Sunday, December 25, 2005

Asteroids Seen Through 25-Dec-2005

Laying my finger on how many asteroids I've sighted I couldn't find a single place to look up the details. This is the purpose for this post.

TV-76_Green_h115p.jpg Fujinon_10x70_h115p.jpg
Left: TeleVue-76, Right: Fujinon 10x70's

The following observation reports were found online or on my harddisk. Just in case there's a need to sign up for these Yahoo! Groups I've quoted the messages in full.

Click on hyperlinks in bulleted list to jump to the reports:

63 Ausonia: m10.1, 16-Sep-2003, TeleVue-76
  • 63 Ausonia: follow-up observation — 29-Sep-2003
29 Amphitrite: m9.3, 30-Oct-2003, TeleVue-76
6 Hebe: m8.9, 24-Jan-2004, TeleVue-76
1 Ceres: m7.5, 8-Apr-2005, Fujinon 10x70's
3 Juno: m7.6, 18-Dec-2005, Fujinon 10x70's
• 4 Vesta & 2 Pallas: no writeups for either asteroid exists

63 Ausonia

From Yahoo! Group ‘StarryNights’ — message #19023:
Asteroid: 63 Ausonia
Discovery details: 63 Ausonia is a Main Belt asteroid discovered 10 Feb. 1861 by Annibale De Gasparis in France.
Date observed: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2003
Visual magnitude: 10.1
Distance from earth: 120.1 million miles
Opposition date (mag.): 12 Sep 2003 (10.0)
Equipment: 76mm refractor, TeleVue-76
Eyepieces: 22mm Nagler IV (22x), 8mm Radian (60x)

Using the ‘Bright Minor Planets 2003‘ I chose 63 Ausonia to test the ability of the TV-76 to see this dimly in the center of New York City so I took the scope to Central Park.

After observing Mars and Uranus with a few friends and some interested people passing through the area I went to spot which was a bit more protected from the bright lights surrounding the Great Lawn.

From 10:30 to 11:00pm I used some charts produced with SkyMap Pro v. 9 and quickly (~10 minutes) located the general area of the asteroid. I scanned around with the 8mm and saw that 10.0 mag stars were visible so I felt seeing the asteroid would be a possibility.

Using the charts I found an equilateral triangle ~0.5° wide with a star directly in the center of the triangle centered on RA 23h 16m 45s / Dec 1° 34'. Below and to the right (the image was reversed left/right) were 3 stars roughly in a line ~6 minutes in length. I noted an object at the 9 o'clock position near the top line of stars.

This object was visible at 60x but not at 22x. The background needed to be darkened. Only when I returned home could I confirm for sure that this was 63 Ausonia. It was!

Hopefully tomorrow night is clear so I can check on the movement of the asteroid which should move approximately 15 minutes of arc WSW.

All the best.

Ben Cacace
Manhattan, NYC

63 Ausonia

(follow-up observation)

From Yahoo! Group ‘GuildOfManhattanSidewalkAstronomers’ — message #1693:

Text related to Ausonia preceded w/double asterisk (**):
Date observed: Monday, 29 September 2003
• Confirm 63 Ausonia observation from 16 Sep 2003
• Double Star: F.G.W. Struve 2995
  • Mags A / B: 7.6 / 8.0
  • Separation: 5.2"
• Mars
• Test limiting magnitude of TeleVue-76
Telescope: 76 mm refractor (TV-76)
• 22mm Nagler T4 (22x / 3°46' fov)
• 8mm Radian (60x / 1°0' fov)
• 2x Barlow

Thought I'd go out tonight to observe a bit in NYC's Central Park *without* showing "stuff" to the public which is what I would normally do. I set up in a dark spot on one of the lawns away from the bright lampposts.

The dimmest star I could view naked eye was one of the dimmer bowl stars in the Little Dipper zeta UMi (mag 4.3). It is impossible to dark adapt even in a relatively dark location since lights are always in view.

The first object was Mars. I was surprised to see that the seeing was very steady. At 120x the south polar cap was both small and obvious and the dark markings were clear and sharp. I could've used a bit more power to tease out some of the markings and it would've been nice to confirm seeing a dark collar around the polar cap. I'm looking forward to picking up a 6mm Radian.

(**) The next thing was to check the area where I first observed 63 Ausonia on the evening of 16 Sep 2003. I haven't been able to confirm the sighting visually until tonight. On the 16th the asteroid was NW of a line of 3 stars centered on RA 27h 19m / dec. -1°53'. On the 16th Ausonia was approximately mag. 10.1. Tonight it was 10.5 and I wasn't looking to see the asteroid, just to confirm the sighting of the 16th. I saw that I could see down to magnitude 10.53 (TYC 5244-294-1) with the 8mm Radian and could see that the pattern [of] stars mentioned above no longer included the asteroid! Visual confirmation of the asteroid and a new test of the limiting magnitude of the TV-76 were accomplished -- in the heart of Manhattan.

