Saturday, October 31, 2009


The Herschel II Project: 26 Down, 374 to Go

OK…where was I? Oh, yeah. I’d just run through Sue French’s “Splashing around the Dolphin” out on the field at the 2009 Deep South Regional Star Gaze. Though, as is usually my wont, I gave each object its rightful share of eyepiece time, going through Sue’s DSOs didn't take all night, not hardly. Even for me for whom an “all-nighter” is rapidly evolving into, “Well, I’ll hang in till three a.m., anyhow,” there were still plenty of hours of darkness to be filled. Believe me; I had no problem doing that.

Mostly by looking at objects from Steve O’Meara’s recent article in Astronomy Magazine I mentioned last time, “Ghost Hunt.” This is a good mix of mostly spectacular Messiers and NGCs, and there is further interest added by fanciful names, some his, some not, Mr. O has appended to these DSOs. If you are an Astronomy subscriber, go dig up November before you head to the club dark site next time; you’ll be glad you did. Not? Check out your local library.

What did I do besides admire the pretty ghosts? Well, I chugged a couple of Monster Energy Drinks. As I’ve told you before, in moderation these are the best observing accessory I’ve discovered in ages. “In moderation” because if I drink even one too many, I begin to feel weird and jittery and start trembling like a dadgum chihuahua. That given, they do keep me going through the small hours. Past three a.m.? Not even the Monsters can help. It ain’t just my advancing age, though. In order to get to my engineering job on time, I have to get up at 4:30 in the morning. Four days a week. Week after week. I can still get adjusted to the nocturnal star party existence; it just takes me more than a day or two to slip back into the vampire lifestyle.

In addition to providing me and Old Betsy with some terrific sights, those Halloween ghosts also gave us a chance to try out my new 1.25-inch OIII filter. Naturally, I already had a 1.25 OIII, a Lumicon I bought back in the early 90s. But I didn't like it much anymore. It was one of the old ones, one of the pinkish-tinted ones, and while it had done a good job for years, I wasn’t very satisfied with it of late. It seemed denser than it used to, and also seemed to provide less of a contrast boost. Can a line filter like the OIII degrade over the years? I expect one can, but, being honest, I’d guess it’s probably more likely my eyes have gone south than the Lumicon.

I bought a Thousand Oaks 2-inch OIII from Gary Hand a couple of years back, and have been very pleased with it. This green-blue tinted filter does a bang up job on lots of nebulae. Unfortunately, the 8 and 13mm Ethoses only accept 1.25-inch filters. Yes, they can be used in 2-inch focusers thanks to their "skirts," but you cannot use 2-inch filters on 'em. I reckoned it was time to go OIII shopping.

Thank whatever gods there be that watch over equipment crazy amateur astronomers that our old friend Rex rolled-in with his Astro Stuff store. I was soon perusing his wares. Turned out he did not have any Thousand Oaks filters, but he did have a 1.25-inch Celestron OIII. I thought that would be about as good, since I’ve admired my friend Pat’s 2-inch Celestron OIII for years, and as far as I have been able to tell it is at least as good as my T.O. I ponied-up the reasonable amount Mr. Rex was asking, and soon had my very own Celestron filter. Well, it has the Celestron name on it, anyhow. Like many of their non-Chinese accessories, it was actually made by Baader.

How would she do? In the interest of finding out, I punched NGC 6888 into the Sky Commander Friday night and began pushing Betsy towards Cygnus. The Crescent Nebula is one of my all-time fave objects, and, in the right circumstances, it can be a downright showpiece. Which is not to say this arc of nebulosity, gas thrown off by a misbehaving Wolf-Rayet star, is not a challenge. Under less than optimal conditions it can be just that for a 12-inch. Even under good skies, I find it takes an OIII to give this dim loop much in the way of form and substance.

