Stunning transparency : galaxies.

Swadlincote 29/1/17 200f6 Orion optics Newt on eq5.

Stunning transparency from 3-5.30. The seeing wasn’t up to much , enough to spot a small dark barge on the northern belt of Jupiter . Some good colour and fine belts , just set the focus and watch them drift in and out. 150 magnification produced the best results.
M51 looked spectacular with clear structure to NGC 5195, the zenith being very dark. Canes Venatici ,Coma Berenice’s , and Ursa Major providing the best views. Both Virgo and Leo were high above town lights with little contrast.
A lovely galaxy session catching,
NGC 4631 (C32), the elongate “whale” right up to x120 where it streaked across the fov.
NGC 4656/57 averted view of the “hockey stick”.
NGC 4214 an irregular bright +9.7 galaxy.
NGC 4490 a bright “cocoon”.
NGC 4449 (C21) delightfully granulated , resolves into stars.
NGC 4565, the bright “needle”.
NGC 5005 (C29) lovely and bright.
M63, the “Sunflower”, M64 and the very bright M94.
Had a look at M3 , resolves into a sparkling globular with bright field stars.

The most stunning view was “Bode’s”)where the fov was filled with stars. Yet again no sign of Comet V2 Johnson in Bootes. I scanned the area several times , but nothing non stellar even at x120. Very odd to see Cygnus high in the north east and catch M13 and M92 in high Hercules.

Its well worth getting out in the early hours. Heavy rain yesterday had washed the sky clean, heavy frost covered everything especially the Telrad and the toes !


Clear skies,



Can thoroughly recommend this! I picked it up for the magnificent sum of £7 at “The Works”. It is A4 size, has 320 pages and the novel thing about the star maps section, especially for newcomers, is that each star map has a photo of the same area on the facing page. You can therefore get some idea of what the sky actually looks like.

Andy, Could bring it for February’s 5 minute slots if you like?




Observing Leo and Leo minor : deep sky.

Very rich in galaxies, there are five Messier’s here. Group 1 is to the middle with M95 / M96 with a dust lane to the nucleus. M105 is nearby , all at 35-40 million light years distant. The Triplet is M65 with a dust lane ,M66 and the elusive NGC 3628. A very easy and pleasing sight from dark skies, not easy from town.

A big heads up for NGC 2903 out from the “sickle”. Similar to our galaxy it’s a lot better than many Messier’s , a wonder that it was not included. I enclose a chart from the S@N magazine with magnitudes added and a list of galaxies here. Good transparency and some aperture will get you results under dark skies,


Observing Leo and Leo Minor : stars

It’s great to catch “The sickle ” of Leo rising early, followed by his body. One of the few constellations where you can spot the whole beast. It abounds in rich galaxy groups, but there are many other rewards here.
After enjoying the delicate α Leonis (Regulus) ,the closer 4.6″γ Leonis (Algieba) and β (Denebola),time to search Leo and Leo Minor for some real gems.

I was pleased to find a list prepared in the summer from Σ1419 onwards, which I have included together with a few sketches below.

Let’s start with

κ Leonis, a 2.4″ yellow and blue caught best at over x250.

6 Leonis is wide, but with lovely contrast at x50.

7 Leonis gives a wider field of view, three doubles. 7 gives lovely contrast.

Σ1399 just a good near even double.

ΟΣ215 (SAO 99032)opens a challenging 1.5″ near even split, caught at x160. These near evens are so much easier than delicates.

Σ1431 (SAO 118292)shows the pair near to 44 Leonis, at x160 this pair pops out.

Σ1447 (SAO 081415) at x100 gives an agreeable “smokeball” with a 4.4″ separation.

Σ1448 at x50 gives a delicate 11.1 split.

49 Leonis is a good challenge at 2.1″, certainly agree with “looks like a star with a planet !”

S 617 (SAO 81584), a wider delicacy.

For some colour try,

54 Leonis , at 6.3″ , I’d go with yellow and blue here.

δ Leonis, wide and most delicate, +2.6 and +8.6.

Σ1521 (SAO 81740) a must see binary at 3.6″ , near equal at x218.

Σ1529, again near equal pleasing 9.4″ pair.

For more colour, yellow and blue,

ι Leonis (SAO 99587) I caught this 1.7″ at x218, a real beauty.

Red and yellow this time in the wide

81 Leonis, nice and delicate at +5.6 to +10.8.

Another “double double ” here at

83 and τ Leonis, both wide at x50.

88 Leonis at x50 gives a very delicate binary, go delicate yellow and blue here.

Find 90 Leonis and it’s a lovely triple, at x50. A bit more magnification provides contrast at x100, see below.

Σ1565 and SHJ 132 I also rated as worthy.

Before I get around to the dark sky galaxy delights , bear in mind that these binaries are mainly easy with light pollution and modest gear. I have seen the whole Leo Triplet just twice from home and couldn’t believe how easy it was from the New Forest. Binaries and carbon stars provide worthwhile valuable viewing,

under clear skies ! Nick.IMG_4427IMG_4429IMG_4428

Deep Sky , Ursa Major.

