Category Archives: Galaxies

One of those sessions…

Last night was One of Those Sessions where I actually began to regret setting up…I dropped my Telrad (fortunately it didn’t break), stepped in some dog crap that got overlooked earlier (why do they need to go on the path?!) and, when I was wheeling my scope back down the garden later, a large globe thistle caught up in it, then broke free and smacked me in the mouth, which hurt but, although the plant is prickly, at least it didn’t draw blood.
It was also one of those sessions when I couldn’t find half of what I went after but, although I have decent dark skies here, last night’s transparency wasn’t as good as I’d hoped and as I was looking for faint objects that wasn’t really surprising, so I went back to the brighter stuff. Oh and my sister, and her kids plus their hyperactive spaniel, are visiting for a week so the house lights kept going on, as well as the upstairs bedroom and landing lights which she keeps on for her kids who, at ten and twelve years old, surely no longer need lights on at night. She let her boisterous spaniel out at one point, so not only did the garden get blitzed when she put the light on, I also had a suddenly-aggressive/nervous dog, who is in an unfamiliar place, barking his head off at me.

The dew was appalling. Everything was wet and it was like observing in a swimming pool. I persevered but packed in just before 3 am when clouds began to roll in; I dismantled my 18 inch Dob and just shoved it into the shed, uncovered, to give it a chance to dry out, gathered up my by now sodden charts and notebook, which were rapidly turning into paper mache, and went to bed not in the best of moods and regretting the three cups of very strong filter coffee I’d drunk!

Anyway, here’s what I actually DID manage to see:
NGC 6440, 6445, M51 (just for something really nice and bright to look at), Abell 2, NGC 7013, NGC 5832 and NGC 6011. Seven objects in a four-hour period is a pretty poor return but I spent (wasted) a lot of time looking for stuff that was a bit too faint for the conditions.

I am looking into getting some digital setting circles for the 18 inch, which will make finding stuff a lot easier. I’ve been talking to Gary at Wildcard Innovations of Australia who makes the Argo Navis DSCs and, although I can make some modifications to my scope’s mirror and/or rocker boxes to accommodate the encoders, it will be a tight fit. The only problem right now is money, with no job (and, looking like no prospect of actually getting one) I can’t justify spending over £600 – which it will be once I have paid import taxes and VAT – on something like this, especially with my car’s annual inspection due on 20th August. I may have to look for alternatives.


Candidate for shortest-ever session

The downside of summer is that the hours of darkness are too short and it only gets dark enough to see bright objects around 0100 BST (midnight UT) and, between late May and mid June, we don’t get true darkness only astronomical twilight. This year, though, instead of not bothering I have attempted to get out when possible and so far haven’t done too badly. However, I think the night of 11/12 July 2013 must rank as one of my shortest-ever sessions and I’ve had quite a few prematurely curtailed sessions over the years!

I’d left the 18″ out for the past few days so it didn’t take long to set up (remove covers from the scope and the mirrors, align Telrad, and check the collimation). I managed to find NGC 6181 in Hercules before some high clouds came up from the south-east, wiping out all but the very brightest objects so I called it a night, re-covered the scope and went inside. It obviously didn’t clear as when I got up later that morning it was overcast, although the Sun burned off the clouds as the day went on.

I’ll have another go tonight, probably with the 8″ and the much-loathed equatorial mount, but it looks pretty hazy. I want to get into Sagittarius and Ophiuchus for the globular clusters; I’ve seen many of the globulars available from our latitude but there are still quite a lot left.

Observing, 6th May 2013

Finally managed a decent observing session for the first time since May last year. After a warm spring day the temps had dropped considerably, so it was wrapping up time with several layers.
I’d got the scope out of the shed earlier in the day so all I needed to do was assemble it and check all was OK. It was and the mirrors looked none the worse for not being used in nearly a year, albeit they were a bit grubby, which was good. I’d been concerned about condensation although dust wasn’t a factor because the scope was well covered and the main mirror has a dust cover on it in any case.

