2010 Observing sessions


2nd January 2010

As the Moon is still very much in the way (2 days past full and 94% illuminated) I decided that, as I wanted to observe but couldn’t be bothered to take the 12 inch out as the conditions weren’t good, I’d have a little binocular session and knock some more objects off the AL Deep Sky Binocular list – assuming, of course, I could see this stuff in the light of a gibbous moon.


Very cold -4° Celsius

No wind

Waning gibbous Moon (94% illuminated)

Instrument: handheld 8×42 Leica binoculars with 7.4 degree field of view

Time: 2025 GMT to 2100 GMT

This short session began nicely with a lovely bright orange/yellow fireball which had a nice train, then split in two and vanished just north west of Auriga. Cool. Sadly no more followed it. As with all these things, this was very much a case of looking in the right place at the right time.

NGC 1981, open cluster in Orion. Large hazy patch just north of M42. Direct vision shows 12 stars, with 3 bright ones in a curved line, and with averted vision I can see all these plus a hazy background which means unresolved stars or nebulosity.

Melotte 25, The Hyades in Taurus. Huge V shaped cluster which fits neatly into my binoculars’ 7.4 degree field of view. Dominated by bright orange Aldebaran. I can count 60+ brighter stars, some a magnitude fainter than others and many more fainter stars within the V. All the stars, apart from Aldebaran, are bluish-white.

NGC 752, open cluster in Andromeda. Visible as big faint misty patch. The moon’s interfering with this one.

NGC 2169, open cluster in Orion. Surprisingly easy despite Moon. Small bright knot, with 4 stars seen with averted vision.

NGC 1662, open cluster in Orion. Large, faint, irregular patch. No stars seen with direct vision but with averted vision the cluster looks ‘grainier’.

NGC 1582, open cluster in Perseus. Faint misty patch with a couple of stars resolved.

NGC 1342, open cluster in Perseus. Large irregular misty patch. No stars resolved.

Packed up at 2105 GMT as Moon was becoming a real nuisance. 2010’s observing is now underway!

3rd January 2010

Another nice clear night, 2010 is off to a decent start, may it continue, but again I decided to use the binoculars for a short session instead of the scope.

Cold -3C, very hard frost already on ground adding to that left over from previous night

No wind

Moon not yet risen at start of session (87% full, rises at 2005GMT)

Seeing II-III, transparency II

NELM 6.0 to 6.3

Instrument: 8×42 binoculars (handheld)

Markarian 6, open cluster in Cassiopeia. Six or seven bright stars in a line, surrounded by fainter ones. 1910 GMT

Melotte 15, open cluster in Cassiopeia. Just to the north west of Mark. 6, this is smaller and fainter. Not resolved. Star in foreground. 1915 GMT

Stock 23 (Pazmino’s Cluster), open cluster in Camelopardalis. Small clump of stars. At least three are visible with direct vision but hazy look hints at quite a few more. 1925 GMT

NGC 1342, open cluster in Perseus. Another look at this, without moon in the sky. Much better view. Large triangular patch with at least 4 stars resolved and many more unresolved. 1930 GMT.

NGC 253, galaxy in Sculptor. A large, faint, elongated glow south of Deneb Kaitos. The observation of the evening, given the low altitude and murk at that level. 1935 GMT.

NGC 1807, open cluster in Taurus. easy to find, at the top tip of Orion’s bow. Oval, dominated by line of 4 bright stars plus fainter ones in background. 1945 GMT.

NGC 1817, open cluster in Taurus. Right next to 1807. Same size, but rounder and not as bright. No bright stars. 1947 GMT.

NGC 1907, open cluster in Auriga. Dominated by its bright neighbour the huge cluster M38, this is a small, round patch immediately next to, and south west of, M38. No stars resolved with direct vision but it looks speckly with averted vision. 1951 GMT.

At 1953 GMT there was a nice fireball which went through south Monoceros and burned out just south of Orion’s feet. It was bright orange/yellow and broke up.

NGC 2232, open cluster in Monoceros. Large, sparse-looking cluster. One bright star and five or six others. Slightly interfered with by Moon, which is about to rise. 2000 GMT.

NGC 2244, open cluster in Monoceros. Large, bright open cluster elongated north-south, with nine or ten bright stars visible with direct vision and more with averted vision. Nebula not visible, due to rising Moon. 2005 GMT.

NGC 2251, open cluster in Monoceros. Small, fairly round knot of stars. Patch looks granular but I can’t see any individuals in that lot. 2012 GMT.

NGC 2264, open cluster in Monoceros. Much larger than 2251, twice its size. Counted 11 stars, hard to do with the handheld binoculars. 2015 GMT.

NGC 2281, open cluster in Auriga. Elongated hazy patch. Line of four stars surrounded by haze (fainter ones). 2020 GMT.

NGC 2301, open cluster in Monoceros. Faint fuzzy patch. Not well seen as quite low and moonlight washing it out. 2025 GMT.

NGC 2343, open cluster in Monoceros. Not seen. Too low and too much crap in atmosphere to allow me to see it, not to mention the moonlight. Will have to do this one again another night when it’s higher and there’s no Moon.

NGC 2403, galaxy in Camelopardalis. Faint elongated glow. 2037 GMT.
Packed in at 2040 GMT. I now have only ten more objects left to do on the AL Deep Sky Binocular list. I should get this finished in the spring.

4th January 2010

The UK, unusually, has been in the grip of subzero temperatures for a couple of weeks now, with daytime temperatures barely getting above zero and night-time ones plummeting down to minus ten or colder. A lot of the country has got snow – except us on the South Coast, fortunately (or is that ‘unfortunately’? If you have to have precipitation of some form, at least let it be of the picturesque-but-not-a-chance-of-getting-to-work-today type), instead we have had sleet, freezing rain and black ice making lethal driving conditions…and a few clear nights. In fact, 2010 is off to a flying start and out of four nights I have had three observing sessions, two binocular and one telescopic.

Tonight was the telescopic night. The Moon, which is 77% of Full, wasn’t to rise until 2131 GMT so when I arrived home from work, via a doctor’s appointment, I set my scope up and left it to cool for an hour.


Very cold -6C, No wind, icy underfoot (frozen dog pee!)

No Moon (rose at 2131 GMT)

Seeing Ant III-IV, transparency II

NELM 6.2

Instrument: 12 inch (30 cm) f5 Dobsonian

I reobserved Abell 12 this evening and this time it DID pop out with the OIII filter, as described by numerous people. I know, such a doubting Thomas…

Other objects I observed were NGC 1514, a planetary nebula in Taurus, NGC 1980, NGC 1981 and NGC 2024 (a poorer view than the one I had a couple of weeks ago – if the Flame’s bad or invisible, don’t even bother looking for the Horsehead). I also looked for Abell 4 in Perseus and didn’t find it, although it is fairly near the bright open cluster M34, but I really need to download some charts with that in, as it wasn’t on my Sky Atlas 2000.0 (didn’t try Uranometria, though). Not a hefty return from an evening’s observing, admittedly, but I wasn’t out there that long, too bloody cold.

NGC 1514, planetary nebula in Taurus. This was a piece of cake to find. At low power, and at first glance it looks like a bright, if fuzzy, star – indeed this is the 9th magnitude central star – but with averted vision a halo of fuzz pops out at you. Popping in the OIII filter really brings it out. At a higher power (190x), I could see darker areas between the outer halo and the central star and there are brighter areas in the halo itself. Slightly elliptical. As well as the central star, there is a much fainter, smaller, star next to it probably a foreground star. 61x, 190x + OIII

NGC 1980, open cluster in Orion. North of M42 this is a nice open cluster which is richer than nearby NGC 1981. I counted around 31 stars of which 10 are fairly bright, All the stars are white. 38x

NGC 1981, open cluster in Orion. Beautiful but sparse. Dominated by very bright white star plus a slightly fainter double which is also white, plus 17 other, much fainter, stars. 61x

I couldn’t track down Jonckheere 320 again, but as I was having problems with the icing up of my finders I will give that another go before the end of the winter. I have read reports of it being seen in a 10 inch under comparable sky so there’s no reason I shouldn’t see it.