The vaunted Crescent
Despite the DSRSG’s very good, though damp, skies, I didn’t expect much. Yes, with a decent OIII, the Crescent can show off, well, its crescent. But look like its pictures? Not even close. In images, including the short, unguided one here, taken with my C8 and Meade DSI, the interior begins to fill in with glowing gas. In longer shots, clumps and dark lanes begin to appear. In the very deepest exposures, the thing begins to look more like an oval than a crescent. All I expected and wanted was just a good look at the arc of dim light.

The Sky Commander indicated we were there, so in went the 13 Ethos—without a filter to begin. What did I see? Not much, muchachos, not much. After a little straining, I began to believe we were on the correct field. There were some very dim wisps here and there, but not much more than that, even with averted vision. For a minute I’d thought maybe the Sky Commander was hosed-up. That would have been a first, however, as this wonder-computer has literally never missed for me. “Let’s try the filter, then.”

It’s a darned good thing I don’t have a really big Dobsonian, one that requires you to climb a ladder to get at the eyepiece. If I’d had one of those monster scopes, I’d shortly have been picking myself up off the ground. To put it mildly, I was amazed at the difference the filter made. From “almost there,” NGC 6888 went to “bright and obvious.” But that was not the brass ring. The brass ring was I soon began to see the things I thought were reserved for large scopes or images. Almost immediately, it became obvious the area between the “horns” of the Crescent was not empty but filled with a faint haze. Then, I began to see mottled detail in that haze. I have never had as good a look at this object with Betsy—never. Was it the better OIII filter or the good skies or that Betsy had newly upgraded high-reflectivity mirror coatings that did the trick? Maybe the combination of the three. That NGC 6888 was just past culmination didn't hurt neither.

I won’t say it was all down-hill from there, but that was the high point, I suppose. Nevertheless, I looked at mucho cool stuff as the hours slipped away. I found, for example, that the Celestron-Baader filter gave a splendid view of M17 as it plunged into the west. The Swan wasn’t just hanging in space but floating on a huge sea of nebulosity. I didn’t just do nebulae, though; I looked at galaxies, too (without the OIII, natch), plenty of the little fellers spangled through Cetus and Sculptor and other dusty out-of-the-way corners.

What kept me going till two and after wasn’t just the Monster Energy Drinks; it was, good, old M42. Years ago, back when my frequent observing companion in those long-lost days, Pat Rochford, was still attending the DSRSG, we made a pact: “No going to bed before M42 is good and high!” In Pat’s absence, I’ve tried to hold to that, even if it ain’t always easy. It wasn’t easy on this night. Despite those caffeine—and who knows what else—laden energy drinks, taking plenty of breaks, and doing the other recommended actions (hydrated myself with water and pigged-out on Jack Link Teriyaki Steak Nuggets), I was dragging butt by one o’clock.

I knew what awaited me in the eyepiece once the Great One was good and high, though, so on I pushed until M42 high enough to bother with, if not necessarily "good and high." The way the Great Nebula looked in the 28mm Uwan wide-field eyepiece when Orion was finally up enough probably deserves a whole blog entry of its own, but for now I’ll just say I looked and looked and looked and looked.

Small but comfortable.
After half an hour of open-mouthed gazing at The Sword, there came the point when there was no denying it: time to pull the Big Switch. My ego was somewhat soothed by the fact that most of my fellow Friday night observers had deserted the field even earlier than me. When I returned to the lodge, I was still pumped, and thought I’d watch a movie on the laptop. I got maybe half an hour or so into 2001: A Space Odyssey, not quite to the point where cave-ape Moonwatcher throws that bone in the air, and found myself slipping into dreams. Dreams decorated with glowing M42s and M17s and NGC 6888s.

The next morning, though not early the next morning, after a breakfast that was, thankfully, not served till very late, I spent some time thinking about what I might put on Saturday evening’s observing agenda. For a while, I’d had an idea that it might be time for me to tackle the Herschel II, the second list of Herschel objects, which is the Astronomical League’s follow-on to their famous Herschel 400 “Observing Club.”

The Project

What’s that? What’s a “Herschel”? As most of y’all know, Sir William Herschel, the justly famous amateur astronomer who discovered Uranus way back in the 18th century, was also a deep sky powerhouse. Using big self-made telescopes not much different from our Dobsonians, really, he was the first to see many of the objects that eventually found their way into the vaunted NGC catalog.