There's a nice pattern of stars NW of the line of 3 mentioned above in the form of an equilateral triangle with a star in its center. The triangle spans approximately 25'. The center star is STF 2995 (HD 219542). This double is wonderful in a small refractor. The brightness of the components are nearly equal (the difference *is* visible) and the separation of nearly 5.2" is easy at 60x. At 120x the view wasn't nearly as pleasing since the triangle pattern fits nicely in the 8mm Radian *without* the Barlow.

All the best ...

Ben Cacace
Manhattan, NYC

29 Amphitrite

From Yahoo! Group ‘StarryNights’ — message #19551:
Asteroid: 29 Amphitrite
Discovery details: 29 Amphitrite was discovered by Albert Marth in London at the William Bishop Observatory on March 1, 1854.
Date observed: Thu., 30 Oct 2003 - 10:00pm EST
Visual magnitude: 9.3
Distance from earth: 138.5 million miles (1.49AU)
Opposition date (mag.): 28 Nov 2003 (8.8)
Equipment: 76mm refractor, TeleVue-76
Eyepieces: 22mm Nagler IV (22x), 8mm Radian (60x), 6mm Radian (80x)

In my quest for 5 asteroids before the New Year I went out tonight to view 29 Amphitrite from Central Park in NYC.

I chose a "dark" spot away from direct lights on a lawn near a small body of water called Turtle Pond. I started off on the wrong foot by choosing beta [Tauri] instead of iota Aurigae to start the star hop. This wasted 10 or so minutes until I realized the mistake. In the future this shouldn't happen with this specific star since iota Aur is an obviously red star.

After a 2-field star hop from iota Aur to an equilateral triangle of stars approx. 45' long centered on RA 4h40m / Dec 30.25° WSW of iota Aur I looked for Amphitrite to the right (north) of the triangle but wasn't able to see it with the 22mm Nagler T4 (22x) ... the background wasn't dark enough.

With the 8mm Radian a 9.7 mag star on the right side of the triangle was visible and using this star (TYC 2373-2192-1) and one of the stars in the base of the triangle (TYC 2374-592-1 - mag 8.0) it was fairly easy to fix the position where the asteroid should be.

The brightness of Amphitrite was within the limit of the scope and with the 8mm Radian (60x) it appeared about as dim as the 9.7 mag star. I was expecting it to be a bit brighter. Is there a way to check if the 9.7 mag star listed above is accurate?

It's always a thrill to locate another solar system object. I will still need to confirm the sighting which should be fairly easy since the asteroid hasn't reached opposition yet.

Thanks to all for contributing to this, and other forums dedicated to amateur astronomy.

Ben Cacace
Manhattan, NYC

6 Hebe

This was found on my hard drive. I can't find it posted on the web.
Location: Central Park's Turtle Pond
Date/time: 24 Jan 2004 10:15-11:50pm
Equipment: Televue-76 (f/6.3 76mm refractor)
• 22mm Nagler Type IV (22x)
• 8mm Radian (60x)
• 6mm Radian (80x)
Temperature: 11-10°F / wind chill near 0°F

I arrived at Turtle Pond at 10:45pm with the express purpose of observing a "life" asteroid — 6 Hebe. The asteroid is currently magnitude 8.9 about 16.5 minutes east of the star HR 2728 (Bright Star Catalog).

Tonight I brought a chair which helped since it allowed me to easily study each star field in the 22mm e/p. It was an easy 2 field hop from Gomeisa (beta Canis Minoris). At the last stop the asteroid was easily spotted east of HR 2728 since there are no stars in the area close the mag. of Hebe.

Studying the field and noting down all the stars seen I determined (after arriving home) that I was able to see a star down to mag 10.7 (TYC 770-1716-1). This is teaching me about the limits of a 76mm refractor in the midst of NYC's light pollution.

Observing at Turtle Pond without an LRS (light reduction system) in the form of a well placed towel is no longer possible for me knowing how well the skies look with at least one in place.

The big problem with the lights is glare in the eyepiece which makes it almost impossible to locate a "dim" object when moving the telescope. Two towels are great and three would phenomenal.

The location I was at tonight is surrounded by 3 lamp posts and is the place where the path leads to the ‘blind’ on Turtle Pond. I was able to see both beta Mon (mag. 4.6) and gamma Mon (mag. 4.0) naked eye even though I was looking towards the light pollution dome over Times Square.

Three people passed by who were interested in what I was doing in the cold and told them I was looking at an asteroid and asked it they wished to see Jupiter. Three times I placed Jupiter in the scope and the joy was apparent when they saw the planet. All four Galilean satellites were visible as were the equatorial bands. The latter weren't obvious to the observers until they were pointed out.

Relocating Hebe was easy after all that practice!

All the best.

Ben Cacace Manhattan, NYC

P.S. - other objects viewed: M41 open cluster in Canis Major and beta Monocerotis (triple star). Seeing wasn't the best but beta Mon split at 60x when the seeing settled down.

1 Ceres

From Yahoo! Group ‘GuildOfManhattanSidewalkAstronomers’ — message #3049.

Text related to Ceres preceded with double asterisk (**):
Location: Central Park's Great Lawn (north end)
Date/time: Fri-Sat, 8-9 April 2005 (~10:00p-4:00a)
Optics: 10x70 Fujinon binoculars - mounted

Tonight was first light for the new binoculars, a pair of 10x70 Fujinon's. This purchase was made after looking for a second pair of binoculars for nova hunting. These binoculars should reach 0.8 of a magnitude deeper than the 7x50's making the star patterns already created for the limiting magnitude of the 7x50's 'easy as pie'.

