Thursday, August 04, 2005

Observing Sessions – 6.5.05, 6.7.05, 8.3.05

I realize I’m extremely behind on sharing my observing sessions. Not that this site sees a great deal of traffic, but I still do enjoy to share my experience under the stars. There is a certain sweeping sense of displacement when hopping amongst the stars searching for illusive faint fuzzies. I’m doggedly trying to complete the Messier list by the end of the year, and as it stands, I’m in good stead to do so. Fifty-one objects to go. I started this list in earnest last winter. So, to complete it in a year will be a pretty great personal accomplishment.

As I seek out new objects with each night of observing, I still must make time to visit some old friends. There is comfort is seeing those familiar asterisms – signposts that lead the way to a globular cluster bloating with ancients suns and to galaxies, who’s light started a journey before we were even here on this planet.

Observing Session - 6.5.05
It was a relatively humid night, but still promising. At least, it was providing a better view than the depths of suburbia. I find it hard to complain, when I get out to a dark site, even on nights of poor transparency or seeing.

M104 - My first night of the stop, better known as the Sombrero Galaxy was an easy find, thanks some bright asterism. The galaxy was low in the sky. With averted vision, the central bulge and bisecting dust lane stood out remarkably well.

M65 and 66 - There is something about galaxies that share a field of view. It’s a beautiful sight that deserves some extended time at the eyepiece. At this point, my eyes had become pretty well adapted to the dark and I spied an oblong patch of faint light….

NGC 3628 – And to my surprise, I located NGC 3628. Very faint, but still impressive in its own right.

M105, NGC 3384, NGC 3389 – A lengthy many fields of view led me to this pleasant trio. It began to look like it’d be a galactic night. I was feeling confident. Transparency seemed pretty darn good. I decided that it was high time to take on the Virgo Cluster.

M49, M58, M59, M60, M61, M84, M85, M86, M87, M88, M89, M90, M91, M98, M99, and M100 – The cluster was not tackled in this order. Rest assured but with the exception of a few hit on previous session, I pretty much hopped around the whole cluster until I was satisfied that I had’m all. This was a daunting task. There were definitely moments of complete disorientation as there are just so many galaxies visible with in the same or nearly the same FOVs. However, I did make it through unscathed and added a heaping pile of Messiers to my bag.

M4 - I decided to end the night with a few globular clusters. M4 was faint but large. A welcome sight after the some of the faint galaxies in the Virgo cluster. It just barely resolved individual stars at high power.

M80 – M80, a fuzzy dot amongst a field of stars in at low-low power. It shoed a defined core at high power, but I was not able to resolve individual stars.

M12 – It was past midnight, fog was rolling in and I was out of steam. I bagged this last globular in Oph. It resolved well at both medium and high power, showing individual stars. It was a good object to end the busy night on.

Observing Session - 6.7.05
I was on my own that night. Just me and the cows that were engaged in heavy…conversation a few fields over. As it began to get dark, it was apparent it was going to be a good night. It was cool, but there was a light breeze. I was not worried about dew. Jupiter was poking out along with a few of the brighter stars. It smelled of early summer, the sounds of nature were picking up. Disappointed for my fellow astronomers missing out a nice night, I wondered where I should start.

Jupiter - Seeing was great. Jupiter looked amazing. I had my concerns about my ‘scopes level of collimation prior to starting my session, however, was pleased to see a nice clear image. The great red spot was making its transit, much to my pleasant surprise.

M13 - I started off with a comfortable, easy-to-find target. M13 was, of course, a pretty glorious site at high power. Many stars resolving individually.

M57 – Another easy and familiar target. The Ring Nebula was actually my first DSO ever. One of my favorite, ethereal smoke rings, that’s for sure.

M56 – A faint globular. Fainter than I expected. It did certainly heighten my appreciation of M3 and M13. I had a hard time resolving individual stars at high power. I think the cows are having sex.

M51 – Another favorite. I did have a bit of trouble tracking this object down as UMa was pretty high in the sky. However, tenacity was not without its rewards as I could distinctly make out a spiral in M51.

August 3, 2005 – Back to the present
My first night out in months. I was tired and still recovering from a cold, but I couldn’t resist. I had been withdrawing for quite some time. Besides, I had yet to see the Summer Milkway. I left later than expected, after forgetting my wallet, which I realized at Starbucks attempting to purchase a pickme up. I walked in the door and promptly turned around and walked out. It was already getting dark when I arrived at CHR. There were 5 cars there! It was great to see people out. I was in the mood for a leisurely stroll amongst the stars and I did just that.

M8 - An accidental find, to start off with. I was just sweeping some star fields in the vicinity of Sag. I did go back to a guidepost star and hoped on over just to verify it was M8. With the accompanying star cluster, it is pretty hard to misidentify. But, when I go to Messier Court I want proof that I did find this object and could find it again. It was a very nice site, especially with NGC 6530. At high power, I could make out dark rifts in the lighter nebulosity. Very cool.

M28 – Now reacquainted with the stars, I was back on my groove. M28 was a quick find. This globular was extremely faint and barely resolved at high power.

M69 - Again, another very faint globular. It didn’t resolve at all under high power.

NGC 6652 - A tiny globular, but very bright! Seemed to resolved better at high power than M28 and M69.

M70 - Faint, but stood out better than M28 and M69.

M54 - Bright and compact. Definitely the winner of this group. I made a quick sweep to M4 after this string of globular before changing direction entirely.

M27 - The Dumbell Nebula was definitely a “wow” type object. It was also an “ow” type object as it was located nearly at the zenith. I did manage to find it before I caused any permanent damage. It was extremely bright and showed a distinct shape. I spent a good deal of time enjoying this one.

Soon the fog was rolling in, and I was surprised to learn that it was nearly midnight. It was time to pack up and head home. Although, I only hopped to seven objects, it was still a very satisfying night. Sometimes, you just need to take your time. Finding an object is a very great thing, especially finding it for the first time. However, the hop itself, across vast distances is often the best part of tracking down an object.

M57 and M27 images taken from the Astromony Picture of the day web site. All other images obtained from SEDs.


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