Despite “his” objects having been assimilated into the NGC, Herschel’s original observations remained easily available, and one of the amateur deep sky pioneers of the last century, Father Lucian Kemble, became fascinated enough with ‘em to go through Herschel’s records and compile a “Herschel List” of the great man’s 2500 DSOs. But not many amateurs undertook to observe this list. Not only was it huge with some pretty difficult objects on parade, especially for the days of 4-inch f/15 refractors and 6-inch f/8 Newtonians, some of the 2500 were not there at all.

Nobody paid much attention to Kemble’s labors till the membership of Saint Augustine, Florida’s Ancient City Astronomy Club began casting about for something to “do” after the Messier, and were pointed at the Herschel List by Sky & Telescope's James Mullaney. When they checked out the massive thing, it became obvious why ticking off Herchels wasn’t popular: nobody would want to run through the list as it was.

The Herschel list as compiled by Fr. Kemble was saddled by typos, duplications, non-existent objects, and objects with incorrect coordinates. Some of the problems were Herschel’s, some were Kemble’s, but all needed to be fixed. Once the ACAC folks were done, they found they were left with a list of 400 galaxies, clusters, and nebulae that would be visible in “reasonable” telescopes: 6-inches and up for the most part. The AL built the list into an Observing Club with certificates and pins and rules and yadda-yadda-yadda, The Herschel 400, and the rest, as they say, is amateur astronomy history.

As amateurs always do, though, we wanted more. As the sizes of our telescopes increased, the quality of our eyepieces improved, and the influence of high-tech aids like computer atlases and digital setting circles and goto began to be felt, the Herschel 400 began to seem pretty tame. Into the breach stepped the Rose City Astronomers of Portland, Oregon. That fine astronomy club took it upon themselves to cull another 400 objects from the H list. In due course, the AL was running a “Herschel II” Club.

What is the Herschel II like? There is no denying its objects are tougher than those in the first go-round. The original H has some fairly challenging DSOs, but really nothing that will make a C8 owner sweat. The Part 2? The Rose City folks advise you to think “10-inches” minimum, and given what I’ve seen thus far, that is probably not a bad idea. I would also guess, however, that somebody with some experience and some good skies could probably whip this thing with an 8—or even smaller scope—without much trouble. It’s no secret that, given good skies, the knowledge level of today’s amateurs and the quality of their equipment means conquering objects called “impossible for an 8-inch” ten years ago is easy even for Bubba down to the club.

Nevertheless, 12-inches is probably a good middle-of-the-road aperture choice for the Herschel II. At least if you don’t want to drive yourself completely bugs, or if your skies ain’t all they might be, or if you want the possibility of seeing at least some of these DSOs as more than Cosmic Dust Bunnies. Requisite sky quality? Unless you’ve got a truly big gun, you’ll want to do most from the club dark site if you plan to observe visually. If your lookin’ is to be with a Mallincam or some such, the backyard may be comfortable and productive.

Rules? I ain’t big on rules. Which is the reason I don't plan to send-in to the AL for my Herschel 400 certificate. Earning the Messier award was fun, but that was enough. “Following rules carefully” is not the way I like to play the amateur astronomy game. If you do want the AL’s handsome certificate and pin, you can find the do-bees and don’t-bees on their website. Me? I plan to observe the II how and when I feel like it.

To tell the truth, there are not too many rules associated with the Herschel II. In recognition of the difficulty of at least some of the objects, the powers that be have ruled that goto and digital setting circles are OK for finding, and that CCDs and videocams and other imaging devices are OK for seeing. Me? I plan on a mix. Some I’ll just eyeball with my 12-inch Dob or my NexStar 11. Some I’ll video with my Stellacam II. Some will sit for more formal portraits with one of my CCD cameras.

