Astro Log: August 24th, 2012 - Beginning the Herschel 400

Equipment: 16” Dobsonian, 55mm, 12mm Tele Vue eyepieces. No ParaCorr this evening. OIII filter.

New objects observed: NGC 129, NGC 136, NGC 225, NGC 436, NGC 637, NGC 663, NGC 659, NGC 381, NGC 1501, NGC 1502

Previously viewed objects: NGC 457, NGC 869, NGC 884

Since I only have seven Messier objects left to observe, and none of them are in the sky right now, I’ve started working on the Herschel 400. I knew that many of these objects would be very hard to see here at home, so I decided to do something a little different this evening. Usually with the Dob I’ve been using a ParaCorr to reduce coma, but I thought I’d try not using it when looking for these really tough objects. I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make, but I suspect that with objects that will be this hard to see from the city as a lot of these Herschel 400 objects will be, anything will help.

Mostly I worked at the beginning of the list, and mostly in the neighborhood of Cassiopeia. I ended up mainly looking at open clusters, and one planetary nebula, both because that’s what’s in that general area and because many of the galaxies on the Herschel 400 are going to be really hard here in the city. Some of them will be doable, but a lot of them I think will require going further afield. Of course, then they’ll be much easier indeed - a lot of these galaxies are 9th to 10th magnitude, and the last time I was at Sunrise I was able to see the much dimmer Stephan’s Quintet and Maffei 1. I did try for a couple of the galaxies on the list around there, but came up short. The sky wasn’t transparent enough, and there was just too much light pollution.

Open clusters are my least favorite kind of deep sky object, but I’ll still look for them for completing the Herschel 400 list, both for completeness and because every once in a while one will be reasonably attractive. Sometimes they can be very interesting, but often I find myself wondering how on earth anyone managed to tell that they were a cluster of stars. A non-zero number of these open clusters don’t look particularly cluster-like to me, although that might be from the overwhelming light pollution here.

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