(IAAC) Obj: M78, ngc2071 - Inst: 8" f/10 SCT, 8x50

Observer: Lew Gramer
Your skills: Intermediate
Date and UT of Observation: 1997-11-29/30, 03:00 UT
Location: Miles Standish State Forest, Carver, MA, USA (41N)
Site classification: rural
Limiting magnitude: 6.6 (zenith), 6.1 (in SE)
Seeing: 2 of 10 - excellent
Moon up: no
Instrument: 8" f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain on fork equatorial, 8x50mm finder
Magnification: 80x, 170x
Filters used: None
Object: M 78, NGC 2071
Category: Reflection nebulae (with emission components?)
Constellation: Ori
Data: mag 8 (stars 10.5, 10.5, 14, 10)  size 8'x6'
RA/DE: 05h47m  +00o03m
As I arrived at my favorite Eastern Mass observing site tonight,
the members of the North Shore Amateur Astronomy Club were just
breaking down for the night, having arrived at the State Park at
2pm that afternoon for some solar and planetary observing! As
the early shift prepared to leave from a hard day and evening(!)
of observing, the late shift (me) got ready for a night under
the Winter stars. The swing shift (Dan Smoody) would stay for
another three hours, and Dan and I had a startlingly long list
of delightful views both through my white 8" SCT ("R2D2") and
his fine 6" f/4 equatorially-mounted Newtonian. Some observing
reports now follow in this email and in later postings today!
I would face some challenges during tonight's observing: this
was the very first time I had had little R2D2 out under dark
skies. So this was also the first time I was finding many of
the deep-sky objects on tonight's list simultaneously with
a fork-mounted equatorial, and with a finder but no Telrad...
(I used GEMs on 6" and 8" RFTs years ago - no finder needed!)
Sweeping NNE from Zeta Ori using the 8x50, I rapidly overshot
well-known (telescopic) asterisms near M78. A *finder* field was
strangely unfamiliar, and no hint of M78 was apparent to 8x50mm.
Once I did manage to find M78 at 80x (a five minute process which
required Dan's help, and which normally takes me 30 seconds with
a Telrad and dob), it finally rewarded me by showing it's classic
dark-sky "chevron" shape. This opened into a "serrated edge" to
the SE, nicely offset by the two bright involved stars (mag 10),
prominently arranged N-S. The third and fainter star (mag 14) to
the S was apparent to direct vision, though easily lost in M78's
wispy haze. Nearby, n2071 was visible to averted vision, around
a mag 10 star in the N part of the same eyepiece field. Of course
it required a check of nearby stars to confirm I was seeing this
faint nebula rather than scattered starlight. I could discern no
details, but it did suggest to me all the other faint nebulosity
which I knew lurked in this field, just under the faint skyglow.
I saw no apparent differences with the UHC, and raising power to
170x seemed to wash out the nebulosity, making UHC unusable. Not
the most thorough log of M78 I've written, but fun nonetheless!
More observations to come from that night's "small-scope sweeps".