Wednesday, September 10, 2014

47 Tucanae, Globular cluster in the southern sky

I write this with mixed feelings because even though I was really excited to have found 47 Tucanae from my light polluted skies, I am now preparing to move away from these polluted skies.  So, I am sharing this with a dash of nostalgia because it is perhaps one of the last times for a couple of years that I will have access to the southern sky. 

The truth is that God is calling my family and me to serve in China and we are really excited to do that. Of course, I will stay involved in stargazing because it is one of my passions. By moving to China I feel really blessed because even though I’m going to lose contact with some southern constellations,  the place we are planning to live will have (in theory) less light pollution therefore I will be able to see more DSOs.

Along with my family, I am excited about the things that are coming, but for now this sketch is what I want to share with you. I still have several sketches I made previously to share, but I am planning on sharing them a little at a time.

For now, let’s talk about 47 Tucanae. My native country Colombia is ideally located to enjoy both hemispheres, so one would think that it would not be a problem to locate 47 Tuc. But actually, I had some trouble finding it as it just does not raise high enough to avoid light pollution and even worse because most of the times there is a hazy fog close to the horizon in the mornings that leaves no stars visible to the naked eye to help guide the search.

With all of that it is almost impossible to see anything below 15 degrees over the horizon, but almost miraculously, the morning of August 30th was exceptionally clear and also very cold, around 5° C or 41°F. It was 04:50 in the morning so I did not want to set up the telescope because of the cold and because I was in a hurry to avoid the sunrise. Then, I decided to take my 15x70 Binoculars and scan the area trying to find what I had seen in my tablet. This sky area seemed like a baby blue color (maybe a little darker) and once again I thought that it would be impossible to see it. Then, something amazing occurred and I could not believe it. I looked up and almost by instinct, I went to the right spot where I could see like 3 stars forming an obtuse triangle and one of them was undoubtedly a no-star because it seemed kind of blurry. Then I rechecked in my tablet and it was the same shape I was looking for and seeing through the binoculars and the “no-star” point was 47 Tuc. Even though the view was not awesome because it shined just like a fuzzy spot only slightly bigger than the 5 stars I could see in the FOV, I was impressed that finally I was able to see this giant globular cluster of 4th magnitude. Its center seemed dense and lighter and that was what gave me the first impression of a blurry star.

With this sketch, I am almost saying good bye, for a while, to the southern sky. I hope you who have access to the southern sky keep enjoying those wonderful views.

Clear skies,


Edited by Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief)

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