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Touring Monoceros

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Friday 16/Jan – Sat 17 Jan 2020, UK


The weather forecast had been changeable all day, but looked promising in spite of the considerable amounts of moisture in the air.

I set my alarm for 10:30 pm and retired early, hoping to get a few hours observing in before the moon-rise just after 1am.

The night was a lot clearer that I expected, so I set up my little Bresser 102s/600 & Exos2 in the back garden and visited a few favourites to check everything out. The Pleiades looked crisp and clear, M42 was a delight with the wings spreading across the field of view. The trapezium was very clear tonight. Surprised with the clarity, I swung over to M1, and there it was and small grey irregular fuzzy patch. Its not often I can see this in my small refractor. A UHC filter helped the dim the background slightly.

My Messier list has several gaps from when I started it January 2019. Sirius was just off due south, shining brightly over the fence and the neighbours houses so I attempted some of the low elevation objects.

I was very pleased to be able to add a umber of these clusters to my list: M41, M93, M46 and M47. The 15mm eyepiece worked well for all these of these. M79 eluded me, I needed a better view and to be set up earlier around 10pm.

Monoceros was now riding high so I started a short tour of this faint constellation that I’ve not really looked at before.
Beta Monoceros was not in the goto dictionary, so I went back to old-school star hopping to find it.  A modest slightly egg shaped star was visible in the 15mm ep, so I popped in the 8mm and then the 5mm. When the atmosphere settled all 3 of the triple star system were resolved, B and C almost appearing to touch. The 5mm didn’t not really add to the experience apart from being able to see diffraction rings (they were round) and slightly blurry stars. The separation of these stars is about 7.4  and 2.8 arc sec. Since the Rayleigh limit of my refactor is approx. 1.35 arc sec, that was really very good and attests to the unusual (and unexpected) clarity of this evenings sky.

NGC 2301 (the bird cluster): well it sort of looked like you might draw a bird in flight with 2 granular patches on my left side.

NGC 2264 (Christmas tree cluster): A nice clear pine tree outline. No sign of any nebulosity. I will have to return with the camera.

M50: a clear open cluster with a group of well resolved stars, more visible with averted vision.

M48: a large cluster easily seen in the 25mm ep with a denser core and an L shaped pattern of brighter stars near the centre.

It was now nearly 1 am and I still had a bit of time before the moon rose, so I swung around to Ursa Major near the zenith and grovelled near the floor to see M81 and M82 in the same view with the 25mm ep. The round and elongated shapes were clearly visible, but no detail.

Seeking a challenge, I edged down to look for M97 (more grovelling near the floor looking up) not expecting to see anything. Surprise, there was a very faint round grey patch with what I call the 3 ‘locating stars’ to the side. A UHC filter and swapping in the 15mm ep (this is becoming my favourite EP) helped darken the sky to discern a faint fuzzy small tennis ball shape. No ‘eyes’ were visible. Again I was surprised how clear the evening had become as the temperature dropped towards zero and remembered how difficult it had been to find this a year ago even with the aid of a piggy back camera.

Trying to make the most of the night, I covered the scope over and retired and dozed for a couple of hours before touring the early morning half (waning) moon terminator and sketching the sun setting over the craters and mountains.

Thank you for reading – clear skies.

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Pleasure to read and what a very rich area to observe,


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Super report - thanks for posting :smiley:

Shows that you can get a lot out of a dark winter sky with a smaller aperture scope !


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