Observing report for 13 October 2002

Location/Conditions

Gear

Objects

Epsilon Lyrae, M27, M57, NGC 6760, NGC 6830, NGC 6866, Saturn

Report

In contrast to some recent threads [on SAA], I'm trying not to go out everytime I have the chance now that I'm back into regular observing. Besides, I have to load up the car and go somewhere to observe. But, I decided to go out for a short session and see if I could fight the Moon a little. So far, this is the best nearby foothills location I've found, at a large parking and picnic area a 25 minute drive from my apartment (including about 8 miles of steep, winding road that is a test piece for local recreational cyclists). Technically, it's only available from 4am-9pm, but I would consider going later than 9pm in an "emergency".

I could see the Milky Way pretty good, and the naked-eye limiting magnitude was around 5.0 well away from the Moon even though it was just past First Quarter. I decided to try to bag a few Herschel 400 open clusters due to the poor observing conditions. I kind of made it even harder by picking ones off to the southwest, which weren't so far from the Moon.

First, I pointed the scope at a few well-known objects. I tried to split the double-double at 98x and couldn't, although I didn't try very hard to wait for momentarily "perfect" conditions. The seeing really wasn't very good and the OTA wasn't cooled down yet. While I was in the neighborhood, I took a quick look at M57, which looked pretty nice considering the conditions.

The first real object was to be NGC 6755, but I never got there. The 6x30 finder is about useless because it's so hard to keep aligned and doesn't have that much more of a FOV than my 32mm Plossl. I plan to have a 1x "red dot" finder of some sort by next New Moon. Anyway, it was just so awkward to try to get there that I aborted the star hop so I wouldn't spend the whole session on it. But, I was able to see the 9th magnitude globular NGC 6760! I really wasn't expecting to get it because I didn't know how "bright" it was. It was just barely there in both the 32mm and 12.5mm as a 1-2 arcmin fuzzball. It's not even on the Herschel II list, so I did it for nothing! ;)

I moved over to Uranometria 2000 chart 162, which has the arrow of Sagitta, the Coathanger, the Dumbbell, and NGC 6830. I happened to get the Coathanger in the finder, so I decided to try for the small, faint open cluster NGC 6802. My two sources have this as one of the smallest and faintest OC's on the H400 list. I wasn't surprised that I couldn't see it only 30 degrees off the deck, and 50 degrees from a (just) gibbous Moon. I forgot my eyepatch, too. I went up to the Dumbbell, and as usual, wasn't impressed. Granted, I've never seen this thing with a large telescope under dark skies, but it has yet to really grab me since the first time I saw its shape with a 60mm refractor. Maybe a filter would help.

Anyway, I was easily able to find NGC 6830, just 8 minutes of RA west of the Dumbbell. There seemed to be about 20-25 stars irregularly scattered over about 10 arcmin. 98x was too much magnification and didn't seem to bring out many fainter members.

From there, I moved up to Cygnus and got NGC 6866, in Cygnus' right wing (assuming that we are looking from below ;). This also seemed to be about 10 arcmin with about 20-25 obvious stars. However, at 98x it seemed like there was some mottling, maybe indicating more faint stars in the field. Also, I noticed that it seemed like there may have been small extensions to the cluster in several direction for about 5 arcmin. But, those might not have been members.

That was pretty much it. I did take a quick look at Saturn, but it was still fairly low in the muck over Boulder/Denver. The image wasn't very crisp even at 98x. From memory, I can verify that I saw Titan and Rhea, but I don't remember where the one or two other possible moons I glimpsed were. It was 9pm by this point and the wind had started to pick up, bringing a genuine chill from the 25F air.


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