By sunset Saturday, the die was cast: Unk would attack the scary Herschel II. To do that, I’d need a list of the objects, of course. Something I did not find on the Astronomical League website. Apparently, they’d rather you buy a book containing the HII, Observe: the Herschel II, from the Rose City Astronomers, who still administer the Club. I’m sure it’s nice, and buying it might be a good thing to do if’n you are after a certificate. Me, I just wanted to look at the objects. If you feel the same, you can find the HII list in a couple of places online. I’m lucky since I have both SkyTools 3 and Deepsky on my astro-laptop’s hard drive. Both programs have ready-made HII lists, either included in the basic installation or available for download.

So the plan was…the plan was…? Yeah, I’d need some kind of an at least vague and nebulous plan if I were to finish the list in a reasonable amount of time. How long is “reasonable”? I’m not setting a time limit on myself; all that would do is add stress and gum up the works. I’d like to finish in a year, by October 2010, but with the weather lately, who knows? While the first outing, below, was from the dark DSRSG, and the next will be from the Chiefland Star Party which is, if anything, darker (and blessed with low horizons), I’ll no doubt have to hit a lot of H IIs from the PSAS’s local dark site if I am to finish anytime soon. Objects I've already observed? I'll look at 'em again for The Project.

Equipment-wise, as above, I’ll likely mostly use the 12-inch Dobsonian and the Nexstar C11. Support will be provided by the above-mentioned Skytools 3 and Deepsky. SkyTools will be my primary aid for charting and organizing and logging, but Deepsky, that other excellent observing planner, with its DVD of images from the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (so I can look at pictures of my quarry on observing fields without Wi-Fi) and—also very valuable—its database of observations by accomplished observers like Barbara Wilson, will backstop ST3. As usual, I’ll record my notes with my little Sony Pressman microcassette recorder and transcribe ‘em into SkyTools after the fact.

With all decided—nay, writ in stone in my informal way—it was time to hit the sky. Was I a little nervous about tackling these (in)famous objects? A little. But…NO PAIN, NO GAIN. And despite the rumored difficulty of some of the list members, I suspected the Ethos eyepieces I’d have available, and the Sky Commander DSCs, and 12-inches of super-duper coated primary mirror would make the list less tough a nut to crack than the H400 was for me and my analog setting circles/50mm finder-equipped C8 back when I first began the Herschels.

Speaking of the Herschel 400, the original list, I still had a handful of objects in that one to tackle before moving on to Part Two. A look at SkyTools, however, showed that after my last major push on them the previous October at the Chiefland Astronomy Village, I only had a handful left to check off and that all would be in the sky Saturday night. Running them down made for a good warm-up. How did I feel about finally finishing the first Herschel list? Good, but I was more excited about moving on to the II than celebrating my victory.

So, on to the H II. Again, don’t expect any hard and fast schedule here; I’ll observe the objects when I can. How will I attack the list, exactly? Likely I’ll do some hopping around the sky on any given evening. I’ll try to stay with a constellation until all its DSOs are in the bag, but if that gets to be a pain due to sky placement, as Aquila did by being up in Dobson’s Hole on the first outing, expect me to veer off in another direction.

Night One

Ignore the label on the picture; this is NGC 7640...
OK, then, fasten them seatbelts, HERE WE GO! After giving Miss Dorothy her customary look at M13, I punched-in “NGC 7640” on the Sky Commanders and cruised over to the other side of the sky, to Andromeda. This is not an object you hear a whole lot about, and that’s a shame, since it is something of a prize and surely is a standout in the ranks of the H II:

In the 8mm Ethos, this galaxy looks a lot like its POSS plate. It is large and elongated with the barest hint of patchy detail. At magnitude 11.6, it’s a little dim, but the overall effect is good. It reminds me of a miniature NGC 253. Several faint stars superimposed on its disk.

Next up on the list was NGC 206, the huge star cloud in M31, but before moving on to that, I couldn’t resist taking a quick peep at the Blue Snowball planetary nebula, NGC 7662, which was nearby. Blue and beautiful and bright it was. OK, over to M31…

I had a look at the whole of the galaxy (well, almost) using the 28mm Uwan, but while I was able to pick out the star cloud, it wasn’t prominent. The 8mm delivered the best view, which wasn’t quite as good as what I remember seeing from Chiefland last season. NGC 206 is purty much just an oval smudge of light slightly brighter than the background nebulosity of the galaxy.

