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All observing logs tagged with M31

2006-10-26


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-26 13:30 UT
To: 2006-10-26 13:35 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 15.5C ...
Dew Point: 8.9C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 6.8mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 996.5hPa ...
Notes:

Very clear afternoon, very breezy too. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-26 13:30 UT
To: 2006-10-26 13:35 UT

No sunspots or other marks were visible on the Sun.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-26 18:10 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:35 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
7x50 Binoculars
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 11.3C ...
Dew Point: 5.3C ...
Humidity: 67% ...
Wind Speed: 4.4mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 1001.0hPa ...
Notes:

Pretty clear night but also very breezy. Seeing appeared to be quite unsteady. Decided to head out and see if I could find comet Swan.

A first look for comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-26 18:10 UT
To: 2006-10-26 18:20 UT

I first headed out with the 7x50 binoculars to see if I could even find comet Swan. I managed to locate it with very little trouble. Its appearance was that of a small fuzzy blob, not unlike a globular cluster. In fact, when compared with M13, it appeared quite similar except that the comet seemed somewhat brighter.

Observing comet M4 Swan

From: 2006-10-26 18:25 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:25 UT

After having located the comet without any problems I went and got the 905 out so I could have a proper look. Starting out with the 32mm eyepiece I found the comet without any problems. Just as it did in the binocular it simply looked a lot like a globular cluster. I could see no sign of a tail.

After a short while, as my eyes became more dark adapted, I found that I could see a hint of a tail — it was quite a bit longer than I would have expected. I then switched to the 10x50 binoculars and was surprised to see that the tail was very obvious. Using the binocular I again compared it with M13 and noted that the comet was quite a bit brighter.

I went back to the 905 and dropped in the 10mm eyepiece. I could see a very bright central spot, not sharp but it was quite distinct. Surrounding it was a fainter coma.

At this point I noted that this is probably the best comet I've seen since I got back into active observing.

After switching back to the 32mm eyepiece I noticed that the tail was even more obvious and that the head of the comet could easily withstand direct vision without any obvious loss of detail. Up to this point I still hadn't been able to spot the comet with the naked eye.

Around 19:03 UT I noticed that some thin cloud was moving in from the west and that it looked like it would interfere with observations. While it wasn't in the way just yet it did put me off doing a sketch I was planning to attempt as it appeared that it was cause problems during the sketching process.

Looking some more via the 32mm eyepiece I estimated that the tail that was visible to me extended about to ⅓ of the field of view of the eyepiece.

Around 19:10 UT was really looking like it was going to become a problem. As well as being annoying because I wanted to try a sketch it was also annoying because I'd been thinking about getting the 130M out to compare the view.

At 19:15 UT the cloud started to get in the way so I decided to have a break to see if it would pass. By 19:23 UT the worst of it seemed to have passed but the sky behind it seemed much more hazy (the tail of the comet wasn't anywhere near as visible in the 905 as it had been earlier). At 19:25 UT I decided to finish with the comet for the evening.

M31, M110 and a satellite

From: 2006-10-26 19:27 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:38 UT

Because M31 was at a good height for the 905 (unlike the other night when it was too high) I decided to have a quick look. Using the 32mm eyepiece it wasn't quite as impressive as I'd hoped (or as impressive as the other night's view with the 10x50 binoculars). However, I thought I could just about make out M110 when using averted vision. Oddly I couldn't make out M32 at all.

At 19:36 UT a satellite passed right through the field of view (at the time I was using the 25mm eyepiece), only just missing M31 (as it appeared to me, with a bigger aperture the galaxy would look wider and it probably would have appeared to transit it).

Update 2006-10-27:According to stella, a poster on the SPA's BB, what I saw was "99-04C, Globalstar M036, catalog no. 25623. Orbiting at a height of 1413 kilometres".

With the 25mm eyepiece I could still see what I thought was M110. It was only visible with averted vision and seemed quite ghostly but there was little doubt that there was something there. Checking with a chart it appeared to be in the right place.

