Stars and Hot Chocolate

My first sky watch last night with a local Astronomy Club.  One word, FANTASTIC!  I’ve done some reading prior to going on do’s and don’ts, how to dress, what to take etc…

I took my daughter, Crystal, with me.  We ate dinner, so munchies were not going to be a problem.  Got dressed-  it was going to be a cool night ~45F with winds around 20mph.  Originally, I thought a coat and I should be good.  Then I remembered a professor from MIT saying “Overdress”  you can always take off layers but you can’t put on more if you don’t have it.  Probably the best advice for last night!  I had a base thermal layer, pants, a wool shirt, and took a hoodie, and a bigger jacket, hand warmers, insulated work boots.  What did I forget?  An insulated hat and gloves.  I will tell you what, all metal parts of a scope and tripod get extremely cold during a night of observing.  We also took 2 jugs of Hot Chocolate.  I think this is the 2nd best advice I’ve read about.  Hot chocolate made the difference.  After a session of viewing you could sit back enjoy some hot chocolate, and the stars.  Very relaxing and enjoyable.

We left at 6p and arrived at the field at 6:30.  This time of the year with the trees turning color, it was a nice drive.  Wasn’t sure of the protocol at the field, but thankfully the club President Paul was there.  Very nice gentlemen!  gave us the nickel tour and we began to set up our TeleVue  85 scope and AVX mount.  We used the tailgate of our truck for a table for our sky chart, compliments of SKY & Telescope October edition.

Our first object in the scope was Venus.  Low on the horizon, but very bright!  Just a fuzz ball, but still our first contact!  Then we swung the scope over to Saturn and could see her rings, but no divisions or such, but it is still an amazing view especially through your own scope!

The next object was one I’ve been wanting to see since studying Albireo, and that is the double star of Albireo.



When viewed with the naked eye, it appears to be a single star. However, in a telescope it readily resolves into a double star, consisting of Beta Cygni A (amber, apparent magnitude 3.1), and Beta Cygni B (blue-green, apparent magnitude 5.1).  The higher the number the dimmer it is.  The two provide one of the best double stars in the sky due to their different colors. It is not known whether the two components are orbiting around each other in a physical binary system, or if they are merely an optical double. If they are a physical binary, their orbital period is probably at least 100,000 years.  Some experts, however, support the optical double argument, based on observations that suggest different proper motions for the components, which implies they’re unrelated.

Beta Cygni A

The spectrum of Beta Cygni A was found to be composite when it was observed as part of the Henry Draper Memorial project in the late 19th century, leading to the supposition that it was itself double. This was supported by observations from 1898 to 1918 which showed that it had a varying radial velocity.  In 1923, the components now called Beta Cygni Aa and Beta Cygni Ac were identified in the Henry Draper Catalogue as HD 183912 and HD 183913 respectively.  In 1976 speckle interferometry was used to resolve the pair at the 2.1-meter telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory.  It is also listed in the Washington Double Star Catalog.  An orbit for the pair has since been computed using interferometric measurements, but as only approximately a quarter of the orbit has been observed, the orbital parameters must be regarded as preliminary. The period of this orbit is 213 years.  The current angular separation between the components is around 0.4 arcseconds, too close to be visually resolved except with instruments of at least 20″ in aperture with exceptionally stable atmospheric conditions.

Beta Cygni B

Beta Cygni B is a fast-rotating Be star, with an equatorial rotational velocity of at least 250 kilometers per second.  Its surface temperature has been spectroscopically estimated to be about 13,200 K (our sun is 5,778K for comparison-  Way hot!!)

After we had these guys in the scope for a little while, some visitors came buy to take a look.  Way cool to have a visitor looking through my scope.  No way is my knowledge anywhere near Paul’s, Tim’s or others out there from the club.  But, it was nice to talk about the sky with the folks and talk about what I did know.  They asked lots of questions and left happy for looking and learning.  Pretty cool!

After Albireo it was off to the Eastern sky.  I calibrated my goto using Vega and Altair (which now I know how to find easily) and then I used the “Sky Tour” feature to see what’s out there.  M110 it said, so off we went.  Not knowing what M110 was, when the scope stopped slewing (moving) I saw like a ghost image in the eyepiece.  My 1st Galaxy!  I had no clue in the sky where I was, Later on Paul helped me find my way around more- Amazing amount of knowledge he has of the sky!  It’s like pulling up to a fellow working in his yard and asking for directions in a strange town.  Paul’s town is the Universe!


I could see the center of the galaxy being bright as it was and very fuzzy around the edges.  The longer you looked the better you could see, but I didn’t have any gloves and holding onto the tripod to stabilize myself, whew it was cold.  I definitely need a star chair.  Paul had one and so does my friend Matt, so I have to get one so I can enjoy longer views without hurting my back.

Messier 110, also known as NGC 205, is a dwarf elliptical galaxy that is a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy.  Way cool.  Paul came by after a while to see how I was doing, and he helped me center on Andromeda and with that I was able to see, M110, M32 galaxies along with M31 (Andromeda) all in a single view in the eyepiece.  Awesome!!  M110 contains some dust and hints of recent star formation, which is unusual for dwarf elliptical galaxies in general.

Andromeda was next.  I’ve heard the name and read SF books about it, but now I was viewing it through my very own scope!

The view on the left is what it looks like in my scope, and the one on the right is a photo stacked type (not sure what that is all about yet).  Someday that will be cool to do through my scope.  I could still see the tilt and the center along with the spiral side.  Awesome!

It was at this point that I was talking with Paul (I hope I didn’t pester him too much), about lenses.  He was very gracious and allowed me to compare a few of his lenses in my scope.  All I have is a 3.7 Ethos and a 20mm Plossl.  I tried a 9mm, 13mm 27mm (All TeleVue Lenses) and I was hooked.  Did you ever offer a grandchild Just 1 Skittle?  Or eat just 1 Lays Potato chip?  Or have a friend by a new car?  Yep, you get the bug!  That night at home while trying to get warm (took a while), I was researching my next eyepieces.  Why get 1 when you can get 2 for twice the price?!  Lol.

The 20mm and 27mm were very helpful when Pleiades showed up.  Actually, Crystal saw them and brought it to my attention.


Way cool how these stars really pop out at you in the scope.  Visually it was like a blur and then in the scope a different look altogether.


In astronomy, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (Messier 45 or M45), is an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The celestial entity has several meanings in different cultures and traditions.

The cluster is dominated by hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Dust that forms a faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster (hence the alternative name Maia Nebula after the star Maia), but is now known to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium, through which the stars are currently passing. Computer simulations have shown that the Pleiades was probably formed from a compact configuration that resembled the Orion Nebula.  Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years (long enough for me to enjoy), after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood.

After Pleiades, it was onto something that Paul mentioned by Vega- the Double Double.  This is a star that looks like a single star if you just look up, but when you use a pair of binoculars you can see that 1 star split into 2!  But, when you look at it in a telescope each of those split stars split into 2 also!  4 Stars!


Epsilon Lyrae, also known as the Double Double, is a multiple star system approximately 162 light-years away in the constellation of Lyra.

Now I’m not sure which is my favorite: Albireo or the Double-Double.

That takes us up to around 9:30p and at that point the wind really started to pickup.  Crystal was frozen, and clouds started to roll in so it was time to pack it in.  Now I know why the guy next to me, Tim, had a small blanket under his scope- In case you drop something from your scope/tripod.  Makes it much easier to find it.  Also, most folks had head mounted Red LEDs.  Sure would come in handy!

Well, That’s all for now-






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