Observational Astronomy

Herschel 400 – One Step at a Time

Yeah! Woot Woot! We did it!! We found our first Herschel object!

As you know, Lynn and I have decided to tackle one of the most challenging observing programs the Astronomical League has to offer – the Herschel 400. (See Lynn’s blog entry called Herschel Space Observatory Goes Dark)

Last week we had the perfect combination, dark skies and a Saturday night.  After wrestling with the tri-pod of the club loaner scope, and hoisting the heavy trunk that contained the rest of the scope into the trunk of my car we fired up the trusty GPS and headed out to the observatory.

A side note regarding the GPS – it may be a good idea to actually update the maps once in a while, we ended up on a dead end road and had to turn around.

The observatory stood quiet on the hill like a lonely willow in the middle of a field, no lights, no people, nothing! Another side note, always call ahead to make sure people will be out there.

Determined to find our first Herschel, we went back to Lynn’s house and set up in the back yard. While not the ideal spot, what with light pollution and trees and such, we still thought we could find at least one object.

Peaking through the low lying branches, we watched the stars pop out one by one.  Finally the random dots turned into a constellation we were familiar with – Aquila! Now we could finally pick our target!  We picked the one that was the brightest since we had such horrible transparency (see our chart under Links and Resources), NGC 6577 with a magnitude of about 7.5.

Finally – after using our tag team star hopping technique, we found it! There it was –  a faint wisp which I could only see with averted vision, but that didn’t matter. We saw it! And it counted!

Only 399 to go!



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