Shortest night (and longest day) of the year is here again! Happy Summer Solstice 2018 for you all!
Observing site: Ulvila Observatory, Finland
Instrument: C280/2750 mm (11” Catadioptric)
Darkness of the background sky: 3
Weather: Clear sky, calm, no Moon, dry air, +12C
During the night between 23rd and 24th of August 2017, I went observing to Ulvila Observatory. During this night, I was able to observe two objects, both planetary nebulas: NGC 6772 and 6804. During the Night I was at the observatory with Jarkko Suominen. He was photographing The Veil Nebula in Cygnus, and during the night I was able to do couple of visual observations during the breaks of his exposures. Besides my visual observations, I was also participating astrophotography activities with Jarkko that night. A report of the Veil nebula photography session can be found in Taivaanvahti observation database by Ursa Astronomical Association (in Finnish).
My first target for the night was NGC 6772, a planetary nebula in Aquila, located in SW part of the constellation, about 14 degrees SW from Altair. About this object I wrote following notes:
@165x: This planetary nebula appeared as a roundish, and faint nebulous glow with even brightness distribution. No central star or structure visible. OIII enhanced the view, this nebula doesn’t tolerate magnification very well.
My second and last object for this short session was NGC 6804, another planetary nebula in Aquila. This nebula is located ~4 degrees W from Altair. About this stellar remnant I wrote as follows:
@280x: This planetary nebula appeared as a rather small, and pretty bright nebulous patch of light. The shape of the nebula is perhaps slightly elongated. Central star became visible with higher magnification. OIII didn’t do much with this object.
So, that was my second, this time very short observing session. I was happy anyway, because I was able to see two new planetary nebulas for me, and both of them were really pretty objects!
Observing site: Saarijärvi, Lavia, Finland
Instrument: N250/1200 mm (10” Newton)
SQM: 21.03 – 21.24
Darkness of the background sky: 2-3
Weather: Clear sky, calm, no Moon, very humid air, +10 – +9C, clouds coming in the end of the session.
Objects observed: NGC 206, 513 and 214.
During the night between 21st and 22nd of August 2017, I was able to start the new observing season! During summer of 2017, I had been looking for a decent dark sky -site in Satakunta- and Varsinais-Suomi regions. I observed, that only decent and dark site in Satakunta is Lavia, in eastern part of the region, in easternmost extreme of Pori municipality. In Lavia, there is a gravel quarry near locality of Saarijärvi. The gravel quarry is decent site for observing, and the skies are relatively dark.
During my first session in season 2017-2018, I was able to observe three objects: NGC 206, 513 and 214. All of these are listed in Herschel catalogue, and more precisely, in Herscehl 400 part II.
During the session, the sky was relatively dark, although proper darkness comes only very late and lasts only for a couple of hours. Nevertheless, I was able to do some observing! Shortness of the night actually was the least of the problems during the night, because the real enemy was humidity of air! The air humidity was so bad, that all moisture condensed onto all optical surfaces, and even my sketching cardboard forms were soaked! This made sketching extremely difficult!
My first target of the night was NGC 206, a star cloud within M31, the famous Andromeda Galaxy. The star cloud is located at the southwestern edge of Andromeda Galaxy, and about 25′ SW from M32. About this object, I wrote following notes:
@ 71x: this star cloud appeared as a clearly visible, hazy, nebulous patch of light. It was best visible with averted vision and sweeping. Extreme humidity was making my cardboard forms very damp, and sketching was very difficult because of this. Because of the conditions, I gave up the idea of sketching the whole galaxy and NGC 206 as a part of it, and only sketched NGC 206 and M32.
My second object for the night was NGC 513, a very small (in terms of apparent diameter) and distant (distance about 260 million light years) spiral galaxy in southernmost part of Andromeda, very close to Pisces border. The galaxy is very small, it’s apparent dimensions are about 42” x 16”. About this mini-sized galaxy I wrote as follows:
@120x: this galaxy appeared only as a very small and faint, almost stellar smudge of light.
My third and last object for the night was NGC 214. NGC 214 is another spiral galaxy located in Andromeda. About this galaxy I wrote following notes:
@120x: this galaxy appeared as a clearly visible but small and featureless, nebulous patch of light.