I figgered NGC 513 would be the first challenging object of the H II, given its listed magnitude of a cotton-pickin’ 13.4. Turned out that was not so, probably because this galaxy’s small size, .7’ x .3’, keeps the surface brightness up despite the forbidding mag value:

At first glance, this galaxy is just a fuzzball. Continuing to stare at it through the 13mm eyepiece, though, shows it to have a brighter center and to be elongated. Mostly visible with direct vision.

Continuing in Andromeda landed me on NGC 214. Given that images of this galaxy make it look like a smaller twin of M77 or M94 with a blazing Seyfert-like nucleus and medium tight spiral arms, I expected a lot. Unfortunately, the little thing could not quite deliver:

This galaxy looks nothing like M77 in the eyepiece. The bright nucleus of the images is not seen. Still a fairly impressive little oval of light in the 8mm. In addition to its obvious elongation, I think I can occasionally make out some very fleeting hints of patchy spiral arms.

So much for Andromeda. Where to? Looking up from the eyepiece showed Aquarius to be in a good spot. What’s there? There’s the spectacular M2, of course (and, yes, I popped over for a look see). There’s the Saturn Nebula as well, but mostly it is galaxy-galaxy-galaxy, and most of them are kinda dim. The first entry in Aquarius, NGC 7600, wasn’t so bad, though:

Despite a magnitude value of nearly 13, this galaxy is fairly impressive. It’s a bright spot set next to a triangle 11th – 12th magnitude field stars. I think I occasionally catch sight of a brighter center in this dim streak of light.

Pressing on, the next Aquarian, NGC 7171, which I figured would look better than NGC 7600 given its better magnitude of “only” 12.2. Its fairly large size, 2.8’ x 1.7’ minutes, does keep it relatively dim, if not challengingly dim:

This galaxy is large, faint, and diffuse. No hints of a nucleus or any central condensation. It’s at the terminus of a curving line of four dim stars.

Like the previous entry, NGC 7218 doesn’t have a scary magnitude, being about 12, but it’s also comparatively large at 2.5’ x 1.3’, and is on the dim if not overly difficult side. This is for sure not something most people would ever look at if it weren’t on an observing list.

Dim, elongated, close to two faint field stars.

I doubt NGC 7392 would be on anybody’s hit list, either. In its POSS plate, it looks very interesting, showing prominent barred spiral structure. In my 8mm Ethos? Not so much, though not completely devoid of interest.

A little oval of light that shows off a brighter core and tantalizing hints detail in its disk. Located midway along a line of four dim stars.

Next to NGC 7640, NGC 7184 is probably the coolest Herschel II galaxy in Aquarius:

If you’re after something that looks like much of anything at all in the dim procession of Aquarius galaxies, NGC 7184 is probably as close as you will get to it. It's kept decently bright by a magnitude of 11.2, even though it's a substantial 5.8’ x 1.8’ in size. This galaxy shows a strongly elongated disk with a brighter center. Good in the 8mm Ethos despite being down in a minor light dome.

With NGC 7377, we are back to Aquarius’ cosmic lint balls.

At first blush, this near face-on spiral is a round blob in the eyepiece. More looking turns up a brighter center and maybe barest hints of disk detail—which could very easily be a case of averted imagination.

And that was Aquarius, Jeezus Pleezus. It was a little easier than I’d expected, but by the time I finished, 11 p.m., I was ready for a break. Which consisted of the first Monster Energy Drink of the night and a handful of the aforementioned Jack Link Steak Nuggets. A quick visit to the little astronomer’s room, and I turned to Aquila’s NGC 6804 in a quest for More Better Gooder:

Nice planetary, though one that at first looks more like a dim galaxy than anything else. A bit of staring with the 8mm, though, and it takes on a more planetary-like appearance. It’s a large gray ball about a minute across that shows off a prominent central star.

