Nova - RS Ophiuchi
Our intended target was RS Ophiuchi, a recurrent nova which last erupted to visual magnitude in 1985. Reports came through on Tuesday that it was shining at mag 4.8 which was up from mag 11 on the previous day. RS Ophiuchi is a close binary comprised of a red giant which is spilling gases onto its small, dense, blue companion. This hot blue star erupted in 1898, 1933, 1958, 1967, and 1985.
Three of us turned out under a clearing sky with some remnants of high cloud and mist which gave the almost full moon a bright halo. We trekked up to the field behind Grey where we quickly identified the right constellation (Ophiucus which I had never really been aware of before) and soon were quickly identifying triangles in our attempts to locate the nova (sample conversation "ok, so we have that big triangle, then we go straight down to a bright star then down a bit more to the little triangle. You can tell you have the right triangle as there is a tiny triangle at the top of the little triangle"). Using the binoculars we located what we believed to be the nova and then confirmed its position with some long exposure photographs of the region. With the rapidly brightening sky it was difficult to be positive of the nova in the binoculars but we definitely had the right area!
The following image is an overlay of a photo taken by Andy Ciavarella highlighting the position of the nova to prove to ourselves that we did see ithttp://farm2.static.flickr.com/1171/1292969705_32dddef706.jpg
As we were doing this Venus had glided up over the horizon, sparkling in the dawn sky and we had fun taking pictures of us with Venus using the 10 second timer on Andy's camera. For his last trick Andy took some photos of us and the moon reflected in one of the many nearby puddles. By this time the sky was very light, the sun not far off rising so we packed up and came back. Quite a magical night and definitely worth the foreshortened sleep.