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furrysocks2

M33, a first for me!

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Tonight, three pints down, I came home and the wind had dropped a bit, sky had clear patches, and I had new EP sitting in the kitchen. I received a 16mm 82deg Nirvana in the post yesterday from an SGL member - my first 82deg EP. I was itching to try it out in the 12".

 

After my typical three - Double Cluster, M37 and M42 - I figured I'd try for M33. M31 on the way, never impressed me yet, as if it doesn't really count. The moon was up and bright but further away than last time. I knew, by gross proportions, where to find it. So I red-dotted to somewhere and began a spiral search.

It didn't take that long until a patch, in seemingly otherwise empty space, presented itself - most easily discernible while actually moving the scope. I tried flicking my eyes around, looking elsewhere, tried the other eye, closed both eyes for a moment and tried to surprise it, etc... but I figure both the beer and the moon were against me. I had no doubts at all that I was looking directly towards M33, confirmed since by the adjacent star patterns.

 

It's not that long since I imaged M33 in my 4", since sold - that was my first ever self-sight of another galaxy (other than M31) - but tonight, I got my first galactic visual (other than M31). I didn't try any other EP, I only had the 16mm outside with me. No structure, no extent, no core, just a presence, but still a first.

I don't know what I've got against M31, but I'll be back to M33 again.

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Well done on seeing M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, for the first time.

Your experience is reminiscent of mine on first seeing M33 - I had to use the slow motion controls to see a change of contrast against the surrounding space. I also felt the same way as you about the Andromeda Galaxy - very underwhelming, until I saw it from a dark sky site. A dark sky site really shows M33 as a large easily seen galaxy and M31 seen under dark skies is one of the best objects in the night sky.

 

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Well done, I share your joy.

I've mentioned before about my trials and tribulations of looking for M33 for many years with both scopes and bins. Then suddenly, quite recently, I bagged if with bins.

It surely is a pleasure to finally see it. The wonderful images that members post here belie the visual difficulty of this target.

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It is very much as you describe, I think. Large, diffuse and, unless the night is exceptional, fairly featureless. I find it just as easy (or not!) in bins as in a telescope, easier sometimes in bins because it doesn't fill the EP, which can be the problem in large scopes. I agree that movement is the key. When it is very high in a very dark, clear sky, spiral structure, though very soft, does appear for me with patience. Kepple and Sanner say that your first sight of M33 in large aperture borders on a shock. That would be pushing it for me, but I don't have good eyesight.

Olly

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2 hours ago, David Levi said:

... a change of contrast against the surrounding space.

That's a good way to describe it.

 

8 minutes ago, Paul M said:

Then suddenly, quite recently, I bagged if with bins.

I guess with lower magnification and large exit pupil of bins, surface brightness is increased (as Olly suggests, I think). I was 95x with 3.2mm exit pupil.

Next time, I'll try my 35mm eyepiece, but need to collimate my bins before I try them again.

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7 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

Kepple and Sanner say that your first sight of M33 in large aperture borders on a shock.

Never been to a dark sky yet, but I was secretly hoping 12" visual would give me something comparable to my wee guide scope in the 4". Not yet, anyway.

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great work!...I'm kinda the same with 31, its easy to catch but dark skies help to make it interesting.

M33 on the other hand isn't easy and very faint but just on the odd night it "pops" and it then its fantastic!..clear skies!

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4 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

Kepple and Sanner say that your first sight of M33 in large aperture borders on a shock.

yup...its was very nice to view when the mob were on Skye last month.

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Good spot. You can spend ages looking straight through M33 without realising it. That is where your 82° comes in handy!

Once you’ve got it, upping the mag can bring out some more detail.

Head up for M81/82 next time you are out. They’ll look great in the same fov.

Paul

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Good report and well done on M33 - it can be pretty ellusive until you realise that you are looking right at it !

Your scope should also show you NGC 604 which is a small fuzzy spot next to a brightish star to one side of M33 (though the star is much closer to us). NGC 604 is actually a massive nebula within the galaxy M33 - if it was in our galaxy it would far outshine and be much larger than the Orion Nebula. Here is a little piece on observing it and a couple more of M33's wonders:

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/triple-treasure-in-triangulums-pinwheel110320150311/

 

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Having spent a couple of years looking through a couple of scope and ended up with this 12", I intend to now keep a notebook of observations. The decision to buy the 12" and subsequently sell the 4" and retire the 8.5" was partly down to the time spent on M37 on the first night and the decision to stop spending time playing with motors and camera, and just learn to look.

The entry for last night will therefore contain M33, as well as the others I listed above, and my notes will be much as described above - indistinct, etc. I guess the point is just that - to record observations, to hope to improve on them in time, and to be able to go back and revisit the comments.

I think I'm coming to a realisatation that, even with a 12", such a relatively bright object as M33 is still a challenge.

Is there a scale used for observation? I "found" M33 last night, but I certainly didn't "recognise" it.