It was ‘one of those’ sessions again – my OIII filter fell to bits, a retaining ring-type object dropped out of it and the thing just fell apart. Fortunately I screwed it back together again, only to drop it onto the concrete of the patio five minutes later with, luckily, no harm done. I also dropped eyepieces, charts and gloves, but that’s because, despite gloves, my hands were a bit cold. I was definitely fortunate in that nothing actually broke; fell apart yes, but actually broke as in completely destroyed, no.

I packed up just after 9pm, and after bending over the eyepiece (my final objects of this short session were in southern Orion) I couldn’t straighten up properly, a combination of lower back pain and stiffness due to cold and bad posture from being hunched over the eyepiece meant that I shuffled indoors to warm up looking like the Missing Link between humans and apes – that almost-knuckle-dragging stance of something that can’t quite walk upright… Once the Missing Link phase had passed I carted everything back in, pleased I had done some observing, but not too pleased that I didn’t do as much as I had intended.


4th March 2010

Opportunities to get out and observe have been few and far between just recently, as much to do with not being able to get out as bad weather, and even on Thursday evening, which was beautifully clear, I only had an hour. So it was out with the 8x42s to knock some of the last eight or nine remaining items off my AL Deep Sky Binocular List.

Conditions: Clear, quite cold, around zero. No wind and no moon (not yet risen)

Naked eye visual magnitude: 6.1

Seeing. Ant II

Instrument: 8×42 Leica binoculars

The last few items on the list that were accessible this evening were open clusters and all, except NGC 2343 in Monoceros and NGC 2360 in Canis Major, were in Puppis, very low in the south. Here at 50 North our theoretical cut off is -40 South although, in practice, you’re looking through more atmosphere so things are rendered fainter by haze and murk although, when it has been clear recently, the sky has been very clean, probably due to the biblical amounts of rain we had the week before last. I have been able to see deep into Puppis and even into Columba, the Dove – more on Columba a bit later.

I knocked five objects off the list:

NGC 2360, open cluster in Canis Major:

Fairly largish clump. Can see some stars with the good old averted vision. Elongated east to west.

NGC 2343, open cluster in Monoceros:

Small, round, clump of stars. None resolved. Quite bright.

NGC 2527, open cluster in Puppis:

This is where things get a little awkward, as this bugger is low down. Faintly seen as roundish patch.

NGC 2539, open cluster in Puppis:

Faint round patch south of M48. Looks granular when you look at it with averted vision.

NGC 2571, open cluster in Puppis:

Very crappily placed for us unfortunate northerners. Dim, roundish…you know when you’re really struggling to say something about an object? This is one of those times.

Having bagged those five objects and with the rest not accessible, I decided, with the help of charts, to find out how far south I could actually see. My southern horizon is not too bad, despite a low hill in the way, but the constellations were placed well enough that the one I was after, Columba the Dove, was unobstructed – well the northernmost part is. I still had to get a garden chair to stand on, just to get slightly more elevation to peer over the hedge as this stuff is even lower than the clusters I was looking at in Puppis. I managed to see Sigma Columbae, plus one or two others in that constellation, and I’m hoping to do this again next week at the IW Star Party – weather permitting – as, with nothing but sea all the way from here to the Cherbourg Peninsula, I might be able to see a bit more.

It’s nice to see Leo rising in the east, spring galaxies await!

6th March 2010

Saturday night was clear and, for once, I was able to get the 12 inch out for some galaxy hunting. Once it was set up and had been left to cool for an hour, I headed for Leo and the stars in the Lion’s head to see what was lurking among them before nipping over to Ursa Major.

Conditions: Cold -2C; getting a bit breezy as it got dark; no Moon (not yet risen), the odd bit of drifting cloud

NELM: c6.0-6.1

Seeing: Ant II

Instrument: 12 inch f5 Dobsonian with 35mm Televue Panoptic (43x); 25mm Televue Plossl (61x) and 8mm Televue Radian (190x)

First, Leo, and as only the head (a.k.a. the Sickle or the Backward Question Mark) was clear of the house roof, I went there.

NGC 3190. Almost-but-not-quite edge-on looking with large bulge. 190x

NGC 3193. An oval to the north east of 3190, with slightly brighter middle. 190x.

NGC 3226 and 3227 (Arp 94). Interacting pair. They are oval, with slightly brighter middles. 3227 is more elongated than 3226 and is larger. 3226 lies to the north of 3227. 190x.

Then it was across to Ursa Major and the M81 group. M81 and M82 provide a very pretty view in the 35mm Panoptic, exactly the sort of view that can have you glued to the eyepiece for ages just admiring the view – in my opinion there is no finer sight in deep sky observing than two or (even better) more galaxies in the same field of view and if they are big bright galaxies, then that’s finer still. I could just see a hint of a dark lane in bright M81, while M82 (Arp 337) was full of detail, with a couple of dark rifts cutting across the bright galaxy and a ‘fuzzy’ appearance to the outer edge.

NGC 2976. This is a large faint, uniformly bright (or not bright!) oval with a mag 12.5 star adjacent to it and a mag 14 star to the NW. 190x

NGC 3077. Small, oval, brighter middle. 190x

Unfortunately the session was cut somewhat short because I had toothache which was steadily worsening (and, by yesterday [Sunday] it was so bad, observing last night was completely out, despite lovely clear skies; a visit to the dentist today revealed a cracked filling – but every cloud has a silver lining, I wasn’t charged as it was a recent filling that had given way) but I still managed an hour and saw some nice galaxies. However, I don’t think my observations are as good as they could have been, due to toothache-induced lack of concentration, and the sketches are worse.

13th March 2010

Here on the Isle of Wight we are fortunate in that we have a southerly aspect with unobstructed and un-lightpolluted views out over the English Channel, from the island’s south coast where the star party is held. The only source of light pollution are passing ships and the light houses at St Catherines Point and Portland Bill (unlike the north east part of the island which is as light polluted as anywhere on the UK mainland).

This year’s IW Star Party had a mix of cloud and clear spells, on the nights I was there, Friday and Saturday. Friday night was clear for an hour, then the weather closed in again and it rained for the rest of the night. Saturday was a lot better, giving us a good couple of hours and what I hear about Sunday was that it was clear for the most part, but I had to miss it because of having to be at work on Monday morning.
I was fortunate enough to share Owen Brazell’s 20 inch Obsession, as well as take peeks though other people’s scopes including a rather nice Orion Optics UK 14 inch Dob (which has a same length, but lighter, tube than my 12″), here are the observations all made with the 20 inch. These aren’t in order, as I was scribbling the notes down on Post-it notes, a pad of which happened to be in my pocket – unlike a notebook – and they got mixed up.

Conditions: chilly, cold breeze, some high cloud. No Moon.

NELM: 6.3

Seeing: Ant I-II

Instrument: 20 inch f5 Obsession Dobsonian, 21mm Televue Ethos, 13mm Televue Ethos, 8mm Televue Ethos and OIII filter.

M42 in Orion: I’ve seen this in every instrument I have looked through but this was the best view I have ever had. So much detail, wisps, tendrils, dark areas…and the Trapezium was as detailed as ever I’ve seen it. You could clearly see the hole, caused by the young stars blowing the gas away from their surroundings. The E and F components were easily seen, as were much fainter stars in the nebulosity immediately surrounding the Trapezium.

