Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's NOT a dry heat! - Pt II - Nerdly things.

If you didn't read the beginning of this bullshit, read yesterday's entry. Wait... who am I talking to? My-fucking-self of course!

I would be remiss to be here in the relative darkness of the Arizona desert without looking at the sky.

*** WARNING - Astro-Nerdiness ahead! ***

The Phoenix Nebula in the southern sky is a travesty, let me begin by saying. Firstly, it has grown from what used to be maybe 30º on the horizon and maybe 10º in altitude to over 60º wide by 30+º in altitude. One thing I lack in the Pacific Northwest is the ability to see anything below -25 Declination. This means that most of the Sag. Complex, Ophiuchus, Libra, Scorpius, etc. lay on the 10 degree of horizon that is mostly unviewable and definitely cannot be photographed. You can see Antares, but the seeing is terrible at that altitude from horizon.

So, it is nice to come down to the south where you can see stuff like that. At 14º lower latitude, all sorts of stuff come into play. But I am 30 miles NORTH of the Phoenix Nebula, which is reaching up to -30 Dec these days and I can's see SHIT!
Okay, I still got the northern skies and the celestial equator, which for me at this time of the year is not that interesting. Orion is almost setting by midnight, as is Auriga, Perseus, Gemini, etc.

Virgo, Böotes, Ursa Major, etc. are at zenith, and they are fun to play with, but Spica is almost swallowed in the south and the VGC is a bit washed.

So I figure, okay, I will do some binoc Messier viewing. I started in the west cause I wanted to catch the Open Clusters in Gemini and Auriga. As I poke around the south-central region with my Russian 9x63's, I start counting off the OCs and then it dawns upon me what a confused little Frenchman Messier must have been!

The two outer OCs in Auriga are M37 and M38, while M36 lies in between them and M35 lies about 9º away.

So, if Messier is hopping from OC to OC, in Gemini dig?, he is like oh! nice bright cluster that is NOT a comet... I call it... M35! hmm hmm hmm... *keeps going* Oh! here is another one just inside the Auriga boundary. I will call it... M37! *keeps going* Ahh! Another one, in the same linear path at the last two... I will call it... OH! I skipped 36. I will call THIS one 36! *keeps going* Another one! I will call it... hmmm... M38!

What Tomfoolery is this, I ask!? Why not get your eraser (yes, I know he had a quill) and fix that M37 to M36 and do not confuse us 250 years later! I NEVER understood that logic. As if you can't see 4 BIG ASS CLUSTERS in a row. You know they are not comets because you can resolve stars. Yes, I know he had a 2" scope or whatever. Still.. he is like... the French Observatory's village idiot!

Anyway, I tried to get The Triplet in Leo, no go...M104(The Sombrero Galaxy)... no go. I found Praesepe though! But it is in my constellation (Cancer) and quite viewable. Since Cancer, also known as the Dark Sign, was in a fight with Aries for being the suckiest constellation, God gave it the Beehive Cluster (M44) and put the issue to rest. It is known by four major names, The Manger, M44, The Beehive Cluster, and Praesepe, which I have always chosen to call it. The Greek names are the best. The Pleiades, the Hyades, Praesepe. I give the Persians their due, but names like Zubenelgenubi make astronomy tests HARD. I am not making this stuff up, folks!

So, I had some time to play around with my digital camera and took some star trail shots. The first one is just a fun little exercise in taking a long exposure and putting a 'hat' over the lens for a minute or so, then re-exposing for about 20-30 seconds.


Orion is particularly fun for these kind of exposures because the north-most star on his belt, Mintaka lies just below the celestial equator. This means that any star north of Mintaka will swirl around Polaris and any star south of Mintaka will swirl around the southern celestial pole. (They are too poor down there to afford a pole star although Polaris is not really at the TRUE celestial north pole, but shhhh... no more words.) So, a long exposure involving Orion will show slight curvature in star trails in either direction on either side of the belt. If you look closely you can see it in this pic. As Sniper says in Training Day, "This is some trippy shit, Holmes!"


Ehhh... maybe you can't see it in that image there. It is a 50mm shot... should be... 28 or less to really get the effect. So... here is a photo of BeBop and I. She loves to take my hat off... which she is not doing in this photo.


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