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Thread: Galaxies

  1. #1
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    Default Galaxies



    There have been a lot of opportunities to bring out my telescope lately. I've had a decent amount of free time since I'm in between the spring and summer semesters. Still, I haven't been observing, mostly due to laziness.
    Finally, last night [5/23/2012] I brought my telescope (and my binos) out.



    My Nexstar mount is off to Pasadena, CA to be repaired, so I wasn't going to be able to use a GOTO feature to help me find my way around the sky. Not a problem. I used my Sky & Telescope pocket Sky Atlas. Star hopping is always good to practice and I definitely need it.

    I was able to use a few new items for the first time.
    I recently bought an Energizer LED headlamp. It has two basic functions: Red light or white light.
    The red light is a little bright but I just bent the head up so that it wasn't directly on my charts. This seemed to work well without losing too much night vision.

    I was also able to use the Telrad reticle pulser modification that I bought a couple months ago.
    This thing works great. Having the reticle disappear makes star hopping much easier. You can set the frequency of the pulses using a knob.
    I also used my new Telrad dew shield Plus. I didn't actually have any dew problems which seems kind of rare for my location.
    It is a nice thing to have. I'd say it will definitely come into play in the future when dew ravages my dob.
    However, my advice for anyone considering the purchase of one of these would be to simply by the Telrad dew shield, not the dew shield "plus" like I did. The flip out mirror is stupid and keeps the shield from closing all the way.



    I started out revisiting a few familiar solar system objects while the sky was getting dark. I looked at Venus under low magnification. Just a bright crescent.
    I checked out the moon. It looked very nice low on the horizon as a waxing crescent.
    I looked at Mars under considerable magnification. Nothing too impressive. Nothing like several months ago.
    Saturn looked fantastic. I barlowed my Hyperion Baader zoom. The best I saw it at was 250x. The "seeing" wasn't the best but it was still good. I saw lots of nice color variation on the disc but the rings were not as crisp. I couldn't get a decent view of the Cassini division even when the atmosphere calmed down at its best. Always a great sight, and surrounded by little moons.



    By now the sky was dark enough to search for galaxies.
    I wanted to look through Leo since I had never done so before (surprisingly).
    The first group I looked at was the M96 group. The M96 group contains between 8 and 24 galaxies (via Wikipedia). From that group I spotted M95, M96, M105, and NGC 3384.
    M95 and M96 fit comfortably in my field of view at 50x. M105 and NGC 3384 were closer to one another (in appearance). M95 seemed to be the brightest of the four galaxies.
    The Leo Triplet was much easier to star hop to being just less than 3 degrees from Chertan.
    The Leo Triplet is made up of M65, M66, and NGC 3628. M66 is the brightest of the three but all are similar in magnitude. The three galaxies make for a nice view.

    I had been interested in seeing M64 - The Black Eye galaxy in Coma Berenices for a long time. It was an easy star hop. It was fairly bright. I spent some time on this one. The features in this galaxy were a little less subtle than some of the other galaxies.
    Nearby, also in Coma Berenices I saw M53, a globular cluster.

    Now to Virgo. This was a difficult area for me to find my way through. I had hopes of easily picking out and identifying lots of galaxies in this area. I did see quite a few galaxies but if I can't identify them I can't log them.
    There is a little odd shaped cluster of stars about 3 degrees 45 arc minutes from Vindemiatrix.

    I used this little cluster to get me on target with M60 and nearby NGC 4647. Not too much further was M59. M60 was the brightest of the three.
    Further along on the same slanted line I found M58, slightly dimmer than its neighbors.
    I should back track a second, here. Before I challenged myself in this region I wanted to look for M104 - the Sombrero galaxy. It took me a few minutes but I finally got it. It's a very impressive sight. A very prominent nucleus is at it's center. The disc tapers off and dims quite abruptly. Having a mental image of the galaxy helped pic slight detail out when viewing at the telescope.



    In Ursa Major I revisited M81 & M82. This bright pair never bores me and is always worth a look. I didn't spend too much time on this.
    I was determined to finally find M101. I've looked many times before.
    It really didn't take me too long to find it. I didn't even use charts. I knew exactly where it was supposed to be, forming a near equilateral triangle with the stars Alkaid and the Mizar/Alcor double.
    It was very faint. Its light was spread out, comparable to M33 I'd say. Perhaps if the light pollution to the north wasn't so bad I'd be able to see more detail.