As I mentioned earlier, y’all, I decamped from Aquila due to its near-overhead residence in Dobson’s Hole. Using a Dob at the zenith is almost as bad as cruising with an equatorial at the North Celestial Pole. Craning my neck around, I spied Perseus beginning to ride high in the east, and scrolled down to his objects in SkyTools 3.

The first of which was an open cluster, NGC 1348, which I was sure I’d ne’er visited before. One look told me why:

The words “undistinguished open cluster” were invented for this one. Little NGC 1348 is barely visible in the 8mm Ethos. It’s a vaguely square asterism of faint stars sprinkled with a few even dimmer Suns in an area about 5’ across.

Not all Herschel IIs are disappointing, however; NGC 1491 sure was an exceptional exception:

Now this is that elusive More Better Gooder! This emission nebula in Perseus is obvious in both the 8 and 13 Es, and I can’t decide which gives the better view. This is a rich field, with the nebula forming a substantial cloud around and not precisely centered on a star. The addition of a Lumicon UHC filter almost makes it spectacular, showing substantially more nebula and revealing it as elongated—maybe 5’ x 10’.

Which was followed by the even cooler NGC 1624:

Nice, small open cluster surrounded by obvious nebulosity. If I had a dime for every NGC listed as cluster + nebulosity that turns out to be a boring group of stars devoid of nebulosity, I’d be using a CGE Pro 1400 tonight. This is different. Even without a filter, there is no doubt this is a real cloud surrounding a group of tiny but reasonably prominent stars, not just eyepiece reflections or imagination.

You don’t normally associate the prominent “winter constellations” with galaxies, but Perseus is loaded with ‘em, including NGC 1169:

This is a standout galaxy an area peppered with small, dim, and unimpressive ones. It’s brighter than 12th magnitude, and possessed of a slightly brighter central region and an elongated disk. What appears to be a stellar-size nucleus in the eyepiece is shown to be a dim field star in the POSS plate I pull up with Deepsky.

NGC 1605, my next Perseus DSO was an open cluster, though not much of an open cluster:

A dim and sparse galactic cluster in Perseus that’s maybe 5’ across. Nothing much to say about it, nothing much to see here. Not well detached from its rich field. I’ll swannee, ol’ Willie-boy Herschel musta had damned good eyes and good technique to pick up some of these clusters for the first time.

Back to galaxies in Perseus with NGC 1161:

Another dim sprite. The only thing that distinguishes this mag 12.5 lenticular galaxy is that it is beside two dim field stars. It’s obviously elongated with a bright center, and that is it. It shares the field with another prominent galaxy, NGC 1160, which is dimmer, larger, and more elongated.

I generally like small open clusters. I’ll make an exception in the case of NGC 1193, though.

In the 8mm eyepiece, NGC 1193 is nothing more than a nebulous patch a minute or two of arc across. This patch is made up of mostly unresolved stars, though a few wee sparklers do pop out once in a while.

Can it get worse than that in the Herschel II? It can and it did with NGC 1582:

This is even more boring than NGC 1193. At least that one was compact enough to look like something. Thisun is sparse and almost 40’ in diameter. It is hardly detached from the background star field at all. Even with the wide field of the 28mm Uwan it looks like a whole lot of nuttin’.

Nobody would call NGC 1175, a near 13th magnitude edge-on Sa island universe, “prominent,” but it wasn’t hard or bad, either.

Once you know what you are looking for (which I found out by bringing up its picture with Deepsky), it is not hard to see this galaxy. Strongly elongated with a stellar-appearing core that winks in an out in the 8E.

NGC 1003 is another faintish near-edge-on Perseus Sa:

A fuzzy, elongated glow that’s easy with direct vision. Not a bad sight, but not much detail. No nucleus seen.