Because it was well-placed, I decided to observe galaxies in Leo Minor. The conditions were chilly, 4°C, with humidity of 77%, no clouds and no wind and I used my 18″ f/4.3 Dobsonian reflector with TeleVue 22mm Panoptic (90x) and 9mm Nagler (219x).
Over the course of three hours I observed NGC 3611 (in Leo and I’ve seen it before but it was easy to find and a quick way to get back into finding stuff again!), NGCs 3381, 3395 and 3396 (very nice pair), 3430, 3424, 3413, 3158, 3160, 3163, 3161, 3159, 3150 and 3152, all in Leo Minor. The last four were faint little buggers, especially 3152 which was the faintest of the lot.
Finally I took a look at Saturn, which looked nice with its rings wide open, Cassini’s Division easily visible and at least 5 moons on display. There was also a bit of detail on the disk, including the shadow of the rings before moving on to NGC 4565, one of my all-time favourite DSOs and then finishing with a look round that busy area of Virgo with Markarian’s Chain before the fog came up and I packed up.

Nice to be observing again!

Back in business…

…I hope!

After 11 months of crap and cold weather plus a bit of de-motivation on my part, my observing stuff has been found and gathered together and the 18″ scope is out awaiting assembly later. I am hoping to knock off a few galaxies in the usual constellations this evening but I am also hoping it doesn’t cloud over. It shouldn’t do, according to the forecasts, but BBC/Met Office forecasts should be taken lightly. Anyway, the weather is predicted to go downhill after tomorrow.

It’s TSP week this week, I wish I was there but, from what I’ve heard the forecast isn’t looking promising for them either. Hopefully they’ll have a good week but they’ll have their work cut out to beat last year, which was epic.

Observing, 12th and 13th May 2012

The run of crap weather ended for a brief period over the weekend (but is back to being rubbish today), so I was able to do some observing on Saturday and Sunday night. Saturday night’s session was excellent, but Sunday’s was less so, thanks to some pretty woeful transparency due to some thin high cloud.

I hadn’t used my 18″ since the Isle of Wight Star Party, back in March, so it was nice to get it out of the shed and set it up. The new 2″ Howie Glatter laser collimator worked brilliantly but I will get a TuBlug for use with it, otherwise I have to look in the top of the scope to see the laser and the shadow, then go to the back of the scope to make the necessary adjustments. The collimation was only slightly out, which wasn’t bad, considering the telescope had been disassembled after the star party, driven over shoddily-maintained roads which resemble Afghan goat tracks (at the risk of insulting Afghan goat tracks), carried up the garden and reassembled.

As well as the H2500 I have been doing the AL’s Globular Cluster program. As well as observing 26 of these at TSP last month, I was going to use some ‘ancient’ observations from my 1997 Australia trip but I decided against this, apart from NGC 5139 (Omega Centauri) and NGC 104 (47 Tucanae) which I will keep in the list, as I have enough observations from recent years (2010 to now) I can  use, including some from this weekend. You need 50 observations to complete the program, I now have about 70-odd so I’ll select my best ones to send in, including the Challenge Object (I have Palomar 11, NGC 5466 and 5053 to choose from). One of the good things about these programs is the fact that doing them often takes care of objects on the Herschel lists, as well.

I have loads of observations to type up, from the Isle of Wight Star Party, the Texas Star Party and the past two nights but I’ll save these for the next rainy day – and I don’t think I’ll have long to wait, as the unsettled period goes on.

Galaxy groups and clusters are also among my favourite targets, mainly because find one and you have found half a dozen or more, so I put Abell 1656, the Coma Galaxy Cluster, on my list.


Date: 12th May 2012
Conditions: Clear, very dewy, no Moon (rises at 0200)
Transparency: II-III; Seeing: II; NE Limiting Mag: 6.0
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob with 22mm TeleVue Panoptic (90x), 15mm TeleVue Plossl (132x), 12mm TeleVue Nagler (165x) and 9mm TeleVue Nagler (219x).

I began with some eye candy (M53), then went on to some fainter stuff before returning to bright objects. Objects observed were M53, a globular cluster in Coma Berenices, NGC 4147, a globular also in Coma B, an attempted observation of NGC 5053 in Coma B, Abell 1656, the Coma Galaxy Cluster, M5, M56 and M3. The Messiers were objects that I hadn’t looked at in about 17 years so it was nice to catch up with them again, besides I wanted them for my Globular Cluster observing progam mentioned above.

