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30th / 31st May 2013 - Adventures In The Dark Skies Of Cornwall

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I have just got back from a week away in Cornwall, close to Crackington Haven on the Northeast coast. I only had a couple of clear nights, the first of which was affected by a Moon just past full.

The second clear night (Thursday) was Moon free until about 01:30 hrs on Friday morning and so I crammed as much as I could into two hours under a very dark sky with quite low Southern horizons. Admittedly the sky doesn’t quite reach astronomical darkness at this time of year but despite that, it was at least 0.7 of a magnitude better than the very best night at my home observing site: the Milky Way was visible all the way down to Sagittarius.

I started with M9 in Ophiuchus, which was easily found and appeared quite bright and condensed. M107 was larger and more diffuse in comparison but none the less much more prominent than I have ever observed before.

Slightly further West, close to the bright red Antares was M4, a very large diffuse fuzz which seemed to be quite irregular in shape and consistency for a globular cluster: it seemed to have a line through the centre. M80 took a little more patience to find but came through as a small and condensed ball.

I then spent a little time looking at some more obvious targets in favourable conditions. M13 could be resolved a little further than usual but both this and M11 (the Wild Duck cluster) were only marginally better.

What was noticeably better was M27 (the Dumbbell nebula). The characteristic shape was very prominent and the nebula was very bright.

M51 and companion NGC 5195 were probably the biggest improvement on previous sightings. Both cores were very bright and the surrounding nebulosity was easy to see directly and appeared larger. Additionally, I could pick up the subtle hint structure in the Messier, not obvious spirals but definitely a hint. Stunning!

After a quick peek at M10 and M12 in Ophiuchus, I moved further South and found M62, which was brighter than I anticipated. Just to the North was M19, another new globular find, only slightly inferior.

Finally, with Sagittarius more prominent, I viewed two more globular clusters. The very impressive M22 was easier to partially resolve than from home. The cluster is normally slightly washed out from light pollution. M28 was another new one for me.

By this time, the 55% Moon had risen and so I called it a night. Six new objects ticked off the Messier list (now at 97) and some improved observations of old friends made me one happy bunny. Pity I didn’t get one more clear night to bag some of the really low Messiers, like M54 and M70.


Observing Session: Thursday / Friday 30th / 31st May 2013, 23:30 hrs to 01:30 hrs BST

VLM at Zenith: 6.1 (at least)

New - Revisited - Failed

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Sounds like a rewarding trip and a nice mixed bag of objects picked off.

I've had a couple observing nights around that area now and SQM readings are usually around 21.9 which is about LM 6.6.

Its my favourite part of Cornwall day or night. :)

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Glad you had a successful observing session Martin. Even though its not astronomically dark you can still view some great objects and if you can find a good southern horizon then you can pick up those difficult Messier objects in Sagittarius. Martin did you take your 5" Frac to Cornwall to do the viewing?

You are right that M62 is really low and I have only seen M6 and M7 once and I had to go to Spain to view them. I just wondered whether M6 and M7 can be seen well in Cornwall?


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I just wondered whether M6 and M7 can be seen well in Cornwall?


I think the safest way to get the lowest Messier's when visiting Cornwall is to observe from somewhere with sea views on the south coast. Lands End and The Lizard are both very dark with great views but I picked out M6 and M7 from my local dark site just 20 miles from Plymouth last year.

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That's a great tour DKD and must have been nice to get those southerly targets. Nice mixture of treats in there! The darker sky worked well with The Dumbell; it looks like an oval to me and will have to have a look again when I have dark conditions like that.

BTW, sounds like a nice little change of scenery for the week!

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