Jonckheere 900, planetary nebula in Gemini: Small, round and fuzzy. Quite bright. 318x + OIII

Jonckheere 320, planetary nebula in Orion: I have tried for this with my 12 inch from home without success. In the 20 inch it is small, not quite stellar, round and has a fuzzy appearance, this fuzziness preventing it appearing stellar. 318x + OIII

B33/IC 434 (Horsehead Nebula) in Orion: At last! I have made numerous attempts to see this, with no success. However, I suggested to Owen that we have a crack at this, so he put the 13mm Ethos and a HBeta filter in and we saw it comparatively easily. B33 (the Horsehead) stood out against IC434, as a large, dark, semicircular area cutting into the ribbon of IC434. With averted vision, we could just make out the horse’s nose. For me, this was the observation – and the highlight – of the weekend. 120x

Abell 21 (aka Medusa Nebula) planetary nebula in Gemini: Eastern side is the brighter and is crescent shaped, in fact almost triangular. There is also some nebulosity on the western side. (Magnification unknown) + OIII

NGC 2022, planetary nebula in Orion: Oval, bright and slightly darker in middle. 318x + OIII.

NGC 2683, galaxy in Lynx: Large, bright edge-on spiral. Brightens beautifully towards centre.

NGC 2371-2, planetary nebula in Gemini. This is a very interesting planetary, consisting of two lobes, the western lobe being the brighter of the two. It does look like its nickname of the ‘peanut’ nebula, especially at low power. 318x + OIII

NGC 3242, (nickname Ghost of Jupiter) planetary nebula in Hydra: Very bright, oval with brighter middle. 318x + OIII

The clouds rolled in again just after midnight, so after a talk, I headed back to my tent (although I ended up abandoning it due to the cold!). It was a short, but good, session and the undoubted highlight was seeing the Horsehead Nebula for the first time as well as M42 in such incredible detail.

15th March 2010

Skies were looking good the other evening, so I dragged out the 12 inch for a Herschel session. On setting it up, though, I found the alignment was out, way out in fact, which was annoying and a problem that the new collimation springs I’d bought for it was supposed to prevent. However, I put the problem down to the fact that I’d resorted to transporting the heavy and awkward tube into the garden with a sack trolley which must have knocked the mirror and cell.

Once I’d sorted that out, I left it to cool and went inside to help my aunt with some sorting out of stuff she wanted done (the house is being re-arranged and a massive chuck-out is going on), badly slashing my thumb in the process, while trying to take down a burnt-out light fitting, and having to get it bandaged up – with my aunt on crutches after a foot operation the kitchen looked like A&E – but once this was done, the observing began.

Time: 2045 – 2300 UT

Conditions: chilly (around 1C), misty, no wind

Seeing: I-II

Transparency: III

NELM: 5.8-6.0 (mist causing light scatter)

Equipment: 12 inch f5 Dobsonian, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x) and OIII filter

First up, into Leo where NGCs 3607 and 3608 made a nice pair in the same field of view of the 22mm Panoptic. Also in the f.o.v. was NGC 3599 which is a lot fainter.

NGC 3607, galaxy in Leo – bright, oval suddenly brightens to a very bright nucleus. 69x, 138x.

NGC 3608, galaxy in Leo – slightly fainter than 3607. Also oval with slightly brighter centre. 69x, 138x.

NGC 3955, galaxy in Leo – considerably fainter than the other two, oval. Non-Herschel. 69x, 138x.

NGC 3626, galaxy in Leo – smaller than 3607/8, fainter, elongated north-south. Brightens towards centre to a bright nucleus. 69x, 138x.

NGC 3655, galaxy in Leo – elongated north-south. Brightens gradually to non-stellar core. Fairly bright, small, oval. Well defined against background sky. 69x, 138x

NGC 2903, galaxy in Leo – very bright and easy to find. Elongated north-south, oval. Slight hint of spiral structure. Brightens to very bright, almost stellar, nucleus. Nice! One I want to return to on a better night. 69x, 138x.

NGC 3344, galaxy in Leo Minor – round, almost even glow, brightening slightly towards middle. Two bright foreground stars are in the eastern half of the galaxy. 69x. 138x.

NGC 2859, galaxy in Leo Minor – small, round, with quite faint outer halo. Brightens considerably to very bright core. 69x, 138x.

NGC 2782, galaxy in Lynx – round. Not bright. Brightens gradually towards a compact core. 69x, 138x.

NGC 2371/2, planetary nebulae in Gemini – at 69x looks elongated with a distinctly ‘figure of 8’ look about it, or looking like a peanut. At medium power (138x) the two lobes are very obvious and one lobe (the western one) is much brighter than it’s neighbour. At higher power (190x – highest I could go to on such a crummy night and with my collimation a bit out) the appearance is of two ovals adjacent to each other, each elongated approx. north-south. 69x, 138x, 190x + OIII filter.

NGC 2419, globular cluster in Lynx – round, even glow with no condensation. Nicely marked out by three bright stars in an arc pointing straight at it. Moderately bright, well defined against background sky. No stars resolved. although with averted vision some granulation (hinting at stars) appears. 69x, 138x, 190x.
Reluctantly packed up at 2300 UT; I would have gone on for a lot longer, only I had to be up at 0600 for work the following morning. It was a good session, better than I expected, despite the crummy conditions and my poor throbbing, massacred, thumb. I have now crept up to 11% of Herschels observed in the initial 400 list.


April 8th 2010.

Unfortunately it wasn’t as clear as it promised, with a very thin haze which scattered light around, making the naked eye limiting magnitude a very poor 5.8 to 6.0.


Clear, but with a very high thin haze.

Cool: +6C, down to +2C later.

Very slight breeze now and then

Seeing: Ant II; Transparency: III

NELM: 5.8 to 6.0 due to light scatter caused by haze – poor for here.

Instrument: 12 inch f5 Dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x) conditions not good enough for higher magnifications.

I spent most of the session in and around Ursa Major which is rich in galaxies but no so rich that you’re overwhelmed by sheer numbers of the things, which is the case once you get into Virgo and Coma B. All these observations are of galaxies.

NGC 3613 UMa: roundish, fainter than 3619 (which is in same f.o.v at 69x) with a much fainter core. Well defined against the sky.

NGC 3619 UMa: Bright, oval, small. Well defined. Bright core.

NGC 3610 UMa: Small, bright and round. Bright core.

NGC 3556 (M108) UMa: A Messier, but this has shown up on the H400 list, so here it is – Large, almost edge-on. Can see dust lane. Star superimposed on top of galaxy; it looks like a stellar core, but isn’t.

NGC 3982 UMa: Not quite round. Bright. Bright core surrounded by halo.

NGC 3972 UMa. In same field of view as 3982, but much fainter. Elongated. brightens somewhat towards centre.

NGC 3998 UMa: Much larger than previous two galaxies. Round with some brightening towards centre.

NGC 3992 (M109) UMa: Large, oval and featureless. Uniformly bright with three foreground stars superimposed on it. Quite boring, really.

NGC 3953 UMa: This one is very nice. It is large, elongated north-south and is bright. It also has a large nucleus which is brighter than the surrounding galaxy.

NGC 4026 UMa: Bright, elongated NE-SW. Lovely edge-on spiral with a very bright nuclear bulge.

NGC 3729 and NGC 3718 UMa: These make a nice pair. Both are oval and pretty faint, although easy to find. Both are uniformly bright with no hint of a nucleus. 3729 is the larger one of the two galaxies. Hickson 56 is nearby but the crap hazy conditions made this invisible.

