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April 24, 2013

CAC's Spaced Out Challenge: Rings, SMOD, & a Handy List

This week, we're going local and going far on the subject of rings. Despite the full moon this week washing out the skies for even the most remote observers, I'll give you two items definitely worth checking out. I also compiled a very, very long list of objects for urban/suburban observers who may feel left out with their light-washed skies.

Big bonus image of SMOD after the jump.

Just before we get to this week's objects, check out the latest image of Comet ISON, courtesy the 23-year-old Hubble Space Telescope:

Compass and Scale Image for Comet ISON

Credit: NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team
From the NASA press release:
Comet ISON is potentially the "comet of the century" because around the time the comet makes its closest approach to the Sun, on November 28, it may briefly become brighter than the full Moon. Right now the comet is far below naked-eye visibility, and so Hubble was used to snap the view of the approaching comet, which is presently hurtling toward the Sun at approximately 47,000 miles per hour. When the Hubble picture was taken on April 10, the comet was slightly closer than Jupiter's orbit at a distance of 386 million miles from the Sun. Even at that great distance the Sun is warming the comet enough to trigger outgassing from its frozen gases locked up in the solid nucleus. Hubble photographed a jet blasting dust particles off the sunward-facing side of the comet's nucleus. Preliminary measurements from the Hubble images suggest that the nucleus of ISON is no larger than three or four miles across. The comet was discovered in September 2012 by the Russian-led International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) using a 16-inch telescope.

Now, time for this week's objects, starting with that hussy of the solar system, Saturn:

Unlike Deep Sky Objects which mostly benefit from low to medium magnification, feel free to crank things up for the ringed planet. With steady skies and good eyepieces, cloud bands, the Cassini division, and even a few fainter outer rings will make their presence known. You will likely spot the moon Titan as well. Saturn "shifts" in it's appearance year by year, with 2013 giving us one of the best views of it's extensive ring system in quite some time.

The easiest object to find in our weekly hunt thus far:

Saturn Late April

Once you locate the bright star Spica in the south/southeastern sky, Saturn trails right behind it. Aim and enjoy.

Next up, we go for galactic rings:

M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra, as photographed by moron Additional Blond Agent

The darker the skies, simply the absence of the moon, can really bring out the detail in perhaps the most famous planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae are the end result of a star much like our sun which has exhausted it's hydrogen and helium and has attempted to burn it's carbon. What remains is a dead white dwarf, the core of a star shrunken to the size of the Earth, surrounded by an expanding puff of gas, its' former outer layers escaping off into the blackness of space. Easily visible from a small telescope, an Oxygen-III filter will also help darken the background bringing more detail out in its' smoky ring. Here's how to find it.

Views are from a light-polluted sight, more stars visible from country skies but the "hop stars" will all stand out:

Finding the Ring

With good transparency and no moon, color (blue/green) may even be detected in the ring. Larger aperture instruments will also reveal the white dwarf visible in the photo above.


A few morons in threads past live in areas much like my apartment, and have asked for objects they can actually look for in their washed-out skies. Well, ask no more:

The FULP List

The FULP List contains objects that are visible using either 15x70 astronomy binoculars or a modest telescope from severely light-polluted zones (red/white border and better) on a clear, moonless night.

I define a severly light-polluted zone as sny place where, on a good night, no more than three stars in Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) are visible naked-eye within one hour of sunset.
This region would correspond with John Bortle's White/Red Light Pollution Zones excluding the central core of the white regions on the below map:

So if you live anywhere besides the center of the white blobs, you're in luck. If you live in darker skies, many of these objects will improve through the eyepiece, and color may start to be detected in the fainter planetary nebulae and the Great Nebula in Orion.

Amateurs in the burbs often get frustrated because either a) they expect photographic appearances of many objects and are disappointed by the faint streaks, nodes and blobs they do see and/or b) they purchased an overpriced instrument with collimation issues and/or poor aperture. Open expectations and good optics are good friends where light pollution threatens to ruin your evening.

All the objects listed are visible from 42 N southwards. You might be surprised to find 63 out of Messier's 110 objects are listed, the most glaring absences being galaxies which, with a few notable exceptions, suffer the most from light pollution. Almost all of these objects are listed on Stellarium, and many will be included as future Spaced Out Challenges in the coming weeks.

Solar System Objects:
FULP 1 The Moon (obviously)
FULP 2 Mercury
FULP 3 Venus
FULP 4 Mars
FULP 5 Jupiter
FULP 6 Major Satellites of Jupiter (Io, Callisto, Europa, Gandymede)
FULP 7 Saturn
FULP 8 Titan (Saturn's largest Moon)
FULP 9 Uranus
FULP 10 Neptune
FULP 11 Ceres
FULP ҉҈҉ [Comet] Comet ISON (August 2013 thru February 2014)

