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Discovery!

Once more, tired, but with too many small pains to sleep, I roll out of bed about 3:15 am and as I glance out the door to the upper deck I see it is wonderfully clear. Ten minutes later, tea in hand, I'm parked behind the 80mm Eon, once more absorbing the Double Cluster in Perseus - I have to quote O'Meara sometime. He does a great job with this cluster in one of his books - the one on the Caldwell objects i think. But this morning it was discovery time.

I was remembering last fall and how great it was to see Comet Holmes drifting, night after night, in the star fields around Mirfak.

11.16_680_10.18pm.jpg

Then I concentrated on the comet, long since faded from sight, now, with the 22mm Nagler I focused on those wonderful star fields it passed through. What an incredibly rich area! Then I recalled one of my favorite open clusters, M34, the "Klingon Warship" - at least in my mind - and without making any serious attempt to find it I started prowling in what I thought was the right general direction.

But my directions were off. When I thought I was meandering towards Algol, I was really meandering towards Capella and on a line about halfway between Capella and Mirfak I discovered a wonderful open cluster. The main stars on one side formed a distinctive "J" and I took a notepad and began to make a rough sketch of the cluster. I won't share that sketch. I will only say it was good enough so that when the morning twilight finally drove me in, I could easily identify this little gem - it was NGC 1528.

My point here is that while I generally prepare for an observing session, learning in advance about what I plan to observe, I also like to go the other direction. It is great fun, especially when using a small refractor under manual control,to simply prowl about, discover somethng interesting, make reasonable notes, then check the charts and books to learn what you have discovered. That's something I suspect many of today's amateurs miss because they become wedded to - too dependent upon - their computerized "go-to" scopes. Oh I'm not going to quibble about using a computer and "go to" - I do it frequently. But a lot of times I find it gets in my way. It just adds complexity and contributes to the general atmosphere of haste - a sort of "it's Tuesday, so this must be Copenhagen" mentality.

With the small scope and smooth, manual controls on an alt-azimouth mount I generally have a more deeply productive observing session. And sometimes I even make my own "discoveries." Such was the case this morning.

Oh - here's a nice picture of it - but this isn't what I saw. The camera goes much deeper than my scope, shwing many more fainter stars and making the distinctive "J" pattern of the bright stars on one side of the cluster harder to detect.

Posted by Greg Stone at August 9, 2008 05:13 AM Comments? Please email me: gstone@umassd.edu

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