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April 3rd 21:00 - 00:30 Birkrigg Common - Cumbria




April 3rd 21:00 - 00:30 Birkrigg Common - Cumbria

Skywatcher 200p + EQ5 + SynScan

April 3rd at 00:00 saw Saturn in opposition and at it's closest to earth for a year, at just under 750 Million miles away from the Earth. Like many other like minded imagers and astronomers I was out at a dark sky site for a few hours, taking in the spectacular wonder of our solar system! Saturn with it's truly stunning rings and Moons, Dione, Rhea, Tethys and Enceladus being the closest but Saturn has many moons, over 60 in total. Saturn will dominate the night sky this month.

Still visible this month is the double cluster in Perseus, NGC 869 and NGC 884 and I checked the cluster out last night using the Skywatcher 200p and a wide FOV 32mm eyepiece, which just fits the double cluster into the field of view.

NGC 869 is also know as "h Persei" is composed of over 350 stars and is over 70 light years in diameter and over 7,500 light years distant from us.

NGC 884 is also know as "Chi Persei" and has over 300 stars in its group and roughly the same distance away as NGC 869. The double cluster makes for compelling viewing as it has many red giants and is a great hunting ground, I can spend hours looking at these two clusters and I always find something of interest. The constellation Perseus has many open clusters, Nebula and a Galaxy. The double cluster is a jewel in the night sky, low power shows it best and it is always one of my test objects for sky clarity.

The great globular cluster in Hercules is visible and always worth a look and from a really dark site it produces some of the best views of a cluster in the night sky. My old 130mm reflector showed it well but mainly a fuzzy center with stars located around the edge. My 200mm reflector with a 10mm eyepiece fitted makes the globular cluster truly breathtaking, the detail leaps out at you, a nicely packed central core of over 1 million stars, take a second to think about that, over 1 million stars packed into this cluster! The cluster is over 100 light years in diameter and is roughly 25,000 light years distance from us. This cluster is also very old, 10 Billion years old! Nearly as old as the universe itself, which is estimated to be 13.7 Billion years.

Even though the skies are getting lighter in spring, M57 in Lyra is still very good, The Planetary Nebula or Smoke Ring, is still unmissable, though losing definition as we move through the year.

Two galaxies to view this month are M81 and M82 in Ursa Major; these galaxies are 8 Million light years away. M81 is a spiral galaxy and M82 is an Irregular galaxy. Using my 8" telescope and a 32mm eyepiece fits both galaxies into the field of view and from a dark sky site makes viewing these two galaxies a must this month.

Another galaxy to check out is M51, the whirlpool galaxy. I checked this last night 03/04/2011 using my 8" scope and it’s an impressive sight, I found if you slightly defocused the image, the spiral arms are easier to make out. At an impressive distance of nearly 40 million light years away this galaxy is worth checking out.

2 Double stars next:

61 Cygni in Cygnus is one of the closest double stars to us in the night sky, at 11.4 light years distance. 2 Orange stars, the primary star is 5.5 magnitude the secondary is 6.4.

Mizar and Alcor, magnitude 2.4 primary and secondary 4.0, an easy double for small scopes and binoculars.

Ray Gilchrist



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just came in from my back garden in carnforth, just scanning with 8x40 binos, preping for Saturday night and could easily make out M57 from here looking NE at 11:40GMT

Sorry must go to Newbie section and say Hello, where are my manners.

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Hello Cozzy and I'm also going out Sat if weather is fine! but won't be until 23:00 after work. Work on the Railway.


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