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Dec 06. - My best night yet


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Hi all,

It is time for my first observing report, and I hope ot os a good one.


- M31 (Andromeda Galaxy)

- Double Cluster

- M37 cluster

- M42 (Orion Nebula)

- Jupiter and moons/clouds

- One satellite

- To bright meteors

- Algol double system

- Betelgeuse

- A beautiful, big, orange Moon

- A couple more constellation identifications

The sky was brilliantly clear, and once the Sun had set, I called my Grandad and he picked me up for what would evolve into a 2.5 hour observing session :hello2:

I took my binoculars too, and while I was waiting to be picked up, I managed to pick out the smudge of M31, and the double cluster, as well as a satellite.

Once I arrived, the first thing I enlarged with the 130mm reflector was M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. I got it within minutes this time, and was able to see the bright core, and the lovely glowing blur surrounding. I observed that for a good 10 minutes, and showed my Grandad too.

The next thing I turned on was the Double Cluster, with an identification in about 2 minutes. The bright colours were mystifying, and the system looked impressive in the clear air.

After that, I managed to seperate the stars of the Algol system which was rewarding - my first double star :mad: Next, I turned to the M37 cluster and managed to find the open star system. I tried the other two in the vicinity, but didn't identify and (even though I might have sen them).

Then I took the 'scope around the front, and saw that M42 was above the horizon. I saw the red giant Betelgeuse which appeared as a bright and definitely couloured circle. I turned on M42, and I think I might have found it, but it was a little lackluster to be honest. I saw a tight collection of 4 or 5 stars with a very dim 'corona', but I don't know if that was what I was looking for. Any tips on this?

Then I did a bit of constellation identification and found triangulum and aquarius for the first time. This (sort of) helped me later...

Then, I turned the 'scope on Jupiter before it slipped below the horizon, and managed to see all four Moons, as well as the cloud belts. It would have been better earlier though ;)

Then, I just spent some quality time marvelling at the views above as the night grew darker and the stars slipped by ... and two brilliantly bright meteors streaked across the sky for me :icon_eek:

It's amazing to think that they originated millions of miles away, and were travelling at about 27 KM/sec... and that their long interplanetary journey ended in such a brilliant way...

It was then time to head off home, and on the way, I noticed the massive, orange Moon on the horizon, and that was the final marvel I saw :( I hope to go again soon, and I definitely will when the night is clear again. I will also be borrowing the 'scope for 3 months in January when my Grandad goes on holiday, so I will be able to go observing almost every night :(

Anyway, back to triangulum - I tried to use it to locate M33, but I had no luck. How big/bright is it compared to M31? Are there any better locating methods?

Thanks everyone!

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Great night and report.

M33 is about as bright as M110, witch means not very bright. A good rule of thumb is, if you can see M110 near M31 then M33 will be visible too. To locate it draw a line from the bottom stars of the triangle and one from the 2 stars under Andromeda galaxy. It's along the line coming from Andromeda above the intersection point of this 2 lines. Not the easiest target cause it's dim and far from bright guide posts.

For M36 and 38 in auuriga, draw an imaginary line between oAuri and iAuri (2 bright stars) and they should be around the middle of that line.

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Thanks for the tips - I haven't yet spotted M110, so maybe M33 is a bad target.

Is there a site which lists the NGC catalogue in order of magnitude or location out there? I know that there are thousands of spiral galaxies waiting to be seen in that collection.

Also, what can I expect from M42 with a 130mm 'scope? Will I be able to see the clouds of the nebula as patterned spreads, or won't I see much detail?


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Great report George, sure this is your first one? You're a natural. :)

Paulo's given you great directions for getting to M33 but as he said, it's not very bright.

What magnification were you using on M42? From your excellent description, it sounds like you saw the Trapezium and the brightest part of the nebulosity immediately surrounding it. M42 looks best with a wider field of view, at least a full degree (twice the width of the Full Moon), and it's best to wait till it rises higher, at least three fist-widths above the horizon (30 degrees). The Earth's atmosphere is evenly distributed around the planet, but you're looking through a lot of it when you're viewing things at the horizon.

Imagine you're an ant in a large room, and there's a 12" thick duvet covering you. If you could crawl through the duvet, the shortest way would be straight up, right? That's how we have to think of the atmosphere.. like a blanket over us. When you look towards the horizon you're looking on a very oblique angle, through a lot of it. The higher a target rises from the horizon, the less murk we have to look through to see it. And of course, the best views are directly overhead.

Hope this helped. :icon_eek:

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Try this Deep Sky Database to generate lists of objects. It's pretty user-friendly and you can set the search parameters to whatever you'd like.

As far as what to expect from M42 with a 130mm scope, it depends on your sky. I've seen quite a lot of the nebula with a 120ST (richfield f/5 refractor) through a sky that was dripping with lunar interference. Averted vision helps a lot with nebulosities, too.

Edited by Talitha
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I made a checklist in excel for Messier, Caldwell and Herschel 400 objects that should keep you going for a while.

Each list haves a column for type/class where you can filter by galaxy and another column for magnitude where you can order by from brighter to dimmer. Remember the lowest the mag number the brightest it is. Although magnitude values for galaxies can induce error. The reason why is the mag of the galaxy is the total light it emits but, as the light is spread over the area, it can actually be pretty dim despite it's mag value.

Each list is on a different sheet and it keeps count as long as you fill in the date observed value on the right column.

Check it here:


Edited by pvaz
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Great report George. I like the way you listed what you saw in bullet points at the beginning. You are right, recognising and learning the constellations is a great help when it comes to finding the smaller objects. You will also get used to how they move around the sky through the year. I didn't think I'd be able to learn the constellations, but even after just a few nights under the stars you start to recognise them and know where to look.

Enjoy your 3 months from January and I hope you get some clear skies.

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