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May 7 and 8 down-under: Messier count hits 108!

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May 7 (and 8 from 0:30 to 1:30 AM) yielded the best haul so far. Conditions were great initially, turning cloudy at 10:45 PM, and clearing up again just after midnight.

I first paid a quick visit to M4, which showed up a lot better than two nights ago. I also confirmed M68 which was a lot easier to spot this time round (still averted vision though).

M80 was the first of the new stuff, showing up as a little spherical glow, easy in averted vision, still visible in direct.

NGC 6231 (Caldwell 76) was beautiful as ever, but I identified Tr24 (open cluster) as a large hazy patch north of it, and NGC 6242 as a compact open cluster a bit further northwards again.

NGC 6124 (Caldwell 75) was next up, showing up as a large patch of "diamond dust" quite close to the previous trio of open clusters.

NGC 6397 (Caldwell 86) is a very bright and large globular cluster found by meandering through the area of Ara. It has two stars nearby which together with the cluster give the impression of looking at M13 at a much higher magnification, and with a dusting of smaller stars in the background.

NGC 6388 is a much smaller globular just south of theta Scorpii.

NGC 6067 is an open cluster spotted north of Cr 299

Back to Messier-hunting:

M7 was found next. I could not see this through the trees from home, so I was very happy to spot this magnificent open cluster.

M6 is much more compact, but still very bright

M19 is an easy globular, spotted by star-hopping from 36 Sag.

M62 is similar, but a touch smaller, spotted by star-hopping from epsilon Sco.

M69 is smaller and fainter still, spotted with averted vision by looking just north of an arc of small stars anchored in the south by Kaus Australis (epsilon Sag).

M70: Nearby M69, following the arc to the north-west a faint circular patch appeared "pointed to" by the end of the arc. Averted vision needed.

M54 was found east of Ascella (zeta Sag) as a small fuzzy patch. It stands out much more boldly than M69 and M70.

After a quick look at M8 and M20 clouds rolled in and I went inside to put my log in order. I was very pleased to have hit 45 on the Caldwell count, and even more so at reaching a Messier count of 104.

At midnight, I checked the weather, and it was clear again. Out I went and bagged:

M55, which appeared larger than M54, and was very easy indeed.

M9, in Ophiuchus, similar, but more compact

M75 showed up as a small fuzzy blob in averted vision. It took some time finding this on the Capricornus-Sagittarius border.

M30: very low in the sky, but readily found near arc of stars in Capricornus

NGC 6352 (Caldwell 81) which is a globular in Ara was more difficult, a small patch of fuzz in averted vision.

NGC 6752 (Caldwell 93) in Pavo was a different beast altogether, a large bright globular on a par with M22.

This brought the Messier count to 108 (only M72 and M73 to go:headbang:), and the Caldwell count to 47. It was now very much time for bed. Getting so many new objects (12 Messiers, 4 Caldwells, and 4 other DSOs) with just binoculars was amazing.

Next evening (May 8) I just got a trio of Caldwells, between hazy wisps of cloud:

NGC 3201 (Caldwell 79) is an easy globular found by star-hopping from mu Velorum.

NGC 6541 (Caldwell 78) is similar, found by extending the line lambda, kappa, iota (1,2) south-westwards into Corona Australis.

NGC 5823 (Caldwell 88) is a very faint open cluster showing up as a faint patch of fuzz by star hopping northwards from beta Circini.

I tried to find some more, but the cloud was rapidly thickening. Still pleased at reaching a Caldwell count of 50:D:D.

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Excellent. You must have very dark sky otherwise it would not be possible to see some faint objects with bins.

I tended to get object down to magnitude 8, no fainter, depending on how compact they were. Under better conditions these bins (70mm aperture) can go down lower. For stars under skies of limiting magnitude 4-5 you should be able to go down to about 9-10. I think I had magnitude 4.5-5 skies last Saturday (behind my hotel I overlook a national park, which has no lights, this helps a great deal). On occasion, I could see parts of the Milky Way, so the skies must have been very transparent.

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Just read your another great report, you are in Sydney. But the fact it has such clear sky still surprised me.

Well done!

I overlook a national park, which has no lights, but I do notice I am limited to about magnitude 8, for sufficiently compact DSOs, as I stated above. Many on the list above are way brighter (near naked eye from a good site). Some of the Messiers on the list are really easy objects, but blocked by a line of trees from my usual haunts.

I have had a go at a few southern galaxies, but failed on all except M83 and NGC 5128, and only then in averted vision. Galaxies suffer most from LP. The weather here has been patchy, but Saturday was very transparent, apart from a band of cloud that rolled in at 10:45 and was gone at midnight.

I may have another go tonight, but the moon is getting brighter, so that may cut short the session.

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