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M94 - Where have you been all my life?


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Following on from last nights sessions - see here for report: 

 

M94 was a bit of a surprise to me. I've never tried to view it before and to be honest, hadn't really been aware of it. It was quite easy to find, very bright and even had some detail in the dimmer parts. Far better viewing than the Leo Triple that I started trying to observe early last year, after several suggestions it was a good beginner target. Nearby M106 was very good, too.

It made me think. Was last night just a really good night for faint fuzzies, or is M94 a good (and relatively secret) beginner's target? 

 

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It wasn't clear here.  100+% humidity!

Well done on your spot.  I think will be one for later in the year for me, it tends to be very dirty looking north at reasonable hours.

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Last spring I observed M94 on multiple occasions with a 5 inch Mak. I agree it is relatively bright and stands some light pollution. My skies are Bortle 5 bordering on Bortle 6. It's a nice target indeed!

While you are in the area check out M63, another relatively bright galaxy close to Cor Caroli. It makes a right angled triangle with M94 and Cor Caroli:

M63.thumb.jpg.f210da95be31dd717afd012751405388.jpg

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These look like fun targets. Do you think they'll be visible to me tonight (Bortle 4), given the current moon phase?

Edited to say that this would be in a 6 inch dob.

Edited by Orange Smartie
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3 minutes ago, Orange Smartie said:

These look like fun targets. Do you think they'll be visible to me tonight (Bortle 4), given the current moon phase?

Edited to say that this would be in a 6 inch dob.

That's what I'm not sure about - was it just down to the very transparent sky? But there's only one way to find out!

M94 was bright, though. I would imagine it would be no problem in Bortle 4. I'm in 5/6 and managed to see more than just the core. 

Try the Whirlpool too (M51).

The later you leave it, the less you'll have to contend with the moon. It sets at 01:20 - but Ursa Major will rise higher, the later you wait. It can be a little bit trickier to use a and track with a dob when things are nearer the zenith..

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3 hours ago, Nik271 said:

Last spring I observed M94 on multiple occasions with a 5 inch Mak. I agree it is relatively bright and stands some light pollution. My skies are Bortle 5 bordering on Bortle 6. It's a nice target indeed!

While you are in the area check out M63, another relatively bright galaxy close to Cor Caroli. It makes a right angled triangle with M94 and Cor Caroli:

M63.thumb.jpg.f210da95be31dd717afd012751405388.jpg

Thank you  - as a recent 5" Mak owner I'd be interested to hear of any of the other Messier galaxies you consider worth trying to track down under similar skies (I am in Winchester) with this 'scope.  I've seen M31 & understand M81 is possible, but otherwise drawn a blank in this category of object & already had a number of fruitless earches for the Leo Trio etc...   

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1 hour ago, Orange Smartie said:

Thanks Pixies.

I managed to find M51 the other day (I think), but was a little underwhelmed. Is M94 brighter than M51?

Yes.  Considerably so, as far as my last viewing was concerned.

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18 hours ago, SuburbanMak said:

Thank you  - as a recent 5" Mak owner I'd be interested to hear of any of the other Messier galaxies you consider worth trying to track down under similar skies (I am in Winchester) with this 'scope.  I've seen M31 & understand M81 is possible, but otherwise drawn a blank in this category of object & already had a number of fruitless earches for the Leo Trio etc...   

I found that the Seyfert galaxies are easier to spot from light polluted skies with a 5 inch scope. These galaxies have a very bright core, which makes them easier to see as opposed to more diffused galaxies. From the Messier list M51, M66, M77, M81 and M88 are Seyfert galaxies.

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19 hours ago, Orange Smartie said:

These look like fun targets. Do you think they'll be visible to me tonight (Bortle 4), given the current moon phase?

Edited to say that this would be in a 6 inch dob.

Yes, they should be visible. Last night was very clear here. I saw M94 and even the Owl nebula M97 which had eluded me until now. I used an 7 inch Mak, which is not really a DSO instrument, a 6 inch Newtonian will be ideal.

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1 hour ago, Nik271 said:

Yes, they should be visible. Last night was very clear here. I saw M94 and even the Owl nebula M97 which had eluded me until now. I used an 7 inch Mak, which is not really a DSO instrument, a 6 inch Newtonian will be ideal.

I managed to find both M63 and M94 last night with difficulty.  The moon was very bright and casting a clear shadow and I was having issues with stray light hitting the secondary of my flex-tube dob (must get round to making the light shield).  With M63, I was definitely looking in the right area but could only actually see the galaxy after I orientated myself with respect to 19/20/23 CVn and HR4997, which confirmed to me the value of reference points. 

At what time were you observing?  If I'd waited a bit longer to take a look at them I'm sure I'd have found it easier.

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2 hours ago, Nik271 said:

I found that the Seyfert galaxies are easier to spot from light polluted skies with a 5 inch scope. These galaxies have a very bright core, which makes them easier to see as opposed to more diffused galaxies. From the Messier list M51, M66, M77, M81 and M88 are Seyfert galaxies.

