So, I'm still working on this big astro project. Which involves a lot of not-at-the-scope research and exposition. Which has been a bit of a bummer. But now, a major portion of it has come to a head and requires a field trip. Especially the hunt for dark nebulae...and a few other treats. So I've got my observation list worked out for an all-night trip to Anderson Mesa on Friday.
I'll be hunting down Barnard 5 in Perseus for a binocular or telescopic observation in the early evening. I'll follow that with an attempt at a binocular observation of Barnard 7 in Taurus. Then just before dawn, I'll be going for a naked-eye observation of the Pipe Nebula in Ophiuchus.
Interspersed with those, I'll be giving another go at Comet 2005/E2 McNaught at dusk, the Rosette Nebula sometime after Barnard 5 or 7. Then I'll be attempting SN2006X in M100 around midnight. And then a horizon-impeded, astronomically-twilight threatened observation of Comet 2006/A2 Pojmanski as it begins to make its morning debut for 35Â° N Latitude. If time permits in the 1AM-3AM stretch, I may hit some more Virgo or Ursa Major galaxies that I haven't observed yet. Or I may take a nap =D
My current estimation of online Dark Nebula resources is that they aren't for the faint of heart. They aren't like an NGC or Messier object, where you've got precise coordinates for a localized object. Many of these things are huge, extended objects. There is an incredible photo atlas of Barnard's observations at this site. And the Saguaro Astronomy Club has an excellent compilation of the best of Barnard's visual dark nebulae. But the photo atlas is labeled with old epoch coordinates, so you need to do some cartographic gymnastics if the area doesn't look readily familiar. And while the SAC site gives coordinates, it's not easy translating those coordinates into what part of the mottled mess in that area is the dark nebula you want to look for...which leads you back to the photo atlas, and the old ephoch coordinate situation again. I'm getting a little itchy about the idea of investing in a copy of Starry Nights Pro Plus for Macintosh, since it apparently has a roster of dark nebula in its database. (Orion's TheSky Astronomy Software is sorely lacking in the that department.) So anyway, I've printed my charts for those areas after much banging of my head into my desk until things rattled around into the right position.
My next step is to be better prepared for the cold. I'm finding that my discomfort with the cold really holds me back from Winter observing. I've lived in Flagstaff for going on 12 years now, and you'd think I'd have a decent selection of cold-weather clothing by now. But no. I've got a great jacket, thermal undergarments, caps, scarves, and gloves. But that just isn't enough. I put on two thermal pants on under my jeans when I go observing, but my legs still freeze. So I went out yesterday and picked up a pair of snowboarding pants, some snow boots, and one of those villainous face warmer caps. I also plan on breaking out the chem-pack warmers right away and sticking them in my shoes and gloves. Hopefully it will all add up to a much more comfortable experience, and I won't feel like running away at 2 in the morning. The ClearSky Clock looks perfect, so here's hoping.
It may take me a while to post the observations, but I will get them up here.