NGC 3631 UMa: Round with bright compact core. Pretty large and pretty bright. Bit of a bugger to find though, due to its location out on its own, just below the Dipper bowl. Hint of spiral structure with averted vision.

NGC 4565 Com: Perennial favourite! This is an edge-on spiral and is spectacular to look at. At 138x it stretches right across the field of view. Very bright with very bright nuclear bulge and a very prominent dust lane which cuts it in two.

NGC 4494 Com: Near 4565 this is another bright galaxy. Round with bright core.

NGC 4448 Com: Located just off the apex of Mel 111 (the Coma Berenices Star Cluster) this is a bright not-quite-edge-on galaxy. Nice bright compact core. Elongated east-west.

NGC 4559 Com: Large spindle-shaped even glow. Well defined against background sky.

NGC 4278 Com: In same f.o.v at 69x as NGC 4283. One is elongated and brightens towards its centre and the other is smaller, brighter, rounder and has a more compact core.

NGC 4274 Com: Bright oval. Almost edge on. Brighter middle.

By this time it was getting late, thanks to that thief of observing time BST. As I had to be up at 6am for work, it was time to pack up and head in.

April 11th 2010.

At last! A clear night – or was it? It certainly began promisingly enough with the skies clearing off so I set up just before sunset in the hope that I’d get some observing done.

Unfortunately this state of affairs didn’t last long and after the session began drifting clouds appeared and, as if in a devious conspiracy, they sat right where I aimed my scope. It seemed that when I moved to a different part of the sky they followed!

However, despite this, I managed to see the grand total of three objects on my H400 list.


Chilly +4C

Seeing III, Trans IV – Drifting clouds interfereing with observing, plus some high cirrus stuff

NELM 6.0

Instrument: 12 inch f5 Dobsonian; 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x), Lumicon OIII filter

NGC 2392 – planetary nebula in Gemini: Easy to find. At 69x it’s round, fuzzy with bright middle. It’s a greenish-blue colour. OIII brings it out well. At 190x it looks very fuzzy with a very bright centre and a dark area between outer parts and centre. 69x, 190x OIII

NGC 2420 – open cluster in Gemini: Nice, fairly small o.c. Very rich and moderately bright. Irregular shape with c. 30 bright stars on a nebulous background which is many many unresolved stars. The brighter stars are all the same, or similar, brightnesses. 69x, 101x

NGC 5194 and NGC 5195 – galaxies in Canes Venatici: Fantastic. NGC 5194 (aka M51) is a large, face-on spiral. Spiral structure is easily seen and it has a big, bright nucleus.

The companion, NGC 5195, is much smaller. Round with a halo surrounding a bright core. 69x, 101x.

At this point, the clouds were becoming more than just an irritation, they were becoming a damned nuisance, so I packed in. As I came back outside to pick up the scope base, the clouds had filled the sky.

April 12th 2010.

The following night, 12th April, wasn’t totally clear, so I didn’t even bother carrying the scope out but, instead, decided to bag Melotte 111, the Coma Star Cluster, with my 8×42 binoculars. Mel 111 is on the AL Binocular Deep Sky list, which, apart from four objects in Cepheus and Lacerta, I have just about finished.

Easily seen with the naked eye, this huge open cluster is pretty spectacular in binoculars. It is harp-shaped, with 15 bright stars outlining the shape of the harp. There are many more fainter stars in among the brighter ones. The stars are all blue-white and the brightest ones all the same magnitude. Nice.


Seeing II

Transparency III-IV – pretty ‘milky’ with some light scatter

Still, with no wind., although the slightest of breezes sprang up later.

Instrument: 12 inch f5 Dobsonian, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x), Lumicon OIII filter.

As the skies were really murky, and Virgo was washed out by the murk and a lot of light scatter in that direction, I decided to go to Draco for the Herschel 400 objects (and others) there instead. Things were a little awkward as Ursa Major was upside down and the charts difficult to relate to the sky without turning them upside down too.

NGC 5866: Bright, fairly small. Elongated n-s, brightens gradually towards a diffuse centre. Bright star on one end and a slightly dimmer star on western edge. Dust lane? 190x

NGC 5907: Very thin, edge-on galaxy. Not much of a nuclear bulge, if any. fairly faint, elongated n-s, quite large, stretching across field of view at 101x. 69x, 101x

NGC 5985: Very small and bright. Oval. Bright core, elongated n-s. 190x

NGC 5982: Very large oval galaxy, evenly bright, no brightening to middle. Slightly elongated, not face on. Looks like smudge or thumbprint. Very faint, not much brighter than background sky. 190x.

NGC 6543: Very bright and blue planetary nebula, even without the OIII filter. This was fairly easy to find, although at first I thought it would be too low, as the stars I was using to hop to it weren’t that far above the trees in next door’s garden. The OIII filter really brings it out. Small and round. Slightly fuzzy and definitely non-stellar at 69x.

At 190x it is uniformly bright with the middle being no brighter than the surrounding halo. No darkening anywhere within the nebula. 69x, 190x, OIII filter.

NGC 3147: This took a bit of finding, I had to star hop to it, using galaxies, rather than stars. I began with the easy to find M81/82 and went from there.

Bright, round, with bright nucleus. 190x.

Because of work the next morning, I packed up at midnight BST. For a short session, it was a pretty good one, and I don’t have to return to Draco for any Herschel 400 objects.


9th-16th May 2010:

Observing at the Texas Star Party (see TSP 2010)


2nd August 2010:

This was my first observing session in ages, thanks to a very poor summer so far. June was, as ever, too bright to do anything sensible with while July was, for the most part, a cloud-out. I’d put up a large plastic shed which serves as an observatory and tonight was the first night it was used.

Conditions: Cool, no dew.

Seeing: Very good, Ant II Transparency: poor, with high clouds

NELM: 6.0, falling to 5.8 when the last quarter Moon rose, washing out the sky.

Instrument: 12″ f/5 Dob, 22mm Panoptic and 15mm Plossl

NGC 5653, galaxy in Bootes – a poor view, due to lousy sky conditions. I could just make out a roundish smudge, not a lot brighter than the background sky. Haze was interfering with this quite badly, as was the low altitude of Bootes. 69x, 101x.

M14 (NGC 6402), globular cluster in Ophiuchus – very large and bright. Round. Some condensation towards the centre. Looks smooth when looked at with direct vision, but granular, with a few stars resolved, with averted vision. The scope was effectively reduced to 6″ by the hedge – I’d not set it up in my intended place. 69x, 101x

NGC 7006, globular cluster in Delphinus – small and bright. Round with bright core. 69x, 101x. I want to observe this, likewise NGC 5653 in Bootes, in more favourable conditions.

By this time, the clouds were worse and the rising last quarter Moon was interfering with observations, so I rolled the scope back in, put my charts away and locked it. It took me a fraction of the time it used to take to both set up and put away, before it would take me a good 20 minutes, maybe more to tear down and carry everything, including the scope, inside, now I’m indoors and heading for bed within 5 minutes! This will lead to many more observing sessions and observing under less-than-favourable conditions and/or when tired will now happen far more often. Not only that, I have far more space inside my bedroom as the Dob occupied too much of the floor.

4th-5th August 2010:

A day of intermittent heavy rain and thunder gave way to clear skies during the evening, for once exactly as the forecast had predicted. The BBC and Metcheck’s forecasts both agreed, which seems to be a rare event in itself, so as it got dark I went and unlocked the observatory (I like the sound of that!) and pulled the scope out.