I failed to find NGC 5053, a notoriously hard object to observe because of its low surface brightness (I returned to it on Sunday night with more success).

I identified 14 members of Abell 1656 during the course of an hour and a half, plus I saw many others that’ll have to remain nameless until a better night, as the transparency, while ok, wasn’t as good as it could be. The ones I could put names to were NGC 4889, NGC 4874, NGC 4864, NGC 4869, NGC 4865, NGC 4881, NGC 4860, NGC 4848, NGC 4921, NGC 4911, NGC 4923, NGC 4908, IC 4051 and MGC+5-31-46, the latter object only visible with averted vision. I used my new (second-hand) Naglers on these and was pleased with their performance.

I finished with some more Messier globulars, M5, M56 and M3, before packing up.


Date: 13th May 2012
Conditions: Cool, slight dew, breezy.
Transparency: II-III; Seeing: II, NE Limiting Mag: 5.8 to 6.0 later before deteriorating badly.
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob with 22mm TeleVue Panoptic (90x), 15mm TeleVue Plossl (132x)

The sky was not that good although the transparency did improve slightly later. I ended up just observing three objects, all globular clusters, NGC 6229 in Hercules (another re-visit to something I’d not seen in years), M92 (the last time I looked at this was in 1999) and I had another crack at NGC 5053, this time successfully, despite the less-than-optimal sky conditions. NGC 5053 was faint, very faint and amounted to nothing more than a roundish glow with stellarings in moments of good seeing and no central condensation whatsoever.  As globular clusters go, it is a pretty poor specimen!
I decided to go after some more galaxy clusters but the transparency gave out completely and the sky became extremely milky. When it’s like that, it’s no good for anything, much less faint galaxies which vanish if even the slightest bit of haze appears.

So, it was a couple of good sessions – well, one excellent session and one not-so-hot one. It’s been a mediocre year so far for observing, with not many sessions because ‘life’ has just plain got in the way, although it had been quite clear up until the second week of April when the period of bad weather set in. I’ve done most of my observing at the IoW and Texas SPs.

IoW Star Party

We got some reasonable observing in at the star party, despite poor transparency on Thursday and Friday nights. Sunday night was pretty transparent but hampered by a stiff breeze, which forced Owen Brazell to call it a night at 3am because his 22″ was moving around so much that it was impossible to observe and also becoming dangerous, both to observer and scope. I ended up dismantling mine totally and stowing it beside the chalets, out of the wind. Others, in more sheltered locations, continued for a while longer before also giving up for what was left of the night.

I didn’t get through as much of my lists as I would have liked, due mainly to the poor transparency and to Sunday night/Monday morning’s stiff breeze. I spent a lot of time in Leo, Virgo and even down in Crater and Corvus. I’m not going to post all the observations I made but, suffice to say, it was nearly all galaxies apart from NGC 4361, a planetary nebula in Corvus (and this was a second visit, I’d previously observed this in May 2008, with my 12″ Dob), NGC 5634, a globular cluster in Virgo, plus some eye candy in the form of the best views I have ever had of M42 (come on, it’d be rude not to!), Saturn, Mars and NGC 869/884 (the Double Cluster).

Thursday, 22nd March, was the day of arrival. I arrived late morning, and set up my scope once I’d stowed my other stuff in the chalet and parked the car. Other people were also arriving through the afternoon and the ‘serious visual observers’ area (as designated) soon began to fill with large Dobsonians plus some smaller fry, in the shape of a couple of SCTs and a few refractors.

The visual area, with large Dobs. Mine, minus shroud, is in the foreground.

Thursday night was fairly cloudy, with a lot of high stuff, mist and generally poor transparency so I messed about for a while, looked at one of my favourite galaxies NGC 4565 and its neighbour NGC 4562, as well as NGC 4494 and some bright eye candy. I packed up at 2330 GMT and went to bed. Apparently it cleared a while later but as I was tired I wasn’t that unhappy about missing it. We did see an iridium flare earlier in the evening.

