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25th April - Devon Deep Sky

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I was in Devon last week and took a ST120/Porta 2 grab and go set up to take advantage of any solar or deep sky opportunities. I got a couple of great solar sessions in but the best session of the week was Thursday night deep sky.

We were staying in a fairly remote place so there was none of the sky-dome-glow I get at home from the nearby cities. However there was a particularly fierce security light nearby which was a shame. Overall NELM was about 5.0-5.1 which is better than home which is usually 4.5 or so at the zenith after the street lights go out. It was cold and clear – Corona Borealis and Coma Berenices were easily visible when they are not at home. Melotte 111 was noticeable. It’s interesting what a difference half a magnitude makes.

I had a good view to the east and south and decided to make the best of it and go for faint fuzzies. My set up was just a dielectric mirror diagonal and a Baader MkIV 8mm-24mm eyepiece. I had a 2.5x powermate and a semi-apo filter on hand but didn’t use either of them in the end. Most of the time I was either at 24mm (25x and 1.9 degrees fov) or 8mm (75x and 0.9 degrees fov). This set up was great - the only workload being the need to refocus at different zoom settings. I had a quick look in Coma Berenices...

M53 – clearly visible directly, unresolved but obviously a globular. Significantly brighter in averted vision.

NGC5053 – tried for this but not seen. I saw tougher targets later – maybe my night vision was still getting going.

...then I decided to go for the Messiers from Coma Berenices through to Hydra, but work upwards from the horizon to get the low ones first. 

M68 – Faint in direct vision, obvious globular.

M83 – tried but just out of sight behind a hill.

Delta Corvi – used this to hop to M104 but stopped to have a quick look at this double – very nice at 75x, a faint secondary but wide at 24.5” so it’s easy to enjoy.

M104 – shape/elongation apparent.

M61 – no shape but clearly visible.

M49 – slightly more dispersed and fainter than M61 (I’ve looked this up since - it is apparently brighter but more spread out). No shape or elongation seen.

M59, M60, M58 seen at 25x in the same field of view.

M89 – tougher than M58.

M90 – same field of view as M89 at 25x, but harder to see. Shape/elongation noticeable.

M87 – no shape.

M86 – really big.

M84 – in same field of view as M86, M84 looks brighter (another interesting one – M84 is actually dimmer but more condensed).

NGC4438 very faint, next to M86.

NGC4435 super faint and small.

These 2 NGC’s I had to look quite hard for and also double check sky safari – they were clearly extended fuzzies and there are no faint stars to mistake them for so I considered these confirmed.

M91 – mega faint, averted vision only at 25x, just doable direct vision at 75x.

M88 – much bigger and easier than M91, has a shape/elongation.

M99 – just visible direct vision at 25x.

M98 – much bigger than M99, has a shape/elongation. Easier to see if I move the field of view to get the dazzling(!) 6 Coma Berenices out of the way.

M100 – smaller than M98, no shape or elongation.

M85 – distinct star on its edge.

NGC 4394 – much fainter than M85, only just visible directly, much better in averted vision.

M64 – has a shape and elongation, quite big.

I don’t usually observe so many objects but I got into the mind set to bag as many as I could so I didn’t rest on any one object for long. Having run out of Messiers in this area I moved up to Ursa Major. This required fiddling around with my scope to allow it to point almost straight up.

M51 – visible in finder scope! Huge - great view, 2 distinct parts, one larger and more extended than the other, both with distinct cores and halos. I wondered if structure would be apparent with patience but I was on a mission to bag some more and moved on (I regret this in hindsight).

M101 – large, seen in direct vision, but what I’ll remember is that I get startled by what I guess was a meteor flashing across the field of view super fast.

M102 – sits in a distinctive nest of stars (to my eyes). Has a shape/elongation, only just visible in direct vision.

It was midnight and I had been out for 2 hours, a very long time for me. I looked up and thin clouds were moving in so I called it a night. Now I was as dark adapted as possible the effect of the security light was stark – all around me looked lit up like daytime. I wonder what it would have been like if that had not been there. I had seen shape/size/elongation of galaxies but no confirmed structures, but I think I was close to seeing structures and I hold the security light personally responsible for me missing out! However it was a great session and I pack up tired but very happy.

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Great session Paz, that's a fine haul of objects you got there. Sounds like you got a pretty good view of M51 considering that annoying security light!

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1 hour ago, Stu said:

Great session Paz, that's a fine haul of objects you got there. Sounds like you got a pretty good view of M51 considering that annoying security light!

Yes, all things considered I can't complain!

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15 hours ago, Piero said:

Super session, Paz! :)

you make me wish my new coming dobson even more!

Good luck with your dob, I am sure you have lots of good times coming. It would have been good to have had my dobsonian for this session, but fitting that in the car would have entailed leaving the family behind!

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