 

 

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The brightness values quoted for extended objects are their integrated brightness I believe. The actual surface brightness of a face on galaxy like M33 is a lot lower than it's integrated brightness value of magnitude 5.7 which is why it's hard to see it quite often. Under a really dark, transparent sky it becomes a lot more obvious, more extensive and structured even with relatively small aperture scopes.

 

 

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1 hour ago, furrysocks2 said:

The decision to buy the 12" and subsequently sell the 4" and retire the 8.5" was partly down to the time spent on M37 on the first night and the decision to stop spending time playing with motors and camera, and just learn to look.

Best thing I've read all week...?

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1 hour ago, John said:

The brightness values quoted for extended objects are their integrated brightness I believe. The actual surface brightness of a face on galaxy like M33 is a lot lower than it's integrated brightness value of magnitude 5.7 which is why it's hard to see it quite often. Under a really dark, transparent sky it becomes a lot more obvious, more extensive and structured even with relatively small aperture scopes.

Not sure if this is correct, but I took a tabular list of Messier objects from the web, which included apparent magnitude and angular dimension. Using wikipedia's formula for surface brightness and assuming elliptical shape for MxN quoted dimensions, I re-ordered the list.

Of all the galaxies, only M101 appears to have a lower (average) surface brightness than M33.

Appreciate there are other factors, but is this about right?

Edited by furrysocks2

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A somewhat meaningless graph without labels, and abuse of error bars...

surface.thumb.jpg.4bbc4ebb46ad3f36b9dbdb205af0f882.jpg

A bit off-topic, but you can identify M31, M33 and M101 at the top.

Edit: I think my surface brightness axis is in units of magnitudes per square arc-minute.

Edited by furrysocks2

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We (Dobmob) use M101 as a guide to Galaxy hunting.

if it shows strong presence and its arms are easy to see then the conditions are good, if poor then globs get my attention!

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17 minutes ago, furrysocks2 said:

Not sure if this is correct, but I took a tabular list of Messier objects from the web, which included apparent magnitude and angular dimension. Using wikipedia's formula for surface brightness and assuming elliptical shape for MxN quoted dimensions, I re-ordered the list.

Of all the galaxies, only M101 appears to have a lower (average) surface brightness than M33.

Appreciate there are other factors, but is this about right?

Sounds right. I find M101 harder than M33. I don't know M101 that well though wheras I observe M33 much more regularly and, talking of other factors, I think regular viewing of such objects does help you tease a little more from them.

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12 minutes ago, estwing said:

We (Dobmob) use M101 as a guide to Galaxy hunting.

if it shows strong presence and its arms are easy to see then the conditions are good, if poor then globs get my attention!

Interesting. Is that specifically because of its low surface brightness, or moderate size, or what? (Edit: or just because it's a reliable guide... I'm prepared to accept that I'm overthinking! ;))

Edited by furrysocks2

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M101 versus M33 is an interesting one! In ideal conditions with excellent transparency, no moon and a high elevation (I don't think seeing matters much)* I find M101 far more thrilling. I can see two extended arms - seriously extended - ending in bright patches and can get a clear sense of spiral structure in the core. This spiral structure fades out then re-appears in the bright outlying patches I describe. I can't get such a sense of structure from M33.

Olly

*Before going completely mad and moving to a remote mountainside in the south of France I took a 120 achromat to southern Spain for a winter holiday. On a night of howling wind, so bad that I set up in the lee of a farm building with no view of Polaris, I used the scope in alt-az and had my first view of M1O1. The core, honestly, looked like a car headlight. You couldn't miss it. Because of the wind the seeing was dire but the transparency was fabulous.

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M33 in Uranometria has a surface brightness of 14.2 and M101's is 14.9...tricky!

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3 hours ago, estwing said:

M33 in Uranometria has a surface brightness of 14.2 and M101's is 14.9...tricky!

I picked an easy one to start with, then...

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On a really dark night at home I can see M33 in 8x40 binoculars as a very faint patch of slightly brighter sky in a relatively barren area of the sky. If there is any light pollution or moonlite in the sky it becomes hard even with my 12" dob. M101 is a bit tougher again.

Calvin / estwing's data demonstrates the massive difference between the published integrated magnitude figure for M33 of mag 5.7 and the actual brightness of the extended surface of the galaxy and that provides the observing challenge.

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Happy you got M33.?

This faint fuzzys hunting reminds me of my quest into galaxy bagging. Like you I got the star maps out , star hopping. But faint fuzzys were just not there(to my eyes anyway) even though they were. Even aperture does not always help. You really do need dark sky's to get these objectives pop to you. If light pollution or moon is out then it is difficult to say the least sometimes. What did help me with faint fuzzys, is obviously dark sky conditions, the darker the better, but the 28mm William optics and 20mm Nagler did really help in locating faint fuzzys with star hopping with their extra fov. Averted vision can help surprising well also . IMO faint fuzzys are best under truly dark sky's and then with as much aperture you can lay your hand on. Well done and there is plenty more galaxy's out there for you to bag?

   

 

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2 hours ago, Timebandit said:

This faint fuzzys hunting...

I thought I was after the second biggest, second brightest fuzzy going... ha!

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