April Targets

Here is my list of targets for the month. The meridian times listed are in PDT for me at 120.5 degrees West in California, so your times may vary.

Meridian Target Type Mag Constellation Distance
04:19:31 PM M1 – Crab Nebula Diffuse Nebula 8.4 Taurus 6.5K ly
05:46:09 PM Jupiter Planet -2.1 Gemini
06:46:41 PM C/2014 E2 Jacques Comet 12.9 Puppis
07:25:00 PM M44 – Beehive Open Cluster 3.7 Cancer 590 ly
07:36:00 PM M67 Open Cluster 6.1 Cancer 2.6K ly
08:40:33 PM M81 – Bode’s Galaxy Galaxy 6.9 Ursa Major 11.7M ly
08:40:52 PM M82 – Cigar Galaxy Galaxy 8.4 Ursa Major 11.5M ly
08:52:02 PM NGC 3132 – Eight-Burst Nebula Planetary Nebula 10.0 Vela 2.6K ly
09:09:46 PM NGC 3242 – Ghost of Jupiter Planetary Nebula 11.0 Hydra 2K ly
11:04:00 PM M106 Galaxy 9.1 Canes Venatici 23.7M ly
11:14:47 PM M49 Galaxy 9.4 Virgo 55.9M ly
11:15:49 PM M87 Galaxy 9.6 Virgo 53.5M ly
11:21:20 PM NGC 4565 – Needle Galaxy Galaxy 10.4 Coma Berenices 40M ly
11:24:59 PM M104 – Sombrero Galaxy Galaxy 9.0 Virgo 29.3M ly
11:34:10 PM Mars Planet -1.4 Virgo
11:35:53 PM M94 Galaxy 9.0 Canes Venatici 15M ly
11:41:43 PM M64 – Black-eye Galaxy Galaxy 9.4 Coma Berenices 24M ly
11:57:55 PM M53 Globular Cluster 8.3 Coma Berenices 58K ly
12:00:49 AM M63 – Sunflower Galaxy Galaxy 9.3 Canes Venatici 37M ly
12:10:27 AM NGC 5128 – Centaur’s Shield Galaxy 6.8 Centaurus 13M ly
12:14:52 AM M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy Galaxy 8.4 Canes Venatici 25M ly
12:22:00 AM M83 Galaxy 7.5 Hydra 14.7M ly
12:27:12 AM M3 Globular Cluster 6.2 Canes Venatici 33.9K ly
12:48:12 AM M101 – Pinwheel Galaxy Galaxy 9.1 Ursa Major 21M ly
02:01:35 AM Saturn Planet 0.8 Libra
02:03:33 AM M5 Globular Cluster 6.7 Serpens 25K ly
03:08:35 AM M4 Globular Cluster 5.9 Scorpius 7.2K ly
03:26:41 AM M13 – Great Cluster in Hercules Globular Cluster 5.8 Hercules 22.2K ly
03:32:14 AM M12 Globular Cluster 7.7 Ophiuchus 15.7K ly
03:42:08 AM M10 Globular Cluster 6.4 Ophiuchus 14.3K ly
04:02:07 AM M92 Globular Cluster 6.3 Hercules 26.7K ly

Farewell, Comet 168P/Hergenrother!

This image shows the distinct nuclei splitting off from the comet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/NOAO/Gemini

If you want to catch a glimpse of the Comet 168P/Hergenrother, you’d better do it quickly. The comet has broken into at least four distinct pieces, according to NASA. This was discovered after it made it’s 7-year periodic appearance and had a sudden brightening from the expected 15th or so magnitude all the way up to a 9th magnitude. Over the last couple of months, it has brightened and dimmed a couple of times, probably due to this fracturing process. It’s perihelion (closest approach to the sun) was on October 1st, and may have also contributed to this break down and brightening process.

I made my second attempt to try and spot this dim comet tonight and was met with success! It was exciting to see something that I knew I would only get to see once. For my first attempt (last night), I had tried to catch it in my 10″ Dobsonian from my front porch, but with the “small city” amount of light pollution to deal with, it made this impossible. I may have caught the ghost of a smudge of it, but I will never be sure.

Tonight, I decided to trek out to an area with very dark skies, to make my chances as good as possible to see this lonely, dying comet, since I knew that I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity. I had almost immediate success. It was easy to spot, using the star finder map from Comet Chasers, in addition to making sure I knew the star hops pretty well in Stellarium before I had gone out for the night.

It was definitely a faint comet to spot, but it was decently visible. I used my 25mm eyepiece, anything with higher magnification made it too dim. This provided a nice, full view of the comet. I was able to see the nebulous coma stretching out, and the nucleus of the comet. With my eyes and telescope, however, I was not able to resolve pieces or separate nuclei, only a single one at the front. Averted vision worked well to enhance the coma. I waited around a half an hour after my first look for the sky to darken a bit more, and around 8:00pm seemed to be a good time.