Earlier in the evening I had been in a pretty awful mood, no reason just a bad day, and felt more like saying ‘sod it’ and going to bed but I am very glad I didn’t as the sky turned out to be magnificent.

All too often when you step outside and look up, what looks promising at first often proves to be pretty average, even poor, but not last night. After getting dark adapted, I checked the naked eye limiting magnitude, using charts of Ursa Minor and Cygnus, and it was better than 6.5! We have pretty dark skies here, but better than 6.5 is fairly rare. Usually we get between 6.0 and 6.5 but last night was as good as 6.7! I would guess that the heavy rain and thunder had cleared the atmosphere of pollutants and dust. During my trips to the TSP, I’ve seen people using ‘iridescence’ in the Milky Way to gauge transparency – the more iridescent the MW, the more transparent the sky. The Milky Way was just like that here last night, iridescent, which we rarely see because of summer haze. Visible to the unaided eye were M13, M31 (later on when clear of the trees) and NGC 7000, the North America Nebula These were truly great summer observing conditions and well worth the long wait for.

Conditions: Clear, quite chilly

Seeing: Very good: Ant II

Transparency: Excellent – I, but a few odd bits of drifting cloud later on

NELM: 6.5-6.7, dropping slightly when the waning crescent Moon rose later on

First was Aquila and a hunt for the few Herschel 400 objects (three) that are here:

NGC 6781, planetary Nebula in Aquila – Set in nice starry field this is large and oval and quite bright. It’s easily seen without a filter but my OIII brings it out nicely. With the OIII, the pn looks slightly rounder with some darkening in the centre, without the filter I can’t see the darkening very well. Very nice object. 69x, 101x + OIII

NGC 6755, open cluster in Aquila – An attractive, small, compressed cluster set in a nice Milky Way field. Stars all white and evenly bright. Found at 69x as a misty knot, detached from MW star field.

101x shows a tiny, vaguely triangular clump of stars, with around a dozen or so on a hazy background and with a fainter patch next to it but at 138x, the cluster looks like a butterfly with the left wing richer than the right one. Very pretty! 69x, 101x, 138x

NGC 6756, open cluster in Aquila – Next to NGC 6755 in the field of view of the 22mm Panoptic (69x). It’s half a dozen stars on a misty background. Not as rich or as compressed as its neighbour. Framed by a bight star at either end. 69x, 101x, 138x

I saw on my star charts that the globular cluster Palomar 11, also in Aquila, was nearby, and given the excellent conditions I decided to have a crack at seeing it. After quite a few false starts I eventually found it. It’s in quite a rich area and nailing it down was a bit hard. It appears as a roundish brightening of the sky. Its low surface brightness and location in quite a rich part of the sky made finding it difficult but I caught it eventually. The observation of the night, I think. 69x, 101x, 138x, 190x

I also decided to see if I could see ICs 59 and 63 in Cassiopeia. Given the great night it would have been a shame not to go for the faint stuff.

IC 59, IC 63, diffuse nebulae in Cassiopeia – These faint little buggers are right next to Gamma Cas, so it’s necessary to put that out of the field of view before attempting to look for them. IC 59 is a faint fan-shaped patch while IC 63 is fainter still – in fact I barely saw 63, just a mere brightening in the area. 69x + UHC filter.

M31, galaxy in Andromeda – this lovely piece of eye candy is one of my favourites to look at and I always drop in to say ‘hi’ when I am observing and M31 is high enough. Last night’s conditions gave me the best telescopic view I have ever had of this galaxy. Under average skies usually only the bright central area is visible but last night, I could see (using my big 35mm Panoptic, at 43x) the galactic disk spreading out across and beyond the field of view, and the dust lanes. It was spectacular, to say the least.

NGC 6229, globular cluster in Hercules – Very bright and easy to find (made a nice change from Pal 11 and the faint nebulae in Cassiopeia!). Small and round with a dense core at 69x.

At 138x, it began to look granular with some stars resolved, especially the outer ones.

At 190x, individual stars can be seen and the halo and core are very bright, still looked granular across the face. 69x, 138x, 190x.

NGC 6207, galaxy in Hercules – bright and easily seen at 69x. It is completely overshadowed by its big and bright famous neighbour, M13. Oval, with a brighter core. Elongated northeast-southwest. 69x, 101x

I also popped over to see the big showy eye candy neighbour, which was absolutely superb as usual and in the same field they make a nice pair, with the galaxy being a hidden treasure.

Before packing in, I dropped in on Jupiter, which was shining like a big searchlight in the eastern sky, as the seeing was so good, and it looked decidedly odd without the South Equatorial Belt, which has totally faded away.

By 0200, the waning crescent Moon was substantially interfering with the sky conditions and there was more drifting cloud around so that, along with the fact my feet were by now very cold (I was wearing thin trainers) made packing up a Very Good Idea. So did the prospect of work in a few hours. So within five minutes, I’d pulled the scope back into the shed, chucked my charts back in their box, gathered up my eyepieces, locked up and headed back to the house.

7th-8th August 2010

The night of Saturday 7th August into Sunday was clear, although not as good as the previous Wednesday, so I pulled the scope out for a session looking for some summer Herschel 400 objects.


Clear, fairly warm, around 15C

NELM 6.0

Fairly humid with quite a lot of dew

Seeing II

Transparency II

Equipment: 12″ f5 Dob, 35mm Televue Panoptic (43x), 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x), OIII, UHC

NGC 6834, open cluster in Cygnus – irregular, attractive cluster made up of a line of 5 brighter stars crossing an elongated haze. At 138x, most of the haze resolves into faint stars.

There’s a separate clump to the immediate south of the main cluster, a knot of 10, or so, stars and another to the north, which has six stars.

NGC 6866, open cluster in Cygnus – Large, irregular cluster. Two chains of stars extend out from centre, one to the west and the other to the right. the western one is short and contains 7 brighter stars plus fainter ones. The eastern chain is longer and contains > 15 stars in a looping pattern.

There is a wide pair to the south.

Went after NGC 7044, but this was in the ‘dob hole’ and awkward to get at. One for another night, further into autumn when Cygnus is more to the west and that part’s easier to get at.

NGC 7027, planetary nebula in Cygnus – not on the H400 list but I was in the area. I am not sure why I found this easily and not 7044, but then a PNe’s easier to recognise than one of the myriad of open clusters and knots in the Milky Way in the Cygnus area. NGC 7027 could easily be overlooked as just another star, as it is star like. However it isn’t stellar as at 69x it looks slightly fuzzy and an OIII filter makes it really jump out as a PNe.

At 138x its oval with no obvious darkening in the centre.

NGC 7296, open cluster in Lacerta – quite small, but conspicuous cluster near Beta Lacertae. Some stars resolved at 69, more resolved at 101x.

NGC 7243, open cluster in Lacerta – large, irregular cluster which fills the field of view of the 22mm Panoptic (69x). There are at least 23 brighter stars and many more fainter ones. Nice.

NGC 7209, open cluster in Lacerta – large and quite bright. Around 40 to 50 stars resolved. A very vague, rounded ‘m’ shape.

I finished up with a trip into the North America and Pelican nebulae, using my 35mm Panoptic and 2″ UHC filter. This was lovely, with wisps and and tendrils of subtle nebulosity everywhere. Here and there, hard edges were defined. Very nice indeed.

12th-13th August 2010:

Conditions: Chilly, partly cloudy, occasionally clouding over in first part of session.

Seeing: II

Transparency III-IV, between average to poor.

