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Bone question...


Llamanaut
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Im about to step up my astronomy and go searching for lesser known non messier galaxies, nebulae and clusters.... i had a go recently at the ones found within the plough shape of ursa major but found that they resemble stars and dont get much bigger despite me throwing everything from 32 to 3mm ep, they just didnt seem to want to resolve.... my question is how do others go about visually scrutinising non messier ngc's? :)

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...A big mountain and a 10 meter mirror :)

Joking apart, when venturing outside the messier list you really do need excellent sky conditions to resolve such targets. I find if its around new moon and there's a nice northerly wind, you'll be good for getting some more entriguing views. Of course getting right out of the LP is a big plus too if your up for lugging your scopes out in to the sticks. There are a couple NGC's that are reasonably bright and big like NGC4565 but on the whole messier catalogued most of the easily resolvable ones.

The challenge keeps the fire inside burning though :)

Edited by Vega
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Pardon me for asking, but are you sure you were looking at galaxies, not stars? There are lots of NGCs in the plough that are quite easily seen as "faint fuzzies" at low to medium power in an 8 inch, if the sky is dark enough. If the sky is too bright then they just won't be visible at all.

Try the Caldwell or Herschel 400 lists for ones to go for. There is a very big range in the NGC, ranging from binocular objects to ones that are beyond a 12-inch at a dark site.

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I'm wondering why you didn't see any nebulosity. In mid-April when UMa was higher, i took a tour of the galaxies in the Big Dipper's bowl with the 120ST, and saw all of them as little smoky patches. Then i continued down page 32 of the Pocket Sky Atlas and caught most of the galaxies including ngc4217, which is on the second Herschel 400 list.

Regarding details in my 8"SCT, i could never squeeze too much from galaxies, but an O-III filter helped a lot with nebulae. Open clusters were never a problem, and globular clusters seemed to look best when the seeing was better than average. One thing about viewing the dimmer DSO's... use less power. They'll be easier to see, and will look brighter in the fov. If you know you're in the right starfield and you still can't detect something, tap the OTA and keep checking with averted vision as things hop around in the fov. A faint moving target is easier to spot than a stationary one. :) Most importantly, plan to spend at least 15 minutes on an object. It'll let you take advantage of more moments of better seeing, and your eye will be getting more training, too.

That's all i can think of for now... good luck! :)

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It works the other way too. A couple of nights ago I was viewing galaxies in Pisces with a 12" at a dark site and tried looking for NGC7434, which is marked on Uranometria close to another galaxy (7428) that I'd found without too much difficulty. But try as I might, I couldn't see 7434, only some faint stars. Afterwards I checked the NGC listing (which I should have done at the time) and the Digital Sky Survey image, and realised that NGC7434 is so small as to be "stellar": it was probably one of the faint stars I'd seen.

For a galaxy to be most clearly visible you want it to have an apparent size of about half a degree at the eyepiece (like a naked eye full moon). Large, bright galaxies will show up readily at low power, small ones need higher power to get them to the right apparent size. Recently I've started using a zoom eyepiece for galaxy hunting: I get the field at low power, and if the object isn't visible then I raise the magnification until it pops into view. I find this a really efficient method - though for years I managed without, and for starting out I'd say stick to finding large, bright objects with a low power eyepiece and a good finder chart so you can locate the exact field.

For a bright and easy NGC galaxy that's well placed at this time of year I'd suggest NGC7331 in Pegasus. (Link: Small Wonders: Pegasus - Article ). This is often cited as one that "should have been a Messier". There are a few satellite galaxies close by that are fainter but not hard in a 12" at a dark site; and not far away lies Stephan's Quintet, whose members are tiny and challenging, requiring high power.

The following is a great target list - I've observed them all with 8" or less:

The RASC's Finest N.G.C. Objects List

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I do exactly the same (with a Skywatcher 300mm scope): 32mm first, then zoom, then 6mm TMB and sometimes a 4mm Nirvana. I used to find SkyAtlas perfectly adequate for finding bright galaxies (such as the objects in the RASC list), then moved to Uranometria, and now also use the free TriAtlas (at JR's website on Deep Sky Astronomy) for locating the really tough ones. I printed out the C charts on A4 (down to my horizon limit), put them all in a ring binder, and if any pages blow away or get too soggy I can print them again. So far they've survived - though I need a magnifying glass to read the chart labels upside down under a dim red light.

Good luck with your galaxy hunting!

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Besides it just being stars, any type of haze or mist could be interfering with your view.

I also vote for a stab at the Caldwell List. I am slowly working on that one myself.

Last year, I did the Astronomical Leagues 'Urban Astronomer' list and had quite a good time without leaving my back yard.

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