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Observing Report 15th May 2009


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Observing Report 15th May 2010

Location Stockport, England Latitude: +53.42 (53°25'12"N)

Longitude: -2.17 (2°10'12"W)

Equipment – f5.3 300mm Orion Optics UK Dobsonian, TV Radian and Panoptic /Powermate / WO 33mm SWAN

Main Target: New Messier Objects M5, M56, M104, M68, M83.

I always like to see at least one new Messier each time I observe and with a total of 29 from 110 seen so far, this is not that hard. I have only been observing since the Autumn of 2009 and therefore almost everything is still new to me. Tonight I set myself a somewhat challenging target of five new Messiers, two of which were galaxies. As it happened I failed on three of these but added a total of three new Messiers on the night.

Like any other session I started the night with Saturn, often as a test of conditions but also just as it’s such a beautiful sight. The seeing was not brilliant so I quickly moved on to others targets which seem to require a little less resolution.

My first target was the Globular Cluster M5 in the constellation of Serpens. From my light polluted site, this is a faint constellation and it’s not particularly easy to pick out. However, once located. It was just a matter of locating Alpha Serpentis (Unukalhai) and then hopping across to the south to find M5. According to my books, this is supposed to be the second most attractive Globular in the northern sky. I tend to disagree with this in that M3 is more attractive to me eyes. It is quite a well spaced globular and not quite as dense as M13. There were many stars resolved and the brightness of the core varied greatly with averted vision showing a brighter core than direct vision.

Now, for some galaxies. I turn the scope south and immediately my neighbour decides to turn on their bathroom light. No chance so I forget anything to the south meaning that M104, M68, M83, three of my Messier targets for the night were out of the question. I settled myself with a brief view of M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. These were again dimmer than usual and I fear the lighter summer sky is already affecting the observing in Stockport.

I then had a brief look at M13 in Hercules (who can resist??) mainly to see if I could find a trace of the ‘propeller’. In the end, an with averted vision, I was beginning to see what appeared to be long arms of stars, almost like a galaxy shape. This is sure to improve with more observing time and maybe a darker sky. Time for another Globular, M56 in Cygnus. I found it but ummed and arred about it for ages and decided in the end that I must be right even though it did not have the concentrated look of the other Globular Clusters I have seen and with no obvious core. What I didn't realise was that I had been a complete Muppet and used the wrong star to start my Telrad hop from. M56 is between Alberio and Sulafat but I looked between Sulafat and Sadr, all the time thinking to myself 'the scale looks all wrong'. I then appreciated the angle of Sheliak and Sulafat pointed at Alberio and then found M56 with no trouble.

Thankfully, my doubts made me think to make a rough (OK a VERY rough) notebook sketch of what was a distinctive pattern of brighter stars around the 'M56' that wasn't. The bonus here was that not only did I see a new Messier (M56) but I also confirmed the identity of the 'not M56' in Cygnus. I looked at Stellarium for where it was and there was a dot for NGC 6819, The Foxhead Cluster. Images of this on Stellarium and online confirm my sketch is accurate(ish) for this feature another newbie for me.

M56 (the real one) was a more typical Globular with a brighter core and many stars scattered around the edges of the object. Although they are clearly similar in nature, I am finding that a number of them have slightly different structures and this makes for further interest.

My next sketch was made for a different reason. I was looking for M29 in Cygnus and although I thought I found it, this whole area is one big open cluster of stars when you look through the scope. The whole area is truly stunning and if you have never look around here with a wide angle lens then do so - it's beautiful. So, as there was again a distinct pattern of brighter stars I made a quick sketch of the pattern and checked this later. Again I could see the pattern well enough to be completely happy I saw M29, another new Messier for me.

As I was in the area, I looked up another ‘every session’ object – M57, the Ring Nebula. I ramped up the magnification some to see if I could see any detail but no chance tonight.

By now the clouds started rolling in and it was about 1am but after seeing all of the above in around two hours I was not complaining!

Best wishes




Edited by Moonshane
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Some fantastic objects there Shane, and one I have yet to see, infact never knew existed and thats the Ngc6819 the Foxhead Cluster, thats defintely on my to do list.

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cheers Mick

you keep coming up with the good ideas (or at least making me aware of them - sketching, Lunar 100 etc) and I'll keep emulating them (well in my own way) :D

Looking at some photos of The Foxhead, I wish I'd spent more time on it now. I'll be looking at this one again I reckon.

This image http://www.univie.ac.at/webda/cgi-bin/ocl_page.cgi?dirname=ngc6819 shows it pretty much as I recall it. one that definitely would reward more prolonged observation I reckon.

Edited by Moonshane
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Great report SHane. Shame about your damn neighbour though :D I used to have the same problem, but by sheer luck the [removed word] put up a nice big wall so his light is now hidden :)

I spotted the M13 propeller just a couple of nights ago using a 12" dob. It's pretty easy once you pick it up...look at the eastern side of the core and use averted vision.

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Great report, Shane. The propeller in M13, with its 3 straight dark lanes, is something I only saw for the first time last year, having looked at the cluster many times previously - for me it was a case of knowing exactly where to look and what to look for, after studying photos and sketches. Also a matter of finding the right power so that the lanes stand out against the stars. This thread from last year might help you find it:


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Nice report..

I also like that M5 I had another look at it recently and it is good..Have you tried M92 in Hercules. Its also fine. M3 and M53 are also up at the moment and are pretty good. Then there is M10/12 in Oph which are also well worth looking at..in terms of globulars..

I looked up my notes on 6819..."Lovely view, a bit like a smaller version of the wild duck cluster. Tight patch of stars. Very nice" Try M11 the Wild Duck Cluster when it gets up as it is the Daddy of this 6819 cluster. You might hurt your hand though if you try to dot all the stars on one of your drawings!


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