Instruments: Unaided eye/8×42 binoculars
After practically hopping with frustration during the earlier part of the evening, I was pleased to see the skies finally (partially) clear around midnight, so I pulled out the sun lounger, got a blanket to keep my legs warm (my knees don’t like being still and in the cold for very long) and my little dog (who went to sleep under the blanket and acted as a living hot water bottle!) and watched the show.
There wasn’t as much activity as I thought there would be but what there was was quite spectacular as a lot of the meteors were fast moving and left trails behind them. A lot of the trails were green, although there were a couple of yellow/orange ones as well. The meteors were, for the most part, bright although there were a few quite faint ones as well.
As well as watching the show, I also had a look round Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Cepheus with my 8×42 binoculars. NGC 7000, the North America Nebula, was bright and the nebulosity extensive. The fainter Pelican Nebula, IC 5067/5070, lies just to the south of 7000 and is, just, visible through the binoculars without the UHC filter. With the 2″ UHC filter it is much easier to see.
I also found the planet Uranus, which is close to Jupiter. It looked like a small blueish-white star.

14th-15th August 2010


Milky Way sketch

Last night, it unexpectedly cleared so it was time for some observing. However, the forecast called for it to cloud up so I decided on a short session and to do something a little different.

Back in 2006 I decided that doing a sketch of the Milky Way would be a cool thing to do. At that time, I’d torn a muscle in my back and couldn’t carry my scope in and out, so I began a naked eye sketch of our galaxy through Cygnus and down towards Sagittarius. I never finished that sketch as the weather closed in for a few weeks and my back got better. I dug out that sketch recently and decided to have another go at it. I decided that I’d start again from scratch as the 2006 sketch wasn’t that great.

Last night’s sketch was done while lying prone in a reclining garden lounger and it wasn’t easy, with the sketch book held upright on my chest it made for an awkward process. I decided to just do the part of the Milky Way that runs through Cygnus and slightly south. I included Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila in the sketch but left out the other constellations in that area. I also only added the brightest stars – I’d have been there a week if I’d tried to put all of them in, as it was mag 6.5+ at the zenith!

Unfortunately, by the time I’d got as far as adding the Milky Way glow the sky started to deteriorate with mist moving in.

For the sketch, I used an A4 (11.75×8.5 inches/297x210mm) sketchbook with heavy cartridge paper (my usual book for sketches), a 2B pencil for the stars, a 4B for the Milky Way and a chamois leather for the smudging. I’d never previously used a chamois leather before as it never even occurred to me, but it is ten times more effective for smudging nebulosity than a blending stump (tortillon) or finger tip is; how I’d heard about using a chamois was via Jeremy Perez’s excellent Astronomy Now series Drawn To The Universe. I bought mine from Halfords (for people outside the UK, Halfords are a retail chain who sell car and bike accessories), for around £3.99. It smells disgusting but works a treat!

The sketch isn’t totally complete, I really should have added more stars and the surrounding constellations, such as Delphinus, Lacerta and Sagitta, etc, but I daresay I will repeat this at another time, when conditions are better and I have more time. Click thumbnail for enlargement.

Date: 29th – 30th August 2010
Conditions: Clear, slightly chilly, slight breeze
Seeing: Ant II – quite good, looked at Moon after session and there was not too much turbulence
Transparency: III – not too bad. Milky way washed out by rising moon
NELM: I didn’t check, although it would have got a right hammering from the moon and would be no better than 5.5 or 5.8.
Instrument: 12″ f/5 Dobsonian with 22mm Televue Panoptic and 15mm Televue Plossl (69x and 101x)
2230BST – 0015 BST

It was the first clear night for a while so I decided to drag the scope out and do some observing, despite the waning gibbous moon. Because of the Moon, I thought that sticking to open clusters in the Herschel 400 was a good plan.
There was definitely an autumnal nip, as well as a ‘smell’ of autumn in the air. I put an extra layer on although, by the end of the session I was wanting to take it off as I was too warm.

NGC 7044, open cluster in Cygnus – An absolute bugger to find. Small, compressed, not rich, faint. 69x, 101x

NGC 7062, open cluster in Cygnus – Much easier to find than 7044. Nice. Rich, moderately faint cluster bordered by four brighter stars. Detached. Small. Stands out nicely. 69x, 101x

NGC 7086, open cluster in Cygnus – Compact, moderately faint. Rich. Detached. Set in a nice area. There are nine foreground stars with many more, resolved, fainter ones in background. Moon beginning to interfere. 69x, 101x

NGC 7128, open cluster in Cygnus – Very small, compact, compressed. There’s a ring of brighter stars on a hazy background. There is a conspicuous reddish star on the SE side, which is the brightest star in the cluster. Very nice. 69x, 101x

That finishes the H400 objects in Cygnus, so I moved on to Cepheus. The Moon was getting higher and about to clear the oak trees that border the north side of the garden, so it was beginning to interfere with finding things.

NGC 6939, open cluster in Cepheus – Compressed, rich. Bordered to east by distinctive pattern of three stars. Quite bright. Nice cluster. 69x, 101x.

NGC 6949, galaxy in Cepheus – The charts showed this was in the same low power field of view as NGC 6939, so I decided to give it a go despite the moonlight washing out the sky. At 69x, ‘something’ was possibly there, at 101x there was a definite faint elongated smudge. I’ll have another look at this when the moon’s out of the way. 69x, 101x

NGC 7160, open cluster in Cepheus – Easily found bright knot of stars, dominated by two bright white stars like eyes, plus 5 fainter ones. Many other fainter stars in background. 69x, 101x

By this time it was past midnight and, although I didn’t particularly want to go in, I packed up as the moon had cleared the tall trees which border the garden on the northern side and was becoming a real nuisance. I did have a quick look at the thing and it was quite spectacular, if horribly bright in the 12″ (felt a headache coming on, how do people observe this thing?? Too bright for me!) before wheeling the scope back inside and putting everything away.

NGC 6939, open cluster in Cepheus – Compressed, rich. Bordered to east by distinctive pattern of three stars. Quite bright. Nice cluster. 69x, 101x.

NGC 6949, galaxy in Cepheus – The charts showed this was in the same low power field of view as NGC 6939, so I decided to give it a go despite the moonlight washing out the sky. At 69x, ‘something’ was possibly there, at 101x there was a definite faint elongated smudge. I’ll have another look at this when the moon’s out of the way. 69x, 101x

NGC 7160, open cluster in Cepheus – Easily found bright knot of stars, dominated by two bright white stars like eyes, plus 5 fainter ones. Many other fainter stars in background. 69x, 101x

By this time it was past midnight and, although I didn’t particularly want to go in, I packed up as the moon had cleared the tall trees which border the garden on the northern side and was becoming a real nuisance. I did have a quick look at the thing and it was quite spectacular, if horribly bright in the 12″ (felt a headache coming on, how do people observe this thing?? Too bright for me!) before wheeling the scope back inside and putting everything away.

30th August 2010
Conditions: Clear, chilly, waning gibbous moon (around 65% full)
Seeing: Excellent, A1
Transparency: II-III
NELM: Not checked.
Instrument: 12″ f/5 Dobsonian, 35mm Televue Panoptic (43x), 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), UHC filter.

Only a short session this one, due to a bad shoulder. Again, because of the Moon, I stuck to open clusters and went to do an H400 clean up run round Vulpecula.

NGC 6882 and 6885, open clusters in Vulpecula – Two for the price of one, in same field of view. Large, irregular pattern of stars with a conspicuous bright white one (20 Vulpeculae) off towards the edge. This is supposed to be two clusters but it’s not easy to distinguish one from another. 69x, 101x

NGC 6830, open cluster in Vulpecula – Easy to find as it’s fairly near M27. Irregular, compressed group of 20+ stars with many more, fainter, ones in the background. 69x, 101x

NGC 6823, open cluster with nebulosity in Vulpecula – Small, compressed cluster with three stars in a tight diagonal line in centre. Many more fainter stars in cluster. fairly rich.
No nebulosity seen without a filter, but with the UHC filter I can just see some faint nebulosity. One for when the moon’s gone. 69x, 101x, UHC filter.

