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February 3, 2016 February 4, 2016

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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Did some impromptu observing when I came home today after class. It was unseasonably warm tonight, a balmy five degrees. The sky was mainly clear but it was a bit gusty at times.

Only had a few minutes so I whipped out the binoculars, as they are the fastest. Noticed that Orion was already starting to set. Spring is almost here and the winter constellations are starting to set earlier. The big dipper was raised on its side, ladle up.

Using the binoculars I scanned some of the star fields near Mizar and Alcor, the double star formation forming the highest point of the big dipper’s handle. Then moved on to the next major star on the right, Alioth.

Sweeping the binocular field westward, I soon fell upon an interesting formation of stars in Cassiopeia, near epsilon cas. It’s quite striking in my 10 x 50s. The cluster of stars seem like a perpendicular rack. See the figure below, which illustrates this interesting formation.




August 28 Part II, 2010 September 2, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Observing.
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The Coathanger / Brocchi's Cluster / Collinder 399 in Vulpecula

Object: Asterism

Alternate Names: “The Coathanger”, “Brocchi’s Cluster”, “Collinder 399”

Site: Front Yard

Seeing: 5

Transparency: Excellent

Type: Open Cluster (Chance Alignment)

Size: 60′

Magnitude: 5.19 (Brightest)

Constellation: Vulpecula

Magnification: 10x

FOV: 4.8 Degrees

Observing Time: 9:30pm – 10:00pm

Notes: Stunning asterism about one-and-a-half binocular fields NE of Sagitta; known as “The Coathanger”, this chance arrangement of stars REALLY DO look like a coathanger, all the more so when viewed through a Newtonian Reflector due to their inverted images.  Eight dim white stars make up this asterism, but their organization is really superb, contributing to a truly beautiful sight.  This asterism MUST be seen in binoculars, over and over again… I can imagine this being a classic showpiece for many newcomers to Astronomy using binoculars.  Although it takes a moderate bit of patience to find in urban areas (it’s relatively dim), once you find it there’s no mistaking that this is spectacular.  The human brain is very adept at finding familiar patterns in random groupings of stars, which is the basis (mostly) of the bright ones being categorized into constellations.  Speaking of which, the constellations themselves are nothing but chance alignments of stars as well, organized into such patterns due to our perspective.  This mechanism is still at work within the binocular field, which adds to the joy of finding a coathanger, of all things in the evening sky.  The other names, “Brocchi’s Cluster” and “Collinder 399” originate from the independent astronomers who charted the components of, and catalogued this beautiful asterism, respectively.

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