Jump to content

NLC-Banner.thumb.jpg.acb5ba835b9e8bf0718b90539633017d.jpg

To boldly go... Mak-surfing galaxies in Virgo


 Share

Recommended Posts

I've been puzzling over the bits of Virgo that are filled with galaxies on and off for the last three months & always seem to get lost and confused among barely-visible smudges in the eyepiece of my 127 Mak.  

Whilst not the ideal galaxy hunting tool, I have really enjoyed views of M81 & M82 and the Leo Trio so figured I ought to at least be able to identify the whereabouts of some of the Virgo cluster even if there's no real features or structure to be even dimly seen with this aperture. To date I'd positively identified M86 & M84 and noted a couple of NGCs in the same field and other smudges within a couple of panning fields distant - but beyond that it was all "might be" in terms of identification.

There is I admit a part of me that is motivated to "tick off" Messier objects but I want to be positive on my identification, so with this in mind I hatched a plan to tour the area in a more structured way, inspired by this great thread on the topic from @MercianDabbler   https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/375174-easter-2021-attempting-galaxies-with-an-sp102/?tab=comments#comment-4074628.   

Recon sessions with the ST80 while the moon has been dominant over the last couple of weeks had led me to a chain of mini asterisms that I reckon I could follow from Vindemiatrix as a pathway to identify specific galaxies - even though they would be little more than un-resolvable fuzzy stars in my 'scope.   I went as far as running through my star hopping "moves" a couple of times in Stellarium during the afternoon and making step by step instructions in my notebook (I find paper & a red headtorch easier in the field than trying to manipulate an App under a redlight). Saturday's forecast wasn't perfect for this purpose but looking ahead, looked like the only usable night for a while so I spent a happy few-bank holiday hours in the afternoon packing gear, charging batteries and prepping. 

All observations with a Skywatcher Mak 127, Baader Hyperion 24mm (68 degree AFOV delivering a shade over 1 degree TFOV), Baader Neodymium Filter added for good luck! 

Saturday May 1st /Sunday May 2nd was clear over Bortle-5 Winchester and seeing was very steady, transparency was fair and at times poor with high cloud building gradually to the SW by midnight when I set out.  There were a couple of hours before the moon became a factor so I got to work aligning (Vega, Arcuturus) and slewing to Vindemiatrix.  

Tracked a couple of fields of view (1 degree field) SSW to a faint "crown" of stars [Stellarium says HD111132 is at the head of the curve] which I've been calling mini-Corona and from there on W to a 4 star asterism with Rho Virginis at its centre which I've been calling the "plane" as it looks like a clear delta-wing shape (like an old dinky toy Dassault Mirage I had as a kid!) 

M59/M60  - Put the "nose" of the plane in the centre-bottom of the field and pan up half a degree and there was M59 & M60, the first a dim fuzzy point, better in averted vision, the second notably brighter and with haze around a central point, could stand direct vision. 

Putting the nose of the "plane" this time in the right hand side of the finder (RACI view on the Mak) and tracking a full field West brings the first of two pairs of stars in a just about horizontal line [Stellarium says these are HD109815, HD109684, HD109486, HD109401]. 

M58 - Putting the first pair of "the line" in the bottom R of the finder and tracking up 1/2 a field brought me a fuzzy patch with a star bottom R [later confirmed star as HD109771]

M89 - Putting the second pair of "the line" in the bottom R of the finder and tracking up just over a field, passing a small triangle of stars, brings in M89 - a fuzzy star, not much else to note. 

M90 - Putting M89 in the bottom centre of the field brings in M90 in the top of the view, dim fuzzy but a bit more of a vertical line than a point this time. Makes a nice field with M89. 

M87 - Placed M89 top R in field and swing W. M87 - not as bright as expected, nebulous patch, no detail to speak of. 

M86 - Placed M87 in far R of field and tracked W I full field (1 degree) - quite apparent fuzz with brighter core - easier to see than M87 which is odd. 

M84 - Placed M87 in far R of field and tracked W I full field (1 degree) - faint, best with averted vision when focussed on M86. 

