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Winter Clusters and a Galactic First.


SuburbanMak
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The promised hole in the sky duly materialised tonight over Hampshire and, barring the odd drifting bank of high cloud, delivered some fantastic views before moon-rise. 

I'd been mulling over upgrading from the supplied SW prism for a while and having enjoyed splitting doubles over the full moon plumped for a Tak prism which arrived in the week. Tonight I was keen to test this on some familiar winter clusters and add a few of the Messier objects I'd missed before they slip over the spring horizon.  I've done enough trips to the park unmolested to now feel quite comfortable & so took my time aligning (AX GTi N. align Arcuturs, Sirius).  

I slewed confidently to my first target M48 and... nothing. A bank of cloud had drifted in and covered the E/SE sky. I headed West without a plan, lingering on M42 until the cloud caught up and then across to M36-8 in Auriga, Mars, M45, a quick couple of doubles Eta Cassiopeia looking really stunning with the new prism - subtly contrasting yellow/white colours, nice separation and apparent "size" difference. The Double Cluster confirmed that either tonight was exceptional or that I've invested well. Really loving the combination of the Baader Hyperion 24mm, Mak 127 with a nice new prism (did I mention that?)  Very crisp pin points in faint cluster stars, easier to define focus and inky black backgrounds - gorgeous views.  I'd initially worried that the Mak's narrow field of view meant I'd made a "wrong" choice for a main scope but I am getting so much out of clusters and doubles that it does seem much more usable than just a lunar/planetary specialist - thank goodness.   

I'd swung well round toward the North West by now and with cloud still obscuring my intended targets to the SE I decided to take another swipe at M81/2 Bodes & Cigar galaxies having been assured these are realistic urban targets with my setup (thank you @Nik271).  The goto kind of worked and I picked up a faint smudge in the finder almost by accident then confirmed with more deliberate averted vision.  I centred M81 and was very chuffed - a galactic first for me outside of M31. I tried all the magnification possibilities I had in my pockets but it didn't really yield much beyond a central core and an outer halo. The best view was at 63x when I adjusted slightly and pulled M82 into the same frame - I looked at this for a long time, it was almost overhead and neck-ache became the limiting factor or I'd still be out there.  

Heartened, I took another look for the Leo triplet as the constellation was perfectly placed to the E but nope - that one is still out there...

The cloud by now had moved off so, by way of a stop off at M3 as I passed Arcturus (lovely, dim, diamond-granular ball at 150x) I moved on to my intended target list in the hinterland between Procyon & Sirius and bagged a few more Messier clusters.  

I ended the evening with a cruise back up through M67 & the Beehive, sneaky extra peek at the Double & Owl clusters in Perseus then back to M81 - just to prove it was real. 

As I walked back at frosted midnight all was silent, the line of Orion's belt was setting, a couple of degrees above the rooftops and the cloud was closing in from the East. 

 

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Edited by SuburbanMak
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Great report, I always love it when I realise someone else was looking at the same objects at the same time. 
I think I had a shorter window of opportunity than yourself but didn’t have to battle the urban surroundings.

You did very well observing a few clusters more than I, and a few more M’s however I spent time on M1 Crab, which was the best I had ever seen.

M42 a common target I know, was just ridiculous. Without any filters I could see nebulosity associated with the running man and real structure in M42.

For me Bodes and Cigar are just magic. Dark skies I guess! But you did have that diagonal.....😁 I use a newt so I couldn’t comment.

Marvin.

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11 hours ago, Kon said:

Great report and glad you managed a quick viewing despite the clouds.

Thanks - I got a good 2 hrs & it came to a natural end with cold feet, cloud & dead phone batteries! 

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13 hours ago, Marvin Jenkins said:

Great report, I always love it when I realise someone else was looking at the same objects at the same time. 
I think I had a shorter window of opportunity than yourself but didn’t have to battle the urban surroundings.

