The Warren Astronomical Society Paper

Volume 29, Number 8, August, 1997


Table of Contents


14th Annual Summer Solstice Star Party - 1997

by Doug Bock

The first indicator that the star party was going to happen soon, came when Richard Brenz from Cadillac, dropped off his equipment here, on Thursday night. Friday brought mostly clear weather. I took the day off to finish up the preparations for the weekend. I spent a couple of hours on the lawnmower cutting the grass over the observing field. Next was trimming all the weeds around the house and the observatory. Especially the 10 foot dome, we were to work on over the weekend.

Friday evening brought partly cloudy skies, and some of the campsites were taken by those who would spend the weekend. About a dozen scopes were setup by dusk, and we waited for the sky to improve. Just patches of sky from time to time opened up, but we managed to observe a few things. I packed it in about 3:30am Saturday.

Saturday morning brought crystal clear blue sky and dry conditions. It was gorgeous. Blaine fired up the grill and made pancakes, and sausage for breakfast. Everyone chowed down by 11:30am.

Now it was time to start one of several optional projects. The group decided to work on observatory #2. It needed the flooring and joists to be pulled out and replaced. Ripping the old foundation out, was pretty easy, since it was quite rotten. Once that was done, we measured out what wood we needed. I then went down to the lumberyard and picked it up. I bought all treated wood, including the plywood for the floor. We measured the wood, cut it and put the floor framework together. Next we moved it to the 6 supporting posts from the original building, and set it there. Now we cut the plywood out to fit the Hexagon shape of the building. The flooring went down without a hitch. All this got done in about 3 hours. That included getting the wood from the lumberyard. The next item on the agenda was to replace the 10 foot diameter ring on the bottom of the walls. This had rotted out also. We drew the arcs on the plywood and started with the saber saw. The plywood is 3/4 inch treated, so it was difficult to cut. We ended up burning out the motor on the saw. We only got one of the 4 pieces necessary to complete the ring. So this project came to an abrupt halt. We packed all the tools away, and cleaned up the area. This project will be continued at a later date, once I get some better tools. Stay tuned. By the way, we videotaped this fire drill.

By now it was time for dinner, so we fired up the grills. Many more people arrived over the next several hours. About 25 to 30 scopes were up on the observing field. The 20" was setup for all to use, along with the 12.5". We put the 27" TV in the garage that evening so people could watch the RedWings win game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The sky conditions were great all day long. Come dusk, a cloud bank rolled in for about an hour, then cleared away, leaving a high, choppy haze. We seem to have a ribbon of clear overhead for the first half of the night, and finally it cleared all around, the rest of the night. Still somewhat bright, as the moisture in the atmosphere, was significant.

We had an observing contest, of which Marty Kunz won. He was the only one who turned in the list. Marty, you will get your prize the next time I see you. Observing went on all night, with some leaving at dawn. In the morning we had a handful of people left, which Blaine made breakfast for.

I would like to thank everyone who came out to the star party last weekend. I think I've finally recovered. It was great fun, and we actually accomplished some things.

I especially would like to thank all of you who helped out with rebuilding the foundation for the 10 foot dome. That was a real treat to get that done. After sitting there for 3 years rotting away, we can now put this observatory back into service. I hope someone would like to use it. But if not, we will put the 8" f/6 in there.

The next project will be putting up a building for the 20".

We had 44 registrations, with a total of about 50 people. The participant who came the farthest was from Northwest of Chicago. (More details about participants can be found in Doug's original article.)

The next event schedule for NCO is September 27th, here, then Oct 3-5 at the Northern Wilderness location west of Cadillac.


Computer Chatter

by Larry Kalinowski

Just saw Carl Sagan's and Ann Druyan's two and a half hour movie CONTACT. It's a must see movie for amateur astronomers. It really captures the essence of the astronomer's drive to understand the universe. There's some very good graphics in the scenes at Cape Kennedy, where there's an attempt to test a new space vehicle. Jodie Foster plays the astronomer who has to fight politics and prejudice. She's a radio astronomer in the SETI program, looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life. The developing understanding of a signal from a planet around Vega will keep you spellbound. Four stars for this one. Bring your wife or girlfriend to see it. You'll be glad you did.

