larger scope, although I'm not complaining a bit!

Then, it was to the book. First page marked was the double-double star of Epsilon Lyrae. As the book pointed out, with binoc's, you'll only be able to split the "first" pairing. Still, it was so cool just being able to look at 'em and know they're part of a 4 star system orbiting each other 200 ly's away. Again, can't wait to get a scope to check out each pair's partner star! (again, I'm not complaining, mind you!).

Next on the list was the double star of Albireo (beta Cygni). The book mentions that this pair is the one "all others are measured by", since they're easy to split and have great contrast. I could just make out the reddish glow of the main star as compared to the bluish-white of the smaller one. Pretty! Next, I tried for the cluster of M29. I'm not sure if I saw it or not. I did seem to see a very small fuzzy patch of light where the cluster should be, but couldn't make out any individual stars. Maybe someone can tell me if that was it or not. . .

Moving on, I came across M39. At least I think I did. This is such a busy part of the milky way, I found it hard to tell if I was looking at the right thing or not! Is M39 a wide field, open cluster with several bright, bluish stars??? If so, then I saw it!

Next, it's on to the Triangulum for a peak at the Pinwheel Galaxy (M33). Alas, try as I might, I could not seem to find it. The book warned that very dark skies were needed, and this was towards the glow of the nearby city, so I didn't feel too bad. Tried to find the cluster of NGC 752 instead, but no luck there either! I'll have to try sometime when they're both further to the West and out of the glow, I guess.

At this point, I was all ready to move up to see what open clusters I could spot in Cassiopeia, but wouldn't you know it, my luck ran out as far as the clouds go. A bank had moved in from the North without me even noticing. Time to head in, I guess.

This was my first "real" night of viewing with references, (i.e. the book, a chart, etc). For years and years, I'd simply take the binoc's out and scan the skies. What a difference it makes when you have a well laid out plan on what you want to see! For those of you who haven't done it, buy a good reference (T.L.A.O. is highly recommended) and give it a shot. You won't regret it!

Well, that's about all for now. Thanks for sharing my night!

2001-Dec-07, 11:43 AM
Cool, Wally. Watch for those Iridium -8 or -9. Those you can even see in the day time.

The dbl-dbl of Epsilon Lyrae are a nice pair now (2001AD), but the pairs are only 2 arcsec apart, so you have to look closely even with a scope. They're just about perpendicular to each other right now, too.

David Hall
2001-Dec-07, 01:18 PM
I've only been able to spot M33 once. It was a barely visible patch to the naked eye and just a little better in binoculars. The cheap telescope we had couldn't resolve it though.

It requires really dark skies to see however. I've tried many times but that was the only time I've managed to find it.

Kaptain K
2001-Dec-07, 05:50 PM
M 33 can be very elusive. Transparency is all important. I have seen it from suburban Minneapolis with 7x35s and been unable to find it from rural central Texas with 7x50s.

Next time you are looking in that region of the sky, check out the double cluster (H and chi) in Perseus. Easy naked eye in a dark sky and absolutely stunning through binocs!

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Kaptain K on 2001-12-07 12:54 ]</font>

2001-Dec-07, 07:10 PM
Actually had the 2 clusters on my list, but then them darn clouds set in! Hope to catch them next time. . .

2001-Dec-10, 04:21 PM
As luck would have it, another beautiful, clear, moonless night last night, so I headed back out to grab a glimpse of h and chi Persei. Pretty darn nice! I do have a little light pollution in my area though, so might not have seen all the detail possible in 10X binoculars. Must be incredible under a 25 or 30X wide angle telescope!

As a side note, I saw this jet fly by that didn't quite fit the mold of a passenger jet. First off, the lights were wrong. There was no strobe light of any kind, simply a red light on the fuselage and a dingy-white light on each wing tip. Secondly, it was screamin'-fast! I couldn't believe how quickly it was crossing the sky. finally, it was huge. It's apparent size was at least twice that of a passenger jet at normal cruising altitude. (Note: I estimate the altitude as 35K ft. or so, based on the fact that the sound of the jet didn't reach me until it was well off to the N.E.). Kinda makes me wonder if I might have been looking at a B-2 bomber heading off to the war. I've read that several of them (perhaps all???) fly their missions from right here in the US. Hmmm. . . the things one sees when staring at the Heavens!

2001-Dec-10, 06:18 PM
B-2s fly out of a base in Missouri. Actually, they are pretty slow flying planes and not much larger than a typical passenger plane. A large military transport such as a C-5 would be a possibility. Those things are impressive.

Check out one of my favorites, NGC 457 in Cassiopea. I call it "The Blair Witch Cluster".

The best view I have ever had of the Andromeda Galaxy is through a pair of 20x80 binocs down in NewMexico. Filled the field spectacularly!