You did very well observing a few clusters more than I, and a few more M’s however I spent time on M1 Crab, which was the best I had ever seen.

M42 a common target I know, was just ridiculous. Without any filters I could see nebulosity associated with the running man and real structure in M42.

For me Bodes and Cigar are just magic. Dark skies I guess! But you did have that diagonal.....😁 I use a newt so I couldn’t comment.

Marvin.

Thank you - I like that element of the hobby too & it’s something that really is enabled by the online forum. Reading observing reports on here certainly gives inspiration to get out there under the stars. 

I am still a little bit in target-bagging mode, like a kid in a sweetshop - want to go back and spend a bit more time observing some of these objects. 
 

I had a few tries a finding M1 from the back garden when I first had the scope in December and Taurus was well placed in my narrow Easterly slice of sky.  Couldn’t see it even though I low I was theoretically pointing at the right but of sky - you’ve reminded me though and I’ll have another shot now I’ve got a bit more used to how small & faint some I’d these things are. 
 

Whereabouts in France are you? 
I am lucky enough to get to spend some summers in the Perigord & the dark skies there are pristine! 

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7 hours ago, Epick Crom said:

Nice work Mak! Glad to hear you nabbed a few galactic firsts, Im like you, trying to add more galaxies to my observing list. Great work and clear skies!

I think some of it is experience -it’s been a surprise just how faint some of these things are in the finder but I am just starting to get a feel for when something tiny & slightly fuzzy might be something more under magnification. 

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13 hours ago, SuburbanMak said:

Thank you - I like that element of the hobby too & it’s something that really is enabled by the online forum. Reading observing reports on here certainly gives inspiration to get out there under the stars. 

I am still a little bit in target-bagging mode, like a kid in a sweetshop - want to go back and spend a bit more time observing some of these objects. 
 

I had a few tries a finding M1 from the back garden when I first had the scope in December and Taurus was well placed in my narrow Easterly slice of sky.  Couldn’t see it even though I low I was theoretically pointing at the right but of sky - you’ve reminded me though and I’ll have another shot now I’ve got a bit more used to how small & faint some I’d these things are. 
 

Whereabouts in France are you? 
I am lucky enough to get to spend some summers in the Perigord & the dark skies there are pristine! 

After three years observing I too are still in bagging mode, but trying to slow down and take my time.

Look at my signature! Just M68 in Hydra to go and months of clouds or Fog.

I don’t dare start the Caldwell catalogue or that’s the next two years gone. If anyone says Hershel 500 my head will explode😱

Many a childhood camping holiday in the Perigord, Good memories.

I am a bit farther south in the Midi Pyrenees in a very rural environment. 
My nearest light pollution is 3k away and the village turns all that off at midnight🙏 
I count myself very lucky. On a clear night the milky way is so clear I can see the coal sack with ease.

Marvin

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On 07/03/2021 at 09:34, Marvin Jenkins said:

After three years observing I too are still in bagging mode, but trying to slow down and take my time.

Look at my signature! Just M68 in Hydra to go and months of clouds or Fog.

I don’t dare start the Caldwell catalogue or that’s the next two years gone. If anyone says Hershel 500 my head will explode😱

Many a childhood camping holiday in the Perigord, Good memories.

I am a bit farther south in the Midi Pyrenees in a very rural environment. 
My nearest light pollution is 3k away and the village turns all that off at midnight🙏 
I count myself very lucky. On a clear night the milky way is so clear I can see the coal sack with ease.

Marvin

That is an impressive Messier tally! I do think its worth "ticking them off" as its making me hunt down different types of object and make a pretty good introductory course in observation. 

Your sky conditions sound very good indeed - I am Bortle 5 in the Park and more like 8 in the garden!   We are now though perilously close to the end of lockdown which will open up some better sites on the S Downs near me, hoping to tick off some more of those spring galaxies...

Clear (& dark) skies! 

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