The Monthly Challenge set by our Director of Observations
At the final meeting of January a challenge was set to record astronomical objects, naked eye and with telescopes and binoculars, in fact whatever members have available and to note the seeing conditions with photo's if possible and to report at the final meeting of the month on their findings.
It is hoped that this feature will be supported by members and generate enthusiasm.
Staying in Auriga, lets move onto to the Flaming Star Nebula (IC405). This Nebula is an emission / reflection nebula surrounding the star AE Aurigae.
Now look to the Bowl of Virgo for this one. Minor Planet 18 Melpomene. Magnitude for this object varies from +7.5 to +12 should make it visible in binoculars. Go outside and see if you can spot it or grab an image (weather permitting). Image courtesy of Sky at Night Magazine. Images of challenge target can be found in the sky notes.
Given that we will start to lose Orion at the end of the month, I thought it would be appropriate to look at M42 in the belt of Orion. Of course, not a general view, but more precisely try to capture The Trapezium. It is most readily recognised by the four bright stars whose positioning gives the cluster its name. The brightest of the four stars is C, or Theta Orionis C, with an apparent magnitude of 5.13. Both A and B have been identified as eclipsing binary’s. The images below are in the “optical and Infrared”. Whilst looking around for another challenge for February, I came across this interesting asterism. Resting in the constellation of Auriga, is the “Leaping Minnow” lying to the East of Hassaleh (Mag +2.7). Using a pair of pair of binoculars (10X50) the minnow with an average mag of +5, will be easily seen on a clear night and looking to the North East of the fish you should also make out the splash where the minnow enters the stream. Have a go and see what you can find. (No findings were submitted for this month)
For this challenge, let’s look at something we see but really don’t pay a great deal of attention to, The Milky Way, no it’s not a delicious chocolate bar, but nice to eat when out observing. You can look for the Milky Way starting at Deneb, follow through to Cassiopeia, right through to Monoceros. If you don’t have a dark site next to you don’t worry just look through a set of binoculars and the wonders will show up. Remember to let your eyes dark adapt for 20 - 30 minutes beforehand. Hopefully you will find many more stars than you think as well as star clusters and deepsky objects - all visible through your binoculars. (No findings were submitted for this month)
This month’s challenge is linked with the Geminids. As 3220 Phaethon is the parent object of the Geminids Meteor shower, I thought it would be good fun to see if you can spot it. Probably the only time to see it would be on the 16the of the month as it will have a magnitude of +10.8 and with a lot of luck and clear skies you should be able to spot in a pair of binoculars. (No findings were submitted for this month)
Look to the constellation Andromeda and find the star Almach and let us see what you find? M33 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Triangulum at magnitude of +5.7. Should be seen in binoculars or you can use a medium scope for a better view, have a look. (No findings were submitted for this month)
For this month let’s look for M29 just below and to the left of Sadr in the constellation of Cygnus. This is an open star cluster and with a magnitude of +6.6 should be visible to the naked eye as a small fuzzy patch, but with binoculars you should be able to make out several of the stars. An easy one this month is M45, the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus. This is a great naked eye cluster and very easy to see. (No findings were submitted for this month)
This month let us have look at M11, (Wild Duck Cluster). This is a famous open cluster located in the constellation of Scutum. It's just beyond naked eye visibility but easily visible with binoculars and is an outstanding telescope object. See if you can locate and observe this star cluster. Here is a three-part challenge, observe Al-Sufi’s Cluster. The challenges here are to identify which cluster this is, where it is and observe it. You can then let me know, giving me its common name. Good hunting as it is a well-known cluster and very easy to find. (No findings were submitted for this month)
Well let’s hope the skies keep clear for this month’s challenge which should be, hopefully, an easy one. 14th of the month there is a Libration of the Moon on its northwest limb, see if you can take an image of crater Pythagoras. (No findings were submitted for this month)
Let's stay inside the Summer Triangle for this month, Messier 29 (also known as M 29 or NGC 6913) is an open cluster in the Cygnus constellation. M29 Being situated in the Milky way should make this a slightly more difficult (but not too difficult) object to view. This cluster can be seen in binoculars. In telescopes, lowest powers are probably best. Look out for the quadrilateral of the 4 brightest stars, with a triangle just above them. Happy hunting!! (No findings were submitted for this month)
Look for the Lunar X on the 1st and 2nd of the month, the best time to view and image is around midnight on the 1st. The best way to spot the X is by going roughly a quarter the way up the southern terminator limb. The X is formed when sunlight catches part of the rims of craters La Caille, Purbach and Blanchinus. This will be fun to try and capture an image. This month’s second challenge is to look for M3 a Globular Cluster east of Bootes and west of Canis Venatici, with a magnitude of +6.2 it should be easily observed in a pair of binoculars, and on a very dark night with the naked eye. Have some fun and go looking. (No findings were submitted for this month)
Do not attempt this one if you do not have a properly protected scope or Binoculars. Look at our nearest star, the Sun, and count the number of sunspots you see, make a sketch or image them and share them with us. The 1st is an appropriate time to see the Libration of the Moon. This is where slightly more of the moon can be seen this time on the eastern limb due the Moon having a slight wobble. (No findings were submitted for this month)
Observe the major satellites of Jupiter and draw or photograph them then identify which each of them is. You can also follow this on consecutive nights and note (draw) how the positions of the Galilean Moons change from night to night. Look for and identify the Winter Triangle, this consists of Betelgeuse, Procyon and Sirius. Identify in which Constellation each star is a resident. Image the triangle if you can and make a report. Look for and find M110, a Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy very close to M31. M110 with a magnitude of + 8.07 will require binoculars or a small to medium scope. Make a sketch and send to myself or the web Master for inclusion on the website. Finally observe Pollux and try to resolve its companion double star. (Nathan “Skulley” Brookes and Tony Hayes both reported findings for part of this challenge)
Look for the crescent Moon, (using Binoculars or Telescope), identify where the moon is separated between the light and dark areas (the Terminator). Take an image if you can and describe it at one of our meetings in March. Look for Comet 41p Tuttle-Giacobini- Kresak and see if you can spot it, note the time and the comet position, or image if you can. Hint - it is close to Ursa Major, look at the sky map for its location. Find a dark site and see if you can see the Milky Way. Find M45 (The Pleiades). How many stars can you see with the naked eye, then look again using Binoculars. Finally find Algieba in Leo. At magnitude +2.2 it is a naked eye star, but better to look through binoculars or telescope, Algieba is a double star. See if you can spot this, even better try and take an image. (Ken Kennedy submitted an image of the moon for this challenge which was used as the image of the month.)
At the end of January the challenge for February was to record astronomical objects, naked eye and with telescopes and binoculars, in fact whatever members had available and to note the seeing conditions with photo's if possible and to report at the final meeting of the February on their findings. (Nathan “Skulley” Brookes submitted findings for this challenge)
Although Orion is now getting quite low in the sky this month, let’s stay with it and look at NGC1999. This object is a reflection Nebula and is lit by V380 Orionis and, with a magnitude of +9.3, you will need a medium to large scope to view. This reflection Nebula also has a “black patch” in the centre of the object which, at present, is still under discussion as to the cause. To see the “black patch” clearly, you will need to image it.