Intel made a startling announcement about the Pentium chip. It claims it will lower Pentium prices as much as 60% during the month of July. That can only mean that production of their new chip, the Pentium II, will be going full bore by then. The Pentium II is capable of 233 and 300 Mhz.

The plaques that will be presented to Frank McCullough and mounted on the 22 inch Dobsonian telescope are now ready. Bob Watt showed the June Cranbrook group the completed plaques. It's a fitting award for a job well done. Since Frank won't be around for a formal presentation, his plaque will be mailed to him. On Saturday, June 14, Bob Watt mounted the McCullough plaque on the 22 inch telescope base. Five programs were placed on the 386 computer out at Stargate. They are SKYGLOBE, MESSIER, JUPITER, SATURN and MOON. The Jupiter and Saturn programs are satellite programs that help locate the positions of those planets satellites. Skyglobe is a planetarium program with a search capability for finding many deep sky objects. Messier and Moon are programs to help locate the Messier objects and lunar craters. Once the computer warms up and the C: drive symbol appears, all you have to do is type one of the names mentioned above and press the enter key to start the programs. The program will start automatically. At the present time the computer is being stored in the cabinet near the west door, so it must be removed and assembled on the table near the east door before it can be used. The connectors on the back of the computer are clearly marked, so there should be no problem determining which cables go where. Windows 3.1 will be installed at a later date. A 12 foot extension cord (supplied) is required to plug the computer into the outside, south, wall socket.

Like to play games on your company's computer? That may not happen much longer. Software designed to detect who is playing on the system is in the making. It'll tell your boss who's playing and for how long. There's also going to be a built in software scratcher. It'll take about twenty seconds to detect your game software, then poof, it goes to la-la land.

I saw my first DVD (digital video disk) drive at the last Gibraltar Trade Center computer show. It was about as big as a CD-ROM drive, but the price was a little bit higher ($329.95). In case you haven't been keeping up, the DVD drive uses the new 6 gigabyte CD video disks, as well as the old style CD music and computer ROMS. They're going to replace the present CD-ROM drives and revolutionize the audio and video world.

On Saturday, July 26th, the society will have its Summer outing at Stargate Observatory, now officially located within the bounds of Walcott Mill Metropark. Festivities begin about 2:00 pm. There will be a picnic (bring a plate of food to pass), observatory training on the new computer outfitted telescope and of course, a star party, featuring our new 22 in. Dobsonian. Rocket launchings are planned. Swap tables of astronomical and computer goodies are planned, as well as other festivities, for the afternoon. Hot dogs and coffee will be available from the society, for all that attend.

Morning viewers can catch an occultation of the star Aldebaran by the Moon, on July 29th (Tuesday). The disappearance will occur about 5:32 AM EDT, on the bright limb. Reappearance takes place in daylight about 6:26 AM, on the dark limb, during sunrise. Reappearance is easier to see because of less brilliance by the Moon's limb. Allow about plus or minus ten minutes for unexpected errors in calculations.

Wasps are no longer a problem at Stargate observatory. The nests were removed with the help of the park ranger, Glen Wilkins and myself. It was a battle royal but we won (for now). There was only one casualty. Glen got the Purple Heart for his bravery facing the enemy the week before. If you ask him, he may even show you his wound.

Computer shows for July are in Livonia, on Saturday, the 19th, at The Livonia Elks Hall, 3117 Plymouth Rd., one block east of Merriman and one mile south of I-96. Also in Madison Heights, on Sunday, the 20th, at The UF and CW Hall, 876 Horace Brown Dr., one block east of I-75 and one block south of 13 Mile Rd. A five dollar entrance fee is required for regular adults. One dollar less for seniors.

By the way, July 20th marks the 28th anniversary of mankind's first walk on the Moon.