Friday was clearer but, as chairman, I had to go to the VAS meeting in Newport first but I managed to escape at half time because the sky looked promising. I got back to the observing field at around 9.45pm and set up. The transparency still wasn’t the greatest but I got my observing lists out and started hunting for galaxies in Leo before moving on to Virgo.
A lot of the session was spent in and around the Realm of the Galaxies in Virgo, as soon as it was high enough out of the crap in the atmosphere. Here, the 18″ really showed what it can do, especially given the fact it had more than 24 hours to cool down to ambient temperature, something it doesn’t always get to do at home. Galaxies were simply everywhere. Find one and you have found dozens, maybe even hundreds, including some faint little sprites not on my charts (these were evident on the Sunday night when the transparency had improved and the naked eye limiting magnitude was 6.4) and, what’s more, the brighter NGCs and the Messiers showed detail – this is what I bought the 18″ for! Simply put, I got totally blown away by these galaxies!

Saturday evening started off with an ‘eye-candy’ session. The eye candy included M42, which was simply stunning in the 18″, and several people commented on how good my telescope and mirror are which pleased me no end, of course, as it is nice to know your ‘investment’ is as good as the money it cost. It does need a few modifications and what I want to do is get a decent focuser for it (I’d originally ordered it with a bog-standard rack-and-pinion focuser, on grounds of cost, which does the job of course, but could be better) such as a Moonlite Crayford or a Starlite FeatherTouch, adjust my crappy shroud* (easily the one poor thing about the scope is that the shroud is rubbish) so it doesn’t blow about all over the place, plus waterproof it to prevent dew soaking through and dripping onto the mirror, and finally get round to adjusting the position of the Telrad base, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages** (I had a brain-fade when putting it on the scope and put it in the wrong place – it still worked, of course, but meant I needed to walk round the scope to look in the eyepiece). I’d also like to put some sort of light-absorbing material on the truss poles to reduce light scatter and improve contrast.

Most of the session was, again, looking for galaxies. I spent a good amount of time in Corvus and Crater, which meant bending down or kneeling on the ground to look through the eyepiece – it therefore wasn’t surprising when I had severe knee pains and back ache for three days afterwards, but at least I managed to cross a few of the objects off my observing lists.

Sunday was much clearer. After a very interesting visit to St Catherine’s Lighthouse in the afternoon, we spent the evening in the Crown pub at Shorwell, before returning to BHC and a stunning sunset.

The lantern at St Catherine's Lighthouse

Although Sunday night into Monday morning was very transparent, a stiff breeze had arrived, which made observing difficult. I gave up by 3am, fearing my scope would blow over, so I dismantled it and moved it to a more sheltered location, with other people packing up shortly afterwards. As Monday was the day we all went our separate ways, I stowed a few things I didn’t need, such as the truss poles and a few other bits and pieces, in my car. I did, however, manage to observe some more galaxies in and around Virgo, as well as the globular cluster NGC 5634.

It was an excellent star party and I had a good time. This was the 5th IOWSP and the 4th I have attended (I missed 2011); in 2008 and 2009 I could only come for one evening and went home afterwards while in 2010 I came for two nights, camped and nearly died of hypothermia – I have never been so cold in all my life! This year, I was at the star party for all four nights, staying in a chalet, and it was so much nicer and I also felt more part of things.

Next year’s star party is in early March. Unfortunately I think it coincides with OzSky 2013 which I would like to go to, depending on finances.

* I have altered the shroud, using some velcro and I have attempted to waterproof it with some tent waterproofer I bought in Mountain Warehouse – this failed but I’ll get some better stuff from Goodyears in Sandown.
** I have now altered the Telrad position. Much better.

For all the photos from the star party, please click here.


Back in the groove – observing on 18th and 19th February 2012



Jupiter (top left) and Venus, just after sunset. Canon EOS 7D with Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS lens

After a bit of a break (my last observing session had been on 27th November) I managed to get a bit of observing in, over the past two evenings (18th and 19th February). So far, 2012 has been very clear but what with work – my current temporary job means having to get up at 0615 – and temperatures often getting as low as -10°C/14°F, not conducive to wanting to get outside, I have been idle.

