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Galaxies from Zenith to Horizon


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The first telescope I used after work yesterday was a Daystar SS60 H-Alpha Solar Scope. This arrived last week and so far I've really enjoyed it as my first Ha scope. I've seen several proms and some impressive surface detail. Sitting in the warm spring sun, I didn't appreciate quite how cold the night would get. A few hours later, I was setting  up my 10" dob at my local dark site. I often have fellow observers when with me at this site but on this occasion I was alone which felt a little eerie. The dob was quickly collimated and the finders aligned ready for action. M52 and the Nova is Cassiopeia was used as my starting point. The Nova has dimmed a little from my first observations but generally has held up really well.

We are in peak galaxy season and that was to be my focus for this session. I first returned to the Antennae galaxies which I first observed a couple of weeks back. A barely visible patch seen via averted vision was all that showed. I returned to this target two more times over the course of the night and the views improved but never giving a clear view of the shape of this galactic pair. Supernova 2021hiz in Virgo was my next target. I stopped at M49 on my way to the host galaxy IC3322A. Whilst I couldn't see the galaxy itself, the supernova was quite easy to identify comparing the star field to SkySafari. An excellent sketch from @davhei gave the final confirmation of the SN. It felt great to achieve one of my observing goals for the evening. NGC4365 shared the FOV with the SN making the very that little bit more special. Looking up from the eyepiece, I watched a bright meteor streak passed the tail of Leo, adding beautifully to the moment. Spurred on by this success, I navigated to the galaxy NGC 5018 which also has a SN but this one is dimmer at 14.1 compared to the 13.3 of 2021hiz. Alas, the second SN observation was not meant to be but it did mean that I observed a new galaxy so I was happy with that.

Spiral arms of a galaxy are something that as a beginner, I assumed would be easy to see. Experience has taught me otherwise. The Whirlpool, M51, and it's partner NGC5195, when well positioned are simply spectacular. M51 showing the dark lanes that define the arms. I felt like I could just about follow the bridge between the two galaxies though not with total confidence. M101 is a different experience being a larger and more diffuse but also showing impressive spiral structure. Melotte 111 is an easy naked eye target from this site and makes a useful starting point for several galaxies. Passing by NGC4944, I went straight to the Needle Galaxy. Having observed this a couple of times from home recently, the view was superb. The galaxy stretched far past the bright core on either side. M64, showed the darker region below the core that gives it it's name, The Black Eye Galaxy. I've been working my way through the RASC NGC Finest List which lead to me trailing through a number of galaxies in Leo Minor, Coma Berenices and back in Virgo. A great view of the Coma Pinwheel Galaxy, M99, was added for good measure.

My Messier count has been stuck at 105 for well over a year now. Those lower targets are really tricky from the UK! As a tester for the sky conditions down low, I navigated to the globular cluster M68. It was showing pretty well despite being about 10 degrees above the horizon. I plunged deep into Hydra, just 7 degrees above the horizon now. Using SkySafari, I picked out the star field I was looking for and then settled at the eyepiece to search. Soon after, the faint grey fuzz of another galaxy could be seen. "That's it!" I exclaimed to the hooting owls. I'd finally managed to see M83 otherwise known as the Southern Pinwheel. I shook my fist in victory. It was so exhilarating to finally catch this and really took me back to my early days of observing where being able to find anything felt like a real win. I'd been shaking a little from the cold before this but the freezing temperatures were now forgotten. I stayed with the galaxy a little longer, savoring the moment.

Sweeping up from the horizon to the zenith, the pair of M108 and M97 shared the FOV. The galaxy was really bright next to the Owl Nebula. I added an OIII filter to catch the eyes of the Owl. To finish the night, I went to the two brightest galaxies of M81 and M82. These were jaw draw dropping, M82 in particular really held my attention. I grabbed the nearby MGC 3077 for a final galaxy observation of the night. The telescope was now covered in ice. I took an SQM reading of 21.2. As I carried everything back to the car, another small meteor streaked across the sky. 

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The first telescope I used after work yesterday was a Daystar SS60 H-Alpha Solar Scope. This arrived last week and so far I've really enjoyed it as my first Ha scope. I've seen several proms and some

Neil I felt like I was there reading your report. Very jealous you saw M83. Very special evening. It is so amazing isn't it. I was also out last night pottering around. I let the globul

You will see piles with your 5" under dark skies! Good luck for your dark sky trip, Gerry

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That is an excellent report! Thanks for sharing!

Hope to manage on last dark sky session later this week to cap off the season. Skies here will start to get too bright soon.

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3 minutes ago, davhei said:

That is an excellent report! Thanks for sharing!

Hope to manage on last dark sky session later this week to cap off the season. Skies here will start to get too bright soon.

Thank you. Fingers crossed that you get another dark sky trip in. The hours of astronomical darkness are shrinking quickly here too!

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Excellent report! I have visions of you shaking your fist at owls!

I'm desperate to try galaxy hunting from a dark site. Unfortunately the lock-down isn't over up here yet. I think the next new moon might have an hour or so of proper darkness.

 

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49 minutes ago, Pixies said:

I have visions of you shaking your fist at owls!

haha like an angry Harry Potter!

Fingers crossed you get a chance to get to a dark site soon.

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Excellent report and lots of nice targets. A frozen telescope in mid-April is bonkers, this weather is crazy.

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19 minutes ago, Kon said:

Excellent report and lots of nice targets. A frozen telescope in mid-April is bonkers, this weather is crazy.

Thank you. Even though I'd seen the forecast was for minus 1, I was still surprised myself! The car was reading minus 2 when I left.

