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Messier Medley and a Comet


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Messier Medley and a comet

An unexpected sky full of stars greeted me when I awok in the middle of the night. Checking the weather and stepping oputside, it looked like there were going to be several patches of clear skies for the rest of thr night. Quickly dressing and dragging the Dob' outside I managed to get set up as the streetlights turned off, so it was nice and dark.

It seemed strange to see Ursa Major rising in the East when I have been used to seeing it settle in the West. I had woken the familiy up in my preparations and they dutifully stepped out expecting a wonder of the night sky. They were not disappointed. M42 was spectacular this cold night (about 4c). The trapezium was clear in a darker area and the 'wings' spread right across the field of view of my 26mm eyepiece.

After they had returned to their slumbers I set about tonights business which was an observation of M1 and an attempt to track down C/2017 T2 Panstarrs.

M1 was first on the list to get my eyes practiced before comet hunting. Isnt go-to wonderful -straight there. A clear misty patch with a slight elongation. It looked better with the 15mm ep that gave it more contrast although I could not make out any structures apart from the overall shape. I remember how I had struggled to locate this with my little refractor star hopping last year.

The Panstarrs comet was next. I had already looked up its expected co-ordinates for this time and entered them into 'user object #1' noting that it was near M38 and some other nearby star patterns. Slewing to M38 I heard a clonk from the scope tube and M38 was right at the edge of the field. I hadnt done the dec bolt up fully secure and so the tube had settled slighthly in the mount - doh. After re-alighning using the sync-encoders function on Pollux which had been one of my alignment stars I started again. Fortunatley I did not have to hunt about after recalling user-object #1, a very faint misty ball was present as I scoured the field of view. Checking my notes of nearby stars it was in exactly the right place. Hooray. 
I pulled up my scarf, settled onto my stool and stared into the blackness trying to get as much accommodation and light as possible. The fuzz drifted in and out of visibility and just maybe I could see some elongation - or was it my mind playing tricks? I didnt feel like getting the camera out this evening to probe further with a time exposure. Seeing was good enough tonight and I would leave that to a few weeks time when it should be a bit brighter.

The sky was still gorgeously clear and having located my goal it was play-time with a cluster hunt.

M79 and M93 were too low and below the fence.
M46 47 48 and 50 were more fruitful. M47 had a nice V shape within its varying magniture open cluster of stars.
M41 filled the field nicely and included a few orange stars.
M74 was quite small and looked like a couple of stars within a misty patch. Probably better with a time exposure.
M36 36 37 and 38 (again) followed. I hadnt noticed the bright star in the middle of M37 before so that was nice.

Finally, it was nearly time for the street lights to come on so I finished with Caroline's Cluster NGC 2360. Named after Caroline Herschel who discovered it.

A very pleasurable night out, after so much rain, and a chance to practice some sketching.

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Edited by Fraunhoffer
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