It’s always exciting to witness events like this, since usually things take eons to unfold in the cosmos. When we can see something happening within our own lifetime, let alone within a few months or weeks, it’s always a unique memory.

My condolences to Carl Hergenrother (who blogs over at The Transient Sky) for losing a friend. :) While I’m sure it was thrilling to discover it 14 years ago, I’m sure it’s equally exciting for it to be getting some attention again. This was only my second comet to view in a telescope, and my first to find on my own, so it was an interesting learning experience that happened to turn into a bit of excitement.

If you have a decent telescope and some fairly dark skies, grab a finder map and give this one a shot. You won’t get another chance.

The comet is currently just above the constellation Pegasus. A zoomed view of the square portion is in the next image.

A zoomed view of the previous image. The star hop was easy for me by making a triangle from the top two stars of Pegasus to the top star in this image, and then walking down to where the comet was, somewhere within the circle on the map.


November Targets

Here’s my list of objects to find during the month of November. I am around 35 degrees north, so you might have to adjust the times depending upon your location. The new moon is at 22:08:20, 13 Nov 2012 UTC, so anytime around the 13th is a good day to view. Leave a comment if you have an additional target to try and spot!

Time Target Designation Type Magnitude Constellation
07:00:00 PM M92 Globular Cluster 6.5 Hercules
07:00:00 PM Helix Nebula NGC7293 Planetary Nebula 7.6 Aquarius
07:00:00 PM Wild Duck Cluster M11 Open Cluster 5.8 Scutum
07:00:00 PM Eagle Nebula M16 Diffuse Nebula 6.0 Serpens
07:00:00 PM Great Cluster M13 Globular Cluster 5.9 Hercules
07:00:00 PM M30 Globular Cluster 7.5 Capicorn
07:00:00 PM M75 Globular Cluster 8.6 Sagittarius
07:00:00 PM NGC6712 Globular Cluster 8.2 Scutum
07:30:00 PM Epsilon Lyrae HIP 91919 Double Star 5.0 Lyra
07:30:00 PM Saturn Nebula NGC7009 Planetary Nebula 8.0 Aquarius
07:30:00 PM Dumbbell Nebula M27 Planetary Nebula 8.1 Vulpecula
07:30:00 PM M72 Globular Cluster 9.4 Aquarius
07:30:00 PM M73 Open Cluster 9.0 Aquarius
08:00:00 PM M2 Globular Cluster 6.5 Aquarius
08:00:00 PM M39 Open Cluster 4.6 Cygnus
08:00:00 PM M15 Globular Cluster 6.4 Pegasus
08:00:00 PM Ring Nebula M57 Planetary Nebula 9.0 Lyra
08:00:00 PM Comet Hergenrother 168P Comet 9.0 Andromeda
08:00:00 PM Cat’s Eye Nebula NGC6543 Planetary Nebula 9.0 Draco
08:00:00 PM Uranus Planet 6.1 Pisces
08:00:00 PM Neptune Planet 7.7 Aquarius
08:00:00 PM NGC891 Galaxy 10.0 Andromeda
08:00:00 PM M56 Globular Cluster 8.3 Lyra
08:00:00 PM Cocoon Nebula IC 5146 Diffuse Nebula 7.4 Cygnus
08:30:00 PM Triangulum Galaxy M33 Galaxy 5.7 Triangulum
09:00:00 PM Andromeda M31 Galaxy 3.5 Andromeda
09:00:00 PM M74 Galaxy 9.2 Pisces
09:30:00 PM PacMan Nebula NGC246 Planetary Nebula 8.0 Cetus
10:00:00 PM M36 Open Cluster 6.0 Auriga
10:00:00 PM M37 Open Cluster 5.6 Auriga
10:00:00 PM M38 Open Cluster 6.4 Auriga
10:00:00 PM Crab Nebula M1 Diffuse Nebula 8.4 Taurus
10:00:00 PM Hyades Open Cluster Taurus
10:00:00 PM Pleides M45 Open Cluster Taurus
10:00:00 PM Sculptor NGC253 Galaxy 7.1 Sculptor
11:00:00 PM Cigar Galaxy M82 Galaxy 8.4 Ursa Major
11:00:00 PM Bode’s Galaxy M81 Galaxy 6.9 Ursa Major
11:00:00 PM Orion Nebula M42 Diffuse Nebula 4.0 Orion
11:00:00 PM Ceres Dwarf Planet 7.2 Gemini
11:00:00 PM Cone Nebula NGC2264 Diffuse Nebula 3.9 Monoceros