M33

From: 2006-10-26 19:40 UT
To: 2006-10-26 19:55 UT

Next I decided to have a look for M33. Using the 905 with the 32mm eyepiece I quickly found my way to the correct area of sky and was sure I could see it pretty much straight away. I could see a very ghostly patch that, while it wasn't that distinct from the surrounding sky, was obviously some sort of object.

Looking through the red-dot finder, and checking with my charts (in this case the Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas), I could see that I was lined up on exactly the right spot so I was very confident that I was seeing M33.

Back at the eyepiece, the more I looked the more I was sure there was something there. Given how indistinct it was it would have been pretty much impossible to actually sketch. I think this is probably a good object to go after with the 130M as the extra aperture would probably be a big help.

I then had a look at the same patch of sky with the 10x50 binoculars and could see the object through them too. There's no doubt that I was seeing M33.

M76

From: 2006-10-26 20:00 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:17 UT

Decided to go hunting for M76 (the Little Dumbbell Nebula). I star hopped my way to the right location with the 905 and the 32mm eyepiece. I then switched to the 25mm eyepiece and had a sweep around the area for some time without seeing anything obvious.

Finally, after a short while, I noticed a faint, ghostly object in the right location (seems it was the night for this sort of observation). I could only see it with averted vision.

I then switched to the 10mm eyepiece and found that I still needed averted vision but that the object was still visible.

With the object centered in the field of view I then had a check through the red-dot finder and, when compared with my chart, I could see that I was lined up on the right spot in the sky. This would appear to be another good target for the 130M.

Quick look at Albireo

From: 2006-10-26 20:25 UT
To: 2006-10-26 20:35 UT

Before packing up for the night I decided to have a quick look at Albireo through the 905. I started out with the 25mm eyepiece, then moved on to the 10mm eyepiece and then, finally, the 6mm eyepiece.

I noticed that at this magnification the image was quite unsteady. This was probably in part down to the breeze moving the telescope about but there also seemed to be a component of bad seeing involved too.

The colour of both the starts was quite vivid.

Finally, at 20:35 UT, with conditions not being that great and with more cloud heading in I decided to pack up for the night.


2006-10-24


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-24 14:15 UT
To: 2006-10-24 14:20 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Temperature: 14.6C ...
Dew Point: 7.6C ...
Humidity: 63% ...
Wind Speed: 2.9mph ...
Wind Dir: West ...
Pressure: 996.8hPa ...
Notes:

Partly clear afternoon, quite cool and breezy too. Took the Solarscope out to do a quick sunspot count.

Sun

From: 2006-10-24 14:15 UT
To: 2006-10-24 14:20 UT

Active area 917 was still visible, now quite close to the limb of the Sun. I could see three small faint spots.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2006-10-24 20:30 UT
To: 2006-10-24 22:15 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Antares 905
Temperature: 9.1C ...
Dew Point: 5.8C ...
Humidity: 80% ...
Wind Speed: Calm ...
Pressure: 1002.1hPa ...
Notes:

Reasonably clear night but appearing a little unsteady at times. I was caught out by it, I wasn't expecting it to be clear. Having noticed in Starry Night that Uranus would be well placed for viewing from my garden I decided to pop out and see if I could view it.

Uranus

From: 2006-10-24 20:30 UT
To: 2006-10-24 21:20 UT

First off I used Starry Night to figure out exactly where Uranus was in relation to easily spotted star patterns. After I was happy that I'd be able to find it I went outside with the 10x50 binoculars and tried to track it down. I was surprised to find that I could see it with no problems whatsoever.

Uranus was near to, and down and to the right from, Lambda Aquarii. Lambda Aquarii was quite a fascinating object to see in itself given its vivid red colour. In relation to the surrounding stars Uranus, while obvious given that I knew where it should be, didn't stand out as being a planet. If I hadn't known what I was looking for and where I was looking for it I would simply have thought it was just another star.

