Balcony Astronomy Covid19 Edition

So I am back and set up on the balcony. Sophia is sleeping soundly, and my 10″ Meade Lightbridge Plus dobsonian telescope is outside cooling off. It shouldn’t take much more than 20 minutes or so for the primary to be cooled down enough that stars start to focus into sharp points, given my careful collimation. I didn’t want to take the chance and go out during the quarantine, and have the authorities embarrass me in front of my daughter. All day I debated on taking her out for a night of stargazing, but it is still too cold at night for my 7 year-old. So here we are.

Astroknip is not too far from here, and the sky here is Bortle 6/7 – yet tonight the sky seems darker, almost, like I am seeing more stars than usual. Perhaps it really is all the Covid19 hysteria keeping less lights on than usual out there.

Now, what to see? Well, given I’m on my balcony that faces due north, I’m limited, at the moment, to Auriga, Perseus, Cassiopeia (low to the horizon in the north) Cepheus, Ursa Minor, some Ursa Major poking past the roof right overhead … yeah.

Alright, 11:36 PM. I can confirm I just spotted NGC 6543, the Cat’s Eye Nebula. It’s small, but pretty bright. Definitely a fuzzy blob compared to the nearby star that forms the closest in a chain of five 10th magnitude stars southwest of the object. Time to get the 5mm Hyperion out. With the 5mm Hyperion, the nebula is quite distinctly oval shaped, but I cannot see its outer shell. I tried for nearby galaxy NGC 6503, the Lost in Space Galaxy, which I’ve observed before, but I couldn’t make it out with these light-polluted skies.

Other objects observed on this night were: M81 and M82 in Ursa Major, along with NGC 3077. I also paid a visit to another favorite of mine, NGC 2841, the Tiger’s Eye Galaxy, which is always easy to find. I think I also saw NGC 2403 in Camelopardalis, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

Towards the end of the night I paid a visit to M57, The Ring Nebula. Transparency was good so the view was excellent, though even with the 5mm EP I still cannot make out the central star, but could easily resolve the 13th magnitude star northeast of the ring. The good transparency also gave me a good reason to visit the Double Double which I was able to split both doubles. Exciting stuff!

Well, it was a good night of observing from the balcony. Again, the sky seemed a bit darker than usual, and maybe there is a bit less pollution due to the pandemic. I was glad I brought the scope out onto the balcony.

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