Astro Log: August 15th, 2012

Equipment: 16” Dobsonian, 55mm, 12mm Tele Vue eyepieces.

New objects observed: Basel 1, NGC 6704, NGC 6712, IC 4665, Collinder 350

Previously viewed objects observed: Messier 11 (Wild Duck Cluster), NGC 7331, Messier 31, Messier 32

The main task this night was looking around for that interesting asterism I remembered seeing a long time ago. I think it’s in the neighborhood of the Wild Duck Cluster, and if so I think I have indeed found it again. I need to look at it with my 6” telescope though; I have a feeling it was smaller and more exquisite looking, but it might look more like that in that telescope. Oddly enough, it may be an asterism that’s more attractive with a smaller telescope in a light polluted area, but we’ll see.

The new objects were, with the exception of NGC 6712, all open clusters. Not sure how that managed to work out, since I don’t usually look for those, but somehow it did. I’ve started seeking out more NGC objects since I’ve seen nearly all the Messier objects now (and the ones I can’t aren’t in the sky right now). Still, there are a lot of open clusters, and they seemed to be what was mostly out that I was coming across. Sometimes they’re even interesting. I did see a fairly impressive meteor too.

I did notice a strange thing though last night. It was a really clear night for once around here, probably some of the best skies I’ve seen in Tacoma. There was some smog action from what I could tell in the evening, but such is life. While I was observing, though, I looked up and noticed that there seemed to be some light, high clouds in the sky. I’ve had this happen a few times where I went out on a clear night, only to see really high clouds. Cursing fate, I’d go back inside and bag it for the night.

This night, though, I realized that the clouds had a location awfully similar where the Milky Way is, and that these clouds were definitely more visible with averted vision. I decided to look at my star chart, and sure enough, the extremely faint clouds I was seeing appeared to be the Milky Way. They were in the right spot, with the dark patches in the right location. The Milky Way was, of course, extremely faint; the only reason I could tell it was there was because I knew it was there and knew what to look for, but I was definitely seeing it.

Still, pretty cool. It turns out that you can see the Milky Way on very good nights in Tacoma, if you know what you’re doing. This is good to know so I don’t prematurely end observing sessions when it’s actually a very good night for it.

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