The July computer meeting will be at Gary Gathen's home, on Thursday the 24th, as well as the rest of the fourth Thursday meetings through, and including, October. All new visitors will receive a free Windows planetarium program. Gary lives in Pleasant Ridge, at 21 Elm Park, three blocks south of I-696 and a half block west of Woodward Ave. His number is 810-543-3366.


An Evening of Globulars and Galaxies

by Jeff Bondono

I enjoyed a nice clear night Monday, June 10 and did some deep-sky observing with my 14.5" dob from my site just north of Imlay City, Michigan. I rated the sky 7/10 in both seeing and transparency.

As darkness fell, I observed the globular M53. It was pretty compressed, with a 2' diameter glow and stars resolved easily at x262 from the center out to a diameter of 4'.

From there I moved just one degree to NGC 5053, another globular. It was easy to find off a few nearby stars, but difficult to see. At x131, it appeared as an extremely faint barely-detectable 10' glow. About 30 extremely faint stars peppered the glow, the brightest of which is 14th magnitude or maybe a bit fainter. The cluster was quite loose, not compressed at all. x239 showed about 30 resolved stars with slight central compression. At that power, the glow all but disappears, only appearing in the central 1' or so. At x53, the glow is not quite as difficult, and lies a bit north of the line connecting a 9th magnitude star and an 11th magnitude star which nearly precede and follow the globular.

Next up was the galaxy NGC 5016. Again some nearby stars made it easy to find. It appeared as a faint round 1.5' glow, brighter in the middle to a small core, with a stellar nucleus which was barely brighter than the core.

Just 30' south from NGC 5016 was another faint galaxy, NGC 5012. This moderately edge-on galaxy was pretty faint, and about 2'x0.75' in pa 165. It grew slightly brighter toward the middle to a core with a stellar nucleus. The surface appeared slightly mottled, but I couldn't make out any definite arms or dust lanes. There was a pretty persistent superimposed 13th magnitude star within the glow nearly at the PA 345 edge. The galaxy appeared to be inclined about 45 degrees to the line of sight.

I found NGC 5116 very difficult to find. Once I succeeded, the x131 view showed a very faint, very small 1.5'x0.3' edge-on in pa 45. No details appeared to me; no brighter core, no stellar nucleus; just a brushstroke. I tried higher powers, but it didn't improve the view and the galaxy became more difficult to observe. An arc of 3 10th to 11th magnitude stars guarded the galaxy on its preceding and north side.

Next was a quick peek at M51. The galaxy was quite detailed and beautiful, but I didn't want to spend an hour on it so I moved on to the galaxy I was really after: NGC 5198. Located just 30' south, I saw it as a pretty faint 1.5' round glow which became much brighter in the middle to a 0.5' core, then a stellar nucleus. The core was quite sharply defined in this galaxy, rather than the gradual brightening which is evident in most galaxies.

My next target was NGC 5297. At x262, a bit faint but large, highly-inclined galaxy, 5'x1' in pa 150, just slightly brighter in the middle to a core, with a stellar nucleus. The core and nucleus are just a bit offset toward the preceding from the centroid of the glow. The preceding edge is more sharply cutoff than the following edge, and the entire disk is slightly mottled. A 14th magnitude star is superimposed just inside the edge of the glow at pa 150. A 10th magnitude star lies just beyond the edge in pa 330, and there's a 9th magnitude star 3' away in position angle 60. As I repeatedly recentered the galaxy, I often suspected an extremely faint very small glow just 1 or 2 arcminutes preceding this galaxy, and that might have been its companion NGC 5296, but this is a very uncertain observation.

