NGC 457, Collinder 12, Melotte 7, Raab 3, OCL 321

DSS image 60′ x 60′ FOV

Conditions varied throughout the observing session, but improved to the point where there were only a few small isolated clouds. The seeing was very stable. This has been one of the best nights so far of this this Summer/Autumn season.

First initial views did not look anything like ET. However I was viewing it upside down so when you read descriptions by other observers, you can see what they mean. I try not to read up other peoples notes before I observe as I’m sure it is auto suggestive and could taint what I see myself.

As for me, I see an F111 strategic bomber rather than an Alien. Heading NW with its long pointed nose, swept back wings and two lit up after burners at the rear formed by the two brightest stars in the field of view – Phi Cas and HD7902. Phi Cas looks the redder of the two, but when you compare it to V466 which is definitely orange, they both look almost white .

After 30 mins the overall shape of the cluster changes. Two long parallel lines of stars running roughly SE to NW. One line runs up from HD7902 and the other Phi Cas. Both lines are about 10′ long.

The cluster is made up of about mostly 10 to 11 mag stars, but through the 26mm, I can just make out about another the same number down to 13th mag. I didn’t spend any time trying to count exact quantities, but estimate about 30 or 40 of each.

Towards the SE just inside the FOV the chart shows a faint 15.5 mag galaxy. MCG 10-3-1. I realised I shouldn’t be able to see anything fainter than about 13 mag, but I looked for it nonetheless, and didn’t see any sign of it.

In retrospect I should have fired up the TMB and observed the cluster in it’s full context, but one for next time. I didn’t realise Phi Cas  contains five components. I will try and resolve all these next time as well.

I spent a lot more time using Skytools at the scope and have just discovered the context viewer. This helps a lot when windowed over the interactive Atlas, and is much more usable a combination than just the eyepiece viewer on its own. I also ran another comparison with Astroplanner on the same eyepiece view and found Skytools so much faster at screen redraws. Generally it seems so much easier to use than Astroplanner.

Skytools also as has the feel of Skymap Pro 10 about it, but is far less complicated when it comes to configuring viewing levels. You also don’t have to remember to swap E/W views when going from Atlas mode to eyepiece mode as Skytools does all this for you on the fly. I just need to figure out how to get more out of the observation logging features and see if they really do suit my needs.

All in all a very satisfactory night out under the stars. I was rather dissapointed to have to pack up at about 1am as conditions were still improving – Having to do a day job is a right arse sometimes!!