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Sam

The Southern Tour

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The late afternoon high cloud disappeared and the threatening wall of cloud to the south was receding to the east leaving a nice clear sky and no moon for me to have a good look at the Southern sky after the first couple of tasters last week. After the discussion on the forum regarding the Trapezium and the visibility of the E and F stars I thought I would start by having a good look at them. The first thing was to get the collimation right so I did this with a star test as there wasn't a shortage of stars to use. I think it was the first time I have really got near perfect collimation on the 16" and the result was fantastic - pin point stars and very crisp diffraction spikes on the brighter stars.

I used the 32mm first to take in the Orion nebula which was brilliant, the extant of the nebula was quite amazing and the running man was also just visible. The colours were the striking thing, there were reds in the outer parts of the nebula and blue and green mottling in the centre. The Trapezium was the main object I wanted to check and on first glance the E star popped out very easily. With the 15mm the F star was hinting on the other side. I put the 9mm eyepiece in and F star was only just visible, the E star stood out easily.

The next object was the cluster Canis Major, M41, which is just to the right of Sirius. I haven't seen this before so it's nice to add another Messier to the list. This is a very large cluster with a reasonably tight structure. The first striking thing about this cluster is the colour of the stars, there's lots of yellow stars and a few blue ones as well. The cluster filled the 32mm eyepiece field of view. The other Messier that I bagged for the first time tonight was M79 in Lepus. This is a small globular cluster and with the 15mm eyepiece the stars were quite resolvable, with the 9mm the stars were resolvable to the core.

Then it was back to Canis Major to have a look at another cluster, NGC 2354, which is quite big with fairly dim stars but a clearly defined cluster nonetheless. A little down from NGC 2354 is NGC 2362 which is a brighter cluster but quite small - it has in the middle quite a bright star (must be a foreground star). Without the telescope the sky was awash with stars. The Milky Way was was hovering the northern part of the sky with the Southern Cross low to the East and Orion high in the North West. To the North East was a very dense patch of the Milky Way around in the Carina constellation. After a check on Cdc I thought I would first look for NGC 2808 before going after the huge nebula cloud in Carina. The glob NGC 2808 is a very tight cluster with the stars being just resolvable in the 9mm eyepiece. The next stop was the huge nebula in Carina. This is massive and very bright and the extent just keeps going and going filling the 32mm eyepiece many times over. I would put this nebula on a par with the Orion nebula, though not quite as bright.

The next stop for the evening was our two closest galactic neighbours, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The LMC is huge and just scanning it with the 32mm eyepiece shows up knotty star fields and patches of nebula. NGC 1978 is a glob that sits in the LMC (well in front of it) and is quite a tight cluster and very small - no more than a fuzzy ball in the 32mm eyepiece but with some stars popping out in the 9mm. The next obvious object to take in is the huge NGC 2070, the Tarantula Nebula. It's a very bright nebula and fills the 32mm with it's circular shapes and longish filaments. This is a very busy part of the sky with the Tarantula and loads of other interesting objects very close by.

A little way from the LMC is the SMC with the massive 47 Tucanae Globular cluster (NGC 104). This cluster is visible to the naked eye and looks like a faint star. It is the most spectacular glob I've every seen (I haven't seen the other big one yet). The cluster was best viewed with the 15mm eyepiece as it completely filled the FOV with stars resolvable right into the center. Even in the 32mm eyepiece the FOV was nearly filled with the outer reaches of the cluster. It really is a sight to be seen to believe - I would rate it with seeing Saturn for the first time, a real wow factor!

The next object was the Sculptor galaxy, NGC 55. This is a big galaxy the spans the width of the FOV in the 32mm eyepiece. It's quite elongated and some structure can be seen in the centre. Not far from NGC 55 is NGC 300 which is a lot fainter though still very easy to see - I couldn't identify any structure to it but I didn't give it much time either.

Overall a marvelous evening of observing and good first real session on the Southern skies. There's quite a lot of overlap with the Northern sky with Taurus, Orion, Aries, Pleiades and part of Auriga being visible. My dark sky location is fantastic with the only downside being the wind. The highlights are the LMC and SMC and the crystal clear Milky Way which are all good signposts for finding other sights.

Sam

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Sam,

I'm looking forward to seeing more of your reports from down here. It's helping plan what I'm going to attempt to find. I'm not having much luck with the SMC or the LMC but I'm putting that down to inexperience rather than anything else. But it would help if the cloud would clear!!

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Cheers Cate!

It's blowing 45kts at the moment so I won't be out there tonight.

Sam

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Another fantastic observing report Sam, sounds like you are really starting to enjoy the southern skies.

John

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Hi Sam

Didn't realise you'd got back to NZ. Great report.

I've been here since before Christmas. I'm resident in NZ now. Brought all my astro gear over with me. Done quite a few tours of the Southern skies looking at the same objects as in your report.

Roll on the longer, darker nights eh!

MD

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Great report Sam, glad you had such a nice night. I don't recall hearing anyone mention blue in the Orion Neb before... sounds lovely. :)

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Thanks for the comments, the weather has taken revenge and now it raining, which I don't mind as it fills my water tanks - which is always good in summer.

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Sam

Very nice report :)

You should be able to split Sirius :) It is quite wide now and it should look good in the 16".

Cheers

Ian

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