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Naemeth

The Hunt for the Messiers

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Go to:

http://en.wikipedia....Messier_objects

Scroll down a little to the table.

Click on the Constellation column and reorder by the constellation they are in.

Select and save the reordered table.

Then work through the most prominent constellations for the time of year.

Thank you, I hadn't thought of working through them that way, although I did have the list bookmarked.

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Success again! I'm getting a little better at this, had some great views of the Moon through my 4mm, and even barlowed it, the views were sharp which was rather suprising aat 325x. But now I can cross off M13 and M39, M13 being the classic smudge and M39 was a collection of stars, but judging by the Stellarium Occular plugin, that it what it is supposed to look like at my aperture.

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Well done. The more you do the easier they are to find. Familiarity with what you're looking for really helps. It's easy to miss the small and low brightness ones as with a scope the size of yours they barely show up as a faint smudge and it's so easy to fail to notice them even when you look right at them. Sometimes the seeing just doesn't work for you -- I've been out some nights and failed to find something after looking for more than an hour, then found it in five minutes the next day. Some are just very hard to spot. ISTR that I could only see the Owl Nebula with averted vision when I found it earlier this year. Every time I looked straight at it then it would just disappear again. I think it might be one of the hardest of the Messier objects to spot with a smaller scope though. There are plenty that you should be able to see given a dark enough sky.

James

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Well done. The more you do the easier they are to find. Familiarity with what you're looking for really helps. It's easy to miss the small and low brightness ones as with a scope the size of yours they barely show up as a faint smudge and it's so easy to fail to notice them even when you look right at them. Sometimes the seeing just doesn't work for you -- I've been out some nights and failed to find something after looking for more than an hour, then found it in five minutes the next day. Some are just very hard to spot. ISTR that I could only see the Owl Nebula with averted vision when I found it earlier this year. Every time I looked straight at it then it would just disappear again. I think it might be one of the hardest of the Messier objects to spot with a smaller scope though. There are plenty that you should be able to see given a dark enough sky.

James

I found tonight much easier to see them because there were sufficient guide stars to be able to get to the right place (a Telrad may make things a lot easier), and M13 had a small triangle of stars around it, and M13 was on the diagonal between two of the stars, which helped a great deal! (Unfortunately though, my eyes needed to dark adapt for a bit before I could see the triangle, and my laptop certainly didn't help... a red light torch is on the list).

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The only way I've found to get a laptop to be usable whilst DSO hunting is to have a red acetate sheet in front of the screen. Obviously Stellarium has a "night mode" and there are applications that will modify the screen colours for dark-adaption, but none of them can affect the screen backlight and even at minimum brightness that's still the biggest problem for me. I made a cardboard frame containing a sheet of red cellophane and that worked nicely for me, resting on the front of the screen, for some time. It also has the benefit of stopping the screen getting dew marks.

James

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I prefer to plan a session ahead, print EP views from Stellarium, and work with paper maps and sky atlas. I do not like faffing around with a laptop screen which ruins night vision at any setting. Red acetate film helps, but not enough.

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I prefer to plan a session ahead, print EP views from Stellarium, and work with paper maps and sky atlas. I do not like faffing around with a laptop screen which ruins night vision at any setting. Red acetate film helps, but not enough.

The problem with deciding my night before hand, is there are a lot of obstructions in my garden, and I haven't as yet been able to work out how many degrees each side is blocked. I do know however that facing West I can't see anything below 10-15 degrees, if it's SW, it's more like 25 degrees (big tree), towards the East, it's probably closer to 30-40 Degrees, and North is about 10-15 degrees.

I wish there was an easy way to do it that didn't involve using up clear nights working it out...could I work out East by waiting for it to get just above the house and then checking with Stellarium?

EDIT: Rudimentary way of doing it... I have a laser torch, all I need is a protractor...

Edited by Naemeth

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I had my first attempt at M51 (the whirlpool galaxy) last night and it was trickier than I expected to fine. With my SW 200p and a 20mm ep M51 and its companion, NGC 5195, were just about visible though only as smudges. It was getting on for midnight so the sky was almost as dark as it was going to get but probably not dark enough to get anything better. That said, it is meant to be reasonably obvious and I'm just wondering if the sky was really dark enough. It had been humid all day and the sky was fairly pale blue, between clouds, most of the day.

