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Observing Report

Mentoring Pays

Harsh Kaushikkar


This is my first post to this list and of course my first OR. First of all thanks to Dave Ittner and the mentoring program at SJAA. I am a complete newcomer to this hobby, case in point that in December of 2011 I did not know that any thing such as the Orion Nebula existed. Ranch Canada del Oro OSP is a great (dark) site for South Bay residents and thanks to Christopher Kelly for organizing the star party at this location. I was observing with an Orion 10” Dob that is part of the loaner program at SJAA. It’s a wonderful instrument easy to setup and point to objects in the sky. It shows enough detail that makes the observer spend enough time on a single DSO (Deep Sky Object) to actually study it. Before the star party I had decided to spend the evening locating and observing some DSOs in the Canis Major and adjacent constellations. I used a combination of the Tirion and Skiff’s Bright Star Atlas and the basic Sky Safari App on my iPad. The goal was to try simple star hops so I figured why not pick the brightest star in the sky first? 1. M41: I started with Open cluster M41 which is a straight hop towards the horizon from Sirius. It’s an attractive open cluster with a few visible red stars. 2. M50: Star hopped from Sirius to Cma which is 5° N-E, then continued same direction 1 finder field to get M50 in the view. 3. NGC 2360: I saw this cluster on the map on Sky Safari and hence decided to find it. From Sirius went towards North (left) to a star named Muliphien and then a bit more left and down towards the horizon one finder field to get NGC 2360. Again another pleasing open cluster. I am beginning to be a fan of star clusters! 4. M47 and M46: Open Cluster M47 was visible to the naked eye and is very close to NGC 2360, it was just another hop to the left. If M47 is on the cross hairs in the finder then M46 is visible in the finder scope as a very dim patch. M46 was a true discovery! As I was observing it with Dave he pointed out the visible planetary nebula NGC 2438 that is towards the center of this cluster. At first I almost did not see it, but slowly the ring like shape became apparent. After that I decided to spend some time looking for my current favorite galaxy pair M81 and M82. I star hopped to the pair using the 1st and 3rd star of the big dipper. I could almost see the two galaxies in the finder itself! But the view in the main score almost blew me away! Although M81 is the brighter one, it was M82 with its cigar shape that truly was dazzling. I bumped up the magnification and spent some time just gazing at it. I am definitely looking forward to more observing sessions at RCDO and hope to improve my skills and hunt for more DSOs!


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