Observations from Burlington, VT 5/27/02
After weeks of lousy weather and endless evening commitments I was thrilled to finally get a beautiful weekend for stargazing. I used my 10" solar filter for the first time this afternoon. One unforeseen result of setting the scope up in broad daylight was the plethora of turned heads and interesting facial expressions from passers-by. I met one of my neighbors after she approached me thinking "I hope he's not crazy enough to point that thing at the sun!" and ended up providing her with a first-ever look at the solar surface. At least a dozen sunspots were visible, the largest of which was roughly 20 degrees north of the solar equator and about three-quarters of the way toward the western edge, as far as I could tell.
A nearly-full moon and scattered clouds promised to make attempted telescope observations useless, so instead I used binoculars. Around 10:15 I ventured out to the middle of the field in front of my apartment with my 15x63's and a beach chair and proceeded with observations. Limiting magnitude was about 4.5 at the zenith.
Antares was just 12 degrees above the horizon and was as red as any star I've seen through the binocs. While admiring Antares I tried repeatedly through the course of the night to spot M4, with no success.
M3, globular cluster in Canes Venatici, appeared as a large fuzzball, faint with direct vision but rather bright with averted.
Coma Berenices Cluster appeared as an extended star cluster, not as impressive as I've seen in my 8x40's. Apparently additional power diminishes the effect.
Mizar and Alcor (in UMa) showed up as widely separated pair of white stars.
M5, globular cluster in Serpens, appeared as an grey fuzzball, smaller and brighter than M3.
M10 and M12, globular clusters in Ophiuchus, were barely visible as round, dark grey smudges with averted vision. By this time the moonlight was having a considerable effect on this region of the sky.
M13, globular cluster in Hercules, was a large fuzzball, barely visible with direct vision but bright with averted.
M92, globular cluster in Hercules, was considerably smaller than M13 but clearly visible with direct vision.
Albireo (Cyg) showed up as a close but easily split binary, a bright yellowish star with a fainter blue companion.
M29, open cluster in Cygnus, showed clearly as a faint grouping of stars against the backdrop of the Milky Way.
M39, open cluster in Cygnus, showed six distinct stars against a grey smudge.
Epsilon Lyrae appeared as two well-separated stars of equal magnitude.
Zeta Lyrae showed two very close stars of unequal magnitude.
Delta Lyrae appeared as a bright yellow primary with a fainter bluish-white companion.
M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra, seemed very faint and nearly stellar.
M27, the Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula, seemed clearly non-stellar, a dim smudge at the limit of visibility under averted vision.
30 and Omicron 1 Cygni appeared as a colorful well-separated binary of orange-yellow and blue stars of nearly equal magnitudes.
By this time (11:45) the clouds were thickening sufficiently to render additional observing attempts futile. Although binoculars don't show nearly as much detail as a telescope, they are very useful for quick looks and are convenient for observing under less-than-ideal conditions. Still, I hope to have the scope out before the mosquitoes claim my field for the remainder of the summer!