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A little late in posting this one due to work and the arrival of a new/old ‘scope but wanted to record my first solo trip to a darker site and a memorable observing session.
As dark fell last Thursday (May 6th) there was a deep clarity to the sky that convinced me to do something I'd been threatening to do since the end of lockdown, put the gear in the car and drive 15 minutes out of town to a local country park. Farley Mount is a favourite viewpoint around Winchester and I'd previously clocked its near 360 degree horizon and elevated position away from immediate lights.
The dis-incentive to date had been a ten minute walk from the car park through deep and ancient Yew woodland to the observing site, but the sky conditions, largely moonless night, & a lighter day in the diary at work Friday convinced me to bite the bullet. I don't mind admitting I was bit nervous for no rational reason, I'm a big lad and despite any local superstition all I'm really likely to run into up there is the occasional poacher (I took the chance the cold would keep al fresco couples and any attendant, ahem, spectators indoors).
Nevertheless I was glad of the relaxed Canadian astro-dude banter of the Objects to Observe in May edition of the Actual Astronomy podcast in the car on the way up there and as an extra precaution took my heavy and very bright night-watchman style Maglite torch/truncheon for reassurance. I was pleased to find the car park deserted, no steamy cars or worse still, blood-stained pickups with deer in the back in evidence. The sky was mesmerising however, good seeing and good to excellent transparency. By the time I'd walked in, selected a spot allowing use of a handy bench as observing table and gone through the familiar routine of set-up I’d got very happy with my isolated situation and ready to track down some more spring Messier objects.
This site is about 10 miles from Southampton and with a clear line of sight down to the dockyards and the ships strung out along the Solent and on toward Portsmouth. Beautiful in its own right but casting a glow to South and South East up to about 50 degrees. Basingstoke glows dimly over the Northern horizon about 20 miles away but only seemed to be affecting a dome up to about 15 degrees. All other directions were dark to the horizon and no local lights at all. This is a big step up from the local park! The Milky Way was very plainly visible along with M13 and 10+ stars in Ursa Minor.
I used a Mak 127 on an AZ GTi, Baader Hyperion 24mm giving 63x magnification, a Neodymium filter and occasionally switched in a Baader Zoom 8-24mm to up the power.
Aligned Vega & Arcturus then slewed to Vindemiatrix as a start point for some of the galaxies I haven't yet spotted in Virgo & Comma B.
Took a quick look at M86 & M84 region first to gauge conditions against my last session in that area of sky and it was immediately clear the darker site and clear sky made a huge difference. The galaxies sprung out in 9x50 finder and I could see more of the nebulous regions surrounding the core. Took a quick sweep NE along Markarian's chain from there and it was dotted with 7 or 8 fuzzy patches in the same field, amazing.
By this time I was getting dark adapted and relaxing into the new environment, so turned to new targets.I orientated myself through the finder in a triangle between Vindemiatrix, Porrima and Omicron Virginis and started hunting for a fuzzy patch between a diagonal pair just off centre right (in RACI view) of that region…
M49 – Spent quite a while hunting this one before realising I’d aligned on the wrong fuzzy patch between a diagonal pair & had to resort to Stellarium on the iPad to find an optical triple in the bottom right of field which confirmed I was in fact looking at NGC4526/NGC4560 – “The Lost Galaxy” apparently now found. A quick sweep up and West found a wider spaced pair and there was a faint fuzzy cloud with a slightly brighter centre, surprisingly dim though. Not a lot of features so moved on but M49 located.
M85 - found to R of 11 Coma Berenices, verified by the presence of dim star on lower R edge. Not much detail but nice to find.
M100 – moved to 6 Coma Berenices as a reference then up and W to place a pair bottom L and look for M100 top right, eventually perceived as much as saw this – to my eye was only visible in averted vision – some sense of circular shape, apparent but really dim, brought home the vast distance (55 Million light years).
M99 – back to 6 C.B. and put it in the top L of the field and a little down to the right, along the base of a low triangle of dim stars was M99 – a highlight of the night, whilst very faint showing some spiral structure- took a long look at this one.
M98 – back the other side of 6 C.B an oblique egde on clearly visible as a “stripe” – reminded me of a dim M82.
M61 – Looking half way along the line between Porrima and Omicron Virginis this one took me ages to find. I kept going to the spot where I thought should be and panning around not finding much. Tried a GoTo and that landed me in the dark. Eventually used Stellarium live on the iPad to confirm I had 16 Virginis and a line of 3 stars above in the field then moved up & found M61 between its 2 bridging stars. Another one very faint, and with averted vision some cloudy spiral form was visible.
That all took a while and I was a bit cold so I decided to just hit GoTo on some targets of opportunity and see what I could find. Transparency up at the Zenith and over into Lyra and Cygnus was by this time superb.
I had a bit of globular-fest alighting on:
M13 which looked superb with many stars resolved and not for the first time a hint of dark lanes.
M92 – smaller area than M13 and dimmer with less resolution but still lovely and a new “M” for me.