Peter and Charlie were already setup peering through a partly cloudy sky with binoculars (22x60 Tak and 15x50 Canon respectively). We moved from the well lit bench area to a darker location at the north end of the Great Lawn. The sky conditions progressed from poor to good to ultimately excellent sky conditions after midnight.

First light for the 10x70's was the bright open cluster M44 in Cancer. It was beautiful in the Fujinon's. The ability to see a bit deeper than the 7x50's even under the initially bad conditions was encouraging.

Most of the night's targets were shared amongst the group including this first light target. Soon after I moved to the nova search area I've been working on. The current area is in Monoceros and was already getting too low to do anything productive. A quick check of 3 asterisms showed that the 10x70's revealed what the 7x50's couldn't under the same circumstances. If I had the 7x50's I wouldn't have been able to get past magnitude 8.0 - 6-7 tenths worse than normal. With the new binoculars I could easily see to magnitude 8.6. My hope is to work on as many areas in one evening down to magnitude 8.5. The going was very slow with the 7x50's. The 10x70's should help the project along considerably.

Here is my recollection of the objects viewed by one or all of the group:

Globular clusters [8]: M13 & M92 in Hercules, M3 in Canes Venatici, M5 in Sepens, M10 & M12 in Ophichus, M53 in Coma Berenices, M22 in Sagittarius. Tried but not seen: M56 in Lyra and M4 in Scorpio.

Open clusters [7]: M44 in Cancer, M7 & M6 in Scorpio, M11 in Scutum, M29 in Cygnus, NGC 2244 & 2264 in Monoceros. Tried but not seen: M67 in Cancer.

Planetary nebulae [2]: Cat's Eye in Draco - NGC 6543, M57 in Lyra. Tried but not seen: M27 in Vulpecula.

Doubles [many]: including nu & psi Draconis, Albireo, nu & beta Scorpii, epsilon & zeta Lyrae and others.

Solar system [4]: Saturn, Jupiter, Comet Machholz and the asteroid Ceres.

The Gallilean satellites showed up nicely in the 22x60's and movement was noticed with at least 3 of the 4 moons. Europa moved out of the gas giant's shadow as Io approached Jupiter. Callisto and Ganymede were moving away from the planet with Callisto closest to Jupiter. Only Io was nearer to us than Jupiter. The 22x60's were able to view the whole show. The 10x70's couldn't separate the 3 close-in satellites from the glare of Jupiter.

(**) The asteroid Ceres at mag. 7.5 was picked up easily in the 10x70's and was conveniently close to a dimmer star just above it. Peter and I both noted the orientation after spending some time practice guessing the magnitudes of the dimmer stars. A few hours later I picked up Ceres again and both of us saw the asteroid's movement relative to the star it was closest to earlier in the evening. Ceres is about 4.5 degrees east of beta Librae (Zuben Elschemali) and moving towards the star.

In the 10x70's I star hopped to the location of Comet Machholz. When the correct star pattern was seen I blocked out the local lights and using averted vision a dim image above a dim star appeared. The same effect occurred over a few tries and appeared in the same location relative to a star close to the comet. This was a *very* dim image and I asked Peter to take a look and without prompting he picked up and saw the same dim image in the same location as I had. The comet has dimmed considerably since we last saw it a few weeks ago. I was not expecting to see it.

All the best.

Ben Cacace
Manhattan, NYC

4 Vesta

From Yahoo! Group ‘StarryNights’ — message #27265:
Asteroid: 4 Vesta
Observed: Friday, 30 Dec 2005 @ 8:45pm
Location: NE facing window in Manhattan, N.Y.C.
Visual magnitude: m6.47
Distance from earth: 1.563 AU (145.3 million miles)
Opposition date (mag.): 6 Jan 2006 (m6.21)
Equipment: Fujinon 10x70 binoculars
Discovery details: 4 Vesta an Inner Main Belt asteroid and is the 2nd most massive asteroid (12% by mass) discovered by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers on March 29, 1807

After spotting 4 Vesta last night I searched the archives for observations of Vesta in StarryNights and found that the last posted observations were by Florian in 2004 where he followed the asteroid with 10x42's.

Vesta will now have an entry for 2005.

The asteroid is bright at mag. 6.47 in the constellation Gemini. This was my first confident variable 'star' estimate. Without looking at the magnitudes of the nearby stars I judged Vesta to be as bright, no dimmer or brighter, than the nearby star HIP 34608 1.4° to Vesta's SW or due right around the time of the observation.

This star is listed at 6.43! We'll see how lucky this estimate was.

I wonder if anyone is currently able to view Vesta naked eye?

There is a short writeup with charts from 'Planetarium for the Palm' at my blog. or ...

The asteroid is moving west along the ecliptic at ~16 arcminutes per day. The date of opposition from the Sun is 6 Jan 2006.

All the best.

Ben Cacace
Manhattan, NYC