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Is this stellar pair marathon-worthy?

Putting the finishing touches on the double star marathon.
ChapleGlenn

I have to share this one with you. At the November 9, 2017, meeting of my astronomy club, the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, member John Sheff announced that it was Carl Sagan’s birthday. “How old would he have been were he still alive?” I asked. Without batting an eye, he replied, “Billions and billions!” Who says astronomy enthusiasts are mirthless individuals?

I want to make a personal plea for help — not of the mental or physical variety, though most folks who know me well would argue the point. No, I’m looking for assistance in fine-tuning and finalizing the double star marathon I introduced in my March 2016 column.
ASYGC03_02
For those of you who missed that article and a follow-up in March 2017, I created the double star marathon as a counterpoint to the annual Messier marathon. The latter is typically held in mid- or late March when all the objects in the Messier catalog can be seen in a single evening. I picked 110 stellar pairs to match the number typically included on the Messier marathon roster, and all lie in the same areas as the Messier objects.
ASYPH03_02copy

The near-twin stars of Psi1 Psc lie in the northeastern corner of Pisces the Fish.

Jeremy Perez
Swimming with the Fish

Here’s where I need your help. California double star aficionado Phil Kane has suggested that I include Psi1 (ψ1) Piscium on the list. This striking pair of near-twin stars shine with a pure-white hue at magnitudes 5.3 and 5.5 and are separated by a comfortable 30". They lie just 9° northwest of the spiral galaxy M74, a notoriously difficult Messier marathon object because it glows faintly and hangs low in the west on March evenings. Psi1 Psc would add a challenging element to the double star marathon, but would it be too much?

On the weekend of this year’s Messier marathon (Friday and Saturday nights, March 16 and 17), I’ll be tackling Psi1 before moving on to my main list. I encourage you to back me up by doing the same and letting me know how you fare. If positive sightings outnumber the negative ones, I’ll officially add Psi1 to the list. And then I’d face the heartbreaking task of culling one double from my original list. By the way, if you’d like to run the marathon this year and don’t have the list, send me an email, and I’ll forward you a copy.

ASYGC03_03

Double star Psi1(ψ1) Piscium lies 9° northwest of spiral galaxy M74, one of the most difficult Messier marathon objects.

Astronomy: Roen Kelly
Best of the rest

As any diehard double star observer would tell you, selecting 110 pairs meant omitting some real gems. In the table above, I highlight eight that failed to make the cut but deserve your attention. The data come from the Washington Double Star Catalog, which is available online at http://ad.usno.navy.mil/wds. I have split all of them through a 3-inch reflecting telescope at 60x, but I suggest using a larger aperture to better reveal their colors and bumping up the magnifying power to 100x for some of the closer pairs.

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Email me at gchaple@hotmail.com. Next month: tips for hosting an Astronomy Day star party. Clear skies!

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