M3 – Jumping around a bit but this is the first globular I found in binoculars and I wanted to compare.
M5 – Tighter than M13 but I think slightly more spectacular, may be my favourite so far.
M10 & M12 in Ophiuchus – easily popping into view in the finder.
Have to confess I’d stopped really making notes by this stage. After all that galaxy hunting at the limits of both scope (and more to the point observer), the GoTo was behaving and the globulars look like celestial fireworks and are so easy to spot – great fun!
Couldn’t resist a look over at M57 and things were so crisp and transparent over there I tried for M27 also and there it was, bigger than M57 and with a discernible double sphere shape.
I rounded off with a super view of M81/82 with a sense of shape in M81 and of dark band across M82. Also notable was that where the other galaxies I’d viewed that night were grey mists of varying density – these appeared both brighter and golden in colour. Really amazing view.
Just one more… (it was gone 2.30 am by this time and getting a bit blowy which wasn’t helping tripod stability or my core temperature!)
M51 – great view with twin cores, a discernible spiral and a lane of connecting stars between the two centres. Amazing way to finish.
An unashamed Messier-ticking session then but some unforgettable views and firsts, I am already plotting my next darker sky run, now, how far do I have to go to lose the glow from all those dockyards…?
Not sure what topic to put this in but I've been struggling with deep sky stacker, because of my optlong ccd light pollution filter most nebulas come out one shade of red, for example the Monkey's head nebula, see attached example. Dumbell and ring turned out as seen online and Stellarium. All 3 images were taken with a rct f/8 and a canon 600DA. I've never tried these objects without the filter as I got new equipment and this is the most active I've been in my hobby for many years. I'm not spending hundreds or thousands on software so preferably if i can get the correct colour on these with dss or some other free/semi free software that would be great. Thanks
A very crisp and cold night. I added more luminance data and also collected some RGB for NGC 2841. There is now around 4 hours in L and an hour each in R, G and B. The subs are 114s at a gain of 139.
NGC 2841 is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the northern circumpolar constellation of Ursa Major. A 2001 Hubble Space Telescope survey of the galaxy's Cepheid variables determined its distance to be approximately 14.1 megaparsecs or 46 million light-years.
This is the prototype for the flocculent spiral galaxy, a type of spiral galaxy whose arms are patchy and discontinuous. The morphological class is SAa, indicating a spiral galaxy with no central bar and very tightly-wound arms. There is no grand design structure visible in the optical band, although some inner spiral arms can be seen in the near infrared.
The properties of NGC 2841 are similar to those of the Andromeda Galaxy. It is home to a large population of young blue stars, and a few H II regions. The luminosity of the galaxy is 2×1010 M☉ and it has a combined mass of 7×1010 M☉. Its disk of stars can be traced out to a radius of around 228 kly (70 kpc). This disk begins to warp at a radius of around 98 kly (30 kpc), suggesting the perturbing effect of in-falling matter from the surrounding medium.
The rotational behaviour of the galaxy suggests there is a massive nuclear bulge, with a low-ionization nuclear emission-line region at the core; a type of region that is characterized by spectral line emission from weakly ionized atoms. A prominent molecular ring is orbiting at a radius of 7–20 kly (2–6 kpc), which is providing a star-forming region of gas and dust. The nucleus appears decoupled and there is a counter-rotating element of stars and gas in the outer parts of the nucleus, suggesting a recent interaction with a smaller galaxy.
Equipment: Celestron 9.25 XLT at F10, Skywatcher EQ6 Pro GEM, ZWO 1600MM Pro, ZWO EFW with ZWO LRGB filters, QHY5IIC guide camera on Skywatcher 9 x 50 finderscope
Looking clear so I have been preparing my galaxy target list. I have been doing this for a while so these galaxies are typically mag 13/14 with a relatively high surface brightness in the plough.
They have been selected using the skytools software. I have preflagged those galaxies that look possible with my 20 inch dob in mag 5 skies. Normally I have a 90% success rate with this method.
I pick those to the N to NE which is darker for me as this is towards the Cotswolds.
I have printed off charts to aid with star hoping. I use a RACI finder, then a 16mm eyepiece to locate the field and then a 10mm eyepiece to spot the galaxy. I might get through 7/8 galaxies in a session.
So the list:
For the finale I will try the NGC3561/ARP105/NGC3554/NGC3552/NGC3550 group to see how many I can pick out.
Now I just need the sky to stay clear.
If you fancy observing any of these tonight we can compare notes.
Hi! So Ive found some pictures from an arxiv report in a database which I need for my project and converted them to fits files (The picture on the left). The one that was used in the arxiv report (picture on right) is a zoomed in picture of a galaxy in that picture, where its clearly visible. However when I try zooming in on the exakt coordinates of the galaxy in the fits image, its just plain black. I want the picture "raw", that's why I saved it as fits and not their pdf picture from report. Someone suggested first stretching the image for a more detailed image but some filters had to be used though... the only thing I can find on the tables of the images is that filter F160W was used. I have no idea how to move forward now, completely stuck. Would appreciate some help!