Having seen it with the 10x50s I decided to get the Antares 905 out and have a look at it through that. After setting up the 905 I started out with the 25mm eyepiece and got Lambda Aquarii in the field and then centered on Uranus. I then worked my way up to the 6mm eyepiece, keeping Uranus in the center of the field of view as I went.

By about 20:50 UT I had Uranus and TYC5813-273-1 in the field of the 6mm. Even at this magnification I would have thought that I was looking at 2 stars if I hadn't already known one of them was a planet. Initially there was no hint of any kind of disc and I could detect no obvious colour.

The observation probably wasn't helped by the fact that, at the elevation of Uranus, the sky was a little murky and sometimes quite unsteady.

After some more viewing, especially when comparing it with TYC5813-273-1, I began to detect that Uranus wasn't a point-source but was actually a very small disc (at least I think I could see that, I don't think it was wishful thinking).

Around 21:08 UT, after scanning the area around Uranus and memorising some of the closer stars, I went back into the office to double-check what I'd seen with Starry Night. The main feature that stood out was two starts, sort of close together, just south of Uranus. I could see them in Starry Night (they were TYC5813-519-1 and TYC5813-814-1) and this confirmed that, without a doubt, I was looking at Uranus.

I also noticed in Starry Night that TYC5813-789-1 was very close to Uranus but I never did manage to see it through the 'scope.

After doing the above checking and after memorising the general pattern of starts around Uranus, at around 21:15 UT, I went back out and put the 10mm eyepiece in the 905 and checked everything again. Everything matched and there was no doubt that I'd found Uranus.

Random viewing

From: 2006-10-24 21:25 UT
To: 2006-10-24 22:15 UT

Given that I was out with the 905 and given that the sky wasn't too awful I decided to stay out a bit longer even though I managed to achieve my aim for this session. Because I didn't really have any other sort of plan I decided to just randomly sweep around the sky looking at whatever turned up or took my fancy.

First off I tried to have a look at M31 with the 905. Annoyingly, because it was so far overhead, I couldn't get the 905 in a position where I could view it, the mount kept getting in the way. So, instead, I turned it on the Double Cluster in Perseus (also known as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884).

In the 32mm eyepiece it was a nice rich star field, just the sort of thing I'd purchased the 905 for. Both clusters stood out very well against the very starry background and the line of starts that runs away from the area of the cluster stood out really well.

At around 21:43 UT I noticed that the sky was looking quite nice now. Still a little hazy but it looked quite impressive. The Milky Way stood out really well — I think this is probably the best I've seen it for most of this year.

Given that I couldn't get the 905 trained on M31 I decided to have a quick look with the 10x50 binoculars instead. Even though I was only holding them with my hands it was a very impressive sight. The more I looked the wider it appeared to get. I think this was probably the best view I've had of that galaxy since I started observing again.

While I had the 10x50s to hand I next had a look at M45. It looked very clear, very bright and the "mini cascade" in it stood out really well. I think this was probably the best view I've had for a long time.

At around 21:55 UT, while sweeping around Cassiopeia with the 10x50s, I saw a pretty obvious cluster of stars about way between Epsilon Cassiopeiae and Delta Cassiopeiae. Checking with my maps it turned out to be NGC 654 (also known as Caldwell 10). Checking back I have observed this before. It looked like a slightly fuzzy but loose collection of stars. Last time I observed I remember thinking that it looked more like a globular cluster but this time around it was obvious that it was an open cluster.

Starting around 22:05 UT I did a bit of aimless sweeping around with the binoculars, just taking in the beauty of the sky. However, it was starting to get colder and damper (dew was forming on everything) and given that I wasn't really dressed for the conditions (I had, after all, intended to just pop out for a quick look for Uranus) and that I really needed to get off to bed I decided to call an end to the session at 22:15 UT.


2005-09-27


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-27 14:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 14:40 UT
Equipment: Solarscope
Notes:

Decided to have a quick look at the Sun with the Solarscope.

