Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Central Park: 1st Night Observing 9-Nov

The astronomy season has just begun! At soon as ‘Daylight Saving Time’ ends my ability to go birding after work ends also.

The astronomy season seems to kick in as the ‘Cheshire Cat’ asterism is seen rising face up in Auriga. Since Central Park is where I do most of my observing this is where I wound up on Thursday night.

All of ‘team’ TotL eventually arrived at the ‘Top of the Lawn’. I arrived a bit early at 7:30p followed by Charlie, Peter and then Kin. We were fortunate enough to have clear skies for the entire session.

The air was a bit moist but not too saturated. Objects sitting out in the open didn't moisten up too badly. On a bad night an unpacked book will expand like a wet sponge.

A number of objects were observed over the course of the night. One of the first was an asteroid Charlie picked up with his tripod mounted 15x50 Canon IS binoculars. I didn't sketch the field but did display the object and the surrounding stars on the PDA program ‘Planetarium’.

An almost straight line was formed by two stars (HIP 15552 & HIP 15380) below the asteroid with a dimmer star (HIP 15181) just above Iris. Iris was bright at mag. 6.9 and I will definitely check it out next time I'm out with the Televue-76. The time of the observation was around 9pm.

I get a kick out of spotting and confirming minor planets. So far I've seen and confirmed 6 asteroids. If you have the time after finishing this post here's a write-up of these observations which doesn't include 7 Iris yet.

A couple from New Zealand were walking a dog and stopped by to talk and to take a look through the telescopes. They enjoyed the three standard showpieces of the night — the Double Cluster in Perseus, the Pleiades and the Moon.

During their visit Peter was observing a distant open cluster in the Tak-102. I didn't note down which one he had but the New Zealander's noted the hazy appearance of the grouping. It was a nice view in the 4" refractor.

I didn't catch the names of the Kiwi's but the woman had just run the N.Y.C. Marathon. This was the reason they came to the U.S. Because of this I was surprised to see they were walking a dog. Was it their dog? No! Dog sitting was part of the deal while renting the apartment. Luckily it was a good one, the dog that is. It didn't treat our equipment rudely.

Shortly after this we had a first time visit from ‘Tammy with the Lights in her Hair’. She stuck around for a bit. She arrived via bicycle and had passed team TotL many times in the past but never stopped to take a peek through the optics. She thoroughly enjoyed the views of the standard three and she and Peter got to witness the lone meteor of the night moving away from M45 heading north.

I noticed that the heat from the lights in Tammy's hair created a warm cloud of aroma that temporarily engulfed Peter. All I could remember after this encounter was that he kept talking about mountains and flowers. Go figure! ;-D

You can read Peter's full report on his blog.

During the flowers and mountains discussion I was deep into locating a multiple star in Auriga. I made nice use of a black towel that's used to protect the Televue-76. The towel blocked out the surrounding lights and also allowed me to keep my left eye open while viewing with the right one. This was a tremendous help.

The star in question was omega Aurigae a.k.a. 4 ω Aurigae or STF 616. Locating it was easy enough since it is close to the short side of ‘The Kids’ in Auriga. A short hop to a 21 arc minute wide ‘double’ (6 & 5 Aur) points the way to 4 Aur which is the apex of a 2° long isosceles triangle. Check out this chart for a quick star hop to omega Aurigae.

I spent some time on the surrounding field to test how deep I could see with the 22mm and the 12mm eyepieces. Both are Nagler Type IVs with a generous 82° apparent field of view — 3.7° & 2.0° true FOV respectively. The magnifications are 22x and 40x. After spending a few minutes viewing with these eyepieces I was able to see stars down to mag. 9.9 with the 22mm. With the 12mm stars to mag. 10.8 were visible.

While studying the star field I noticed a group of people gathering around. The double star field couldn't be that exciting for first timers so I interrupted the session to show the Moon to this group of four young girls. They truly enjoyed the view of the nearly 19 day old Moon at 40x.

After this I returned to omega Aurigae viewing it with the 6mm Radian. At 80x the dimmer companion was sitting practically on the lone diffraction ring created by the primary. The secondary appeared blue to me and Peter saw it the same way. I've read that some see the secondary as red but this wasn't apparent in the TV-76 at 80x. I'm sure we'll get to see this star in the Tak-102 in the future. The separation of the components is 4.7 arc seconds (WDS 2004) and the magnitudes are 5.0 and 8.2.

Overall it was a satisfying night out with a great group of amateur astronomers at the ‘Top of the Lawn’. Sharing conversation and views with the public is a highly recommended way to spend a Fall evening.


• Here's a photo of the group taken by Kin and posted on Peter's blog.
• Check out Charlie's report for the night here.


Andrew said...

Hi Ben,
It sounds like a good time was had by all!.

Donegal Browne said...

Sorry I missed it. Go,Ben!

Ben C. said...


It *was* a nice night out! I see you are surrounded by quite a bit fresh water up in Laconia, NH.


Thanks for stopping by. We are the Top of the Lawn on many clear nights so stop by if you can.

Same to you Andrew!

Andrew said...

LOTS of fresh water!.Unfortunately,we have had a lot in droplet form in the past year also.As you know,that doesn't make for very good observing.