So that was it, my first observing session in season 2017-2018! I had some difficulties with air humidity, but I was nevertheless able to do some observations despite this problem!
As you might notice, Celestial Sphere looks different, and it is true, Celestial Sphere has got a facelift and it has been significantly updated!
First of all, the layout has been updated. Besides this, I have also added some new pages and menu items to main menu of this site. I have promoted some pages to top level, promoted pages are: Solar system sketches and Deep sky sketches. New menu items are: Dark sky observing sessions, Variable stars, Eclipses, Transits and also Atmospheric phenomena. These menu items consists mostly of my blog posts related to these categories and something else too!
I have also made some tough decisions and changes in my observing priorities. I have finally been able to choose what I will be observing after finishing my current visual deep sky observing programs. After considering it for a good while, I decided, that I will come back to my visual variable star observing program. And actually I have decided to re-start variable star observing immediately! I’m going to be observing same set of 10 stars that I was observing in Autumn of 2016. I have decided, that I will finish Caldwell-, Hidden treasures-, and Herschel 400 -observing lists, I will fully focus on variable star observing, but I still may sometimes do some visual deep sky observing.
And then there is a thing that I’m already very excited about: in order to be able to finish Caldwell- and Hidden treasures observing lists, I need to travel somewhere to Southern hemisphere to observe all of the southern objects in these lists. And I could have a chance to travel to Australia in October 2018 to observe the southern Caldwell- and Hidden Treasure -objects! And of course I want to see the Magellanic clouds, Southern Milky Way and all other Celestial wonders visible only in the Southern Hemisphere! After this trip, I would have finished Caldwell- and Hidden treasures catalogues. There still would be some southern objects to be observed in Herschel 400 list, but I would observe them sometimes in future.
The trip to Australia will be a dream come true -thing for me, and I’m already looking forward to it very much! But I’m going to write about that a little bit later.
Then about why I decided to switch priorities and observing programs again. This decision is one of the most difficult ones I have had to do in my life, because I so much love both deep sky- and variable star observing! I have been struggling with this decision, but there has been one factor in this decision making process, that has helped me to do the choice.
That factor is the fact, that by observing variable stars I can contribute to science of astronomy and to help astronomers now and in future to study and understand the stars better. By observing variable stars, I’m making a such contribution, that will greatly benefit a much larger group of people and bigger purpose than if I was just observing deep sky object just for (my own) fun. Deep sky observations of course can deliver lots of fun and enjoyment for me and possibly for someone else too, but I have a feeling within myself, that I feel that it is important for me to participate in variable star science by making my own contribution to the science in form of my own observations.
So that’s why I have made this switch in priorities for now. From now on, I’m going to be focusing on my visual variable star observing program, which consists of the same stars, that I was observing in Autumn of 2016. I hope I can stick to this decision, and variable stars will always be my number one form now on. I still of course might occasionally do some deep sky observing too, but only if I have done all variable star observing for the week.
There would be also so much other things I could write about. But I think that’s all for now, keep on observing and clear skies to you!
Observed phenomena: Lunar eclipse
Type of eclipse: Total Lunar eclipse
Type of observation: Negative
Date and time: 31.01.2018, 14:50 UT
Observing place: Ulvila, Finland
Observing conditions: Totally cloudy sky during my whole observing session, 8/8
Observing instruments: Camera: Olympus µ 1030 SW
Total lunar eclipse of 31st of January 2018 was totally obscured by clouds, at least in Ulvila, Western Finland. In the morning of this day, there was still small hope of seeing at least a glimpse of the eclipse, but during the day a weather front approached from the west and the sky was totally clouded out well before the Moon had even risen above horizon. This eclipse was a total eclipse, but only the very last phases of the eclipse would have been visible here in Ulvila, if the sky had been clear enough. So this time no luck. Next lunar eclipse is happening in late July this year, and it’s also going to be a total eclipse. So my thoughts, hopes and expectations are already in the July eclipse!
So, today is again the day when the day is at it’s shortest and night at it’s longest in Northern hemisphere, but now the sunlight will be increasing slowly but surely!
We even got some snow here in Ulvila, Western Finland!
Happy Winter Solstice for you all!