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Advice needed

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As swamp thing said really, what kit were you using? A lot of DSOs are really faint and can be difficult to see in all but a large scope.

Also what DSOs were you aiming for?

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Hi Frankie


You can see any of the Messier list that are in the sky.

With a 12" scope nearly all the thousands of objects in the NGC and IC catalogues.

A 12" scope is an extremely powerful observing tool All you need do is learn how to point it.

Chances are, if it's on a star map you can see it.

If your having trouble pointing it, go along to your local society there will be plenty of people eager to help (specially when they see the size of it).

Regards Steve

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The Messier objects in and around Ursa Major, with the exception of M101 should cause no problems to a 12" scope

M101 is only difficult because of it's surface brightness being low.

If your sky is dark even this should present no problems.

Most of the NGC Galaxies in Ursa Major should be visible in a 12" without to many problems too.

I have seen most with my 10" without too many problems.

Regards Steve

Edited by swamp thing
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Have you had a look at Turn Left at Orion? great book if you are solo observing.

Download Stellarium for a preview before you head out

And as already recommended, you can't go wrong with popping along to a local astro group meet

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M108 and M109 should be easy to pick out with that scope. M109 is right next to the star forming the base of the pan in the plough that is nearest the handle - Phad.

M108 is next to the other star that forms the base and is the "lower" one of the pointers - Merak.

With something like a 25mm eyepiece I would expect each to be in view when you have the star in the centre.

M97 is a small one next to M108, for when you find it.

M101 should be also be something to locate.

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Make sure it's really dark and that your eyes are dark adapted for 20 mins or so. You can use a blanket over your head and eyepiece if there's any light pollution - stay under for 20 mins and things will start jumping out at you (it works I ain't kidding).

I you're having trouble pointing, look into getting a setting circle for the base and Wixey for the main tube - very accurate and less than £30 all together :D

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As others have suggested, finding a local club, or a local observing partner can be extremely helpful.

Before dark, make sure your finder and main tube are pointing at the same place in the sky. A distant treetop or church spire can work well. You'll spend the whole night in frustration if the finder is miss-aligned. You could also use a bright object like Saturn after dark, and adjust the finder to show the same object as the main telescope.

Start with the lowest power eyepiece you have for the widest field of view. If you have a 12" f/6 (?), that's a 72" FL, or ~1800mm, so a great low power option would be around 32mm or so. If 25 is the lowest you have, start there. If you are in a very dark location, you'd want a final exit pupil of around 6 - 7 mm, depending on your age and the darkness of the sky. A 12' (300mm) aperture gives an exit pupil of 6mm at 50X, so an eyepiece giving you a magnification near 50 would be ideal. If you have significant light pollution, you might aim for an exit pupil of 5 mm, or roughly 60X. Once you have a target centered, carefully switching to higher power is usually helpful.

For objects visible tonight, I'd start with a bright globular cluster, like M-3, but there's no bright star close-by. M-65, M-66, and the nearby NGC 3628 are pretty easy to find in Leo: Looking south, identify the "sickle" and the "triangle" to the left (east). The star making the right angle in the triangle part (the one to the lower right as you see it tonight) is quite near these three galaxies. In binoculars or a finder, sweep about 2 degrees down (south), and slightly to the east, and you'll see a small "L" shape of stars. Look just to the east of this little group, and you should spot M-65 and M-66 in the same low-power field of view, M-65 on top, and M-66 below (In an inverted Newtonian view). In dark skies, M-65 will be visible in 10 x 50 binoculars. Once you find them, look off to the side, and you'll see NCG 3628, a little larger and dimmer than the other two, and elongated 90 degrees of from the others.

There's another galaxy trio in Leo just a few degrees away to the west, roughly in line between Regulus and Denebola. M-95 and M-96 are also close together, with M-105 nearby. These are fairly easy to find from a dark location with some practice.

While you're racking up galaxies in Leo, another beauty is NGC 2903, essentially just below the lion's nose. Aim at the bright star just to the west of the end of the sickle, then slide down about 1 - 2 degrees, and there is a very nice spiral galaxy there that will look better with a little more magnification.

Lastly, the galaxies of Ursa Major are great targets when well placed. M-51, near the handle of the Big Dipper is a very rewarding target. It takes some practice to star-hop to the right place, but it's worth the effort. M-81 and M-82 are also favorites, near the pointer stars at the other end of the dipper or plough.

Let us know how you make out --good luck!

Clear skies,

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