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Thread: Difficult M33?

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    Default Difficult M33?



    Hmmm....had a bit of a problem with M33 tonight.

    I've only got half a dozen Messiers left to find so my target list for the evening was very short, M33 and M73.
    M73 proved to be no problem, a fairly easy open cluster. I had chosen to take my 4" F/5.0 refractor out tonight and the seeing was ok, transparency reasonable to good (Milky way nicely in evidence). As a warm up I was getting lovely views of the double cluster in Perseus.

    Now the thing is that M33 or the Triangulum Galaxy is not actually in the Triangulum constellation but if you start off using Mothallah its about 4 degrees northish. So off I hopped using my 32mm 2" and landed where I knew it should be. Zilcho! I tried my 28mm and my Hyperion zoom at 24, 20 and 16mm. Nothing! I confess to resorting to the GoTo. The scope moved about a millimetre, so I was definitely right on it. So guys, is M33 a real tough one? Stellarium gives it a mag 5.7, but I appreciate its all about surface brightness. I had made a little sketch of the surrounding star patterns and these matched Stellarium. At the time I was viewing M33 was around 19 degrees alt.

    Does anyone have any notes when they observed it, hopefully backing up my theory that this is a toughie? Or am I going blind?

    Alec.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    M33 is definitely a tough one. I saw it back on November on my third try. It's definitely one where you need to use low power - I found it at 43x and it was approximately 1/2 the size of the field of view, and I could only see it with averted vision. When I stared directly at it it disappeared into the sky background. While the listed magnitude is bright this is one of the classic cases of low surface brightness making a galaxy a challenging object. As an aid, you may want to gently sweep the scope around its position - a little motion combined with averted vision should probably do the trick. It will appear as a faint cloud.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    It is very tough. It is very large so the magnitude may seem reasonable, but the brightness is actually spread pretty thin. I can usually only see it from a dark site with a dob. Though I have seen it in my Mak before. It is definately an object you want to let get as high as possible to view it.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    I second Michael's advice. Averted vision is a useful tool as M33 can be tricky to see. Kind of like relaxing your eyes when trying to see on of those 3D pictures.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    M33 is all about surface brightness (as you mentioned). Though it may be an apparent magnitude of about 5.8, its surface brightness is 14.4. As Michael and Charlie said, its about low power wide field views. It is not near the toughest Messier, but it can give some people fits. If you have significant LP problems, or just have poor transparency on a particular evening, it can be a tough nut to crack. I can regularly spot it with 10x50 binoculars from Bortle 4 skies, and I can find it easily (most of the time) at low power with my Z10 or AR127 from my Bortle 5 backyard. I have also fleetingly seen it naked eye from Bortle 2 skies. However, do not underestimate the power of expectation. Even though we may tell ourselves that yeah, I know it has low surface brightness, all too many times our mind still focuses on that 5.8 apparent magnitude figure and we trick ourselves into assuming that it will be a piece of cake. Undern dark skies it is. Another factor is just not knowing exactly what we should see in the eyepiece. After you find it the first time, you then understand what it is you should be looking for, and then it becomes easier subsequently, provided the conditions permit its viewing. As the guys said, try averted vision. That can many times make things that are just below visibility level with direct vision show themselves. Good luck, you will get it eventually.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    Alan/Charlie/Jonny/Michael,

    Thanks for all your replies.

    The consensus suggests that M33 is certainly not the easiest of Messiers. Being reasonably experienced now in tracking stuff down, I really did try everything I could think of.
    Charlie: Averted vision - yes very much so.
    Michael: A little motion combined with averted vision - I used the old trick of gently tapping the ota to induce a gentle shake. This has worked for me in the past, but not this time.
    Alan: Bortle 4 skies - I'm actually on the edge of a blue/grey zone. Last night the Milky Way was showing nicely which is really what prompted me writing the thread. My brain was saying "If you can't see it tonight, it must be a real toughie".
    Jonny: View it as high as possible - To be honest I'm pinning my hopes on this. I viewed at only 19 degrees.

    So, I'm going to try again tonight. Instinct tells me to throw my dob at it. Obstinacy tells me to have another go with my 4" refractor.
    I think I need to try a little more magnification, since I only used 30x maximum and to view it higher up.

    Thanks again guys.

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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    Here are my notes from observing it on 7/20/2013 at a Bortle 4 location:

    Looking to the east I set my sights to the elusive M33. A few weeks ago I spent a frustrating 30 minutes looking for this object with no luck. Triangulum was higher in the sky this morning, so I started my search with confidence. After sweeping from Alpha Trianguli towards Tau Piscium at a few different angles with the 30mm eyepiece I was able to capture this deceptive beast. It seemed large but insubstantial. There was a patch amongst the "blur" of the object that was slightly brighter than the rest. (but still not very bright) I barlowed the 30mm eyepiece and M33 seemed to fill the FOV. I could not see a definite shape, but the object made the FOV seem out of focus. I kept nudging my telescope to the right and found stars as pinpoints of light. When I would go back to M33 I had to fight the urge to refocus. Even with the spirits of the dark skies on my side, the illusory magicks of this galaxy were strong.

    If it is high enough in the sky and a dark enough location this is a good binocular target. I had no trouble this weekend at Bortle 3 skies with my 15x70s. It was actually easier than using the scope. It is large and has an egg like shape in the binoculars.

    Hope this helps a little.
    Last edited by David87; 08-05-2013 at 09:27 AM.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    Quote Originally Posted by David87 View Post
    Here are my notes from observing it on 7/20/2013 at a Bortle 4 location:

    Looking to the east I set my sights to the elusive M33.
    David, thank you VERY much for your report. I shall try again with renewed vigour!
    Excellent!

    Alec.
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    I had already learned from the forum that M33 was a tough one and this thread once more confirmed it

    Against all odds* I have tried to find it in my last two sessions (still to write report) and failed.
    I think I really need to wait a couple of months for it to be higher in the sky and then observe from my "dark site"


    *
    - I already knew it was a very faint galaxy
    - It is currently very low
    - It is currently right over Brussels (MUCH more skyglow than the Southern horizon that I typically complain about)
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    Default Re: Difficult M33?

    Quote Originally Posted by Skyscanner View Post
    I had already learned from the forum that M33 was a tough one and this thread once more confirmed it

    - It is currently right over Brussels (MUCH more skyglow than the Southern horizon that I typically complain about)
    Good luck with finding it Skyscanner. You guys in Belgium have got it tough - right!?

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