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Ignoring that pessimistic weatherman and trusting in the blue sky above me, I put the dob out to cool around 9:30pm. Returning to it around 10:45pm, I performed a quick collimation check and then took in the constellations available to me. Vega caught my and proved useful for aligning my finders with. Where to go? What to see? M57 was the answer. The little ring of cosmic dust tells the story of the death of a star. Moving closer in revealed a faint star on the outside of the ring. The central star too faint for my telescope. In complete contrast, the great globular cluster of Hercules contains hundreds of thousands of stars. At high power, I can almost fill the entire field of view with stars. My eye doesn't know where to focus, there's almost too much to see. Drifting down, I find a faint grey smudge. This is the galaxy NGC 6207, which I have never seen before. I make eyepiece changes to slowly reduce the magnification bringing the galaxy and the globular cluster into the same field of view. The galaxy has always been there, I just never thought to look for it until tonight. I go in search of another globular cluster, NGC 6229. Again thousands of stars but it seems so small after the previous expansive cluster. Higher powers do reveal the granulation from all those stars at its core.

Overhead a bright light starts to move across the sky. The ISS! I decide to chase it with the scope. Initially, just managing fleeting glances and then starting to track it. Soon I am following it at 133x magnification and tweaking focus as I go. I can make out the basic outline of the space station. As it disappears out of view, my heart is racing from the thrill of the chase. 

Pointing the scope high overhead, I find a pattern of three stars in Ursa Major. Next to these 3 stars are 3 galaxies. Two are very close to each, NGC 5353 and NGC 5354 and a third, NGC 5350, is a bit further away. Within one of these galaxies a star has gone Supernova and the light is only now reaching us. The galaxy, NGC 5353, is 119 million light years away. I reach 200x magnification and begin the process of letting the pair of galaxies drift through the eyepiece. The supernova appears out of range until a chance knock of the telescope gives a slight wobble and briefly the faint point of light is seen. Encouraged, I continue to search and after a few minutes I have learned where to place my eye to see the supernova with averted vision. It is my second time observing this supernova but it still feels special. An event that will pass most of the planet by unnoticed. I lose view of the galaxies and look up to see that the weatherman's clouds have arrived. Before the sky is completely lost, I enjoy a close pair of stars known as Izar. The tiny blue companion star is a favourite sight of mine. Time now to come in from the peace of the universe and reflect on just how nice it is to look up.

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Lovely report Neil - very nicely related :smiley:

The group of galaxies here is known as Hickson 68 and is a worthwhile target under a dark sky even when there is no supernova to draw attention to it IMHO.

Tonight here the thin cloud precluded galaxy / SN spotting so I had to stick to some of the brighter binary stars.

 

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Very nice report indeed. It is a very satisfying experience to push the boundaries of what one can see...

 

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That's brilliant. You nailed it observing-wise and writing-wise. You articulate exactly what I like about stargazing and, after a very lean few months, I really needed that reminder. Thanks very much.

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4 hours ago, domstar said:

That's brilliant. You nailed it observing-wise and writing-wise. You articulate exactly what I like about stargazing and, after a very lean few months, I really needed that reminder. Thanks very much.

Thanks Dom. I'm glad you enjoyed the report! Sorry to hear the clouds haven't been kind to you. I had a slow start to the year but things have picked up in recent months. Fingers crossed you get some clear skies soon :) 

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