Sudden outbreak of clarity

Tonight was clear. Unbelievably clear. It was…so superbly clear it put me at peace again. Alas, it was also unbelievably windy, which curtailed my fantastic session a bit.

All visual tonight, I didn’t fancy trying any imaging with all that wind. So I dipped in and around Cassiopeia, and the rich star fields were just great. η Cas was beautiful, both in the wide field set against all the stars, and in higher magnifications. So much so, I would be tempted to say set against the sparkling backdrop, it was more impressive than even Albireo. And I never thought I’d ever say that! To my eyes, the colours were a diamond white and russet red. That is another great thing about doubles, hardly anyone really agrees on the colours, and I’ve read reports on doubles I’ve seen and wondered what on earth the observers were talking about.

Sweeping through many clusters, too, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars in the eyepiece. Every single thing I looked at was startlingly amazing. Every thing. It was one of those nights. If not for the wind, I’d have done some images (including setting up the film camera, taking a long exposure of my ‘scope taking long exposures of something.)

Clusters in Perseus, Boötes, Ophiuchus, with even the Pleiades getting a look in, and I have to say, that took me by surprise. Quite the large fuzzy patch, and it confused me for a minute as to what it was. Andromeda was extra bright, though I can never get a decent view of it. Maybe I just need to view it for longer, and tease out more and more details from it as the night progresses.

I dragged my good lady out for quite a few of these, too. Always worth sharing. And there was also one more target I looked for, one which, to my ailing memory I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. In fact, I am sure I’ve never seen it before. The ice giants are awake, and while Neptune is hidden from me by my own house, Uranus is easily visible. And what another ace sight it was. A lovely extended blue-ish disc, silent and graceful. Wonderful to see it, truly. You can really tell the difference between planets and stars, even those outer planets that are far, far away.

A fine night’s observing, and a pity it didn’t last longer, but the picking up of the wind speed was noticable while looking through the eyepiece.

β and 17 Cyg

β and 17 Cyg

β and 17 Cyg on flickr taken a few weeks ago.

Resolve to resolve

The Washington Double Star Catalogue is fantastic, it really is. And you can grab it for yourself. So, obviously, I did.

Importing it into MySQL myself (after a few tweaks), gives me a total of 128,848 stars. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to how many doubles that is. I must see if it contains systems with more than two stars, as well…

The only downside was it doesn’t list those via constellation, you just get the coordinates. But hey, the internationally-agreed boundaries are available, so it isn’t beyond the wit of man (or me) to cobble together a script that given said coordinates, can place it in a constellation.

Downside no more! Now I have the WDS data broken down by constellation, sorted on magnitude. Which leads me to my next project, whereby I see how far down the list I can actually see the separation. The WDS does come with separation data, but I haven’t added that into my page yet. I probably will, all the same.

So now I await a clear night to choose a constellation and be at it. Others do the Messier list, or the Herschel 400. Me, I’m attempting the WDS 120k 🙂

...or the rival of Mars...

…or the rival of Mars…