Open Clusters
FULP 12 & 13 The Double Cluster in Perseus NGC 884 and 869
FULP 14 The Perseus Jewel Box M34
FULP 15- 25 The Clusters of Cassiopeia: NGC 654, 637, 663, 659, M103, NGC 436, 457, 225, 129, 7789, M52
FULP 26-28 The Clusters of Auriga M37, M36, M38
FULP 29 M35 in Gemini
FULP 30 The Beehive in Cancer M44
FULP 31 M67 in Cancer
FULP 32 The Pleiades in Taurus M45
FULP 33 The Hyades in Taurus
FULP 34 NGC 1981 in Orion
FULP 35 NGC 1977 in Orion
FULP 36 NGC 2232 in Monoceros
FULP 37 NGC 2244 in Monoceros (surrounded by the Rosette Nebula which is visible in dark skies)
FULP 38 NGC 2362 in Canis Major
FULP 39 M41 in Canis Major
FULP 40 M46 in Puppis
FULP 41 M47 in Puppis
FULP 42 M93 in Puppis
FULP 43 NGC 2547 in Vela
FULP 44 The Star Cloud in Sagittarius M24
FULP 45 and 46 M23 and M25 in Sagittarius
FULP 47 M21 in Sagittarius
FULP 48 The Wild Duck Cluster in Scutum M11
FULP 49 The Butterfly Cluster in Scorpius M6
FULP 50 Ptolemy's Cluster in Scorpius M7
FULP 51 M48 in Hydra
FULP 52 M29 in Cygnus
FULP 53 M39 in Cygnus
FULP 54 Brocchi's Cluster (The Coathanger) in Vulpecula
FULP 55 M16 Eagle Nebula Star Cluster (Nebula itself too faint)
FULP 56 IC 4665 in Ophiuchus

Globular Clusters:
FULP 57 M22 in Sagittarius
FULP 58 M28 in Sagittarius
FULP 59 The Great Hercules Cluster M13
FULP 60 M4 in Scorpius
FULP 61 M10 in Ophiuchus
FULP 62 M12 in Ophiuchus
FULP 63 M2 in Aquarius
FULP 64 M3 in Canes Venatici
FULP 65 M15 in Pegasus
FULP 66 M71 in Sagitta, the Globular Cluster That Might Not Be
FULP 67 Omega Centauri in Centaurus
FULP 68 M5 in Serpens
FULP 69 M92 in Hercules
FULP 70 M80 in Scorpius
FULP 71 M19 and M62 in Ophiuchus

FULP 72 The Great Nebula in Orion M42
FULP 73 DeMarian's Nebula in Orion M43
FULP 74 The Swan/Omega Nebula in Sagittarius M17
FULP 75 The Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius M8
FULP 76 The Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius M20
FULP 77 The Eskimo Nebula in Gemini
FULP 78 Cleopatra's Eye in Eridanus
FULP 79 The Blinking Planetary in Cygnus
FULP 80 The Blue Snowball in Andromeda
FULP 81 The Ghost of Jupiter in Hydra
FULP 82 The Saturn Nebula in Aquarius
FULP 83 The Bug Nebula in Scorpius
FULP 84 The Ring Nebula in Lyra M57
FULP 85 The Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula M27
FULP 86 The Little Dumbbell Nebula in Perseus M76
FULP 87 The Owl Nebula in Ursa Major M97
FULP 88 The Cat's Eye Nebula in Draco
Challenge Object:
FULP 89 The Veil Nebula (Western portion) in Cygnus

Intriguing Stars and Misc Messiers (doubles, variables, death stars):
FULP 90 Mizar/Alcor optical double/multi-star system
FULP 91 Albireo Double in Cygnus
FULP 92 Porrima Double in Virgo
FULP 93 Cor Caroli Double in Cans Venatici
FULP 94 The Winter Albireo (Herschel 3945) in Canis Major
FULP 95 Alkalurops Triple in Bootes
FULP 96 Gamma Velorum Quadruple in Vela
FULP 97 Betelgeuse (death star) in Orion
FULP 98 Sigma Orionis (multistar system) in Orion
FULP 99 Antares (death star)
FULP 100 Herschel's Garnet Star (death star, future Black Hole Candidate) in Cepheus
FULP 101 Black Hole Cygnus X-1's Victim Star, HDE226868 in Cygnus
FULP 102 Hind's Crimson Star in Lepus (carbon star)
FULP 103 La Superba (Y Cvn) in Canes Venatici (carbon star)
FULP 104 M40 Double Star in Ursa Major
FULP 105 M73 Four Star Clump in Aquarius
FULP 106 The Mirfak Star Field in Perseus (binoculars only, too wide-field for telescope observing)
FULP 107 Delta Cephei, the Cepheid variable.

Extra-Galactic Wonders:
FULP 108 The Andromeda Galaxy M31
FULP 109 Satellite of the Andromeda M32
FULP 110 M87 in Virgo
FULP 111 M49 in Virgo
FULP 112 M106 in Canes Venati
FULP 113/114 Bode's Nebulae M81+M82 in Ursa Major
FULP 115/116 2/3rds of the Leo Triplet M65 and M66
FULP 117 The Croc's Eye Galaxy in Canes Venati M94
FULP 118 M33, the Triangulum Galaxy
FULP 119 Centaurus A in Centaurus
FULP 120 The Sombrero Galaxy in Corvus M104

This is by no means a complete list of what you can see, but it's a great start for morons and should give encouragement to those who think their binoculars or telescope are only worth while in the sticks.


As always for your astronomy needs, feel free to browse Ace's Amazon Store in the electronics section. If you have any astrophotography, tips or items you care to share, email me at theonandonlyfinn (at) Clear skies and keep looking up!

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posted by CAC at 09:05 PM

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