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DSC-60: Nu Draconis & Beta Cygni – Dragons hiding gold in misty caves!

This is a DSC-60 Project observation for project details go here.

Nu Draconis – Dragon’s Eyes

Nu Draconis 17h 32m.2 +55° 11′ 4.9, 4.9 62″ 312°

Beta Cygni – Albireo

Splitting Tools for Albireo: Yields easily to 50mm scope at low power.
[  ] Beta Cygni 19h 30m.7 +27° 58′ 3.1, 5.1 34.4″ 54°

Want to come on a treasure hunt? It’s dangerous, but fun!

When I got up at 4 am I wasn’t really intending to observe, but pulling back the curtain of the bedroom window I could see a bright, nearly full moon setting in a misty western sky.  So while I made some tea I set “Little Jack  the Giant Tamer” out on the deck to cool his heels – well, his objective –  in what for this winter is balmy, 35°F temps. I could see Vega breaking through the haze, fairly high in the east, so I knew I at least would be able to find the Double Double easily.

See, Jack – the Televue 60 – is his own finder. Put even a 32mm Plossl in and you have about 4.5 degrees of sky. Put in my favorite low-power eyepiece, a 30mm Tak Le, and you also have stunning contrast – even in the haze. So the Double Double is a piece of cake appearing in the same field as Vega – and this morning a disappointment. It was barely splitable at 180X, but not pretty and I’ll save a report on it for another night with  better conditions.  What was fun for me was sitting amidst the dying, crunchy snow-ice on the deck, with magnitude 2 skies above, and a challenge opening up to test my aging memory – and Jack’s capabilities – by going dragon hunting. Certainly Mu Draconis, the famous Dragon’s Eyes pair, would look terrific.

Prepared from Starry Nights screenshot - click image for larger version.

I knew it was up and to the left – OK – northwest of Vega by a guestimated amount that was easy to do from memory and hard to describe  – it was about that much, you know, a smidgen or so. So I pointed Jack that way with the high-contrast Tak on board. The first bright star I found in the eyepiece looked reddish. Maybe it was the haze? I put in the 24-8 zoom  (15X-45X) and slowly cranked up the power. Nope. No dragon eyes. OK, I panned a bit east. I felt I must at least be around Draco’s head. Up came a fainter, bluer star, a bit fuzzy. In went the zoom. Nope. Another single. So this is what doing urban astronomy is like?  Panned north some – bingo!  Dragon’s eyes and at 12X!

OK – you young folks with steady hands can probably split this pair with 7X50 binoculars – certainly 10X50. The view for me at  12X was charming.  I could easily imagine those two eyes with a long forked tongue beneath them lashing out sporadically and that’s what I would see when I would get my head off axis a bit. All this moisture in the air turned stars into flashlight beams if you weren’t careful.  I cranked the power on up to 45X and his eyes lost their reddish glow and became the familiar, blue diamonds I have seen so many times.

I sipped my tea and thought of Puff – hmm Jackie and Puff!  Ah, it’s nice to be a senior citizen going on 12, maybe 13 😉 And them I thought about Albireo – a star in a teen-aged fit of awkward poetry I had dubbed  a “blue and gold mistake.”  Don’t know why, now, I called it a mistake – perhaps because it seemed so outlandish  when I first saw it – so unlike anything else I had ever seen before. I glanced in that general direction. Yes, it may be in the bare branches of the Japanese maple just in front of me – but chances are it was loose of them.

I couldn’t see it , of course. I had Vega and I had Deneb and that was it.  But when I looked at Vega with the 30mm back in place it was short business  working my way north-to-south through Lyra to Sheliak and Sulafat. Yes, I knew the Ring Nebula was between them somewhere, but it would be absolutely silly trying to dig it out of this gunk – but Albireo? Now there  was dragon’s gold for the taking!  Up until now I had never thought of Draco as hovering over Beta Cygni that way, but on this cool February morning the image fit. “Puff the  Lagic drago, lived by the sea, and frolicked in the Autumn mist in a land called Honalee!” So that’s where I was?  Honalee? No, no, nothing in my tea this – I drink it black.  But being out in the cool morning air with a huge moon at your back inspires these sorts of thoughts.

And I did remember that Albireo is pretty much a straight drop down – OK, gotta follow by my own rules, not down, eastward – but using an alt-az scope as Albireo is rising it’s pretty much a straight drop down – especially when you have a 4.5 degree field. (Just checked the chart – about eight degrees -less than two fields – no wonder it was so easy!)  And it did pop right out – and it was blue and gold as always and yes, 12X was enough to split it, though the blue star was the finest of pin points at that power.  The zoom brought it into its own and at 45X I had another mesmerizing sight. Yes, the gold was a bit tarnished in the mist of the dragon’s cave, but it was there and it was mine.

And isn’t that why we go about this lonely pursuit  in the solitude of a February morning – to steal a little of the dragon’s gold? Or are we just splitting another double? Hmm… check that one off the list.  Nooooo – I like snatching the red gold with Draco’s eyes staring down on me. Yeah, I know all the drug allusions in that song, and no I don’t do drugs – unless you can count the natural high of fermented photons of ancient starlight.


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