Backyard comet observing
After my abject failure to locate Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann the other night (scroll down for post), I decided to give it the old college try again last night. Conditions were about the same: clear, warm, plenty o' light pollution, Corona Borealis barely visible over the trees next door, through the power lines. This time I set up the Meade 2080 instead of the TV-60, for maximum light-gathering.
Just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, there's a sodium streetlight about 12 feet from my back deck such that I don't need a flashlight to read or sketch (and a floodlight across the street at the neighbor's and downtown Silver Spring about 2 blocks away in the other direction). I did get a towel to use as a shroud, so that I didn't get light bouncing off my eyeball onto the eyepiece (yes, this is an issue).
While I was waiting for the earth to turn, and by way of comparison, I checked out galaxy M94 (mag 8.2) and the globular cluster M3 (mag 6.2) in Canes Venatici. I figure if I could find M94, I ought to be able to see this comet, right?
I had two charts, the one from S&T's May 2006 issue and a printout from Skyhound.com (link courtesy of Belt of Venus). The charts were crucial since I could only see about 3 stars in CrB naked eye -- I had to do all my other navigating in the finder scope and eyepiece. Here are my results:
I think I might have found fragment B, but it really looked like a double star, so maybe that's what it was. I was pointed a little bit east of eta CrB. I kinda wish I had one of those astronomy software programs so I could know for sure.
Then I turned my attention to fragment C. This should have been a lot easier to find, but it took a while. I didn't actually have a location for where it should be last night, so I had to extrapolate from my charts. I eventually found it about halfway between R and iota CrB. This was definitely it, but it was so faint, I actually lost it once after finding it -- I just couldn't see it anymore and I twiddled the controls and lost it. Anyway, found it again, but boy was it ever faint -- much harder to see than M94. Oddly, putting on a shroud didn't help, it just made it harder to see.
Painful, but worth it!