Observation Log 1/27/06: Looking for Kemble’s Cascade

Kemble's Cascade

I spent a cold hour and a half trying to find Kemble’s Cascade, in the sparse area of Camelopardalis, for the first time. I didn’t find it, but I did find another, unnamed cascade. And recent experience has taught me a lot of important things that will completely change how I stargaze in the future, and I’m excited about the changes. I expect I’ll be enjoying astronomy even more from now on! I think I have a few good ideas, so I hope you read more…

If you’ve been reading along in my blog, you’ll have noticed I’ve been going out lately with a goal in mind: Find The Crab Nebula, or Find Kemble’s Cascade. It was a good idea, but I have a better one. Look for things that are easier to find! And enjoy the accomplishment of whatever I do find. Here are some more specific ideas:

Firstly, in my case, I need a better star chart. The Norton’s 2000 Star Atlas I’ve been using is completely inadequate for outdoor use. It has very few actual star charts, and the paper is too shiny. It’s a good read, but bad for finding stars. I think what I may do instead is use Starry Night to print out some charts for finding my targets, zoomed out and in, and perhaps marked up by me before I go out. I don’t even have to do it the same day, just plan ahead! (The graphic with this entry came from Starry Night?the stars indicated are some of the stars I logged tonight.)

Second, I’ve learned that in the cold weather I just don’t spend the extra time to set up the heavy 8″ motorized scope outside. It takes too long to level it, calibrate it, and by then I know I have less than an hour before it dews up. Plus it’s five or six trips from indoors to outdoors with all the equipment I have to take. So, my choice of targets have to be possible with my binoculars, at least in the cold of winter. They only need one trip outside, with both arms loaded up. Much more doable, and fun. I can get out there in minutes, on a whim, so I’m more likely to.

So, I’m learning my limits, and not going outdoors out of obligation. I would really like having a cheap 10″ or 12″ Dobsonian I could keep in the garage, on rollers so I could grab one or two Naglers, push the Dob out the garage door, and be looking right away. Maybe someday, when I’m employed!

Third, Since the binoculars can’t gather enough light to see most galaxies and nebulae, I have to switch to brighter targets. Why not clusters? It will be easier and more rewarding to look for something I can find. So, I’m going to revise my “heavenly bodies I’d like to see” list, and add a bunch of targets I can accomplish more easily, mainly clusters. Clusters are closer, and duh, they’re brighter! Kemble's Cascade Fourth, I used to think that it was corny, but the astronomy magazines are right: Bring some paper with you, and draw what you see. I’ve been doing this the last few times out, and it has made a huge difference in my enjoyment level. Really, you have to give it a try. Even if I don’t find what I’m looking for (like tonight), I end up spending time at the eyepiece, practicing skills like averted vision, and having fun. And when I’m done, I have something to show for my time. I bring my drawings indoors, run Starry Night, figure out what I actually was looking at, and log my new accomplishments, star by star. I feel good when I’m done, so I’m more likely to keep at it. And again, it makes it fun.

For example, I was shocked & delighted to realize I bagged a few magnitude 9.2+ stars tonight! With binoculars! It took some time & concentration, but I had no idea I could do that well with the Oberwerks 15x70s, with so-so seeing and fair to poor transparency, and with clouds rolling through.

Fifth, that brings up another lesson: Patience. After my target disappeared behind a bank of clouds tonight, I was ready to hang it up. I guessed it would be back in 15 minutes or so, but sitting in the cold, I didn’t feel like waiting. Still, I thought of the stargazers who spend hours and hours at it, so I made a different choice: find something else to look at for a while. I did, and I’m really glad. In fact, I started drawing the group I’d found from the other end, and that kept me busy and content for long enough that the clouds passed, and in fact it got even clearer than at first.

For the curious or bored, the stars I drew tonight were HIP41365, HIP40215, HIP40620, 27 Ursae Majoris, HIP47405, HIP46605, HIP45750, TYC4374-2037-1, TYC4379-504-1, 22 Ursae Majoris, HIP46763, TYC4379-1571-1, HIP47260, HIP45084, HIP45306, HIP47198, HIP41488, HIP41741, TYC4379-1099-1, TYC4379-521-1, HIP44052, HIP44499, HIP43489, HIP45062, HIP42273, HIP42180, HIP46920, HIP45629, HIP41170, HIP44932, HIP42779, HIP45461, HIP43045, HIP41114, TYC4378-1304-1, HIP42086, TYC4379-923-1, TYC4375-1367-1, HIP41927, TYC4374-1216-1, HIP40964, HIP46280, HIP47469, and HIP48893.

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