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Sketch: NGC 6520 & Barnard 86 from the Mercator Observatory, La Palma


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Two weeks ago I went on an astronomy trip to La Palma with a few fellow amateur astronomers. We visited the huge GTC and the Mercator telescope on top of the island. We got a guided tour at both telescopes and as a very special bonus the staff of the Mercator allowed us to spend the night at the  telescope building and observe with our own telescopes right next to the dome. Wandering around the observatories at night is something which is normally strictly forbidden, so you can imagine it turned out to be one of the most memorable observing nights we ever had.The best thing was the weather being absolutely perfect. Almost no wind at all (a rare thing at that altitude) and a crispy clear sky. The gegenschein for example, was very prominent.

We observed from dusk till dawn (duh!) with our telescopes. It was nothing less than magical to be under such an ocean of stars, with the sound of the rotating dome of the Mercator - and the humming of the nearby Liverpool Telescope's motordrives - right next to us. Heavenly!

The first sketch I made that night was of the beautiful dark nebula B86, which is flanked by the nice bright open cluster NGC 6520 - roughly the same size as the Barnard dust cloud. Just like the clump of stars is plucked out of the Milky Way, put aside, leaving a dark hole. The darker the sky, the better the object is a rule especially true for these kind of objects. The Milky Way background was a bright haze, the cluster a bag of jewels, and the nebula inky black. I mean really really black. "Ink Spot Nebula" is indeed the best name for this great patch of darkness.

I used a background of smeared-out graphite, then I drew the stars with a grey graphite pencil. The Barnard cloud was then "drawn" with an eraser. The faintest stars were added last. They are not all placed correctly (which would be near impossible) but they do give the best impressoin of the view through the eyepiece - hundreds of tiny stars amidst a cloud of unresolved Milky Way stars. The image is the original field sketch - besides inverting and the yellowish color of some stars the sketch is unaltered.



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Wow, what an opportunity and fully made use of, well done.  Great sketch and description and you have done really well to get telescopes and gear up to the Roc.


Edit:  Just spent half an hour looking at your Roel blog,  very nice stuff well presented - google translate makes for a few smiles as well, thanks.

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