Quite an untimely one, with a 22% moon still shining down in the evening.. But the prevailing weather and the for-once positive forecast was just about too irresistable to make a trip to Hosahalli.
So, Hemant, I, Amar, Satya, Ram and Harshad set off to Hosahalli amidst minor hassles which delayed us atleast a couple of hours from our stipulated departure time… But we did leave, finally and with a sudden flurry of clouds creating badly overcast skies over Bangalore and giving us a minor scare.
The bumpy road to Hosahalli did it’s bit to delay us ..and when we did finally reach there, it was about 11PM by the time we could set things up. The scopes that were carried along were Hemant’s 12″ F/4.5 Dob and 6″ f/8 Vixen driven GOTO. The skies were crystal clear and better than magnitude 6 although there was an annoying background glow.
The milky way extending through Cygnus, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Gemini, Orion, Canis Major was very thick. Orion appeared in full glory as always and the pattern outstood the eastern horizon. Andromeda galaxy was visible to the naked eye easily and was quite a sight through Binoculars. Triangulum galaxy appeared brighter and bigger than usaul in Binoculars. In the meanwhile, it was close to 11PM by the time we could set up our equipment and head to dinner.
The cassiopeia region holding a bunch of easy open clusters was done with. NGC 129, M52, M103 , and the other tinier opens were finished off. H and Chi double cluster in perseus appeared with it’s usaul jewel like charm and was as thrilling as always. Andromeda galaxy almost filled the entire field in a 32mm plossl but divulged no features unfortunately. Also targeted at around the same time were – NGC 253, The sculptor galaxy which was again a sensation with 12″s of aperture. M79 globular in lepus was completely resolved at high power. We also had peeks at other misc clusters like M41 in Canis Major, M35 in Gemini, M37, M36, and other clusters in Auriga. Crab Nebula and the little dumbbell also divulged far more details than we’ve got to see until now.
Orion Nebula was undoubtedly the highlight of the night.. The dark wisps and randomly strewn around nebulosity was as good as any aesthetic potrait.. At around the same time, we gave an attempt to do something out of the world.. To pick out the B 33 – the dark barnard cloud within the Flame Nebula… or more famously referred to as the horsehead. IC 436 – the flame nebula was obvious when the glare of Alnitak was blocked .. and one could feel a dark speck in the field at distinctly about the limit of visibility. Neither of us were totally sure, but since what was observed by both hemant and I came into reasonable agreement.. we might as well conclude that we’ve been succesful in pulling off one of the most ultimate feats for any amateur astronomer ! The endeavour to “observe” the horsehead has been finally fulfilled !
Also given a peep around the same time were the Eskimo Nebula – which appeared no bigger than the ring and revealed no further details at low power. Somehow, none of us insisted on having a peek at it at higher power. Bode’s Nebula and Cigar galaxy in Ursa Major appeared as in the photographs… and I could distinctly feel about two spiral arms extending from Bode’s galaxy.
Observations of saturn followed – The cassini division was resolved easily at high power and atleast 4 moons could be made out… Titan being the easiest of all. Cloud bands on saturns disk could be made out easily..and was quite as good in the photographs. The Leo triplet of galaxies, The every day Beehive cluster and M67 in cancer were given peeks at too.
Hereinafter, it was the much fainter genre of deep sky objects.. Quite a few galaxies and many of them as faint as mag 11 and above were seen easily. The Eridanus-Fornax cluster of galaxies revealed atleast 6 galaxies in all to majority of the people.. and much to manifest the power of aperture !
Quite a bit fo wide-field photography carried out as well. The vixen-driven scope was only approximately polar aligned.. but hereagain.. the useful accesory in the polar finderscope made it align the scope to the polar axis accurate enough to suit piggyback photography without the requirement of precise drift alignment. A couple of the exposures done lasted well over twenty minuted and required no correction.. The guide star being monitored at close to 100x hardly budged !.. Results are eagerly awaited.
We would be pretty much sure of good results for it had not been for the dew factor. The dew was bad and set in almost by midnight badly wetting up the optics. This has always been prevalent in this time of the year and we need to find a way to get past it.
Just hoping to see these skies hold up as clear as it was until the Dec-14th Geminids.