    I went to look at a couple globulars in Hercules. I've seen M13 and M92 before but they are always a great sight. M13 was bright and had many many resolvable stars as did M92.

    Lyra is a very easy constellation to find and navigate through thanks to the current geometry of the star positions.
    I had to of course look at M57 - the Ring nebula. This is one of my favorite objects in the night sky. At 188x it is big and bright. The smokey ring expands at about one arc second per century (also via Wikipedia).
    Almost straight below M57 is the globular cluter M56. M56 is dim and small. And why shouldn't it be? It's at a distance of about 32,900 light years from Earth.

    Since I was in the area, I checked out Cygnus which was just rising to a viewable height in the sky. I found M29 - The Cooling Tower.
    It's an odd little open cluster.

    By midnight the wind had started to kick up. I packed everything up and wheeled the scope back inside.
    It turned out to be a very good night of observing.
    I found a total of seventeen new objects, fourteen of those being Messier objects, and fourteen also being galaxies.
    Last edited by Cladinator; 05-24-2012 at 03:39 PM.
    -Nick

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  3. #2
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    This is an excellent report which is nice to read. It seems like you've had a great night.
    Next time when you go for M60 again, make sure to find NGC 4638. Last time I looked at M60, it was in the same fov with M59 and NGC 4638. They some sort of a triangle. You won't see a lot of NGC 4638, but the very fuzzy object is there. It will take a while though. Also from those Galaxies you can easily find M58, M89, and M90. I actually enjoyed M90 quite a lot. The Galaxy shape is nicely visible.

    Thanks for the report.

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    Thanks Michael. I have a feeling I saw NGC 4638 but I'm not confident enough in my observation to give it a positive identification.
    Getting oriented in that region of the sky proved to be more tasking than I thought. That area is lacking in good guide stars to star hop to and from.
    -Nick

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cladinator View Post
    Now to Virgo. This was a difficult area for me to find my way through. I had hopes of easily picking out and identifying lots of galaxies in this area. I did see quite a few galaxies but if I can't identify them I can't log them.
    There is a little odd shaped cluster of stars about 3 degrees 45 arc minutes from Vindemiatrix.
    Nick, I enjoyed reading your report.
    Like you, I had just star hopped from Chertan and bagged M65 and M66 in the same eyepiece. (Not a surprise I suppose, I was using my 2 inch 32mm wide-angle).

    Again, like you, I centred Vindemiatrix and wandered off to the west. Noticing the little odd shaped cluster you mentioned I arrived at M59 and M60. Now, I've seen both these before, and carried on a little further trying to spot M58. I backed up two or three times to the little odd cluster or even to Vindemiatrix itself to make sure I wasn't straying off line. I think eventually I sailed past M58, spotted at least 4 other galaxies but I can't be sure one is which. Disappointing as I'm try to finish off my Messier 30 challenge.

    I think what I should have done is what I did with M66 and 65. To verify my find, I made a little sketch of a star pattern that was near to M66. When I came back into the house and checked against Stellarium, sure enough, the star pattern was right there.

    A sense of achievement I suppose, whenever you manage to find something for yourself without the aid of a computer.

    Clear skies.

    Alec.
    Alec in France (now back under orange UK skies)
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    Great report. It's given me a few ideas for my next session.
    Next time you are looking in the M53 area, try for globular cluster NGC 5053 which is only 1 degree or so to the east. I've found this one very hard to see.
    Chris
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisRS View Post
    Great report. It's given me a few ideas for my next session.
    Next time you are looking in the M53 area, try for globular cluster NGC 5053 which is only 1 degree or so to the east. I've found this one very hard to see.
    Thanks Chris.
    I noticed in the charts that there was another globular near M53. By this time the wind was getting stronger and I felt rushed to get everything packed up. I'll have to look for it another time.
    -Nick

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    This was a very useful and timely observation report for me.
    Helpful comments too.
    Tom Wall,
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    Good job Nick. Next time you wander into the Virgo cloud, I can highly recommend the chart in the back of your PSA (Close-up Chart C) to help you find your way. Or you can use this one:

    virgo-cluster.htm

    I was able to identify 50 galaxies in the region one night with my Z10 from my orange zone. In fact, they are so crowded in that area, you wind up not star hopping, but galaxy hopping!

    And Alec is correct, there is a great sense of accomplishment doing it yourself without electronic aid.
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    Hello Nick,

    thanks for your excellent written and highly inspiring report.

    Clear skies

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    Great report. Thanks for sharing.

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