Any chart will show the constellation packed with galaxies. Burnham’s “Celestial Handbook” gives some 115 galaxies from NGC 2639 to NGC 5631. Some are very fine, most require dark sky and aperture.
“Bode’s” M81 and M82, both at 10million light years distant. A lovely sight both in a low power fov. They are not easy to find as there are no visible stars nearby. Trick is to follow the diagonal of the plough and then curve up away from the bowl.
M101 is a huge +7.7 “pinwheel” galaxy , face on , but very diffuse.
M109 will show the +9.8 bar.
NGC 4501 and NGC 4088 show the nuclei of these spiral galaxies.
“Coddington’s ” IC 2574 is a +10.4 barred spiral.
NGC 2841 at +10.3 is the best non Messier with spiral arms.
M97 , the “owl nebula”, a planetary nebula , showing some detail with a uhc filter.

At 12h36m49.4s. +62 12′ 38″ you’ll find the location of the Hubble Deep field north. For 10 days the Hubble scope was pointed at an area equivalent to a grain of sand at arms length.. this is above Alioth and Megrez. The faintest galaxy was +30 magnitude. Looking back to 1000 million years after the Big Bang.
Should you get to a dark sky, the bowl and surrounds of Ursa Major are packed with galaxies looking out into deep space . A very useful area leading to the Coma, Canes V and Virgo galaxies.
Clear skies ! Nick.


Stars of Ursa Major.

We’re lucky that the largest open cluster is rising , the main stars form a moving cluster , except for the first and last ones. A good sign of atmosphere is to check Mizar / Alcor splits by eye. The easiest targets are the stars here,
Stars of UMa.

Dubhe (α) is a very wide orange and brown pair at low magnification.However the α itself is a very close binary, best I’ve had is a bright donut shape at .8″. It is the furthest of the dipper stars and not one of the five cluster stars.

Mizar and Alcor are optical doubles, the bright one , Mizar opening out to give a 14.3″ split.

Talitha (ι UMa) shows a white and a close 4.5″ blue, I found this quite a challenge.

Σ1523 (53 UMa, xi )(Alula Australis), a superb widening binary 1.7″ at +4.3 +4.8 with an orbit of 59.8 years. This was the first ever binary discovered on 2nd of May 1780 by Sir William Herschel and the first visual double for which the orbit was found. A very beautiful sight.
To the north is Lalande 21185 a red dwarf +7.5 at 11h30.3m. +35 58’11”. This is the fourth closest star and nearest planetary system at 8.32 lys.
Next door is Groombridge 1830 (Argelander’s Star) the third fastest proper motion star , moving one degree every 511 years. At +6.4 go to 11h52.9m. +37 43′.

Some colours and showcases now,
Σ1193 shows a wide orange and blue at x50.
23 UMa shows yellow and green, there is a third element at 100″ being +10.5.
Σ1415 shows a pair at 16.5″.
Σ1495 between Merak and Dubhe shows an easy wide lovely pair.
h 2554 is a wide 40″ with plenty colour here.
57 UMa a lovely white and blue at x100.
Σ1559 I use as a tester, a lovely delicate companion at 1.8″.
65 UMa is a colourful triple , worth a long look.
Σ1603 gives a lonely pair of headlights at x50.
Σ1695 gives a lot of colour at 3.8″. As does the blue companion of
78 UMa at a close 1.2″.
Σ1770 , a most delicate pair, but I caught it in the 102. More colour at
Σ1795 at 7.9″. I’ll end with the very delicate
Σ1831 an arc of a triple at x50.

some observations here with coordinates or SAO details in Synscan handsets.


I found a scribble suggesting that the optimum magnification for observing binaries is 750 divided by the arc seconds. That combined with your maximum magnification being your aperture in inches x50, food for thought. Hopefully under the
Clearest skies !
Old Nick.

Murky skies !

Swadlincote,24-25th January 2017. C6r.

Some good views of some off the beaten track targets. High in Orion , under Taurus , find NGC 1662. A fine open cluster named ” The Klingon Ship”. Just about there if you imagine the skeleton of such a thing.
Down to bright and very colourful “Hind’s Crimson” star in Lepus, just a lovely glowing coal.
Over to Cancer and the bright “Tegmine” , it was again a delight to split the bright companion at x240 to give this lovely triple.
Cloud left some of Ursa Major open and a return to bright brilliant binary, Xi (53) or Alula austraulis. Separation is 1.9″ easy last session in the 102 at x150 . Xi Ursa Majoris is a nearby binary system, 27.3 light years away, whose stars orbit each other in a period of 59.88 years, and is of profound historical importance. It was the first binary system discovered, by William Herschel in 1780. It was also the first binary system to have its orbit calculated, by Felix Savary in 1828.

Finder chart for NGC 1662.IMG_4418

Nothing else doing except for dodging mist and cloud. An early morning start showed Jupiter nicely at x150.Before 4 catching the tiny disc of Iota post occultation.IMG_4420No sign of the comet in Bootes , C/2015 V2 (Johnson) gave it several shots , but little field contrast as the freezing mist blanketed everything.

Clear skies ! Nick.