12 million year old "new" light: SN 2014J

Jan 30

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1/30/2014 2:00 PM  RssIcon

I finally got a chance to see the supernova in Messier 82 last night. What with clouds, snow, or -10F temperatures with -30F wind chills either blocking the view or keeping me inside to not freeze to death when it was clear, last night offered me an opportunity. It was clear - I'd put it at around a 7 of 10 for transparency - and though still cold and windy, 19F with a 10-12 mph breeze felt downright balmy.

I also didn't have much time. I am in the process of directing the play "Doubt: A Parable" for one of my local theater troupes, and we had a rehearsal - well, set building - last night. I got home around 10. Had hardly seen my wife or kids that day, so I spent a few minutes catching up with them. After that, I decided to try to spot SN 2014J. I didn't want to take much time to set up a large scope, but knew I needed useful aperture. I chose to use my Starblast 4.5 scope on my Super Simple 2x4 tripod - two hands, out-the-door, ready to go.

Now, for some reason I was having trouble finding M81 and M82. I'd seen them in smaller scopes - namely a 76mm Funscope - so I was figuring they should be an easy spot. I KNOW where they are. But all my spiraling and panning/tilting wasn't finding them initially. I headed back in to warm up - the breeze was really taking warmth away from me quickly, despite having some protection thanks to my house. I consulted Stellarium to double check, then refined where I was looking with the red dot finder. Ah! There they were - took me less than a minute this time. Should have checked my star chart FIRST!

I could see the galaxies at 23x no problem, but the pointer stars and supernova were elusive at that power. I pushed it up to 50x with a 9mm Expanse, and the "pointer stars" I'd referenced in this week's Eyes on the Sky video popped right into view. The supernova was oddly a bit more difficult to see than the pointer stars - perhaps it's slightly redder tint? Perhaps because it is within the galaxy itself? Or maybe I was just tired, and a bit cold? 

In any case, averted vision popped it into my view more easily than direct vision, so I could certainly confirm seeing it. The breeze was picking up, and my fatigue was setting in from my long days the last month or so. I packed up and headed back in, but glad to have seen the old light from a "new" star that had just burst into OUR view within the last week. 

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.