This was the period when our newly formed group under the brand name TCX (The Celestial eXplorers) had managed to conduct it’s first star-party, or a big get-together under a dark sky, a party under the stars, hence the name. The date was 25th of February earlier this year, 2006. Our group was a compact and quite a small one. So this time a total of 13 of us (the biggest number ever) had gone for observation to our northern location, Hosahalli. This time we decided to go slightly further from our previous location, the Government High School, as we didn’t want to be disturbing the authorities by our excitement and shouting all through the night!! So we decided to wander around 2-3 km ahead and found an open field, a good place to camp in for a big number. It was winter skies, hence we knew for sure about the clarity of the weather and there was just nothing to worry about. We had Sridhar’s 4.5″ Celestron and Sathya’s 6″ equatorial with us. It was not very cloudy (thin haze everywhere) in the evenings and this had to happen ONLY on the day we went. It was a general observing session in the night with not many objects because the sky was lighted up from reflection of city lights by the clouds. As a result of getting together everyone enjoyed their time away enjoying as it suited them best. Mostly all of them were away from the telescope and made use of the crowd factor, got in groups and laughed, joked, whiled all their time away. And they did observing too in between, having a slight peek at whatever I showed or they could find. But I kept away from these group-activities, and spent every precious moment wanting to see new objects, as I always do. Each object seen will help my count go further, which’s an important criteria in my observing career, I want to see as many objects with the small telescopes (mostly 8″) we use. But shockingly enough to me, I got slightly lethargic under the fantastic skies and decided to rest!! But after 3 am or so when I fortunately got up and became active the session went in full-force. Looking at the sky-quality I decided to wake everyone up, irrespective if they were tired or not, or in mood to observe or not. I mainly concentrated for the globulars in the sky and other general objects. We also saw the Comet C/2006 A1 (Pojmanski) for the first time which was bright enough to be seen with the binoculars shining at somewhere between 5-6 magnitude, of course it was pointed and shown by me to the group as no one had known about it’s whereabouts. Irresponsibly, I hadn’t made and taken a finder chart for this object with me this time and just from memory I found it, very fortunately. This was at around 4 am or so, low in the eastern horizon, in medium light-pollution. At the first glance it was a breath-taking view, a bright coma, somewhat radiating light. This object resembled a bright globular cluster. Fantastic for how a comet should be. It was not exactly like the past (only) 3 bigger and bright binocular level ones I had seen in 2004 and 2005. But it showed signs of some thin haze going towards the west. That had to be the tail. It was very thin, dim and merged into the sky color after some distance. I also attempted for the planetary nebula (NGC 2438) in the open Messier cluster M46. Tried a lot but without success.
Everyone was having a gala time during late night, listening to music, joking and laughing, and just being together. Some had a round of sleep at late night. As mentioned earlier, so did I. Then I decided to get up as it was around 3 am and we didn’t want to be sleeping all the time there, because we hadn’t come for that. Also the sky was looking tempting through the car window. We were sleeping in two cars. After getting up and coming out I decided to wake everyone up. After looking up, the sky after midnight was…..whew !! Sagittarius Milky Way was…!!! There are no words for it, so I won’t be able to explain it in more detail. Also another factor for the splendour and glory was the fact that our eyes were totally dark-adapted as we were sleeping for quite some time in a car, with all dark surroundings. Our eyes were closed and hence no exposure to any bright light. It was the BEST and the THICKEST ever !! This time and for the first time we could see the ENTIRE extent of the Milky Way whatever there is. And the dark central regions/rifts passing through the length of the band dividing it into two halves, was just as clear as in any long exposure photograph. Fantastic view after a long time!!
The following is the list of my new objects :
1) Pojmanski Comet (quite a meaningless fuzzy object looking like M28 but with slight hints of the very dim tail pointing towards the west. The comet wasn’t visible even with the 10×50 Olympus binoculars, just no sign of it ! Nor had I noted the position of it from the sky chart. Just had to push the telescope to the right side from the star Beta Capricornis. Also saw it under slight twilight but then it appeared as a bright white object as if radiating light. No blue color seen as mentioned in the few internet sources)
2) M53 (globular – Coma)
3) M54 (globular – Sagittarius)
4) M55 (globular – Sagittarius)
5) M9 (globular – Ophiuchus)
6) NGC 6638 (globular – Sagittarius)
7) NGC 6624 (globular – Sagittarius)
8 ) NGC 6541 (globular – Corona Australis)
9) NGC 2808 (globular – Carina)
10) NGC 3201 (globular – Vela)
11) NGC 6388 (globular – Scorpius)
12) NGC 5286 (globular – Centaurus)
And the following objects are old in the list but were special:
1) M101 – Galaxy visible very dimly with binocular but with the instrument visible as a big round haze
2) M57 (Ring Nebula) – Appeared bigger than normal, central hole quite easily visible. Appears always to me as a smoke-ring first and then also as a bubble next
3) M51 (Whirlpool galaxy) – For the first time I saw it with binocular as a very small and hazy spot. It was truly faint with the binocs. And it’s companion and it were wonderful with even the 4″ Celestron. Nucleus of both the colliding galaxies could be made out as points of stars with the 4″ Celestron
4) OMEGA CENTAURI – Incomparable !! It looked like a sparkling jewel, nothing else.
5) CENTAURUS A – Nothing but a point of light with a very slight haze around it. But quite easy with binocular and in the same field of a binocular as Omega Centauri.
6) M83 – Visible as a hazy spot with binocular and surely showed something more than round shape, but
I don’t know what, probably the spiral feature
We had a fantastic get-together this time, something which is not easy for our small group to manage always because of difference in everyone’s schedule. Finally, this day we really managed to get our first-ever star-party running, and quite successfully. I’m sure our group will remember this moment always. And hoping that we have such delightful moments to come unlimited times in the future too…
Taken from my webpage’s Diary section at:
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