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BiggarDigger

The benefits of planning for the Bowl of Virgo

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Hi everyone, last month I had my first brush with The Bowl of Virgo and I was taken aback with the number and different categories of galaxy that were observable through my 200P Dob.  So much so that although very satisfied, I felt I needed much better planning to be able to enjoy the session to its maximum.  So, I studied the star charts, reviewed Turn Left at Orion and cross checked against Stellarium.  It must be the curse of observing in Scotland, because since then every night has been blocked out with (even more) snow, low dense cloud or been a work nigh making it difficult to get out.

Last night was different however.  The Clear Outside App promised clear skies from abut 10pm through to dawn, so I made my excuses and took the scope out into the back garden to cool down while I retreated to back inside to kit up with thermals.  Back out at 10:30pm to mostly clear skies, and only traces of high altitude cirrus.

While letting my eyes adapt, I took in M13, experimenting with different eyepieces and getting some fantastic views with the stock 25mm plus a 2x Barlow.  The cluster was clearly defined with many individual stars visible.

Next onto my target for the night and over to the Bowl of Virgo.  Last month, I vaguely wafted the scope about starting from a line extending from the rump of Leo.  This time, I had decided a much more structured approach was needed, so starting at Vindemiatrix as Turn Left at Orion suggested and cross checking against mobile Stellarium, I hopped slowly by steadily from NGC 4762 and NGC 4754 to NGC 4660 and up to M60 and M59.  From there, again star hopping to M58.  Next on the bucket list was NGC 4550, though I'm not certain about bagging NGC 4551, even with averted vision.  Then up to M89 and South to  M87, which was a fair hop, taking me a few goes getting back and forth and making sure I had the right stars in the field of view to jump form one to the next.  As I approached Markarian's Chain, I looked for, but not certain of observing NGC 4440.

Not to worry, for next in the list was the Chain, starting with NGC 4388, M84 and M86, then back towards the East to The Eyes NGC 4438 and NGC 4435.  The latter two objects fuzzing into what seemed like one object with two brighter cores close by each other.  Walking further along the chain taking in NGC 4461 NGC 4473, NGC 4477, NGC 4459,  and NGC 4474 pausing for a while on M88.

Feeling more confident now star hopping, I decide that I would navigate across to M99 and M98, taking in NGC 4419 and maybe NGC 4377 along the way.  From there it was a couple of bright stars back to M100 and North to NGC 4350 and NGC 4340 before ending up at M85.  Again pausing there to catch my bearings, I pitched South to  NGC 4450 and a big jump to M88 followed by M91 and another big hop to M90. 

Continuing South, I picked up on M58 again and further on NGC 4564.  From there further South still to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568.  My eventual target by now was M61, so continuing down through the Bowl taking in NGC 4578 (just observable with averted vision), onto the enigmatically named McLeish's Object and the Lost Galaxy, NGC 4535 and NGC 4526 respectively.  From there a short hop to M49 really bright and distinctive.

At this point my star hopping let me down and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't make the jump to M61, the gaps between identifiable stars was just too great and no amount of resetting on M49 could get me close to my quarry.  No matter, looking at the charts, I was able to manually align on an imaginary right angle between Auva and Zaniah (comprising the bottom of the Bowl).  Using that method and a bit of nudging left and right M61 came into view and my quest for the night was satisfied.  

But the night was't over.  Jupiter was up and by now clear of the ridge of our shed roof.  It was getting late and even though much warmer than of late, I was starting to feel the chill in my fingers through the thermal gloves, but it was too good an opportunity to miss.  Viewing Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto plus the cloud bands of Jupiter itself through various eyepieces was the icing on the cake.  I packed up at 01:30, tired and cold but very satisfied that proper planning had allowed me to tick off so many objects that I had probably observed previously, but not been able to be sure about.

The season is almost over at this latitude as the nights get lighter and lighter.  The forecast is not good for the rest of this week and by then moon will be wiping out most DSO's for another two weeks.  That will take me to early to mid May by which time it won't be dark enough until perhaps midnight or beyond.  If this is indeed my last DSO session until late August/September, it was a nice way to go out.

 

Richard.

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Great session, amazing haul there. All with an 8 inch dob. Well done and what a way to go.

steve 

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Superb , 8" punches well above its aperture under clear skies ! Nick,

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57 minutes ago, cotterless45 said:

Superb , 8" punches well above its aperture under clear skies ! Nick,

Yes Nick, I'll never forget the views we had at Rosliston with that 8 inch dob of mine.

steve 

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Still being relatively new to the hobby (at least in a serious way), I'm probably not qualified enough to comment in a meaningful manner on the performance of the 8 inch dob.  What I can say is it is significantly better than my previous Astromaster 130eq and under clear skies I'm mightily impressed.

Many of the galaxies observed on Saturday night were fuzzy blobs, but reading comments from more experienced stargazers, this is completely normal. Pausing on each target for a few minutes often pulled out additional fuzzy details.

What pleased me so much though was the ability to pull all the reference material together and have a mind map of push here or pull there with the dob.  So much easier and more satisfying than randomly wafting the scope about and getting lost in the sheer number of objects in Virgo.

 

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