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Roper Mountain Astronomers

January Star Party

February 06, 2022 3:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Thanks to everyone for joining us at our Dark Sky site for our January Star party (even if it was a week late). It was beautiful for viewing the night sky and some of the club members spent time imaging various targets, while others looked through the club's telescope in the observatory, or discovered new targets through the telescopes they brought with them.

If you have never joined us for a star party, please consider coming out to spend time with other club members. Each of us learn something new when we get together to view the stars in a clear, dark location!


  • February 07, 2022 10:30 AM | Anonymous member
    RMA starparty at Rt 11 observatory, Meade 14 inch, 3556mm fl
    55mm plossel = 65x (3/4 degree field of view)
    27mm panoptic = 130x (1/2 degree field of view)
    12mm nagler = 300x (1/4 degree field of view)

    Arrived at 5:15 to find people busy setting up scopes. A light jacket was enough as temps were around 50. By around 6pm it headed into the 40's and heavy clothing was needed. It dropped to near freezing by midnight when the last astronomers packed up.

    The temperature drop from low 50's to low 30's had an effect on the 14 inch Meade. It took several hours for the telescope to cool down and give decent images. I was limited to 65x for a while after sundown, 130x became usable by 7pm, and 300x became usable after 9pm. The "seeing" was clear and steady all night, the main source of the image distortion came from some tube currents: air inside the Meade SCT distorting the image as the optics cooled down.

    The telescope is polar aligned on it's mount and tracks the stars quite well, but the go-to functions are not working. This left me to use my experience with "star-hopping" and some help from the setting circles to navigate around the sky. It's not really a problem for me but I did have a couple of interested people wondering what I was doing. My general plan for the evening was to observe areas in the south from Orion to Leo that I don't usually visit.

    Spent time getting the scope setup and trying to align the guide scope. Guide scope is poor and doesn't align well with the main scope. Needs more work. Next time I will bring a Telrad finder and bungie cord it onto the telescope.

    The Moon - setup and finder alignment in the daylight.
    Craters Pierce and Swift stood out against the dark marking on the floor of Mare Crisium. I wish I'd spent more time studying the moon, but I was struggling a bit trying to get some kind of alignment with the guide scope.

    Uranus - It seemed like everyone started with Uranus after they got through with the Moon. The image was "soft" at 130x but improved greatly when I revisited it around 10:30 with 300x after the optics cooled down. A distinct blue-ish disc.

    Observing in Orion:
    M42 Orion nebula - A nice view at 65x. The 14inch collects enough light to bring out a lot of the nebula features.

    Sigma Orion - This multiple star system is usually on of my favorites but the image suffered greatly from distortion as this was early in the evening.

    NGC 2169 - the "37" cluster, not impressive. I struggled to find this and I can't say that I'm convinced I actually found it. At least the attempt took enough time to let the optics cool down and the rest of the night had much better seeing.

    Rigel double star - Magnitude 0.2 star with magnitude 6.7 companion, easy to see in the 14inch.

    Struve 649 double star - visited this easy double below Rigel while I was "in the neighborhood".

    Observing in Lepus
    M79 globular - best star hop of the night: Start with the "waist" of the rabbit, alpha and beta lepus, follow the line from alpha to beta and keep going about the same distance south to reach a magnitude 5.5 double star (the brightest star in the area). Then backtrack slightly in a northeast direction to find M79 about 1/4 degree away from the double star. It will likely be in the same field of view.

    Observing in Monoceros:
    Epsilon Monoceros - colorful double, distinct yellow / blue colors.

    Beta Monoceros - triple star system, a classic example of a multiple star system.

    M50 open cluster - a nice Messier object to hit in the neighborhood.

    Observing in Canis Major:
    Epsilon Canis Major - double star (nothing special)

    NGC 2362- The "Klingon Bird Of Prey" cluster. We gave it this name because it reminded us of the shape of a Star Trek ship. This is a good looking cluster around Tau Canis Major that has a distinctive shape and look. Highly recommended.

    Observing in Puppis:
    M46 in Puppis - open cluster with planetary neb, I couldn't see the nebula but Josh and David said they did.

    M47 - open cluster about 1 degree west of M46. If you get one it's easy to get the other.

    M93 - open cluster 9 degrees south of M46.

    Observing in Hydra:
    NGC 3242 The Ghost Of Jupiter in Hydra - nice bright planetary nebula. This would be a more popular object if it wasn't so far south. it's worth the effort to find it. Star-hop from alpha hydra to nu(1) hydra, to lambda hydra, to mu hydra. Then go 2 degrees south of mu hydra to the Ghost Of Jupiter.

    Tried for NGC 3115 Spindle galaxy in Hydra but too dim to see in the skyglow background. Galaxies are sure tough to see around here.

    Observing in Leo:
    Gamma Leo - the classic bright double star to end the night.

    It was getting freezing cold and I found a layer of frost at my house at 1am so I'm sure we were very near freezing at midnight as we packed up. It was a good night for observing. Caden once again showed that he could handle the 14 inch Meade as he helped us with his laser pointer and centered objects in the eyepiece.

    The night was a success.
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