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12 minutes ago, Andrew* said:

Fantastic report - thank you so much for sharing.

Well done on getting M83 as well!

Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. Just 4 more Messiers to go :) 

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Neil an enjoyable report and some great objects. Which Messier objects are you yet to observe? It took me ages to observe M69 and M70 and I did find M83 really difficult. In 2018 whilst on a mountain top in California I was able to observe M83 in 15x70 binos.

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10 minutes ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Neil an enjoyable report and some great objects. Which Messier objects are you yet to observe? It took me ages to observe M69 and M70 and I did find M83 really difficult. In 2018 whilst on a mountain top in California I was able to observe M83 in 15x70 binos.

Thanks Mark. The last 4 are 55, 62, 69 and 70. They’ll be my challenge for the summer. I may head out to the coast to see if I can find a suitable observing spot there. 

I bet M83 looked great in California!

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Enjoyable read. Good luck with the rest of the Messiers. This list is of course  impossible to complete from my location 59 degrees north.

I`m spending the current moon- (and cloud) less nights nights doing a side by side comparison between my 8" and 'new' 10" dob. Your dobsonian looks very nice indeed, frosty or not.

 

Rune

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Neil

I felt like I was there reading your report. Very jealous you saw M83.

Very special evening. It is so amazing isn't it.

I was also out last night pottering around. I let the globular M13 drift across the FOV in my 4.7mm x426 eyepiece again and again...am I the only one that does that?

Mark

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1 hour ago, Pondus said:

Enjoyable read. Good luck with the rest of the Messiers. This list is of course  impossible to complete from my location 59 degrees north.

I`m spending the current moon- (and cloud) less nights nights doing a side by side comparison between my 8" and 'new' 10" dob. Your dobsonian looks very nice indeed, frosty or not.

 

Rune

Thanks Rune. Sounds fun. How are you enjoying the 10”?

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56 minutes ago, mdstuart said:

Neil

I felt like I was there reading your report. Very jealous you saw M83.

Very special evening. It is so amazing isn't it.

I was also out last night pottering around. I let the globular M13 drift across the FOV in my 4.7mm x426 eyepiece again and again...am I the only one that does that?

Mark

Thanks Mark. It was awesome. You would have had great fun with you 20” scope there. 
M13 sounds spectacular. Funnily enough, I was doing that with M13 last week though only at 240x! 

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2 minutes ago, Littleguy80 said:

Thanks Rune. Sounds fun. How are you enjoying the 10”?

I got the opportunity to buy a GSO 10" deluxe, hardly used, for a bargain price. I´m aware the step  from 8" to 10" is very subtle, but it was interesting to do a side by side comparison before I give away (more correctly trade it with some non astronomical stuff)

 

Skipping the physical  differences (there are a few), The 10" was very subtle, but still noticable better than the 8" on most galaxies.

Especially on : NGC3628 (leo triplet), the whale and crowbar galaxy, and if I remember correctly the silver streak galaxy. 

As expected: The 10" was far superior on globular clusters (M3, M5)

 

Rune

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6 minutes ago, Pondus said:

I got the opportunity to buy a GSO 10" deluxe, hardly used, for a bargain price. I´m aware the step  from 8" to 10" is very subtle, but it was interesting to do a side by side comparison before I give away (more correctly trade it with some non astronomical stuff)

 

Skipping the physical  differences (there are a few), The 10" was very subtle, but still noticable better than the 8" on most galaxies.

Especially on : NGC3628 (leo triplet), the whale and crowbar galaxy, and if I remember correctly the silver streak galaxy. 

As expected: The 10" was far superior on globular clusters (M3, M5)

 

Rune

Excellent. I find mine superb for planetary observing too

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Nice report 👍. I too discovered M 83 for the first time last night. Awesome galaxy isn't it? Hope you get your remaining Messier objects soon!

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24 minutes ago, Epick Crom said:

Nice report 👍. I too discovered M 83 for the first time last night. Awesome galaxy isn't it? Hope you get your remaining Messier objects soon!

Thank you. Congratulations on M83. I’d love to see it higher in the sky where it could really show some detail. 

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1 hour ago, Littleguy80 said:

Thank you. Congratulations on M83. I’d love to see it higher in the sky where it could really show some detail. 

I'm viewing M 83 from Australia, it gets high here. In my 10" dob it looks awesome, spiral structure is visible.

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1 hour ago, Epick Crom said:

I'm viewing M 83 from Australia, it gets high here. In my 10" dob it looks awesome, spiral structure is visible.

Amazing. I’d love to observe from Australia and see all the southern hemisphere constellations! 

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22 minutes ago, Mark at Beaufort said:

Perhaps we should set a challenge to see who can view M83 from the UK. Certainly it's a good time to observe it when  the Moon is out of the way.

Great idea. It’ll be interesting to see how far North you can go and still see it

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Great report Neil, a friend has found a darkish site for us 35 minutes away I cannot wait try that out once I have a health problem fixed hopefully in the next month or so. 

Even then I won't see as much as you with my 5" but be nice see what I can get. 

Those galaxies are out for me but reading your report I can certainly picture them. 

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27 minutes ago, wookie1965 said:

Great report Neil, a friend has found a darkish site for us 35 minutes away I cannot wait try that out once I have a health problem fixed hopefully in the next month or so. 

Even then I won't see as much as you with my 5" but be nice see what I can get. 

Those galaxies are out for me but reading your report I can certainly picture them. 

Thanks Paul. Great to hear that you’ve got a dark site to try. Fingers crossed you can go soon. I bet there’s still a lot you can see with the 5” under dark skies :) 

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