Backyard OR, 9 August

by Jamie Dillon

We actually had some clear nights on the central coast last week. Sunday night was too good to miss. Jo and Liam hung out and looked at Mars thru the scope. I went thru Sue French's bit in the July S&T, where she ran a hop thru Draco. Esp good issue that one, including an article on mismatched celestial neighbors from our very own Astro Animal.

With a bright Moon up, it was a good night for doubles. Mu Dra is a wide and pretty equal double. 39 Dra, now, is a triple. I'm a sucker for multiple stars. The closer companion is close in and fun to watch. Omicron Dra has beautiful colors. I saw bright orange and purple. Turns out Admiral WM Smyth called the secondary star "lilac," which is close to what I saw and a fine choice of words.

UX Dra got into this hop because of being a very red star, sure enough brick-colored from here. After spending a chunk of my life's energy hunting R Leporis so far in vain, this one is good. Like Herschel's Garnet Star, not subtle.

Kemble 2 is really fun in the scope. It's an asterism, as is Kemble's Cascade, both identified by Lucian Kemble who is always mentioned fondly. Thing about Kemble 2, there in the eyepiece is a miniature replica of Cassiopeia. I ran and made Jo come out again. With Cassiopeia just over the shoulder, over the roof, there was this tiny version, angles and all, inside a one degree field. Very cool.

French's article caught my eye right off the bat on account of featuring ngc 6503, that stunning new favorite galaxy. Great minds...

..So here, in other casual astro news, last night we were backpacking on the Arroyo Seco River in the southern Santa Lucias, not far from LSA and Cone Peak. The stars were dazzling. Saw a star inside the Little Dipper that I'd never seen before, inside the edge with Kochab and Pherkad, away from Polaris. SkyAtlas puts it right around 7.0. Then there was this very pretty chain of stars in Hercules' SE arm, off the line between delta and lambda Her, that looked new to me. Sure enough, to get the picture of that chain the sky had to be past 6.8.

At the bottom of this canyon thru the trees, it took some doing to spot constellations, so viewing was more impressionistic than usual. One stretch of Milky Way in Aquila was something.