While I was looking at Uranometria chart 76, I noticed a tight group of galaxies near the lower-left corner and decided to hop over there. Boy am I glad I did. As it turns out, I've observed this group before, but haven't really appreciated it as I did on this night. The NGC 5350/3/4/5 group is an easy, excellent, attractive, fairly tight group of bright galaxies. They are all located within a 10' circle, and easily fit in a moderately high power eyepiece. Two of the galaxies (NGC 5353/4) are touching, and form one corner of an equilateral triangle completed by the remaining two galaxies. NGC 5350 is the largest and 3rd brightest in the group. It stands at the north-preceding corner of the triangle, and is almost round, 2' in diameter, oriented in pa 105, somewhat mottled, and very slightly and gradually brighter in the middle. NGC 5353 is the south-more of the 5353/4 pair which forms the south-preceding corner the triangle. The two galaxies are angled such that they're leaning toward each other. NGC 5353 is about 2'x1' in pa 150, much brighter in the middle to an elongated core with a stellar nucleus. NGC 5354 is about 1.5'x1.3' in pa 75, much brighter in the middle to a round core with a stellar nucleus. The following corner of the triangle is anchored by NGC 5355, which is the faintest and smallest of the 4. It appeared as a 1' round pretty-faint glow, brighter in the middle to a core, but without a stellar nucleus. This group is one which should not be missed.

Heck, if you can just pick a great group of 4 from a glance at a chart, why not continue that way? A short sweep over to the spot marked NGC 5371 showed a beautiful face-on spiral, about 4' in diameter, almost round but slightly elongated north-south. It was pretty faint, but suddenly brighter in the middle to a small core with a stellar nucleus. A 14th magnitude star was superimposed 1.5' in pa 105 from the nucleus. The galaxy had a smooth disk and I couldn't make out arms or dark lanes, but the small core and large round halo made this a dead giveaway for a spiral, and I was convinced they must be there. Gotta get more aperture one of these years and come back to this one.

Pushing my luck further, I went over to NGC 5311/3. These two were a lot less spectacular. NGC 5313 was the brighter of the two, being a fairly bright glow elongated 3'x1.5' in pa 45, gradually brighter in the middle to a pretty bright stellar nucleus which was a bit offset toward pa 315 of the centroid glow. I didn't see any superimposed **. NGC 5311 was smaller and had a fainter halo, appearing as a 1.5'x1' glow in pa 120, brighter in the middle to a stellar nucleus which outshone the nucleus of NGC 5313.

NGC 5326 was next. At x262, it was a fairly bright 1'x0.5' glow in pa 135, brighter in the middle to a stellar nucleus. No core was seen, just an 11th magnitude nucleus. No superimposed stars were seen. After observing this for a while, I noticed that it is surrounded by a very faint 2' round glow, suggesting that the glow I originally saw might be the bar in a face-on barred spiral. (After reviewing this observation with picture, I think fatigue must have been setting in).

Nearby NGC 5337 appeared as a very soft, pretty faint 1.5' round glow with a very faint stellar nucleus superimposed. NGC 5346 was not seen, marking my first complete failure of the night.

I wrapped up the night with M7 and M6, then packed up for the too-long too-late drive home.


14 Globulars in a 15 degree Circle

by Jeff Bondono

June 28, 1997. Something is amiss in Michigan. We've had 3 clear nights in a row, and the third fell on a Friday night with moonrise holding off till 2 am. I went to my usual spot at Imlay City, Michigan, with my 14.5" dob newtonian. I rated the night 7/10 for transparancy, and 5/10 for seeing.

The first object on my observing list was NGC 6293, a globular cluster in the corner of Ophiuchus that cuts between Scorpius and Sagittarius. I noticed that there were a whole flock of globulars nearby; in fact Tirion's Sky Atlas 2000 shows 15 within a 15 degree circle. I ended up spending most of my time on those globulars, seeing 13 of them, failing to see 1, and forgetting to try 1.

NGC 6293 appeared as a 2' glow at x262, suddenly concentrated to a bright core, but not very well resolved at all. About 10-15 outliner stars were resolved, the brightest of which was on the preceeding edge. In general, the stars resolved on the preceeding side seemed a bit brighter than those on the following side. A slightly brighter star was 2' north-following the center; I don't know whether that one's member.

