Cold Night, Mosquitoes, Stars

Ramiz Qureshi from Karachi was online. He told me that he was experiencing almost 100% transparent skies there. I thought to check out my portion of sky and therefore I went up the roof at around 12:30.

Tested the focus of my 10×50 binoculars at Jupiter, which was setting in South-West.

After Jupiter, I looked for Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy.

The time was 12:40 when I started looking for it. The sky was clear but there was much light pollution from neighboring homes.

My binoculars doesn’t give a wide-field view when I observe with spectacles on. So for observing I have to take out my spectacles. When I do so, I can’t see the stars and that makes a big problem for me.

Since I had no one to point at the location of objects with a laser pointer, I was at my own. It is said that “need is the mother of invention” therefore I used the water tank of my home as a guide.

I moved in such a position relative to the water tank that all the stars of Constellation Cassiopeia were hidden except the brightest star of it, Shedir (Alpha Cassiopeiae).

Map of Constellation Cassiopeia and location of Shedir

From Shedir, I took a way towards the left and a little down towards the Andromeda Galaxy. It was a small white cloudy thing in the sky. Though I couldn’t identify it as a galaxy, but it surely was distinguishable from the other stars in a sense that there was some cloudy appearance.

M31 - Andromeda Galaxy in Constellation Andromeda

The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 Million Light Years away from the Earth. Do you know what does that mean? It means that light takes 2.5 Million Years to reach the Earth from M31. Compare it with the time of 1.2 second light takes to reach from the Moon to Earth.

Map of Constellation Andromeda and location of M31

After the Andromeda Galaxy, I tried to find NGC 752, an open cluster in the Constellation Andromeda but failed.

Seven Sisters were walking towards the West from the East, so I thought to gaze at them as they moved. They look really beautiful. Pleiades is an open cluster in Constellation Taurus. With naked eye, only 7 stars are visible but advanced observations have shown that the cluster contains about 1000 stars.

Messier 45, The Pleiades in Constellation Taurus

This cluster has been known since many ages. It has been found that Babylonian civilization knew about Pleiades cluster in 23rd century BC.

Recently a star disk called Nebra Sky Disk has been discovered which has been successfully dated back to 1600 BC. The disk has illustration of Pleiades on it.

Nebra Sky Disk, dated back to 1600 BC

After the Pleiades, I went for Double Cluster in Constellation Perseus at 12:54 AM.

For finding Double Cluster, I went straight up from the star Ruchbah (Delta Cassiopeiae) towards the star Mirphak (Alpha Persei). Between these two stars lies the Double Cluster NGC 884-NGC 869.

The Double Cluster in Constellation Perseus

Afterwards, I thought to change the position and move at some other place for observing. This time I aimed for searching the South-Eastern region of the sky.

The brave hunter Orion was rising up with his criminal looking dog Canis Major (Big Dog)

Orion and Canis Major are very prominent constellations which are easily identifiable.

Map of Constellation Orion

According to Greek mythology, Orion was a hunter whom Zeus elevated to heavens and placed among the stars.

Constellation Orion by Johannes Hevelius, 1690

Nearby Orion, the dogs of Orion are also present, namely Canis Major and Canis Minor. These are also constellations and have mythologies associated with them.

I tried to find NGC 2362 in the Constellation Canis Major. Since I was using Stellarium software for navigating through the sky, I easily located the site of it. But due to light pollution, I couldn’t notice any cluster there. For locating NGC 2362, I went left from Wezen (Delta Canis Majoris).

Map of Constellation Canis Major and location of several DSO's in it

An asterism by the name of “The Boomerang” is also in the Constellation Canis Major. 6 stars form a pattern similar to that of a boomerang.

Now I once again turned towards the Constellation Cassiopeia and this time, my target was the Owl Cluster (NGC 457).

NGC 457 - The Owl Cluster in Constellation Cassiopeia

At 1:13, I observed the most famous, the most brilliant and the most favorite object for the astronomers of all ages, The Orion Nebula, Messier 42.

The Orion Nebula in the Constellation Orion

Astronomers have studied Orion nebula extensively and the research on this nebula has told answered many questions of our’s regarding the formation of stars and planetary system through the collapse of gaseous clouds. Orion Nebula is a large star forming nursery where clouds of gas and dust collapse to form stars.

In my binoculars, I was able to notice tightly packed luminosity with some nebulosity around it. Imagine you are seeing from the distance of 20 meters, 4 florescent bulbs forming a close square with a white fishnet put over them, and behind these 4 bulbs, thousands of pearls are scattered on a black background, this is what exactly the Orion Nebula looks like in a binoculars similar to mine.

The time was 1:26 and mosquitoes were really annoying me. Thankfully I was wearing a jacket which prevented me from their stings. But their buzzing was really a headache.

Ramiz asked me to look for an open cluster Messier 47 in Canis Major.

If you move left from Sirius (Alpha Canis Majoris), you can easily find M47.

Open Cluster M47

Ramiz told me that he was leaving and that he wanted to give me a final recommendation. He asked me to observe NGC 2244, an open cluster in Constellation Monoceros. He also warned me that it was a hard target. And I thought he was joking. But as soon as I tracked the location of it in Stellarium, the first words to come out from my mouth were “Oh My Lord, Ramiz where have you stuck me”. It was so high in the sky that my neck was almost breaking and I felt like someone was pressing my throat.

If you draw a straight line from Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris, the brightest star of Constellation Canis Minor), to Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis, the brightest star of Constellation Orion), then NGC 2244 lies in the middle of this line. Tried so hard to find it. Found. But couldn’t concentrate on it for even 10 seconds because of high pain in neck and spine.

Open Cluster NGC 2244 in Constellation Monoceros

The time was 1:35, I marked the session end and started writing this report for all of you.


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    • Ramiz Qureshi on December 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm
    • Reply

    Very nice log. I was also at my house’s roof at about the same time as you yesterday and saw most of all these objects. Sky was indeed really steady yesterday with minimal light pollution.

    Sorry for recommending that last one, I thought you had a bench or someplace to lay down your head (I use a “charpai” :P)

    1. Ramiz I also use charpai but the problem is, on that day it was fully loaded with stuff and was inside the room.

    • Ali Khan on December 2, 2010 at 4:19 pm
    • Reply

    Great hunting. Must lie down for overhead observation.

    1. Yes Sir. True.

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