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Binocular sketch: The Large Sagittarius Cloud


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Last August I spent another week on the dazzling island of La Palma. All by myself, but in the company of a 40cm Dobson and 8×42 binoculars. I rented a small house near the village of Las Tricias, on the edge of a deep gorge.

It's certainly not my first time on the island, but every time the first sight of the summer galaxy makes a deep impression. All those light tufts, dark spots and streaks from horizon to horizon; even without a telescope it is nice to be under such a sky!

The very brightest part of the Milky Way is located just above the “Spout of the Teapot” in Sagittarius and even has a special name: the Great Sagittarius Cloud (not to be confused with the Small Sagittarius Cloud, M24). In fact, it is a peek through the dust clouds, roughly towards the core of our Milky Way. The true core is two degrees west of the Great Sagittarius Cloud, but unfortunately its view is completely obscured by interstellar dust.

To the naked eye, the Cloud is already extremely bright and a bit flaky, but the area looks downright spectacular through binoculars. This piece of sky in the 8×42 was perhaps the most impressive sight of the entire observation week.

I decided (stretched out on a lounger) to make a sketch of it, but as I drew it I started to wonder more and more what on earth I got myself into. So many stars! So many dark spots! And it was no fun ergonomically either. Observe for a while, remember what you see, put down binoculars, draw, and look again. Of course it is impossible to place every speck of light correctly, but the sketch does give a fairly good impression of the visual impression.

The end result below is the original field sketch, scanned and inverted.


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