Observing, 8th May 2011

After getting back from my trip last Wednesday, the weather had turned nasty with thunderstorms and torrential rain (which, admittedly, was much needed, especially as the UK had forest fires everywhere) but yesterday was largely clear, apart from heavy downpours now and again.
I was hoping that the thunder and rain had cleared the atmosphere a bit and the sky was indeed more transparent than it had been for a while. Unfortunately, as night fell, there were more drifting clouds around than there had been during the evening and the waxing crescent moon, at around 30% of full,  interfered with the observing session, so it was a shorter one than I’d intended.

Date: 8th May 2011
Conditions: Mild, mostly clear although some drifting cloud about, waxing crescent Moon (30% illuminated), heavy dew, soaking wet underfoot because of heavy rain earlier in the evening.
Seeing: III
Transparency: III
Equipment: 12″ f/5 dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x).

NGC 4494, galaxy in Coma Berenices – Just SW of an 8th mag star this is bright and oval, elongated NW-SE. Brightens slightly to a non-stellar core. 69x, 190x.

NGC 4725, galaxy in Coma Berenices – Bright and oval, elongated SW-NE. Brightens to a very bright but non-stellar core. There’s a hint of spiral arms at 190x but the scattered light from the crescent Moon makes this hard to see properly. I want to have another look at this on a better night – it may have to wait until next spring, as we’re into May and the spring constellations will soon be lost in twilight. 69x, 190x.

NGC 4314, galaxy in Coma Berenices – This is a fairly bright oval with a brighter core. The Moon interfered with this one quite a bit. 69x, 101x, 190x.

NGC 4414, galaxy in Coma Berenices – A bright oval, elongated NNW-SSE. It brightens towards the core and has a stellar nucleus. The view at 190x is not good! 101x is much better. 69x, 101x, 190x.

I packed up at 2330 because the dew was a real nuisance and the Moon, despite being a crescent, was really interfering with observations. It was due to set at 0118 but my patience had run out so I called it a night.


Back last summer, I posted about older observers who have amassed thousands of observations of deep sky objects and other astronomical objects and how I have a long way to go until I am anywhere near their records, as they have 40+ years observing experience as opposed to my 19 years. I thought about this today and it made me dig out old notebooks and sketchbooks and count up the number of DSO’s I have seen.
So far, on going back through these old notebooks and sketchbooks (unfortunately I have two or three missing) I find I have visually observed best part of a thousand NGC/IC objects and non-NGC/IC objects such as anonymous galaxies and galaxy clusters. On top of that, there’s all the planets (including ex-planet Pluto), double and multiple stars, the Moon(!), asteroids, a comet crashing into Jupiter, comets, lunar eclipses, partial solar eclipses with one cloud obstructed total in 1999, a transit of Venus, the Sun, occultations, meteor showers, noctilucent clouds, Mir, the ISS, the Space Shuttle and other satellites…but, sadly, no UFOs! All this with equipment of all sizes ranging from the unaided eye, binoculars and small telescopes right up to 36″ and 48″ dobsonians.
Not too bad, I guess, considering observing opportunites are often limited by weather, Moon and life getting in the way, including a couple of breaks from the hobby in 1999/2000 (7 months) and 2004/5 (16 months) which were the result of life totally interfering with the important stuff!