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North Wales Report - Part II !!


DarkerSky
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Got another couple of nights out under the stars in North Wales after my first foray - http://stargazerslounge.com/observing-reports/101795-north-wales-14-15-april-2010-a.html

April 16

LM 6.0

Transparency: 2/5

8.5" reflector

Started shortly after sun down with a wonderful crescent moon hanging over Venus. Got the rest of the family out to ohhh and ahhhh at the moon. It did look awesome, surrounded by twilight blue in the 8.5" scope at x63 magnfication.

Once the rest of them had retreated indoors I turned my attention to Venus. At x63 magnification it appeared as a bright featureless disc. Could not even make out the phase. Upped the magnification to x126 and put in a red filter to cut down the glare.

Despite poor seeing (III - V), I could make out the planet's phase. To my eye there also appeared to be some very subtle shading in the central area of the disc. Very hard to pin down, but got the distinct impression that there was a darker patch angled across. A sketch was made.

Before moving onto Mars I looked again at the moon dropping down to the horizon. Plenty of earth shine revealed the full moon's outline. At x63 magnfication it was really quite magical. The whole moon was easily seen along with many lunar features, which would normally be shrouded in darkness. What was noticeable also was how the dark limb seemed a little more illuminated than the dark interior.

So - onto Mars...and wow!!

A feature-rich disc awaited me at x240 magnifcation with a red filter. To say I was surprised was an understatement!!

Seeing had improved to II, but the disc is only 8.1 arc seconds across, yet I saw a multitude of detail - most notably mare acidalium, niliacus lacus and nilokeras in the north. In the south Sinus Meridani was very distinct, as was its separation from Margaritifer Sinus. Mare Erythraeum also looked quite impressive. Low contrast shading also came out in the central area of the disc. Sketch was made.

By now the sky was darker, so I continued my exploration of the southern horizon. M104 - the sombrero galaxy in Corvus was first up, and came into view easily at x63. I spent some time studying the galaxy at x126 magnification, and made out the famous dust lane that interescts it horizontally thanks to a wisp of light to the south of the core - visible mostly with averted vision. The core itself was bright and the light seemed to spread out horizontally from it with a fair bit of intensity. A fainter halo of light dropped off the core to its north. Sketch was made.

Last target for the night - the planetary nebula NGC 4631. Managed to glimpse it...just! It was very faint, and my tired eyes couldnt make much out.

April 17

LM 5.9 - 6.0

Transparency: 2/5

8.5" reflector

Sky didn't seem as good on the previous nights. Less transparency, and more of a struggle to see the fainter stars due to moonlight and haze.

I started where I left off the previous night - with NGC 4631 planetary nebula. This time I made a careful study of it with fresher eyes. The OIII filter made little difference to my view, but at magnification of x86 I did pull out a mostly circular shape with averted vision. I say mostly circular - on the north following side of the image there seemed to be a promontory of faint light. Wasn't easy to see, and it took me a while to be sure about it. Sketch was made.

I then moved onto my last object - NGC 4038/4039 - The Antennae Galaxy. This is something I have never seen before, and it was a challenge to track it down. I caught the first glimpse of it at x63 magnification, but it was very indistinct.

Studied it at x86 for a long time. Gradually more detail came out in moments of good seeing. A small streak of light was seen to curve slightly in a roughly W-E orientation. Above this to its north a second, much fainter splosh of light was seen. This seemed to connect with the other streak to form a sideways 'v' shape. Was ecstatic to have seen both components of this interacting galaxy pair. Sketch was made.

All sketches now up in the sketching section. :D

Edited by DarkerSky
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