 

I then tracked one field of view NE of the M84/M86 view and this gives a really humbling view full of tiny fuzzy patches. 

I made a rough sketch of a pronounced Scalene Triangle of resolvable stars [based on Stellarium I think these are three 10th Mag stars just into Coma Berenices,  TYC 880-659-1, TYC 880 567-1, TYC 880 505-1, whatever that means...]  with an elongated "M" shape of fuzzy blobs interweaving.  I am not 100% sure which I was seeing but reckon given the slightly off transparency conditions I wasn't able to see as deep as the scope's limiting magnitude of 13.1  so am fairly sure I was looking at "The Eyes" - NGC 4435 & 4438 and then probably NGC 4459, NGC 4461, NGC 4473 & NGC 4477. 

M56 - I was getting spots before the eyes by this time and noted that transparency was better behind me to the NE, I took a quick look straight down from Lyra & found M56, a fairly diffuse & dim globular that I am not at all sure I would have spotted had I not just spent a couple of hours tracking down the faintest of fuzz-patches!

Finally looking around I noticed Serpens looked clear and did an opportunistic GoTo for a quick look for M5 before calling it a night.

M5 - Wow! After all that faint stuff this is an absolute corker, tight globular and bright with faint diamond dust at 63x  - although it was late I switched to the Baader Zoom & upped the magnification enjoying some super views at around 150x.   

Decided to end on this stunner and returned home on a bit of a high for a glass of wine and some poring over the Cambridge Star Atlas and Stellarium on my phone to confirm sightings and then read up on some of the amazing objects I'd glimpsed.   Tonight I'd upped my personal "distance record" to around 70 Million light years and was amazed to find that M56 is almost as old as the universe itself at 13.5 Billion years, and even better used to be part of something called the "Gaia Sausage" - who knew? 

As often is the case I finished up by reading some of the history of the objects first categorisation, marvelling again at what Messier, Mechain and the Herschels achieved. 

Mind blown again...Clear (dark) skies! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by SuburbanMak
  • Like 18
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That was a good read, I vaguely remember doing a similar tour of the Virgo 'Ms' with my ETX 70 15-16 years ago. I was in a nice, dark spot in the Chilterns, and remember being surprised at how much I could see with that little scope.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great report.  The Virgo galaxies are my favourite things in the sky. I always start at the same place as you. I call it 'the Startrek badge'.  I was helped by another member who seems to have coined the phrase 'galaxy hopping'- and that is what I do- just hop from galaxy to galaxy. The stars are too few and unmemorable for me.

Anyway, glad someone else is getting as much pleasure as me. I haven't seen many galaxies this year but I hope to rectify this very soon.

Edited by domstar
typo
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 minutes ago, domstar said:

Great report.  The Virgo galaxies are my favourite things in the sky. I always start at the same place as you. I call it 'the Startrek badge'.  I was helped by another member who seems to have coined the phrase 'galaxy hopping'- and that is what I do- just hop from galaxy to galaxy. The stars are too few and unmemorable for me.

Anyway, glad someone else is getting as much pleasure as me. I haven't seen many galaxies this year but I hope to rectify this very soon.

Yes! It does look like a Star-Trek badge!   As it shall now forever be... :) 

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great report @SuburbanMak! You worked hard for all that, great star hopping and finding. Not so easy with a Maks relatively narrow field of view either. Amazing what you can do with some dark skies isn’t it? 👍👍

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Stu said:

Great report @SuburbanMak! You worked hard for all that, great star hopping and finding. Not so easy with a Maks relatively narrow field of view either. Amazing what you can do with some dark skies isn’t it? 👍👍

Thank you - yes & looking forward to going back and looking again on one of those nights of special transparency sometime now I’ve more of a mental map to work from. 

Edited by SuburbanMak
Link to comment
Share on other sites

14 hours ago, MercianDabbler said:

Nice report. Looks like you had some good results there. Glad you found my efforts to be of some use :)

Thanks @MercianDabbler yes - I found the detailed approach you'd taken incredibly useful.  I've got the next couple of galaxy-hunts lined up for M98/9, M104 and M85!

I'd have continued on to them the other night but the high cloud was really thickening to the South.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.