It has been a long cold winter that sometimes seemed like it was never going to end. At least Mother Nature decided to make up for it this past week. There have been decent conditions the past 6 nights, and I have been taking advantage of it as much as I can.
I have been out to our Tyneside site 4 of the last 6 nights and have had some wonderful views through mine and other people's scopes. Most nights, the transparency was decent, but the seeing left much to be desired. This made it fine for some of those faint fuzzies, and I managed to find 6 previously unseen Messier galaxies in Virgo and Coma as well as an unexpected treat. While looking at M86 and M84, I spotted another fuzzy in the field of view that I later identified as NGC 4435/4438 (“The Eyes”) that is on the RASCal list 'NGC finest' (#78). A double bonus!
Also the naked eye and binocular targets have been plentiful as well as a number of the Eta Aquarid meteors. The Milky Way has been easy to spot after about 1 a.m., lighting up the area just above the trees in the east.
As I mentioned earlier, the seeing has been less than ideal and a common refrain has been how muddy the views of Jupiter and Saturn have been. Granted, Jupiter is in a less than ideal spot for observing right now, as it has been setting in the western sky. Saturn has been rising in a less than ideal portion of the night sky and was still muddy even as it transited the meridian. I commented the other night, that I had not seen the Cassini division of late. Last night, I am happy to report, I finally saw it. As often happens, even though the skies were looking less than transparent, the seeing turned out to be above average and I finally saw the CD for this year. Too bad, most of the moons disappeared!
I even managed to bag a few other Messier objects before calling it a night. Tyneside is a great club resource and I encourage all members to take advantage of it. It's less than 20 minutes out of town and offers some nice dark skies.
And by the way, did I mention the aurora we spotted after midnight on Sunday night?
Overall the HAA can be proud to notch up another successful International Astronomy Day in the Hamilton area at Bayfront Park.
It started out as a challenge with cold temperatures and winds, mostly cloudy with only a few breaks and the occasional snow flurry - sometimes even while the sun was shining. This weather put a damper on the daytime observing and discouraged many people from joining us or even just visiting the park. However 4 club members braved the conditions and provided a partial set up in the hopes of getting some of the public to join us. Even Shylah from radio station KX 94.7 put on a good show, staying with us for 2 hours and did a couple of promos from the park. Sadly we only had a few people come visit our small set up.
Fortunately the night time activities had a lot more success, both in terms of the numbers of HAA members present and the good number of the public coming out. The skies started out very promising and the winds had subsided substantially making for a more comfortable evening. About a dozen members showed up with various scopes (SCT's, DOB's, refractors, reflectors) which gave the public a good selection to see and use.
No one seems to recall having taken a count of how many showed up because we got so busy with questions, but a rough guess would indicate we had at least 70 or 80 people attend the event - perhaps more. Not the best turn out, but quite respectable considering that the weather still wasn't ideal.
We started out with views of the Moon and Jupiter. Then we had to suffer through a 45 minute period of clouds, but fortunately they dissipated and we got to marvel at Saturn for the balance of the night. We also got a chance to see the ISS space station pass overhead just before the cloud intermission which was quite a thrill for most in attendance.
Sorry for the poor quality of the evening shots provided. I didn't use a flash and instead took longer exposures on a tripod so movement caused some blurring. Click on any photo to see a larger version in a new window.
These and others are also available on our Facebook page.
Our Spring Telescope Clinic was a big success. We had a good crowd attend to see all of the scopes that were set up and ask lots of questions. The variety of telescopes was quite diverse including SCT's (Schmidt-Cassegrains), Mak's (Maksutov-Cassegrains), Refractors, Reflectors and DOB's (Reflector telescope on a Dobsonian mount). From good beginner scopes to very advanced systems. And plenty of binoculars which are also very suitable devices for astronomy. Something for everybody and every budget.
Thanks to the more than a dozen members who brought equipment or helped out in various capacities during this important event for the community. It was a lot of fun and everyone got something worthwhile from their visit.
If you want to learn more about astronomy or equipment, you don't need to wait for our next clinic. Come to any meeting or join us at one of our public observing nights. We are always happy to help. Meetings and events can be found on the main page under 2013 Club Events.
Well, it's not news to most of you, but having missed my chance on Thursday, the only other clear night, I headed out yesterday, travelling up hwy 6 to clear the cloud bank. I stopped about 10th concession and parked down a sidestreet where an open field gave a view to the west. Despite a valiant effort, on Saturday evening I failed for lack of a decent finder chart. The chart i had showed only stars too dim to see in the skyglow. Also, the stars i could see were off the chart.
I sketched the stars i could see so I could compare it to a star chart after returning home. Turns out I was seeing beta andromeda and triangulum. Fortunately, those stars can be used to make a pointer to the area with the comet.
Tonight, armed with a more complete chart, I tried again, this time headed for Millgrove to get west of the city.
I used my 25x100 binoculars. If I had known how bright it was, and that the tail would be so prominent, I probably could have found it on Saturday just by scanning the sky. I was searching for it as if it was a 9th magnitude comet in the GWS. (Those are really hard to see)
The nucleus is bright and star-like with a bright tail heading straight up, and widening. The tail was about 1 degree long, from what I could see in the skies I had.
After I found it, I took some references from nearby trees (it was getting low) and tried really hard to see it without binoculars. Even thought i knew exactly where it was, i could not see it. I would say there was just a hint of light in the region; I couldn't see any stars that low.
Anyways, i am happy to have it.
The software that I use for making my illustrations in the EH and at the meetings, and the software that I demonstrated at the most recent meeting is called Stellarium. It is a free, open source piece of software. Try it out yourself, and enjoy!
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