NGC 6802, open cluster in Vulpecula – Easy to find, located immediately next to Cr399. Quite large, fairly rich but needs moderate power to resolve. Looks misty at 69x, but stars begin to appear at 101x. Irregular, elongated north-south. Faint. 69x, 101x.

That finishes off the H400s in Vulpecula – I’d already seen NGC 6940 a while back.

Harvard 20, open cluster in Sagitta – A scattered group of 30 to 30 stars just SW of M71. Not much to write home about. 43x.

Packed up at 2330 BST as the moon was rising higher and its light was being scattered around the sky more than the previous evening, despite the phase being less.


1st September 2010
Conditions: Slightly chilly, no wind. Quite a lot of dew.
Transparency: III but better at zenith (II). Mostly clear except from some high cloud. Jupiter bloated with halo, however, the sky was good at zenith.
Seeing: I, very steady
NELM: 6.1 (a little skyglow reflecting from high clouds)
Instrument: 12″ f/5 dobsonian with 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x), UHC and OIII filters.

NGC 6800, open cluster in Vulpecula – Large, loose irregular group of stars forming a distorted loop. Moderately faint. 15 brighter stars plus a load of fainter stars. Not rich. 69x.

NGC 6723, open cluster in Vulpecula – Not plotted on my Pocket Sky Atlas or Sky Atlas 2000.0, so I used the Night Sky Observers’ Guide Vol 2 to find its position and plotted it myself on both atlases. I really need to start using my Uranometrias more – in fact I am planning to buy the second edition for use while observing and keeping the old ones on the book shelves.
It’s easy to find 6723 once you know where it is. It’s in a rich field, more or less halfway between α Vulpeculae and Cr 399. Faint and small. Not rich. Triangle of stars (10th/11th magnitude) at the centre help identify the cluster. 69x, 101x

At this point a neighbour across the way put his garden light on, so his dog could see while it was going about its ‘evening constitutional’. I’d not seen this light before, or not noticed it (the reason being, our garden’s very large and what happens the other end of it is not always noticed from the house or patio; the patio was my previous observing place), but it was badly aligned and blitzed my observing area. I think I’ll be asking him if he can adjust it in future, if it’s trespassing then it’s aligned incorrectly.. After 15 minutes, I was wondering just how long it takes for a dog to have a pee (our dogs are in and out in two minutes!) when the light, thankfully, went off. These are the same neighbours who don’t have curtains on their upstairs windows, no doubt believing themselves unseen (uh uh, no you’re not!). If ever I win the lottery, I’m moving somewhere where I don’t have neighbours! Why are the general public so obsessed with lighting everywhere up?

Ok, now the irritating light’s been turned off, back to the observing and it’s time for some faint nebulae.

Sh 2-101, nebula in Cygnus – near a double star, this is an area of faint nebulosity. I can’t see it very well without a filter, but the UHC brings it out nicely. It’s a large irregular patch with dark lanes in it. 69x, UHC

NGC 6888, emission nebula in Cygnus – Located among a conspicuous group of five stars, this can be seen without a filter, but only just. A UHC filter brings out the crescent shape nicely but an OIII isn’t much of an improvement. With each filter there are hints of more extensive nebulosity to the north east of the crescent. the SW portion of the nebula is the brightest and the SE portion of the crescent is a bit fainter. 69x, UHC, OIII

Minkowski 92 (M1-92), (planetary?) nebula in Cygnus – This looks like a faint double star at low power but is obviously non-stellar at higher power. One ‘star’ is larger and brighter than the other and they are very close together. 69x, 101x, 138x, 190x.

I packed up at midnight, as the high clouds were moving in and it was getting mistier.

3rd/4th September 2010
Conditions: Cool but not that chilly, a bit murky at first but improving later. No Moon. Started off clear, clouding over later.

Seeing: A I, superb.

Transparency: III, improving to II later (until clouds came)

NELM: 6.1 to 6.5 later on

Instrument: 12″ f/5 dobsonian, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x), 5mm Radian (304x), OIII filter

NGC 6804, galaxy in Aquila – Faint, slightly oval, stellar core. 69x, 190x

NGC 6772, planetary nebula in Aquila – I wasted more than 30 minutes looking for this (not plotted on atlases) and eventually gave up. Annoying. Will have another go at this with a MegaStar chart I’ve just printed out.

NGC 7448, galaxy in Pegasus – Bright, elongated NW-SE. Brightens gradually towards the centre. 69x, 190x

NGC 7814, galaxy in Pegasus – Bright and easy to find, located near ϒ Peg. Elongated NW-SE. Brightens towards the core which is bright but not stellar. 69x, 190x

NGC 7217, galaxy in Pegasus – Bright, round, condenses to bright but non-stellar core. 69x, 190x

Pegasus is now complete as far as the H400 is concerned, as I’d already observed some objects in it last autumn.

NGC 7686, open cluster in Andromeda – Irregular. Dominated by two bright yellow-orange stars. Loose. Fainter stars in background and around the two bright ones. Not particularly rich. 69x.

NGC 884 and 869 – the Double Cluster in Perseus – These are lovely things in a wide field eyepiece. Both clusters fit neatly into the field of view of my 22mm Panoptic (69x). If each one was isolated it would be a pretty object in its own right but, both together make one of the finest DSOs in the Northern Hemisphere – in fact the DC is (are) the best open cluster(s) in the sky and I genuinely think that we outdo the Southern Hemisphere with this one.
NGC 869 is smaller and more compact that its neighbour, 884. There are 2 bright stars in the centre, plus a compact triangular pattern of stars in the centre. 69x
NGC 884 is larger and looser. No central group of stars, unlike 869; there’s empty space at the centre. The stars of 884 are more concentrated to the western side. 69x.
All stars in both clusters are white.

NGC 650-1 (M76), planetary nebula in Perseus – Very bright indeed, looking like a miniature M27 (in fact, it is called ‘Little Dumbell’). It has a bi-lobed appearance with an outer shell extending off to the south west and north east; the south western one is slightly brighter. The south eastern lobe is slightly brighter but smaller, than the north western one.  An OIII filter brings it out nicely. 69x, 101x, OIII filter.

NGC 1023, galaxy in Perseus – Bright, elongated east-west. Condenses to very bright core. 69x, 101x

By this time, it was beginning to get very cloudy, so much so they were interfering with observing. In fact it took me several attempts to see NGC 1023 as cloud kept drifting across the field of view.
I finished the session with a look at Jupiter, which was shining incredibly brightly, like a searchlight, high in the south east. While I am not a planet observer, preferring deep sky, I was glad I had decided to look at the giant planet because the seeing was so good, in fact it was perfect, that I had incredible views and could put the magnification up to 304x without too much degradation of the image.
The North Equatorial Belt was detailed, while the STB was a bit fainter and there were festoons in some of the other bands on the planet; the North Temperate Belt showed a lot of detail, as did both polar regions. The zones also showed some marbling. The SEB, of course, is still missing or very faint.

12th/13th September 2010
Conditions: Cool, but not cold, some drifting clouds at first, becoming murkier later. Slight dew.