Rather than putting an observing session in each post, I’ll include the previous two in this one, starting with 18th February’s.

18th February 2012
Conditions: Chilly (2°C/35.6°F), slight breeze, no Moon, dew (torrential rain earlier in the afternoon had cleared away)
Transparency: III
Seeing: I-II
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob; 22mm Televue Panoptic (90x), 8mm Televue Radian (247x), UHC, OIII filters

NGC 1982 (=M43) – I started off with an easy object, some ‘low-hanging fruit’ to get back into the observing groove. NGC 1982, a.k.a. M43, is on the Herschel list. It’s something I’ve looked at hundreds of times before but it is easily overshadowed by its immediate neighbour, the spectacular M42 which lies to the south. M43 is part of the same nebulous complex as M42 but appears to be separated from it by a dark gulf. It is smaller and fainter than M42 but, if the big nebula wasn’t there M43 would be a showpiece in its own right.
Very bright and fits into the same field of view as M42 at 90x. It is bright, comma-shaped and has a greenish-grey colour. In the centre of the comma’s ‘body’ there is a bright star, with a couple of fainter stars in the rest of the nebula.
247x shows extensive nebulosity with a ‘lumpy’ effect with dark areas in among the bright nebulosity. 90x, 247x + UHC

N.B. M42 in the 18″ is nothing short of absolutely spectacular. This was the first time I’d managed to observe it properly this winter, apart from a quick look in November when it was low on the horizon, and without filtration the centre portion, around the Trapezium, is bright green with dark lanes criss-crossing it. Nebulosity extends everywhere and it completely fills the field of view at 90x. I will attempt a sketch of this before the winter is out.

NGC 1762, galaxy in Orion –  Easily found at 90x this is small, round and bright. There is a bright star superimposed on the foreground to the east. A fuzzy halo surrounds a bright stellar core. 90x, 247x

NGC 2023, nebula in Orion – Just S of NGC 2024, this is a bright reflection nebula around a star. 90x.

(Had a go at the IC434/B33 complex – the Horsehead Nebula – not seen as the transparency was not great).

NGC 1977, nebula in Orion –  This is a large, fairly bright reflection nebula surrounding three stars. It is elongated east to west. The view is enhanced with the UHC filter but not by the OIII. 90x.

NGC 1682, galaxy in Orion – Fairly small, round and fairly bright. A diffuse halo surrounds a brighter core. 247x

NGC 1684, galaxy in Orion – Elongated 2:1 NNE-SSW, this is larger and brighter than 1682. It has a fuzzy halo surrounding a bright core. 90x, 247x.

Packed up at 2130. The good thing about this time of year is that you can have a reasonable session and still get indoors in time to watch Casualty and the Football League Show!

The following night, Sunday 19th, was even clearer, but cold, so I put the light screen up (I hadn’t bothered the previous evening) and wheeled the 18″ out for a short session. I had planned to observe H2500 objects in Monoceros but ended up losing my way a little and hopping around nearby constellations. I also spent some considerable time cruising the winter Milky Way and looking at IC434/B33

19th February 2012
Conditions:  Cold (-4°C/24.8°F), no breeze, no Moon. Dry, with slight frost.
Transparency: II
Seeing: II-III
NELM: 6.1
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob, 2mm Televue Panoptic (90x), 15mm Televue Plossl (132x), 8mm Televue Radian (247x), UHC, OIII and Hß filters.

I began with another piece of low-hanging fruit, the easy to find and bright NGC 2261, Hubble’s Variable Nebula.

NGC 2261 (=Hubble’s Variable Nebula), nebula in Monoceros – Very easy to find, this is bright and fan-shaped, with the variable star R Monocerotis – which is the star associated with the nebula and gives it its variability – at its apex (on the southern end). The nebula is very bright, especially around and to the north of R Mon but fades out at the broadest part. A UHC filter makes no difference at all while OIII, as expected (NGC 2261 is a reflection nebula) kills the view. 90x, 132x + UHC, OIII filters.

