Damian gave me a call and I went around to his house last for probably the best galaxy observing session I have enter taken part in. This was largely facilitated by his amazing TEC 140mm telescope on Novohitch mount. The TEC is a highly corrected apochromatic refractor and something to die for, producing Takahashi quality images but with larger lens sizes (140mm vs 104mm in Damian’s Tak). The mount is perfectly engineered hand-crafted piece of kit and perfectly complements the TEC. It easily carries its weight. It is not motorised at the current size but does have push-to digital setting circles which repeatedly put the object of interest in the centre of the field of view. Damian’s iPad sits on a bracket on the side of the mount and shows exactly where the telescope is pointing using Sky Safar app. The combination means that, as an observer using this equipment, I felt as though I had that link to the sky as we moved the scope around – which is just not there with a GOTO mount such as my EQ6. Wonderful! Last night was a fitting tribute to the Novohitch’s maker, who sadly died very recently.
Then there were the galaxies. The sky was not perfectly clear and we were not in a dark sky site. Damian’s house is on the edge of Lichfield. However, in spite of this, we just couldn’t miss – any galaxy under magnitude 10 could not escape us! What I am not sure of is how much our increasing skills and experience as observers played a role in this – but what I am sure of is that I have never seen so many galaxies in such a short period of time!
We started in Virgo – 1, 2, ,3 ,4 ,5 galaxies – then to Leo, both triplets – 2 galaxies in first triplet, FOUR in second!! Several other galaxies in Leo, then to Ursa Major M106, M51 and even we could pick out M101 and see mottling within it (that one was VERY faint but we definitely saw it!!), then a whole list of galaxies across the Northern Sky including Whale Galaxy and a large range of others, then back to Virgo to pick up some more galaxies. I haven’t written a list down as last night I just wanted to enjoy myself but I will remember this night as one of the most amazing observing sessions of my life – even though the sky wasn’t perfect.
[Looking at Stellarium, I have identified some of the galaxies we saw:
In Virgo we observed Markarian’s chain including the eyes NGC 4435 and NGC 4438, M86, M84; also in Virgo M58 and M90, M85, and some close by NGC galaxies.
In the rear Leo triplet, M66 and M65 were observed but we did not see NGC 3638 (which is surprising as we saw fainter galaxies later on).
In the other Leo triplet, we could see M95 and M96 and two of NGC 3389, NGC 3384 and M105, which is strange because those latter three are all supposed to be less bright than magnitude 10, so I think that the extent to which a galaxy is condensed makes a big difference to our ability to observe it.
We also saw NGC 2903, NGC 3606 (we were on form by now!)
In Canes Venatici, we observed M94, then the Sunflower Galaxy M63, NGC 4449, M106, Whale Galaxy NGC 4631, and, in the general area, a number of others.
Finished with M13 and M92 globular clusters in Hercules.]