Tuesday, April 25, 2006

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!


At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Jeremy Perez said...

Congratulations on the find, Kim! And an all around fantastic site too. I look forward to future installments.


At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

Glad you found it!.I was pretty happy when I found it last Friday night.I agree that it is quite hard to see.I compare its brightness to the Owl neb.
My observing site suffers from light pollution also.I have 2 street lights within 60 feet of my scope.Not to mention trees,buildings and car head lights.Grrrr!!!!.
Hope you don't mind but,I have put your site on my blogroll.
Keep trying for the rest of the comet fragments and I will do the same.
Clear skies!!!

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Cheers, guys. Thanks for the compliments. Andrew, what's your blog URL?

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

Sorry about that...my URL is http://bongo69.vela.net/
The name of the blog is Above the clouds.


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