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Archive for October, 2009

Bren and I were out a few nights ago and I pointed the 15-inch towards the carbon star, UX Draconis, to show her. There was a gasp as she looked in the eyepiece, a rare  reaction for Bren.  But then, carbon stars are rare and the 15-inch gathers enough light to really make these red gems stand out.

Given that reaction I decided a carbon star really has to be a must for public sessions, for nothing illustrates star color so well. Sadly, there are only a few of these and the brightest are barely in reach of the naked eye and show no color that way. They do show nice color with a small scope, but the bigger the scope, the more obvious the color.

I posted here about UX when I first saw it a year or so ago. Since then, I’ve found a better way to track it down – and learned of a neat little telescopic asterism, “The Little Queen,” that’s on the path I use to find UX.

My first step in fining this beautiful star is to simply draw a line through the “Guardians of the Pole” much as you do the “Pointers” in the Big Dipper.  The Guardians are the two easily visible stars inthe cup of the Little Dipper.  In any event,t his arrow points to Aldhibain, and I use that to then move along to Nodus 1 and finally to Chi Draconis.

Click image for larger chart.

Click image for larger chart.

With  Chi in the finder, it’s easy enough to shift a little west and latch on to “The Little Queen.” In a low power eyepiece it bears a strong resemblance to the “W” of Cassiopeia, the Queen. Here’s a chart showing the path from Chi to UX.

Click image for larger chart.

Click image for larger chart.

As you can see, you can star hop along three magnitude 5 stars, easily visible in the finder, to get from Chi to UX. Even in the finder it should look reddish, but as I said, the larger the scope the more dramatic the color.

Having located this, I learned there is another carbon star of about the same brightness in Orion and it’s actually much easier to find. I spotted “W Orionis” for the first time this morning and it fairly jumped out and bit me. It’s right off the end of Orion’s shield in the general direction of Mintaka, the western most belt star.  Here’s a chart.

Click image for larger chart.

Click image for larger chart.

I was using the 12omm Skywatcher and as near as I can tell it was as red in that scope as UX appears in that scope, so I trust it will appear even redder when I get a chance to look at it int he 15-inch. In any event, it will be a nice winter showpiece.

Having located this I decided to record afew notes on how I go about finding a couple of other popular objects in the winter sky, M1 (Crab Nebula) and “Eskimo” nebula in Gemni. Here’s the M1 finder.

Click chart for larger version.

Xeta Tauri is the fainter, more easterly, of the two stars that mark a horn tip of Taurus, Find it nd M1 will be in a very low power eyepiece. Click chart for larger version.

The Eskimo Nebula was right near Mars this morning, but, of course, that will change rapidly. Here’s my finder chart for it.

Click chart for larger image.

The key here is Wasat - find it and the Eskimo will bein the same finder field, though it will look simply like a faint - maybe a tad fuzzy - star. Click chart for larger image.

Alll charts inthis post have been slightly modified from screen shots of Starry Nights Pro software.

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