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Long-awaited observing



Finally the skies cleared yesterday, and at last a chance to do some observing. It turned out to be a really good session - one of the best I've had for a long time - and I got through a good number of targets in just over 2 hours.

I started off with the 4" refractor, hunting galaxies - the Andromeda Galaxy and companions, and M33 in Triangulum. These were really well placed at around 8.30pm, and despite a knackered red dot finder (!) I was able to get a great view of M31 with the 24mm Panoptic eyepiece (giving x20 magnification - ideal for large, diffuse objects like this). M31 showed a bright central core and an extended haze of light which stretched pretty much across the whole field. M32 was clearly visible as a small blob just to the south, and with averted vision M110 also came into view as a faint cloud off to the west.

A quick star-hop through Andromeda led me to M33 - much fainter than M31 but certainly visible with averted vision. This gave an impression of being quite large, especially when I jiggled the scope around a bit.

After a quick look at Lambda Tauri (to check it off the Moore Winter Marathon list) I had a look at M44, just rising out of the murky eastern horizon. A really lovely object this, one of the best in binoculars for sure - the 4" at x20 gave a great view too.

Next, on to the undoubted highlight of the sky at the moment - Jupiter, by now high in the south and fantastically placed for viewing. At this point I rolled out the big guns - the 10" Dob got to work. This was probably the best view of Jupiter I've ever had - at times the seeing was crystal, and the detail on the planet at x171 using a 7mm BGO eyepiece was stunning. Lots of fine detail, especially in the northern hemisphere, with a prominent dark spot on the NEB and a white storm right next to it. Awesome.

By this time the Moon was well above the horizon and the sky transparency was deteriorating a bit. So, one last target - M34 in Perseus. Very nice at x20, and some nice colour contrast amongst the group - one yellow / orange star in particular stood out.

Overall, a really good session. Let's have some more of that kind of weather please....!


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