The Sun

From: 2005-09-27 14:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 14:40 UT

The only feature I could see on the Sun was sunspot 810. There didn't appear to be an awful lot to it — just a small, dark, mostly circular umbra with a lighter penumbra just about visible all around it. The penumbra appeared to be as thick as the umbra was wide.

I also noticed some faint mottling on the surface of the Sun close to sunspot 810.

Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-09-27 20:00 UT
To: 2005-09-27 21:17 UT
Equipment: Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

Very good dark sky tonight. As soon as I stepped outside I could see the Milky Way. Temperature felt quite cold — I needed to wear a coat for observing for the first time in a long time.

Main aim for the night was to view Mars again.

General sweeping of Cassiopeia and Perseus

From: 2005-09-27 20:00 UT
To: 2005-09-27 20:35 UT

Given that Mars wasn't going to be visible for at least another hour I decided to spend a little bit of time in the chair sweeping the area around Cassiopeia and Perseus with a 10x50 binocular.

At around 20:10 UT I stumbled upon the open cluster NGC 663 (also known as Caldwell 10). Looked like a fuzzy but slightly mottled ball. It appeared more obvious to the eye and had more of a hint of detail with averted vision.

Also had a good look at the Double Cluster (also known as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884). It appeared much brighter and richer than the last time I looked.

At around 20:32 UT, after more sweeping around, I stumbled upon M34 in Perseus. It looked like a widespread group of faint stars. Some were easy to see with direct vision while more came into view with averted vision.

M31 — The Andromeda Galaxy

From: 2005-09-27 20:39 UT
To: 2005-09-27 20:45 UT

Took a look at M31 (NGC 224) in Andromeda. It was almost impossible to see with any clarity with direct vision but, with averted vision, appeared as a large misty galaxy shaped object. As much as I tried I couldn't identify M32 through the binocular.

Had a quick go at making a rough estimate of the size of M31 as it was visible in the binocular. I'd roughly estimate that it was between and ⅓ of the field of view.

Cloud approaching

Time: 2005-09-27 20:46 UT

Noticed some thin cloud either forming in or approaching from the West.

Mars appears

Time: 2005-09-27 20:49 UT

Noticed that Mars was now clear of the roofs of the houses to the East of me — not as hight as I'd like but getting that way. Decided to give it a little more time so that it would be higher, would be more clear of the street light that is in that general direction and the extra time would hopefully give the approaching cloud some time to clear.

Mars

From: 2005-09-27 21:07 UT
To: 2005-09-27 21:17 UT

By now the cloud was starting to cover Mars. Also noticed that the temperature had dropped a fair bit in the previous 10 minutes. Because Mars was still visible through the cloud I dropped the 25mm eyepiece into the 130M and had a look.

I was initially surprised at how big it appeared given that I was using the 25mm eyepiece. It looked much bigger than the first time I looked at it with the 25mm.

With the 6mm eyepiece the image was terrible — most probably due to the cloud (which was still thin enough to see Mars through it). The phase was obvious (and obviously bigger than previous observations) but there was no hint at all of any surface features. There was lots of false colour and the image was quite unsteady.

At around 21:14 UT Mars was lost from view to the naked eye and in the 'scope due to the cloud. Checking the Western horizon it seemed obvious that the cloud had no useful breaks and was here for some time to come. Called an end to the session at 21:17 UT.


2005-08-15


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-08-15 20:24 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Notes:

The main reason for venturing out was to give the 130M a proper "run under the stars" after center spotting the primary mirror on 2005-08-13. Also, before heading out, I use a laser collimator to try and improve the collimation. I didn't plan on doing any star-tests tonight — I just wanted to see how well I got on with the 'scope having actually had the mirror out of it.

Moon was a waxing gibbous quite low in the sky (not visible from my position). There was some thin haze in parts of the sky but no noticeable clouds. Temperature was cool but still warm enough to be out in a t-shirt.

When I started out the sky was still somewhat light.