Some sources list the magnitude of NGC 1207 as as dim as 13.8, which is enough to scare li’l ol’ me for sure. The reality was not nearly as horrible as that:

I don’t care how dim it is supposed to be; it's a little big, 2.3’ x 1.7’, but it’s easy. Popped right out in the 13 Ethos. It’s even visible with direct vision, but is better with averted vision. Doing that makes it look slightly elongated.

NGC 1058 is both (relatively) large and (relatively) bright, magnitude 11.8 and 3’ x 2.8’:

Saw this puppy as soon as I looked in the 13 Ethos. Despite its status as a near-face-on Sa. Not much detail to talk about, howsomeever.

Oh, for a break from dim galaxies and puny galactic clusters. NGC 1579 delivered that:

Interesting little patch of nebulosity. Not helped a bit by any of my filters, so I assume it is indeed a reflection nebula as most sources classify it. Best in the 8mm eyepiece; in that I see hints of detail/dark lanes just on the edge of perception. Almost looks like the little sister of the Running Man Nebula.

So much for Perseus. With Cepheus riding high, he seemed a natural for my next set of destinations.

Even more than Perseus, I don’t tend to think of King Cepheus as the home of galaxies. They are there, though, of course, including NGC 1184:

Despite a pretty bad magnitude quote of 12.4, this lenticular galaxy is easy with direct vision and is fairly large, about 2’ long. It’s narrow too, less than a minute across its minor axis, since it’s nearly edge on to us. Really looks like a galaxy.

Being where he is in the sky, Cepheus is also possessed of plenty of open clusters, one of which is NGC 7762:

This cluster is a little nicer than the stinking HII opens I’ve seen so far this evening. Maybe 10’ in diameter. Many tiny stars spangled across its face, though I wouldn’t quite describe it as “rich.” There’s a prominent line of stars just off-center that catches my attention.

After giving NGC 7762 enough of a look—at least five minutes—to assure myself I’d seen everything it had to offer, I pulled away from the eyepiece and headed over to the EZ Up, intending to chug another Monster and take a short break. I sat down at the laptop first to click up my next target. I was downright flabbergasted to see SkyTools showing the local time to be almost 2 in the a.m. I put down the Monster.

The fact that it was now early Sunday morning dissuaded me from pressing on. All too soon, it would be time to pack up and head back to The Swamp. Yeah, I was on a roll, but Cepheus and the rest of the gang would still be around in a month’s time, when they’d be on display in the wonderful skies of the Chiefland Astronomy Village.

My score?

Victories Tonight = 26
Targets to Go = 374

Which I think is danged good. It’s possible I coulda nearly doubled that figure if I’d tried, but I didn’t and don’t want to. I don’t want to just tick these things off; I want to give each one a chance to amaze me—and you.

2020 Update

As you may know, my quest to observe the Herschel 2 list rapidly evolved into The Herschel Project, wherein I viewed all 2500 of the H-objects (visually and with video). It was quite an experience, the observing experience of a lifetime as a matter of fact. It's hard to believe that such a monumental undertaking began one morning at a star party with me wondering "What do I look at tonight?"

I thought for a while I might do a book on the experience of viewing all the Herschels. Or at least combine/edit the blog posts on the Project into a self-published thingy. Hasn't happened yet. Still could, I guess. Anyhow, if you're interested in reading about my H-Project adventures from this outing to the end, it's easy enough to google "Uncle Rod, Herschel Project." Most of the articles are labeled in sequential order, "Night 1, Night 2, Night 3, etc."

The Deep South Regional Star Gaze? Unfortunately, it moved from the Feliciana Retreat Center in 2018 thanks to deteriorating conditions there. I've thought about wanting to go back, but not sure I want to start all over with the fourth venue for the star party. 

pigged-out on Jack Link Teriyaki Steak Nuggets

Ha ha! Just yesterday I got my jacket out of the closet and found something in the inside pocket: the tail end of a bag of Jack Link Teriyaki Steak Nuggets that I started on my last all-night dark sky session.

Thanks for the long report. As a young'un it's very helpful to see how a more seasoned observer goes about this stuff.
"Long"? You mean "long winded," doncha? That's me! :-)
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