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Galaxies: Monster Session


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After several weeks of inclement weather, we organised a short notice observing session from Tilshead on Salisbury Plain on Saturday evening. We (Jon Gale, Dawn Wilson and Garry Keenor and myself) observed from 2100 to 0200 under very dark and clear skies with a variety of telescopes as the winter constellations moved over to allow the spring galaxies to appear.

As it was so clear and I was more than happy observing rather than sketching, I turned this into a massive session and clocked up quite a variety of objects. Particular highlights included my first view of Saturn this year and seeing the open cluster in the Rosette Nebula, NGC2244 as a naked eye object – further testament to some good skies.

This includes two of the trickier Messier objects, M68 and M83 down near the square of Corvus but actually in Hydra. Not much to write home about as they were clearly suffering as they cleared the tree tops!

All my observations were made with a 4” refractor and baader binoviewer on an altaz mount (none of that goto nonsense!) unless otherwise noted.

This is a new approach as I normally take the time to attempt a detailed sketch of one or two objects rather than a tick list approach. Maybe it’s a good rehearsal for a Messier marathon?

I was quite tired after this 5h session, tired but extremely happy! Roll on the next one.

1. M42 and M43 – wonderful as always

2. Rosette nebula and NGC 2244 – the nebula was not really visible in the 4” even with a UHC filter but showed up well in Jon’s 8”. Interesting to note that NGC 2244 is visible to the naked eye as a faint fuzzy patch :-)

3. M35 and adjacent NGC 2158

4. Saturn and adjacent moons

And then it was onto galaxy hopping (and two globs as marked):

5. M51 and adjacent NGC satellite – hinting at detail and clearly non-uniform. Jon’s 8” showed the bridge and hints of spiral features

6. M81 and M82 – clear mottling in the cigar galaxy

7. M106

8. M109 – although suffered from glare from nearby Gamma UMa

9. M94

10. M63

11. NGC 4485 & NGC 4490

12. M95, M96, M105 and nearby NGC galaxy – just fitted into the field of view using a borrowed30mm Vixen

13. Leo Triplet of M65, M66 and the other NGC galaxy

14. M53 globular cluster in Coma Berenices

15. M64 – although no sign of the black eye dust lane – must try with my 8.5”

16. NGC 4494 – round and uniform brightness

17. NGC4565 – long thin splinter, will be worth sketching with my 8.5”. One of my favourites this one.

18. No sign of the mice galaxies, NGC 4676A & B

19. M68 a globular cluster – very low down on Corvus-Hydra border, indistinct glow suffering from proximity to horizon

20. M49 – small and uniform

21. NGC 4526 small but bright

22. NGC 4535 larger, diffuse and faint

23.M98 large and diffuse, over looked on first pass

24.M99 Also large and diffuse

25. M100 Also large and diffuse

26. M85 brighter galaxy with nearby adjacent star appearing as a supernova

27. NGC 4394 very small and faint requiring averted vision to make out

28. M83 – only just visible through the 8” as a very faint, diffuse glow against the grey sky – and only visible if you knew where to look. Not visible in 4”

29. Finally the M84 and M86 pairing marking Markarian’s chain although the chain was not readily apparent with the 4” – another one for the 8.5”

Edited by gliderpilot
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That's a huge haul of galaxies clocked, really made the best of those clear skies Saturday.

Know what you mean about just wanting to observe. I had the imaging gear all setup for our session but couldn't really be bothered to do anything with it. Just wanted to do the visuals only. We had 5hrs too under some of the darkest skies we had seen for a while.

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My kids woke me up at 0630 and I was up at 0715 so I was a complete waste of space the next day!


Blimey that is tough, i bet you felt grim. Fortunately for me, Sam had one of those rare days when he didn't wake early (6am). Instead woke at 9am....phew!

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Thanks for the comments guys. I am hoping for some clear skies but my town obsy is no where near as good as the Plain's dark skies!

Mark, I used to have a pair of William Optics binoviewers and they did reduce the light by a noticeable margin. Of course this is fine for lunar and planetary but not so good for DSO. I've since upgraded to a baader maxbright which does give a brighter image, only slightly less than an eyepiece but I find the comfort factor far more beneficial. It certainly comes recommended, and I am quite fussy about image quality.

I haven't tried the top end stuff such as denks, zeiss or earthwin due to budgetary constraints so I can't speak for them - although I can dream!


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Sounds like a good night was had by all.

Mark, if you manage to sort another mini viewing session out again and wouldn't mind a couple of green horns attending, would it be possible to join you and your fellow observers for an outing? We're Wiltshire based, I myself am in Westbury and my friend Urchfont.

If you want to keep it to a closed group i understand.

Edited by DrNeb
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Thats an awesome session. Really good to read your descriptions and compare to my notes..

Sounds like you have a passion for galaxies like me.

I was out last night looking for galaxies I have not yet observed. I look at the DSS pictures to identify those I might be able to pick up in my 10 inch scope..

Last night I managed this lot..

3521 - Surprisingly bright

3593 - Near M65/66,not too challenging

4125 - Very bright...

And these which were all fainter..

3640 / 3432 / 3395 & 6 (pair) / 4256 / 4128 / 3729 / 3348 / 3403..

There was about another 5 or so I could not locate..It was a bit hazy to be fair..

Out so long that my Hyperions misted up internally when I brought them in so they are clearly not airtight!



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Dr Neb, I've just dropped you a PM for our meeting tonight on the plain (Friday 4 Mar).

Fingers crossed for some more clear skies tonight, I've booked a lie in with Mrs GP so I can make the most of this weather.


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Hi Mark i didnt go for 3521. I was quite tired on Friday after a hard week at work so I just took my IS bins and chilled out on a deck chair. We also had some new members turn up and I gave them a hand setting up and pointing out constellations.

I'll give it a go on Sunday if it's still clear.


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