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New Year's Night Sights

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Happy New Year all! 

Last night I had a wonderful observing session on the first night of the year.


Seeing: Good

Transparency: Very good

Bortle 6 Orange zone backyard

Instruments: 10x50mm binos and 10 inch dobsonian. 

The waxing gibbous moon was shining in Aries, but due to its northerly location did not interfere with deep sky to much. 

I started my session by having a good look at Sirius in Canis Major using my dob. At 267x I caught a glimpse of the Pup, directly "above" Sirius. A short distance away lay M 41 star cluster, which looked fantastic at low power.My 10 year old son was with me and enjoying the sight. NGC 2362 ( Tau Canis Majoris cluster) was observed next, what a beautiful cluster! My son said it was one of the most beautiful clusters he has seen so far. I nodded in agreement. The double star HR 2764 was close by so I panned over to it. Known as the "winter Albireo" (summer Albireo for us in the southern hemisphere) it's a wonderful colourful double. My son described it as yellow and purple, I saw it as gold and blue. Sky Safari Plus showed that asteroid Pallas was within Canis Major so I starhoped to it and observed it for the first time. Quite bright at 7th magnitude. My son and I also observed NGC 2360, another nice open cluster in Canis Major. A nice rich sprinkling of faint stars. 

I moved into Puppis to observe the trio of open clusters M 46, M 47 and NGC 2423. All three are fantastic, M 47 was dazzling, while M 46 and NGC 2423 are fainter but richer. After my son retired to bed, I switched to my 10x50mm binoculars to scan the low northern sky because Mirfak in Perseus was culminating at around 8 degrees above the horizon. My dob can't see that low down due to my fence and neighbours house. Scanning down from Algol to Missam then a bit lower until I saw a bright yellow star low down between the branches of my neighbours tree. Bingo! Mirfak and it's attendants in the cluster Melotte 20! What a wonderful sight in the binos. This is the furthest northern object I have seen so far at +49° declination. 

Happy with that observation, it was back to my 10 inch dob to see more open clusters in Puppis. NGC 2477 is one of my favourites, very rich and dense. It contrast nicely with another cluster near by, NGC 2451 which is brighter but more sparse. Lovely star colours seen in NGC 2451. NGC 2546 is a wonderful large open cluster near Naos (Zeta Puppis). This cluster has a nice asterism at its centre, looked like a man floating in space! I had a look at Asmidiske (Xi Puppis). I just love how this star has a curved loop of stars close to it in descending order of brightness. M 93 is a superb open cluster near Asmidiske. I spent a few minutes gawking at it, nice and rich. 

I ended the night by looking at globular cluster NGC 2298 also in Puppis. This is a small but reasonably bright globular with a dense core. I could resolve some stars at 370x. A great start to the observing year mainly focused on clusters. I will wait until the moon wanes to observe the fainter stuff. Wishing you all clear skies! 


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