NGC 2402, galaxy in Canis Minor – Located at the southern end of a chain of 4 stars, this is small, round and fairly bright. It has a diffuse halo surrounding a bright, stellar core. 90x, 132x, 247x.

NGC 2508, galaxy in Canis Minor – This lies to the east of two stars and is small, round and fairly bright. A diffuse halo brightens to the core and a stellar nucleus. 90x, 132x, 247x

NGC 2513, galaxy in Cancer – Easy to find, just north of NGC 2508. A round, bright, diffuse hal0 surrounds a bright core and stellar nucleus. 90x, 247x.

As the transparency was much improved over the previous evening, I had another go at looking at IC434/B33, the Horsehead nebula area. I did see it this time, although it was very faint, even with the Hß filter. This was only my second view of it, the first having been with Owen Brazell’s 20″ Dob at the Isle of Wight Star Party in 2010.

I packed up after a fairly short session.

Observing, 27th November 2011

Finally got some observing in after what seemed like weeks – in fact was weeks – of nothing but thick cloud and mist. It’s felt like the world has had a lid on it. The only glimpse of the sky beyond has been a few bloated stars and the Moon. It was very depressing and not just from the astronomy point of view either; no one likes endless murk. Yesterday was clear so, before it got dark, I got the 18 inch out and set it up, as well as erecting the light screen.

Last night’s session wasn’t the greatest, as the transparency was crap and I ran into a hitherto unforeseen problem – moles. After a hiatus they are back (and have brought all their friends and relations), molehills have sprung up everywhere and the top lawn is totally undermined, as I found out last night when one side of the ladder sank into one of the tunnels and I fell off as I was observing the NGC 1129 galaxy group in Perseus! I need to come up with some sort of solution that is non-lethal to the moles (the damage is now done and I hate killing things) and non-hazardous to me; what I have in mind is a meter-square piece of plywood to go beneath the ladder which will prevent it sinking into tunnels.

I’ll add the object details in later but I observed NGC 7711 and some members of the NGC 1129 group – NGC 1129 itself, NGC 1130, NGC 1131 and MCG+7-7-3 – before I was rudely interrupted by the kitchen light going on and obliterating the fainter members of the group (my aunt had switched it an and forgotten about it so I went down to the house, with my observing eye tightly shut, to turn it off) and, once I’d relocated the galaxies and repositioned the ladder, one side of the ladder then sank into a mole tunnel. Because of this, my notes are sparse and half the cluster went unobserved, so I’ll need to return to that group at some point. I then couldn’t refind the galaxies because the transparency had given out completely, with mist coming in, so I gave up and looked at Jupiter instead. Because the seeing was so good, Jupiter was fabulous at 247x, looking like a yellow-and-brown barcode with plenty of bands on show and the Great Red Spot was very obvious indeed. The Galilean Moons were also good, showing colour (Io) and they were little disks rather than mere points of light. This is almost the best view I have had of Jupiter from just about anywhere – the only better view was through Jimi Lowrey’s 48 inch scope in West Texas in 2008.

Before packing up, I noticed Orion was rising, so I aimed the scope at M42. Despite being so low down in the murk, with the Trapezium looking bloated and twinkling in many colours, the nebula itself was still very bright and obvious. I had to crouch down to look through the eyepiece but I have now said ‘Hello’ to the Great Nebula as I do every winter.

So it wasn’t the best session ever but it was nice to get outside, see some deep sky objects and get those fabulous views of Jupiter. Oh, and I knocked a whole two objects off my Herschel 2500 list. The light screen also worked very well, blocking out the neighbour’s lights as well as affording a little more privacy.

Observing, 19th October 2011

Date: 19th October 2011
Conditions: Clear, cold (2°C/35.6°F), no Moon, slight dew.
Transparency: Very good, M33 visible to unaided eye
Seeing: Very good
NELM: 6.2
Equipment: 18 inch f/4.3 dob; 22mm Televue Panoptic (90x), 8mm Televue Radian (247x)

I made my assault on Triangulum, postponed from a couple of weeks ago thanks to dew, before moving up to the Pisces/Andromeda border for the Pisces Chain of galaxies. In an 18 inch, there is plenty to see!

