Mini-Messier Marathon March 16, 2018

It was more of a sprint if you will forgive the pun. Friday, the 16th was to be a clear mild night while Saturday cloudy and rainy.  So I took Molly, the 16″ dob, to the RRO to see what I could do. 

First, I spent perhaps 30 minutes getting my new Rigel QuickFinder lined up. This was very annoying and makes me wonder if I should put an emergency site tube on the base or perhaps something to hold a laser pointer.

It started slowly but I found the first object at 8:15. Two, actually, M42 and M43 then M45.  M77 at 8:25, by this time I’m trying to follow the plan to give best efficiency.  M33, M31, M32, M110 were low  but fell to Molly. M103 and M76 were found as the clock changed to 9 PM.

About this time I started using my binoculars more and not just for studying the area.  Binoculars are not just for the big bright objects but smaller open clusters too. All I need to do is see the object and be sure which it is.

M34, M35, M36, M37, M38, M41, M50, M46, M47,  M48, M44, M67 all fell to my 42mm binoculars.

M79, M78, M93,  M81 and M82 all were no challenge for Molly but dew fell hard right afterward so I called it a night with 27 objects. Only a couple objects – M74 and M52 – from the list up to that point were not found.

Mercury March 14, 2018

Here is an image of Mercury taken from the River Ridge Observatory this evening. Mercury is currently popping up in the western sky for a few days as it does about four times per year before it slides right back down toward the Sun. Right now it is above and to the right of Venus but dimmer. Over the next several days it will get larger and more crescent shaped but will also get closer to the Sun making it more difficult. This was taken with my trusty 9.25″ SCT with my ASI120MM camera. A red filter was used to reduced atmosphere induced chromatic aberration. I combined the best 25% of 5000 1 millisecond images then sharpened in Photoshop. 

Venus and Mercury Little Rock March 3, 2018

Today, I’ve seen and photographed all five bright planets.  This morning I got up early and went to the River Ridge Observatory to image Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. As it turned out, those attempts were too noisy to show but then about 13 hours later I was able to capture a near conjunction of Venus and Mercury after sunset. The two planets are just over one degree apart. Enjoy the short video.