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March 2011: reflecting on my best DSO month EVER


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As many of you no doubt have seen in my many reports last month, March was particularly fruitful DSO wise. We had a run of dry weather, and several very clear nights without moonlight IN THE WEEKEND :). There must be some good karma built up as a result of being patient through February, in which I only got a single night of observing done :grin:.

Things kicked off tremendously on the 5th of March, with a 30-galaxy observing session, followed by sessions on March 7, March 11, March 22, March 23, March 26, March 28, and March 29. Getting eight sessions in one month is rare enough, and then to have the smorgasbord of galaxies in Coma, Virgo, CVn, Leo and UMa to pick through is just great. The total haul is 77 new galaxies logged along with several open clusters and a globular (M53). In total, I observed 94 galaxies (several of course revisited many times). To put things in perspective, my total galaxy count is 118, so the vast majority was found this month.

Many of the newly logged galaxies are ones I did see before, but never identified properly. After all, it is fun just to trawl through Coma and Virgo and just let your jaw drop (B)) at the sight of seven galaxies in a single FOV. That said, identifying them requires taking note of their precise position, and this means you can find them again much more easily, to refine your observations (note that I do not have go to, so this is important to me). Your really get to know the sky.

Refining observations, especially based on suggestions from the forum, is another thing that has been a lot of fun. Typically, I go and look at brighter galaxies or groups I observed before, and see if I can pick out details in the galaxy itself, or fainter members of the group. In particular, spotting NGC 3605, a magnitude 13 galaxy near NGC 3607 and NGC 3608, on the advice of DarkerSky:icon_salut: has been great. One reason it could be spotted (from a dark site) is that despite being magnitude 13, its surface brightness is not that bad, because it is a very compact object. SGL is a great place to learn things, even if you have been observing for decades!

Two other things have been helpful: The Caldwell list and in particular the Herschel 400 list. The former contains several really challenging objects (Caldwell 3 or NGC 4236, in Draco is particularly hard), which give real satisfaction once detected, even if they are not spectacular. The Herschel 400 list is much more extensive, and most objects I tried were fairly easy, certainly compared to Caldwell 3. my favourite is NGC 2903, which is really bright and extensive (spotted in the 70 mm finder).

So, even as a novice, don't feel intimidated by going outside of the Messier list. The Herschel list contains many object easily as bright as some of the nicer Messiers.

If April starts out with clouds, as it has here, I shall not complain, there are many others now in more urgent need clear skies. That said, Saturday is forecast as clear, and the Galaxy Bug has truly bitten, so I might be out and about again.

Thanks to everybody who has offered advice and encouragement!!

Edited by michael.h.f.wilkinson
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Its is very addictive the galaxy bug....I just love doubles and edge on ones. I also like to try to spot face on spirals by the way they look before checking in a guide..

I am at SGL 6 tonight so I will spot some galaxies in your honour.

Mark

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Its is very addictive the galaxy bug....I just love doubles and edge on ones. I also like to try to spot face on spirals by the way they look before checking in a guide..

I am at SGL 6 tonight so I will spot some galaxies in your honour.

Mark

Thanks! I hope the skies are clearer than they are here, I'll keep my fingers crossed. Checking out the appearance after making your own observation is the way to go. After a while, you really can estimate the type and angle visually, I find. With more than 400 under your belt you must be really good at it now!

Cheers and clear skies!!

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That was a really interesting read. I have to agree that once you start to find faint galaxys, you will be sure to try to hunt out more.

I have only really recently started to search out more fuzzies myself so find reading about your efforts encouraging. Thanks for sharing and wishing you clear skies for April. :)

Mark.

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