A clear sky and a free evening coincide at last!
First up was setting up the 200p for an imaging run on M101 (still stacking!) and then a nice little session with Sam and the 8 inch Dob.
Betelgeuse was first up and discussing how if it was where the Sun was we’d be in it!
The Orion Nebula at 48x was a nice site, with the 4 brighter trapezium stars quite distinct.
We then moved onto the Double Cluster which filled the eyepiece at the same magnification- so many stars!
Finally we had a look at M65 and M66 in the Leo Triplet.
A bit of family time and then back out with the 14″ for a more serious session.
In Auriga- M36, M37 and M38 were a good place to start, they’re sliding off to the West now and in a better place for comfort and (from my location) light pollution and seeing. I was swapping between the 24mm Baader zoom and the 35mm Orion that came with the scope, and whilst the 35mm offered a better Field of View the 24mm had better contrast and brighter stars. It became clear during this time that whichever eyepiece I was using, the seeing was good and conditions were better than they’ve been for weeks.
Next up I returned to Leo and the triplet. As usual M65 & 66 were quite easy to see, but whilst the 35mm needed averted vision to see NGC3389, it was quite clear in the Baader zoom with direct vision and that eyepiece remained in the scope for the rest of the session. M105 and friends were quite clear and continued the evening’s theme of multiple galaxies in a single field of view.
And so- over to Virgo- starting at Vindemiatix and hopping up to M60, with M59 again in the same view. Whilst looking around and enjoying the pairing, with both galaxies showing a bit of shape, NGC 4638 popped out at me as well. With the conditions better than for weeks I then embarked on a wander through the wonders of Virgo that went well past bed o’clock but where the next object was rarely more than a Field of View away. From my notes:
M84 Bright Core, no Shape
M86 Bright with some shape
M88 Yeah! Bright, some shape
M89 Core very bright- but no shape
M90 Clear flat elipse; some shape with AV
M91 V faint- no shape
NGC4638 Quite easy to distinguish
NGC4564 Clearly seen
NGC4568 AV Only
NGC4477 Direct Vision
NGC4479 AV Only
NGC4473 Clearly seen with DV
NGC4458 AV Only
NGC4461 AV Only
NGC4435 Clear and distinct from other Eye
NGC4438 Clear and distinct from other Eye
NGC4388 Flat shape
NGC4413 V Faint but direct
NGC4402 Faint- AV only
NGC4476 Quite clear next to M87
NGC4478 Quite clear next to M87
NGC4486a Quite clear next to M87
Altogether that’s 30 galaxies observed in quite a small segment of sky. I was discussing with my wife afterwards my fascination with looking at these. In many ways they’re no spectacle at all- fuzzy patches of lighter sky, some of them little more than mottling against darkness. Yet when viewing them with the knowledge of what they are, of the vast eons across which this light has travelled, and of the journey we have been on as a species to reach our present knowledge plus the many open questions that remain about them they are, in the most literal sense, awesome. All this was combined with a little buzz of achievement- several times last year I tried to galaxy hop through Virgo to Markarian’s and always found myself losing track somewhere and returning to the start point. There were a few shaky moments last night but the feeling of accomplishment at the end was quite immense.
I spent today at a corporate event needing to look bright eyed and bushy tailed which required rather a lot of coffee. I’m not sure I was making much sense by the end, but it was well worth it!