The weather as of late has not been conducive to stargazing, but a few windows did open in the rainy, cloudy and sometimes cold winter weather that is the norm for the Gulf Coast. During these periods I simply roll my telescopes into the driveway and observe what I can, despite the light pollution in my city. While that means most galaxies are impossible to observe, I can see a surprising number of star clusters, planetary nebulae and most of the Messier objects. The moon, planets and double stars do not require dark skies to see well. When the moon is up, I concentrate more on them than on deep sky objects. I was planning to observe from the airstrip last weekend but high winds and generally feeling unwell made going there not worth the effort to brave the cold. However, I did acquire an ultra-wide angle 24mm eyepiece for deep sky objects that have a large apparent size and had the opportunity to try it on some of the sky's most spectacular sights. Then I was in a position to see a rare conjunction of two planets where they approached each other closely enough to see both of them through a medium power eyepiece at the same time. Along the way I observed and sketched objects I've either never seen before nor sketched since the last time I observed them.
When I was not looking at M-42 with my new 24mm ultra-wide angle eyepiece, I was trying it out on other large objects such as the Double Cluster, the Andromeda Galaxy, M-81 and M-82 and the Messier open clusters M-35, 36, 37 and 38. In every case stars will pinpoints to the edge, thanks to it's excellent correction and the use of a coma corrector. I cannot look through it without my eyeglasses, but that turned out to be uneccessary since when I look straight into the eyepiece stars turned into pinpoints to the edge. The Double Cluster fit into the field of view through the 15-inch with plenty of space to spare, and through the 10-inch open clusters such as the after mentioned Messier objects were magnificent. Star colors were clearly apparent and the sky background was almost velvet black, evidently flare is almost non-existent and contrast is very high. When looking at M-38 through the 10-inch, the little open cluster NGC-1907 which lies next to the larger cluster was also clearly visible.
The open cluster NGC-2439 on the other hand was smaller but brighter than NGC-2396 with an apparent magnitude of 6.9, with a bright yellow star in it, almost like a topaz surrounded by diamonds. This cluster was very apparent even at low power, but it's fairly small size benefits from raising the magnification to about 150X. I couldn't make out all the stars, but in photos the cluster's brightest star are arranged in a ring, with the bright star as the diamond. The bright star is also listed as R Puppis, one of Puppis's many variable stars. This object is a good object for small telescopes and people observing from the suburbs.
Trumpler-9 is one of the more than three hundred open clusters listed by the American astronomer Robert Trumpler. Many of them were actual newly discovered objects while the rest were listed in other catalogs. Trumpler 9 despite it's appearing to be an asterism is a true open cluster, albeit one at a great distance from Earth. It was immediately recognized at 120X, and using an 8.8mm Explore Scientific eyepiece to boost the magnification to 149X provided a better view. While known as the "Greater than 1" cluster, my 10-inch brought in other stars that made it resemble the number 12 spelled out in stars. Small in apparent size, it is an object well suited to suburban stargazers.
The weather has been dismal for the most part this month for observing deep sky objects, but a rare event came along that does not require crystal clear skies. On the night of February 9th, Uranus and Venus passed some 20 arc-minutes from each other, making the pair fit nicely into any telescope's field of view. Although I was watching the event despite worsening passing clouds, I was able to make out both planets before it became fully dark. Venus showed it's yellow white color and darkening along the terminator, while Uranus looked like an aquamarine green pea some four times smaller in apparent size.
Among other things I have been observing Jupiter and Mars, which is soon going to reach opposition . Surface features are plainly visible when the seeing is steady enough to see them. I have also been paying more attention to Venus as well, given that faint markings do from time to time appear in it's thick, toxic and deadly clouds of sulfuric acid and molten sulphur droplets. Jupiter has also been displaying activity in it's atmosphere as well, there seems to be whitish regions lagging behind the Great White Spot. I had another opportunity to track down more winter deep sky objects from home this week sketches of which will be posted soon.