70 + objects in one night – an unexpected meteor shower – The most amazing northern milky way ever – Skies that were near ideal – A meet that was totally unexpected , un-coordinated , disorganised and almost called off – turning out to be the time of our lives.
So – Amar and I had planned to go for this observation session ..irrespective of how the skies looked…and so we did .. Ravindra – supposed to be joining us at Doddaballapur gave us the slip ( I was supposed to come with him )…Amar got stranded in doddaballapur and the event was on the verge of anarchy and chaos …So I decided to take the initiative…Took a bus to doddaballapur and reached their at 6:30PM roundabouts..only to be greeted by a sullen amar who was but all ready to return home .. After not much convincing .. we took the bus to Hosahalli village and reached there at 8PM roundabouts…the only gear we had being my 10X50 binoculars..we weren’t sure of ravindra and co making it .. nor were we sure of getting the school’s 8″ Instrument …But destiny awaited us … We had clear skies – of utmost importance ..and we managed to get the scope too …But alas ! a scope without the focusser..we had an eyepiece and no focusser..again destiny awaited us ..we were destined to have a succesful meet.. we called up the headmaster and finally found the focusser…all set to begin !
Starting off ..It was the ring nebula in Lyra – What better depiction of a smoke ring …and in the sky … My first sight of the planerary nebula from a dark location …and it was absolutely mind-blowing …. This was in the midst of a futile comet hunt – 177P Barnard in Hercules close to the star Beta Draco …all our efforts going in vain.. But there was too much left to do to be dissapointed.. Pointing to M27 – The dumb bell nebula … This was a sight which shocked amar as well … Nothing like it .. The dumbbell was the undisputed highlight of the night … Shockingly bright and obvious shape …A little time off to point the scope to the clusters in Scorpius and a couple in saggitarius ..before we had anytime to point it to the globulars M13 and M92 in Hercules …Again absolutely everything was at its best .. The cluster in M8 was probably the only one that dissapointed us ..Haze creeping in toward the southern sky just about then.
But what really struck us when we reached the place was the Milky Way …Absolutely nothing like it … In full glory at 830 PM …starting from cygnus and ending at the tail of scorpius …The dark rift was so so obvious..A pity that the southern milkyway bulge at saggitarius wasn’t as good as we could’ve got ..But the northern milkyway was the BEST we had ever seen … Amar will come to some agreement too. Amidst all these were meteors streaking about aimlessely …from around Deneb and parts of the sky random …
By this time – we had the Andromeda galaxy – M31 up well above the horizon …the initial peek with the binoculars itself suggested that tonight was special …And so it was .. M31 was in its full glory – stretching well across our telescope field of view…appearing like a little milk chocolate… But today was special .. About half a frame to the top left of M31 was the companion M32 – appearing as a beautiful speck of light ….Also caught a peek at M110 – the fainter companion of the two..
By this time – Ravindra , Narendra , Harshad and Preethi had arrived …A little word about Ravindra’s binoculars people .. It is the most amazing bargain you’ll ever get for 100$ .. a 3.2″ Refractor on an alt-az mount (The tripod..lol ) as he calls it .. It is a monstrosity .. If you can get one of these…you could probably do all the Messiers around.. The only deficit being that it’s too heavy for doing any hand-held viewing ..Just the fact that it could capture M31 , M32 and M110 – all in one field…says it all..
A good 30 minutes past this was when we witnessed something really eventful.. I had by then already caught about 15 meteors.. But this one was special .. Shot out from somwhere in Capricornus ? ..And ended about 20 degrees to the northwest of Cassipeia.. I actually had enough time to alarm the rest of the people to have a look at this one ..and the response was a “wowwwwww” .. Harshad and ravindra had a few streakers whizzing across their binoculars as well.
By this time .. Amar was bitten by the galaxy bug …and there seemed to be no way we could get any scope time for ourselves…No complaining..Amar’s just a total prodigy pointing it to these galaxies …and we could only oblige happily to have a peek at some of these horrifyingly faint objects and appreciate amar’s expertise with these genre of deep sky.