(Images used are from the STScI Digitized Sky Survey)

NGC 672 – A moderately bright galaxy elongated NE-SW, which brightens slightly to a non-stellar core with some mottling.  The halo has diffuse edges. 90x, 247x

IC 1727 – Just to the west of N672, this is faint and elongated SE-NW. 247x

NGC 672 and IC 1727. Image from DSS


NGC 670 – Bright, flattened oval elongated 4:1 NNW-SSE. Diffuse halo brightens to a stellar nucleus. 247x

NGC 777 – Bright, slightly elongated NNW-SSE, with diffuse halo surrounding a bright core and stellar nucleus. 247x

NGC 777 and 778. Image from DSS


NGC 778 – Close to N777 this is much fainter and smaller with a bright centre. It is also elongated NNW-SSE. 247x

NGC 661 – Moderately  bright and slightly elongated SW-NE. It has a bright core and stellar nucleus. 247x

NGC 750 – Bright and obvious. It has a round diffuse halo with a bright stellar core. It also has a little pal, NGC 751. 247x

NGC 751 – Next to 750, this is much smaller and fainter. It is also round but doesn’t have a bright core, instead being more uniformly bright. 247x

NGC 740 – A fairly faint edge-on galaxy which shows some brightening along its length. It is elongated 3:1 NW-SE.

NGC 740. Image from DSS


Then it was over to the Pisces/Andromeda border for the NGC 383 cluster, the Pisces Chain. This is an attractive chain of eight bright galaxies, centred on NGC 383 (the brightest galaxy in the chain) with numerous faint ones also in the area. The entire chain fit neatly into the field of view at 90x although individual observations were made at 247x.

Chart of Pisces Chain area. Chart generated with MegaStar


Pisces Chain (NGC 383). Image from DSS

NGC 379 – Small and moderately faint. Elongated N-S. It has a slightly brighter middle and a non-stellar core. 247x

NGC 380 – Round. Diffuse halo and some slight brightening to the centre. 247x

NGC 383 (Arp 331) – The largest and brightest of the group. Very slightly oval, elongated NE-SW. Brightens to the centre and a non-stellar core. 247x

NGC 382 – Right next to N383, this is much smaller and fainter. Round. No brightening in centre. 247x

NGC 387 – Faint, round, small. 247x

NGC 386 – Faint, round, small. 247x

NGC 385 – Fairly bright halo which brightens to the centre and a non-stellar core. Elongated NW-SE. 247x

NGC 384 – Bright. More oval than 385 and with a brighter core. Elongated NW-SE. 247x

NGC 388 – Moderately faint, very slightly oval, elongated NW-SE. 247x

NGC 375 – Faint, round, not much brightening to centre. 247x

There are quite a few MAC (Mitchell Anonymous Catalog) and other non-NGC galaxies in the vicinity, so I thought it would be entertaining to try and find some of them. I should really have put some more magnification on these but, by now, it was late and I was feeling lazy! The MACs I went after were MAC 0107+3220 and MAC 0106+3225 and they were faint, faint, faint – I am not entirely certain I saw them, after 10 minutes of averted vision, deep breathing and use of a hood for each one. There was the suspicion of *something* fuzzy at each position.

UGC 679/PGC 3950 – Faint, edge-on and elongated E-W. No detail. 247x

Packed up at midnight.

Observing, 1st October 2011

Date: 1st October 2011
Conditions: Cloudless, dewy (88% humidity), some mist. Hazy. Warm, about 16°C (61°F). Lots of owl activity (Barn Owls and Little Owls mostly) plus the intermittent ‘pop’ of acorns falling from the oak trees.
Seeing: II (Good)
Transparency: III (Average)
NELM: 6.0
Equipment: 18″ f/4.3 Dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (90x), 8mm Televue Radian (247x)

The early autumn heatwave continues, with hot days and clear nights. However, there has been a downside, high humidity leading to formation of mist and fog at night with masses of dew, and Thursday night (29th September) ended up as an ‘eye candy-only’ session and an early finish. I did, however, compare my 18 inch and 12 inch (now sold) scopes side by side, with eyepieces of comparable local length (20 and 22mm) and quality on M13 and the difference was even bigger than I expected, with the 18 inch absolutely blowing the 12 inch out of the water in detail seen. I could see the propeller feature quite easily in the 18 inch but not very easily in the 12 inch. If you look at Obsession’s M13 comparison chart (scroll down the page), it shows the difference between a 12 inch (12.5 inch in the example) and an 18 inch but in real life, the difference was even more apparent.