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Michael,

Many thanks. After waiting quite a while for clear skies I was desperate to get the telescope out and have an attempt. The conditions were quite tricky and I really had to be sure that I was pointing in absolutely the right place (Stellarium is marvelous for this). Still, M51 was definitely there though my wife took a little more convincing. I'm looking forward to some darker skies - and less cloud.

thanks

Dave

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Often you don't need a "formal" plan of things you'd like to observe. Just having a list and a means of locating them is sufficient to make a start. If you find one on the list that isn't going to be visible, just skip to the next. I often go out with just a list of "early", "mid" and "late" objects and work from there based on what's in the sky. Sometimes that's all you need because it saves the wasted time of finding out what you might be able to see and then working out how to locate it. You can do something like "M28? No, Sagittarius is too low for that. Ok, I'll try M107 then. But Ophiucus is behind a tree? How about the Eagle Nebula? Not even that? Wild Duck Cluster then".

James

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James,

That's excellent planning. My location is a bit hampered by houses and trees (unless I go off somewhere close-by in the car) and I try to look for things that are within the field of view. I should try to get myself more organised.

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I've found when "time at the eyepiece" is at a premium because of short nights or poor weather, having some sort of plan, however loose, really helps get the most out of the time available. I sometimes get distracted by other things, or have to rush because I'd not noticed, say, an ISS pass, but I'm finding it's now rare to feel that I've not made good use of the time and that's a satisfying feeling to go to bed with :)

James

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I spent 90 minutes last night going through the whole Messier list. It was the first clear sky here for over 5 weeks, so I didn't want to waste it. I was set up at 11:30pm, but even at 1:00am when I packed up, the sky was still blue, making observing difficult and photography a waste of time. So instead, I went through the 'M' list, noting which objects were in my field of view, which were behind houses and which were below the horizon. I did this in February when I first got the scope, so I'm gradually building up a picture of what can be seen from my patio at different times of the year.

M3 and M5 were new to me last night, as was M103. M13 was very faint, mainly because the sky was so blue, but after the torrential rain that flooded most of the North East, at least it washed out the atmosphere. M57 was very clear, and I was sure I could see the faintest hint of colour. I saw M31 for the first time in several months, while I was unsure whether I was seeing M32 and M53, or whether it was just my imagination! However, around two thirds of the list was below the horizon or behind the surrounding houses.

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Stuff I could see I viewed a little while, otherwise I moved on quickly if the object was below the horizon or houses.

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I don't know the sky well enough yet so I need to make a firm star hopping plan to find something new (new to me that is).

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Another night, some more Messiers! Bagged M5 and M51 tonight, M51 in the darkness of 11PM was extremely faint, I think that could be sorted out by Winter Nights and a bigger scope. Very difficult to get, compared to that M5 was much easier ;).

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Unconvincingly bagged M101 today, blasted Moon amongst other things hampered my night vision, but I got a [bvery faint smudge that kept coming and going...

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I find the best method for me in finding objects is to point where you think it is, and if you don't see it in the field of view, move the scope outwards in little spirals while looking through the eyepiece.

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When i make a viewing list, i use Stellarium, it shows the horizon and i know what my viewing limitations are with tree's building ect, does make for finding DSO's a lot better...2 night back i manages about a hour before the clouds rolled in found M11, just clear of the tree in the s/east....very nice cluster indeed and now added to the image collection as a check that what i think i am looking at i really have in the FOV...

m11-1.jpg

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It's just so difficult in my back garden, several things that hamper my search:

1) Weather (obvious really)

2) Light Pollution, I live opposite a car park, not fun (but I get virtually no glare because of some trees)

3) Aformentioned Trees and houses block most areas, anything below 15 degrees in any direction is out, anything below 40 degrees in the East is out, only a small corner of South is okay, and North is difficult, West has a huge tree on the left, that usually covers the Moon when it's there (not sure if that's a good thing or not).

4) Small Aperture, Light Pollution and Small Aperture aren't the best combination, Messiers are so faint even up to the eyepiece, I've got no chance spotting them with the naked eye

5) Finding them, guide stars are often not there. M13 is easy because all of the three guide stars are there, but my LP really makes things difficult.

I also find myself often having to contort myself to see through my RDF, is a Telrad the same, or can it be made right-angled?

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