Me and ravindra point the instrument to about a degree right of Deneb and this was another highlight of the night… NGC7000 …To all the people that are under the misconception that this thing cant be sighted without a broadband / UHC filter… Get over it… All it needs is dark skies and proper equipment..THe nebulosity was faint but notiecable..Spreading across the full field of view of the scope that was filled with stars.. Highlight # 3 of the night .. A pity that amar was too involved with other things to get a look of this ..
The time was nearing 2PM and Amar was at his nocturnal best .. Had let us way behind – in terms of telescope access time …And there we were sighting galaxies in the southern sky. At the east we had rising – Perseus , The pleiades , Hyades …Orion following shortly ..And Eridanus in the southern sky.. More galaxies until we were left totally awed by some of these real faint ones..
It was roundabout this time when Amar pointed the scope to the “6 in a frame” galaxy cluster in Eridanus-Fornax… This was something mind-blowing…again ..with our less experienced eyes.. we could make out about 4 in there…amar was sure of 6 and probably hallucinating about #7 and #8.. ..Spare a mention about the Helix Nebula ..In full glory and brightness…Faint but beautiful ..
We nearly lost count of all the galaxies – Atleast a good 25+ of this genre itself…Most of them being the faint ones of the NGC catalogs.. Little peeks at H and Chi – double cluster in perseus …browsing around randomly around the star-rich cassiopeia region ..where everything seemed like an open cluster.. And finally more peeks at Andromeda galaxy and Pegasus – Which was about zenith then … Andromeda Galaxy was just beyond words..amazing is the least I can say .. Peeks at Pleiades revealing obvious nebulosity ..and peering right through Hyades in Taurus.. It was stars galore – and the stars of the stars – the Orion – Canis Major following the proceedings that were happening .
Time – 4AM – and amar had showed us enough galaxies by now to lose count … I managed to get the scope for a while and do something by myself before amar was at it again .. Pointed it to the clusters in Auriga .. M38 , M37 and M36 .. all were a sight to watch …and probably a bright NGC somewhere in between Alnath and Capella…
Amar kept himself busy with the galaxies while we did far simpler things .. The orion nebula , Pleiades and some photography.. Amar doing the observing while the rest were asleep and Myself- Ravindra playing the photographers… We got decent shots of Orion , Pleiades and Venus , Gemini and more..My meteor count had by now – crossed 40..What an eventful night..
Follwing were the objects Viewed by us yesterday…Compiling everyone’s individual counts ..
DOUBLE CLUSTER (H AND CHI PERSEI)
NGC 404 **
NGC 247 **
NGC 134 **
NGC 289 **
NGC 1404 **
NGC 1399 **
NGC 1387 **
NGC 1379 **
NGC 1381 **
NGC 1374 **
NGC 1380 **
NGC 1371 **
NGC 1385 **
NGC 1395 **
NGC 1232 **
That was a lot …and in one night .. My Deep sky objects count – which has been static at 50 or roundabouts for a good 2-3 years.. ( Clusters mainly ).. Has in a single go…shot up well past 100.. What better for rejuvenating some observation-enthusiasm in someone like me …and the other rookies in there…
A cygnus milkyway thats almost permanently imprinted in my eyes ( Ive been daydreaming )… NGC 7000 , Dumbbell Nebula , Helix nebula , The Eridanus-Fornax galaxies , And above all ..40 meteors…Thursday – 24th August 06 – Hosahalli – was one of the most eventful days of my life.
Packing up at 6AM , a quick photo shootout for ourselves – Courtesy of ravindra’s camera..and a bumpy ride back home on the horribly dented and cratered road to Bangalore.. Probably the metoer shower added to the road’s pathetic condition..
Some astrophotography – By myself and ravindra ..Please do check our pics and leave us some feedback.
You can find the rest of our photos here.
PS :- Don’t curse me for not calling you ..This was totally totally out of the blue .. Next time we’re having on of these..I’ll make sure I’ll give you all a little notice.
A special word of thanks to the folks at Hosahalli School where we camped .. If not for them .. We couldn’t have done half of what we have…A big big thankyou …We’re very grateful for the telescope.