Good clear night

Nice night for looking at stars; even before the sky was fully dark after sunset I got great views of the Orion Nebula. And lots of other stuff.

  • Mercury. It’s near its highest now, about 15° off the sun, so I caught it about 5° off the horizon after the Sun had set far enough I could see it. So bright! -1 apparent. And Mars just below it by 1°; I missed the closest approach yesterday. It’s the first time I’m aware of really seeing Mercury and I’m surprised at how bright it was. But in the 48x scope I couldn’t see any sign of its phase, just a bright dot. I tried the 160x magnifier but the chromatic aberration was so awful I just saw a rainbow, no shape. Not sure why it’s more severe for Mercury; close to the horizon? Mars was also uninteresting in the scope, need more magnification I guess. Nice color though.
  • M1 – Crab Nebula. Yay! This object is fascinating because it’s the cloud remnant of a supernova from 1054, a historoical event well recorded (magnitude -7!). I wonder if there was a continuous historical record of this object? Probably not, it was apparently only visible for a couple of years, so it would have taken telescopes to find it and make the connection. According to Wikipedia that connection was only made in 1939.
  • Caldwell 41 – Hyades star cluster. Not very interesting to look at, honestly, mostly I put it on my list because I’m fascinated by the naked eye V shape that Aldeberan is on the tip of. In general I don’t find loose clusters like this interesting.
  • Messier 37, another open cluster. Only this one is so tight! Very pretty.

I’d intended to pick up M36 and M38 tonight too, but I couldn’t find them. In general I’m doing better finding objects, even without a proper finderscope. I’ve learned to take advantage of the way my FOV is about 1° with the 48x eyepiece to make rough measurements when hopping around. But I was having a hard time with M36 and M38 tonight, oh well.e

Fun night, at least for about 45 minutes until I started getting cold and frustrated. I’m learning not to stay out once it stops being fun.