University Lowbrow Astronomers

Observat’n Resolution ‘08—Follow up Report, Part Une.

by Christopher Sarnecki
Printed in Reflections: June, 2008.

In the February Newsletter I proposed an observing challenge list dubbed Observat’n Resolution ‘08 (see “Observat’n Resolution ‘08.” by Christopher Sarnecki, February, 2008.) Since the first half of the list favored the winter/spring constellations of Canis Major, Leo, and Virgo, I thought its time to report progress (or lack of...) on my efforts so far. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive in starting this list. Could I find and actually see these objects? Staring with Sirius B, let’s find out.

Name/Cat No.Mag SizeCoordinates—RA/DecConstellation
Sirius B806h45m/-16d43’Canis Major
As indicated this 8th mag white dwarf is the companion to the brightest star in the sky, the -1.4 mag Sirius. This year the separation begins at 8.2” and ends the year at 8.6”. Remember that last separation. I attempted splitting this famous pair with the 8-inch, f6. I also experimented with a hexagonal shaped mask (as mentioned in the Sky & Telescope’s February issue) and an offset clear aperture mask. The hexagon shaped mask really just created more diffraction spikes to the four created by the 4-vanned spider. I used high power, but unfortunately, I waited till Sirius was past highest culmination in the southern sky. Poor seeing didn’t help, and sadly I didn’t split this one. Something tells me I am going to pay with some late night (early morning actually) cold weather observing late in the year if I am going to bag this one this year when it comes around again.
Davy Crater Chain45 Km.11.S lat. 7W long.Moon

A string of 2 dozen, 1-2 Km wide craterletts just north and east of the famous crater Alphonsus. This was the first object I bagged on the observing list, and did it with the 8-inch, f6 at medium power.

Look for this object 1 day past a first quarter Moon. Not as easily observable as I expected. Three of the larger craterletts were seen on a long whitish streak at the predicted location. Wouldn’t mind seeing this object in a larger scope.

Leo I1010’ 10h08m/12d18’Leo
The dwarf galaxy Leo I’s low surface brightness is famous and proved to be a challenge. I used a chart off the Skyhound’s March web site (http://www.skyhound.com/sh/skyhound.html) for referencing the star field just north of the bright star Regulus. Keeping Regulus outside the FOV, and using the faint stars as a reference for locating Leo I, I was able to ‘see’ this galaxy. Not a faint smudge, but viewed only as a slight brightening of the background sky, this ‘nothing’ galaxy is much less apparent than the other local dwarf, Barnard’s Galaxy.
Intermission
Just in time for Summer, three fine IPAs...
High Seas IPA, Michigan Brewery Company, Webberville, Mi.—Hoppyness at arm’s length, fruity nose, and a nice dry aftertaste. Mummmm!
Snake Dog IPA, Flying Dog Brewery, Denver, Co.—Tasty sweet hoppy goodness with a nice warm ending.
Double Crooked Tree IPA, Dark Horse Brewery Company, Marshall, Mi.—Defiantly the scariest looking beer I have ever drank due to the 1/2-inch of dead yeasties in the bottom of the bottle. Thick fruity nose on this one. One intriguing and complex brew. Not for the faint hearted.
3C273 11.7-13.2 12H26M/02^19’ Virgo
Many of us have heard that it is possible to observe this the brightest Quasar. At a whopping almost 2 billion light years away, sighting quasar 3C 273 has been on my to do list for some time. The map in Sky & Telescope’s May 2005, (page 83) provided to be an excellent tool for locating this faint star. While I used the 18-inch, f4.5 to see this, I know it is observable in smaller scopes. I intent to try this one in the 8-inch. If I don’t see the quasar, at least I’ll get the satisfaction of locating the star field. I encourage Lowbrows to attempt this object in medium size scopes. May 25th, just after a small front pasted through, I nailed this quasar in the 8-inch! Must be at 12 mag instead of 13 mag as I was unable to see a 13.5 mag star right next to the quasar (well it is only an 8-inch).
Wolf 35913.710h54m/07^19’Leo
Wolf 359 is a Red Dwarf and the third closest known star (after the Alpha Centauri system and Bernard’s star) at 7.75 LY distant. As indicated in my previous article, this red dwarf is one of the smallest stars known, at about 10% the mass of the Sun and about the size of Jupiter according to Burnham’s Celestial Handbook. I used a 1959 hand drawn map from Burnham’s Celestial Handbook to help find this faint star. Wolf 359 has a large proper motion of almost 5 arcseconds per year in Position Angle of 225, so I had to make some adjustments to the map to locate the right spot. So how do I know I saw it? Good question. I did see the star where the modified map indicated it should be, and didn’t see a star where it was drawn in 1959. Wouldn’t it be nice if all these objects in space had tags on them like they do on our star atlases and maps?

 

Still on the original observing list are extra-galactic globular clusters NGC 1049, in the Fornax galaxy; and, Abell 39, the spherical globular cluster in Hercules. Challenge objects remaining are Polarissima Borealis, the diminutive 13 mag galaxy within one degree of Polaris; extra-galactic globular clusters G1 in the Andromeda galaxy; and M87’s relativistic plasma jet (OK, I’m dreaming on this last one). Still have to split that pesky Sirius B. I’ll defiantly report back later in the year on how well I fared on the second half of this Obervat’n list.

Chris

Chris Sarnecki

Seen here trying to hide those glassy eyes after too many glasses of those IPA’s.

Chris has been a long time member of the University Lowbrow Astronomers and a highly accomplished observer in his own right.

When not sampling strange brews, Chris likes to push his observing skills and scopes to their limits. If you see Chris out observing... wander on by, he always has something interesting to see and generally a lot of info about the object.

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