M19 was a bright and pretty well resolved 4'x3' glow, elongated north-south. About 20 stars resolved over the glow, with very few stars outside the glow. It wasn't especially concentrated, just very gradually brighter in the middle, without a sharp central peak. 2 11th magnitude were on the n edge.

NGC 6284 showed a 1.5' soft outer glow suddenly brighter in the middle to a 0.5' peak. A few stars were resolved at x262 with averted vision on the outskirts of the glow. The smooth outer glow and bright spike in the center made it look like a face-on spiral galaxy to me.

NGC 6287 was a very faint extremely soft 1.5' round glow, very slightly brighter in the middle, with no resolution at x262. NGC 6325 was not found.

NGC 6355 was an extremely faint averted-vision-only 1.5 round glow, very slightly very gradually brighter in the middle. No stars were resolved at x68 or x262.

NGC 6316 was similar in appearance, but a bit brighter. I noted it as a faint pretty small 1' round glow, very gradually very slightly brighter in the middle. No stars were resolved. A 12th magnitude star was 1.5' south-following. 13th and 12th magnitude stars were 1' and 2' preceeding, respectively.

NGC 6304 appeared as a 1.5' round glow, gradually very slightly brighter in the middle, and also not resolved at x262.

M62 was the largest and brightest globular in the area. This 3' glow was slightly elongated south-preceeding to north-following, and was gradually brighter in the middle until a suddenly much brighter 0.5' core was reached. The south-following edge of the globular appeared to be cutoff before extending out as far as it "should" have, as if it was blocked by an intervening dust cloud. The cluster was very well resolved, and many 13th magnitude stars were just outside the preceeding and north-preceeding edges of the glow.

NGC 6401 looked like a slightly fuzzy star at x68. At x262 it was a very soft very faint 0.75' round glow with a sharply-spiked bright nucleus or superimposed 12th magnitude star which was a bit offset toward the south-following. It gave me the impression of an elliptical galaxy with a brighter nucleus.

NGC 6440 was a 1' soft glow without resolution at x262. It was slightly and gradually brighter in the middle, located in a north-south chain of 11th magnitude stars.

Just 20' north from NGC 6440 was the planetary nebula NGC 6445. This bright 1'x0.75 glow in pa 165 degrees was easily seen at x68 and x262 both with and without the UHC filter. I've noted the unusual shape of this planetary in the past as lockwasher-shaped (I think Tom Polakis suggested that description), but tonight I saw it as more apple-core shaped, like a small-scope view of M27. Its considerably brighter on the northern edge. Don't let the listed magnitude (13.2) of this planetary fool you. It is much easier than that suggests.

NGC 6342 showed a 1.5'x1' glow in pa 30 degrees, gradually brighter in the middle, but without any resolution at x262. A 12th magnitude star was 1.5' away, in pa 210 degrees.

M9 was a bright, well-resolved 3' round glow with about 30 stars resolved. Stars extended further out of the glow toward the preceeding than the following.

NGC 6356 was a bright but very soft 2.5' round glow, gradually brighter in the middle, slightly mottled but without resolution.

The globular I forgot to observe was NGC 6235. A May of 1990 observation of that one showed a very faint 2' glow (in an 8" scope) with about 5 stars of resolution that came and went with the seeing.

The farmer on who's land I observe from has put up an extremely obnoxious light on "my" side of the barn. Its about a half-mile away from where I setup, but nothing but a flat cornfield lies between me and the light. I've been observing from here since May of 1990, with over 100 pleasant observing sessions next to the cows, the corn, or the snow. Ironically, that observation of NGC 6235 took place on my first night from this site; one of the 40 objects I observed that night, 18 of which were first-timers. Turns out that 4 of the globulars I observed tonight were also seen for the first time that night. Most of my Herschel 400 objects were observed during the first few years I came here. Looks like now the site has run its course, though, and I'll knock on a new farmer's door next time I go observing.


Minutes of Meetings

by Glenn Wilkins

Cranbrook - July 3, 1997 Officer's Meeting - July 7, 1997
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