Seeing: Ant II, very good

Transparency: III to IV later (III. Clear, some haze visible. Milky Way still visible but not detailed; IV. Milky skies, moderately hazy but observing of brighter NGCs doable/drifting cloud).
Equipment: 12″ f/5 dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 8mm Televue Radian (190x), OIII filter. MegaStar 5 chart printouts, Sky Atlas 2000.0, Pocket Sky Atlas and NSOG Vols I and II

NGC 6996, open cluster in Cygnus – Located within NGC 7000 (the North America Nebula). Spiral shaped cluster of 30+ fairly faint stars. Spiral is anti-clockwise. Fainter stars among the brighter ones. Chain loops off to north before turning west. Quite large. Moderately rich. Observation interfered with by drifting clouds. 69x.

NGC 6824, galaxy in Cygnus – People think of Cygnus as a realm of open clusters, PNes and nebulae, but galaxies lurk here too. Fairly bright and easy to find as it stands out against the background sky. Almost round. Brightens gradually towards the core. Core diffuse, not bright. 69x, 190x.

NGC 6894, planetary nebula in Cygnus – A bit of a sod to find, faint and quite small. Not helped by milky sky. At low power, there is a hint of something fuzzy and oval. An OIII filter brings it out as a filled-in oval. At high power, and with the OIII,  it has a darker middle and looks annular. 69x, 190x, OIII filter.

The latter observation was being affected by the fireworks from the festival, I could see the flashes in the eyepiece while looking at NGC 6894, which was hard enough to see as it was. So I abandoned Cygnus and moved over to Triangulum and Aries, which were just clearing next door’s oak trees from my position.

NGC 772, galaxy in Aries – Round, quite faint (low), condenses to non-stellar, but obvious, core. 69x, 101x.

NGC 672, galaxy in Triangulum – Quite faint, elongated west-east. No brightening in centre. Faint halo around bar. IC 1727 nearby but very faint that I want another look at it on a better night. 69x, 101x, 190x.

NGC 925, galaxy in Triangulum – Elongated, faint. Evenly bright with halo. Some foreground stars. 69x, 190x

NGC 890, galaxy in Triangulum – Round, bright. Bright non-stellar core. 69x, 190x.

By now, just before 0100 BST (midnight GMT/UT), the sky was getting progressively worse, with a lot of murk scattering light about so I packed in. There were a few other objects I hunted for, among them NGC 1156 and NGC 1012, both in Aries, as well as NGC 6857 in Cygnus and the infamous NGC 6772 in Aquila but these were all wiped out by murk and will have to wait until a better night.

17th September 2010; 0130-0300 BST (0030-0200 GMT/UT)
Conditions: Cool, totally cloudless, no wind, slightly dewy

Seeing: Ant II-III
Transparency: I (excellent) – II (very good) later (M33 visible with unaided eye)
NELM: 6.5+
Equipment: 12 f/5 Dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), 11mm Televue Plossl (138x)

NGC 1857, open cluster in Auriga – Faint, fairly rich, irregular. 69x, 138x

NGC 1175, galaxy in Perseus – Faint, not quite round. Diffuse elongated core. 69x, 138x

NGC 1177, galaxy in Perseus – NE of 1175. Very faint indeed. Barely seen. Possibly elongated. 138x

NGC 1245, open cluster in Perseus – Very nice large irregular cluster. Faint, fairly rich. Many faint stars. 69x, 138x.

I packed up at 0300 BST after a less successful session than I hoped for; I couldn’t seem to track down most of the Herschel IIs I went for, yet there was nothing wrong with the sky conditions, however I put that down to being tired. An example of tiredness-related cock-ups was when I made some soup and attempted to defrost some bread in the microwave – I ended up nuking it because I pressed the wrong button! Still, an observing session with four objects is better than no observing session at all – and a lot better than my sorry effort the other evening (9th September 2010).

However, observing in the early a.m. is a nice way to spend the time, maybe better than evening sessions. There is no-one around at all and it is very quiet, although when I dropped an eyepiece on the shed floor – fortunately without damage – it sounded like an explosion! Likewise when I went back to the kitchen to make the soup, the kettle sounded as loud as a volcano.

Apart from the sound of the horses in the next field, the snoring of my darling dog in her basket, the rustle of rats and mice in the hedge and the snuffling of a badger in the lane, there were no other noises. That’s how I like my observing sounds to be. No machines, no loud TVs from the neighbours across the way, no music, just animals and the other sounds of the night.


Date: 10th October 2010
Conditions: Cloudless, cool (10C), no dew, a little mist
Seeing: I, excellent
Transparency: II-III
NELM: 6.2

Equipment: 12″ f/5 Dob, 22mm Televue Panoptic (69x), 15mm Televue Plossl (101x), UHC filter

After seemingly endless clouds, gales, rain and murk for the past few weeks, the sky finally cleared and I was able to get out and knock off some Herschels last night, 10th October.
I decided to stay entirely within the borders of Cassiopeia and the list was mostly open clusters, apart from one galaxy. I’d already done some of the H400 objects within the constellation but still had a lot more to do. I also looked at non-NGC clusters that were nearby.

NGC 129, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Large and fairly rich. Triangular with dark area cutting through it. 69x

NGC 136, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A bit of a bugger to locate as it’s faint. Round, nebulous background with a scattering of faint stars on top. Pretty boring. 69x

NGC 225, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A complete contrast to the previous cluster. Bright, large, irregular, loose cluster. 21 bright stars plus some fainter ones among the bright ones. 69x

NGC 381, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Faint, rich and round. Detached. A chain of stars goes north from the main body of the cluster. Nice. 69x

NGC 436, open cluster in Cassiopeia – In same field of view at 69x as NGC 457 (also on the H400 list, but I’d observed this at an earlier date) and they both make a lovely sight. 436 is a small knot of stars and is irregularly shaped. Fairly rich with half a dozen or so brighter stars and many more fainter ones resolved. 69x, 101x

NGC 559, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Quite rich but relatively faint. Compressed. Some brighter stars (around mag 12) superimposed on a hazy background. Nice. 69x

NGC 637, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Compact and fairly bright o.c. There are seven brighter stars, plus more in the background. Crescent shaped. There’s a double star just to the east. 69x, 101x

NGC 185, galaxy in Cassiopeia – Elongated glow, NE-SW with some concentration towards the centre. Core’s not stellar, more diffuse. Quite large. 69x, 101x

NGC 7789, open cluster in Cassiopeia – This one’s an absolute beauty. It’s very large and extremely rich in fairly faint stars. There are no bright stars anywhere in this cluster but it’s now definitely one of my favourites. The cluster is round, and the stars are all of the same, or similar, magnitudes and there’s a hazy background hinting at even more stars – there must be hundreds.
There are also dark areas, semi circular patterns and this makes the cluster look like a rose seen face on. 69x, 101x.

NGC 7790, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Small, compressed, quite faint, irregular open cluster. Extends east-west. 69x, 101x

NGC 7788, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Just north of 7790, this is a larger, looser, brighter, sparser cluster than 7790 is. Irregular. 69x, 101x

Frolov 1, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Not much to write home about! Very small and sparse. The stars are faint and scattered. 101x

Harvard 21, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A scattered faint group of 8 stars. Irregular. 69x, 101x

King 12, open cluster in Cassiopeia – A small, bright knot NW of H21. Two bright stars and a lot of fainter ones. Compressed, not rich. 69x, 101x

NGC 654, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Nice o.c. Not round but irregular. Compressed. Quite bright. Nice. 69x, 101x

NGC 1027, open cluster in Cassiopeia – Large, irregular, bright o.c. Rich. Identified by 7th magnitude star near the centre. Other stars and 5th and 6th magnitude plus many fainter ones. 69x

Melotte 15, o.c. with nebulosity in Cassiopeia – Large, irregular sparse cluster. The nebulosity is only visible with the UHC filter. 69x, UHC filter.

I packed up at 2215, after an excellent session.