Back to last night (I’d not bothered observing on the 30th, simply because the mist was so bad that deep sky observing would have been a dead loss) and I’d lined up some galaxies in Pegasus, Pisces and Triangulum to observe. Last night’s conditions weren’t great but an improvement on the previous night. I’ve made an addition to the telescope in the form of black plastic dustbin bags taped over the shroud, this is in an effort to keep the shroud from getting soaked with dew. A wet shroud isn’t nice but the water dripping on to the primary mirror is even less nice – but the garbage bags did their job. Garbage sacks aren’t exactly pretty but who cares in the dark – and it’s better than water marks on the mirror!

I used what has become my favourite eyepiece combination with the 18 inch, my 22mm Televue Panoptic and 8mm Televue Radian.

NGC 7479, galaxy in Pegasus – Large, fairly bright galaxy elongated north-south. It has a diffuse halo with some brightening towards the centre. There is a star on the northern end, plus a fainter one on the western side. Looks mottled. This galaxy has spiral arms which should be visible in the 18 inch but, because of the high humidity and hazy conditions, I didn’t see them. One for a better night. 90x, 247x.

NGC 7626, galaxy in Pisces – Forms a bright pair with NGC 7619. Both galaxies, part of the Pegasus 1 galaxy group, are easily found at 90x. Elliptical with bright core and non-stellar nucleus. Oval, elongated SW-NE. 90x, 247x

NGC 7619, galaxy in Pisces – Very similar to 7626 this also is oval, elongated SW-NE and has a bright core with a non-stellar nucleus. It is slightly brighter than 7626 and the core is also brighter. 90x, 247x

NGC 7617, galaxy in Pisces – Much fainter and smaller than 7626 and 7619 this is a tiny oval glow just to the SW of 7619. Brightens slightly towards the core. Not seen at low power (90x). 247x

NGC 7541, galaxy in Pisces – Easily found at low power (90x) this is a bright spindle elongated 3:1 west-east which stands out well against the background sky, despite its lowish altitude and the murk. It’s fairly featureless, with no sign of becoming any brighter towards its middle. 90x, 247x

NGC 7537, galaxy in Pisces – This lies immediately to the south of 7541 and is smaller and fainter. It is elongated SW-NE. Not seen at low power but easily seen at 247x.

NGC 7785, galaxy in Pegasus – An obvious, bright galaxy set among a triangle of stars. Fairly small and elongated NW-SE. It has a fairly bright centre and a non-stellar core. 90x, 247x

NGC 7742, galaxy in Pegasus – Bright and obvious at 90x. At 247x, it has a round halo with a bright centre and non-stellar nucleus. 90x, 247x

By this time my secondary had dewed up badly and my Telrad, despite the dew shield, had become almost unusable so I packed up, my planned assault on Triangulum will have to wait until another time. It had got to the point where I couldn’t see any galaxies and the brighter stars all sported fetching halos. I am going to be investing in a dew prevention system. I have already bought a power supply, I now need a controller and a couple of heaters for the secondary and the Telrad.
I have sprung for a Telegizmos scope cover from the Widescreen Centre. It’s expensive (too expensive) but it will help keep dust and other crap off of the scope and mirrors. As I have sold my 12 inch, I now have more room in the shed for the 18 inch and I can keep it assembled, so it can just be wheeled in and out each session. The assembled scope, with wheelbarrow handles attached, fits into the shed with a tiny bit of room to spare. At present, the primary is protected by a chamois leather (as recommended by David Lukehurst) and the plywood cover, while the shroud (and bin liners!) is kept on and a sheet thrown over the top to prevent stuff getting onto the secondary, but the Telegizmos cover will give it proper protection.

Sketches will follow once I have scanned them.