November 3, 2010


I decided to go to Devraj Farm House, one of the observing dark sites around Bhuj city for comet hunting. The sky in the morning of 31st October was blue and clear. I called up my friend and our club member Ashwin Vaghela to come with me. Unfortunately after sunset the sky started to get hazy may be due to change of season. Because of dew in the atmosphere the lights of the city was spreading in the region of the sky at N-NW making the sky non-observable!!

We reached there at around 7:00pm. I carried my 25x100 binos and 10x50 binos. I also carried my Panasonic DMC FS-15 Digital Camera. The camera has a mode called “Starry Sky” which allows us to set exposure from 15 seconds to 60 seconds. Through 60 sec exposure the camera reveals stars down to magnitude 6.5 under excellent dark sky.

I wanted to scan in Hercules and Scutum so I began sweeping the sky horizontally from Hercules. Just when I started I stumbled upon a bright Globular Cluster M92. It was indeed very bright and easy object. The sky at West-Southwest was rather clear and dark so it forced me to pursue my work at Southwest.

western evening sky
After spending 15 minutes I decided to observe some bright deep-sky objects I memorized in the region of Aquila and Scutum. I pointed the Binocular to Scutum Milky Way and the next moment a very bright and rich Open Cluster entered the field of view. It is M11, one of the most famous clusters in the sky. This cluster is also known as “Wild Duck Cluster”. This is a very dense cluster of stars that it is hard to count individual stars at 25x magnification. It was discovered by Gottfried Kirch in 1681. This cluster contains about 2900 stars. Through my equipment in a 3 degree field of view, M11 appeared beautiful in a bright background of Milky Way stars.

scutum star field
In the same field of view I could also see a 9th magnitude Asterism Basel 1. Basel 1 is a faint asterism located 51’12” West of M11. Now I again centered on M11 and moved the binocular to the S-SW direction and stopped on a fuzzy object. I quickly identified that it was a Globular Cluster NGC 6712. This is an 8.5th magnitude globular located nearly 2.5 degrees S-SW of M11. This cluster was probably discovered by Le Gentil in the year 1749 and he described it as a “true nebula”. This was an easy object in my 4-inch Binos. In this starry field there is another beautiful Messier Object, M26, an Open Cluster located nearly 3 degrees 25’ SW of M11. This cluster is rather loose and fainter than M11.

Now I turned to Aquila and began sweeping the sky from Zeta Aquila star. I was doing stargazing and comet hunting simultaneously because this part of the sky is within the “Comet Haystack Region”. Just about 2.5 degrees SW of Zeta Aquila I noted small group of stars which was an open cluster NGC 6738 and 2 degrees 44’ West was another open cluster NGC 6709. NGC 6738 shines with a total magnitude of 8.3 with Angular Size of 15 Arc Minutes. NGC 6709 is a loose Open Cluster containing about 60 stars. The visual magnitude of this cluster is 6.7 with Angular Size of 15 Arc Minutes. After that I centered on a rich open cluster IC 4756 in Serpens Cauda. This is a 5th magnitude Open Cluster spreading about 39 arc minutes in the sky.

IC 4665

From here, about 3 degrees W-NW lies a beautiful cluster NGC 6633. This open cluster is about as large as the size of the moon and is located in Ophiuchus. The brightest stars in this cluster shines at 8 magnitudes. There is a blue, bright star (mag. 5.6) south of this cluster. The whole field was studded with many stars forcing me not to move away!!

There is another rich open cluster in Ophiuchus, IC 4665 located just 1 degree 20’ and 50” NE of Beta Ophiuchus star. The prominent part of this cluster is seven stars of mag. 7th and 8th making a nice view along with 2.7th magnitude star Beta. The angular diameter of this cluster is 41’. This cluster lies some 1400 light years away from Earth. This is an easy target in almost any sized binoculars and a naked eye object from a dark place.

After paying attention at IC 4665 I moved to Lyra and centered M57-The Ring Nebula in the field of view. M57 is a 9th mag Planetary Nebula located between Beta and Gamma Lyra stars. The nebula spans 1.7 Arc Minutes and is 2300 light years away from Earth. This is one of the famous and easy Messier Objects.

I have seen this planetary as a “thin dot” through my Olympus 10x50 Binoculars under dark skies. In the 25x100 Binos the nebula appeared rather bright, round and fuzzy, along with Gamma and Beta stars in the same FOV. Beta was an easy double with its 6.6th magnitude companion. About 1 degree NE of M57 is a wide pair of 6th and 7.6th magnitude stars. The 6th magnitude star is orange and its companion is whitish blue. The color correction from both eyes was excellent! I have never felt like this through a telescope.

There is another nice object in Lyra. This is an Open Cluster surrounded by the star Delta 2 Lyra. The name of this cluster is Stephenson 1, also known as “The Delta Lyra Cluster”. Through my binocular I saw few stars between the stars Delta 1 and Delta 2 Lyra. Delta 1 is a blue star. The orange star Delta 2 makes the view impressive. The cluster looks to be physically bounded with Delta 2, but actually it’s not. From internet I could learn that there are 19 members in the cluster and are located 1000 light years from us. The cluster can also be seen through small binoculars.
-Rahul Zota


Amar A. Sharma said...

Dude, a new comet passed in the morning, which the Japanese claimed visually. See my report on Majestic_Universe yahoogroup.

Rahul Zota said...

Wow!! I really didn't know about that! This is a good news for us because this is a second visual discovery of this year. Looking forward for more information!!