This is great thank you - nice to have some realistic galaxy targets to start on.  

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32 minutes ago, Orange Smartie said:

I managed to find both M63 and M94 last night with difficulty.  The moon was very bright and casting a clear shadow and I was having issues with stray light hitting the secondary of my flex-tube dob (must get round to making the light shield).  With M63, I was definitely looking in the right area but could only actually see the galaxy after I orientated myself with respect to 19/20/23 CVn and HR4997, which confirmed to me the value of reference points. 

At what time were you observing?  If I'd waited a bit longer to take a look at them I'm sure I'd have found it easier.

I was looking at M94 and M97 at 10pm. The moon was lower and behind a tree which helped.

My biggest difficulty with DSO is actually not so much the sky but the ambient light around me which makes dark adaptations almost impossible.

Its so bright that I can read a large atlas  in the ambient light :(  So I use a thick towel draped over my head, which helps quite a bit :) 

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Just to give illustration of the dramatic difference the altitude of the target makes, compare these two photos. I was trying to photograph Vesta in Leo yesterday and spot its movement. First photo is at 8pm and the second is at 10:20pm. Sadly Vesta did not move visibly but compare the level of detail visible. In the 10pm photo I can even spot  the faint Leo triplet.  

At 8pm:

V8pm.thumb.jpg.85a4bb3ed544d10329e6466f27e70457.jpg

 

and at 10pm:InkedV10pm.thumb.jpg.8f193fbecddb950b9f4f96d3d741444c.jpg

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On 19/02/2021 at 10:49, Nik271 said:

Just to give illustration of the dramatic difference the altitude of the target makes, compare these two photos. I was trying to photograph Vesta in Leo yesterday and spot its movement. First photo is at 8pm and the second is at 10:20pm. Sadly Vesta did not move visibly but compare the level of detail visible. In the 10pm photo I can even spot  the faint Leo triplet.  

At 8pm:

V8pm.thumb.jpg.85a4bb3ed544d10329e6466f27e70457.jpg

 

and at 10pm:InkedV10pm.thumb.jpg.8f193fbecddb950b9f4f96d3d741444c.jpg

Nik,  I'm interested in how you got your photographs, I'm guessing it's a camera attached to the telescope mount.  Can you tell me/us what you use please?  Lens, speeds etc?  Thanks

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16 hours ago, Capt Slog said:

Nik,  I'm interested in how you got your photographs, I'm guessing it's a camera attached to the telescope mount.  Can you tell me/us what you use please?  Lens, speeds etc?  Thanks

Actually I did not use a mount at all, just a basic tripod. The key is to use a fast lens and take multiple exposures which are then stacked in a program called Deep Sky Stacker (DSS). You can find tutorials about it in the imaging section. But actually you don't even need to use DSS to show the stars up to 7-8 magnitude, DSS is needed to reduce the noise and show up faint nebulosity which otherwise will be lost to the noise. 

The particular detail of the above photos are: Canon EOS 250d camera with 50mm F1.8 lens. I took 9 exposures of 4 seconds each at F1.8 and ISO 400 and stacked them. Then I played with curves and levels in GIMP to improve the contrast. For the duration of the exposures I follow a very conservative '200' rule: 200 divided by the focal length of the lens. It used to be '500' rule in the age of film but modern cameras have small pixels which show the star blur too much and I found '200/focal length' works for my camera most of the time. By the way this video goes in depth about the most accurate rule:

  

 

Of course if you have motorised tracking mount you can do much longer exposures with accurate polar alignment. I just believe that for wide angle shots you can get good results without tracking. It certainly saves time setting up when taking night photos especially if you need to move the gear somewhere out of the way in the dark.

 

There is a a ton of knowledge about imaging in the other sections and it rapidly gets very technical and the gear very expensive. For me - I stick to brighter objects and try to keep it simple.

Clear skies!

 

Nik

Edited by Nik271
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Thanks Nik.

I've read about stacking and seen videos of how it's done, usually involving a lot more frames, blanks, darks etc..  Your method seems less labour intensive!

I've tried 'through the scope' using an adaptor, but didn't get very far at all.  The shake of the shutter opening was enough to create wiggles, let alone the star trails I'd get from just a few seconds of exposure.  I also tried holding a piece of card in front of the telescope, opening the shutter (set for say 10 secs)  waiting for 5 secs before removing the card and letting the camera close normally.  That gave me a theoretically a 5 sec exposure, wobble free.   Lets just say it's a work in progress  :)

I'm not worried about the quality of the pics I get, I'd just like a definitive 'proof' that I was looking at the point I thought i was looking by comparing the pic to a Stelarium type program.

 

Back on the topic of the thread.  I managed to see M94 last night, so thank you to @Pixies for the recommendation.

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