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6 Leonis – an orange with a violet puff ball as viewed from an icebox

Finding 6 Leonis was a minor affair, though the weather made it more interesting. The temperature was 18° F and the wind was reportedly gusting to 50 mph, though it seemed more like 15-20 to me, so I expect those 50 mph gust were rare. But we had just had a blizzard and several inches of frozen snow was on the ground and deck – in short, conditions were absolutely perfect – perfect, that is, for trying out my new heated “Tempachair” that Bren had found and given me for Christmas – what a neat surprise! So here’s what winter observing looked like at 4 am this morning.

That's an 80mm Orion Short Tube on a UA MicroStar mount which is on a Bogen 3036 Tripod with the adjustable center post. But what you can't tell from this photo, is the chair is heated - a key to this creature's comfort 😉 Oh - hot tea is in the insulated mug and books and things are in the pockets that hang off the left side of the chair.

But first let’s talk about a nice little double, 6 Leonis. Here are the bare facts:

6  Leonis aka Sh107
RA:  09h 32m   Dec:  +09° 3′
Magnitudes         A: 5.2    B: 9.3
Separation          37.4″
Position Angle    76°
Distance:  483 LY
Spectral Classification: K3III

Haas calls this a “lovely brick red star with a faint dot of light wide beside it.”  Webb has it as “deep orange, green.” Uh huh!  Can I take one from Haas and one from Webb? I would agree with the “deep orange” of Webb and with the “faint dot of light” Haas uses.  Well, I saw the secondary as a “violet puff ball,” but only when I cranked up the power. Truth is, I came darned close to not seeing the secondary at all. I was using the Orion Short Tube 80 which despite the F5 focal ratio and lousy seeing was giving me a pretty clean image of the primary at 66X – the 6mm click stop on the Nagler 6-3 zoom.

However, the secondary at that power, was barely detectable. Now there was a last quarter Moon in that region of the sky (about 45 degrees away)  offering some competition, but an 80mm should dig out a 9.3 magnitude star pretty easily and the separation here is wider even than that of Albireo and its companion – though there are four magnitudes difference between the two and I guess that can account for the problem. Even when I doubled the power going to the 3mm click stop the secondary kept going in and out on me. This was one of those instances when I was glad I had noted the position angle in advance. Knowing where to expect to see it helped. The funny thing was, when I saw it, I really saw it quite clearly, then it would drop out entirely for a moment or two . The “Night Sky Observer’s Guide” has the secondary at 8.2.  I favor the 9.3 in the Haas book. I’m sure an 8.2 mag star would not have given me this much  trouble.

Finding 6 Leonis is relatively easy, though I managed to make it a bit difficult on myself. Essentially, I started with Regulus because 6 Leonis is about 10 degrees to the southwest.  Hopping from Regulus to Omicron, a mag 3.5 star that you should be able to spot with your naked eye, is easy and you’re almost there. A little bit farther to the southwest are three mag 5 stars in an arc and 6 Leonis is the middle of the three = or so I told myself having looke dat the chart. Trouble is, when I got outside I found there were four stars, not three  – the fourth slightly fainter and breaking the arc pattern. This threw me off so I kept trying to split the wrong star at first!  What I should have looked for instead of the arc of three, was a four-start “lightning bolt” with 6 Leonis the second star from the “top” – north. Here’s a chart that should make it clearer.

Star hop from Regulus to Omicron Leonis to 6 Leonis - second star in a four-star lightning bolt. (Slightly modified Stellarium screenshot.)

OK – about that chair. I like it. It is rugged, it is light,  the arm-tablet is useful to hold drink and eyepieces and the largest pocket holds the “Pocket Sky Atlas.”  The heat is supposed to work on high for two hours and on low for four. I wouldn’t know. In those temperatures I don’t function that long. The battery is rechargeable form AC or a car battery. Keeping in mind a near zero windchill I would call the seat comfortable. It certainly wasn’t hot – but it wasn’t cold either – then again, my insulated mug could hardly keep the tea warm for 15 minutes under those conditions.

Putting the scope on a tripod with an adjustable center post means you can observe sitting down in real comfort adjusting the height as you change targets.  Me, I wanted to check out that new storm on Saturn John had told me about – but Saturn was in the trees, the branches were blowing in the wind, and I really didn’t have enough scope set up to do that – I tried, but to no avail. So I switched to the last quarter Moon and was instantly rewarded with a beautiful sight! Four peaks of the Lunar Apennines were marching through the terminator and into the dark lunar night  and arcing down to meet them – a long gap inbetween – were a couple peaks of the Lunar Alps.  I stopped the ShortTube down to 42mm and just sat and enjoyed the view. I really didn’t want to go in despite the cold. But while my bum was warm, my hands were freezing. Being overly thrifty when it comes to using chemical handwarmers, I had not used any because I thought I was going to be out for just 20 minutes. With handwarmers I think I would have stayed out for another hour. Goregeous night despite the  conditions. But anyway – 6 Leonis was a fun find    and having a warm seat certainly helps.

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