General testing

From: 2005-08-15 20:24 UT
To: 2005-08-15 21:05 UT

Started out by pointing the 'scope at Mizar. With the 25mm eyepiece there was some obvious "flaring" of the brighter stars in the field. I could also see, from time to time, a faint "rainbow" effect in the flare. At this point I had trouble recalling exactly how bright stars used to look in the 'scope. I've always seen some flaring but — never having really made a point of noting exactly how it appeared — I didn't really have anything to compare. Lesson for the future: make notes about the really obvious things such as how stars look before you do some work on your 'scope.

With the 15mm eyepiece the flare (which, at times, looked like a very tight double image of each bright star) had a noticeable difference in appearance either side of best focus. When unfocused either side there was the impression of an oval effect to the unfocused stars. Either side of focus the orientation of the oval would rotate 90. As I understand it this is evidence of astigmatism in the primary or secondary mirror! I don't think I've ever noticed this before (not that I've ever really gone looking for it before).

I tried a few things to see if the oval effect would differ: I changed eyes (no difference), changed my orientation at the eyepiece (no difference) and rotated the eyepiece in the focuser (no difference).

I then tested with the 10mm and then 6mm eyepieces and, as best as I could tell, the oval effect wasn't noticeable. Most confusing.

The more I thought about it the more I felt that what I was seeing actually wasn't any worse than the 'scope used to be. Also, there's the fact that I don't generally know what a bright star should look like through a smallish Newtonian Reflector.

I wished that I'd had Jupiter or Saturn around still so that I could compare how things looked with a more "substantial" target.

Meteor

Time: 2005-08-15 21:01 UT

Saw a reasonably bright meteor pass roughly North to South through Lyra.

Probable Iridium Flare

Time: 2005-08-15 21:10 UT

Saw a very bright Iridium Flare in Ursa Major — just below the "handle" of "The Plough". I got the impression that it was one of the brightest flares I've ever seen. It was a lot brighter than any of the stars in Ursa Major.

M13

From: 2005-08-15 21:25 UT
To: 2005-08-15 21:45 UT

After the slight annoyance and frustration early on in the session I decided to try the 'scope out on a DSO and opted for an easy target: M13. Initial impression with the 25mm eyepiece was that it looked magnificent! While it looked like a cometary-like "blob" (as I'd noted in a previous observing session) there was, this time, the occasional faint hint that it was comprised of lots of stars. It wasn't so much that I could see stars, it was more a case of it looking slightly "grainy" from time to time.

Made a sketch via the 25mm eyepiece:

Sketch of M13

Possible "late" Perseid

Time: 2005-08-15 21:49 UT

Saw a faint meteor pass through Andromeda. Was very quick (less than a second I'd have said) and, given the direction of travel, it looked like it might have been a "late" Perseid.

Satellite between Cygnus and Lyra

Time: 2005-08-15 21:52 UT

Watched a faint satellite go roughly North to South, more or less via the zenith, and pass between Cygnus and Lyra. It seemed to occult a faint (to the naked eye) star somewhere between the two constellations. Unfortunately, at the time, I wasn't in a position to note which one it was.

M13

From: 2005-08-15 21:53 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:01 UT

Went back to M13, this time with the 15mm eyepiece. Appeared slightly brighter. There was now a hint that it's made of actual stars with the grainy appearance mentioned above being much more pronounced. While doing viewing a thin but obscuring line of cloud (might even have been a contrail) moved into the area and made observing rather hard. Somewhat annoying as I was about to start a sketch of what it looked like with the 15mm eyepiece.

M31 (and possibly M32)

From: 2005-08-15 22:12 UT
To: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

M31 is now in a position where I can see it with the 'scope. First looked at it with the 25mm eyepiece. M31 itself was obvious but, at the same time, indistinct. There was an obvious brightness difference between what I assume is the central bulge and between the disk. There was no hint of any sort of structure and the whole thing had the appearance of a sort of light-gray "mist". The fact that I was looking in the direction of a street-light and that there was still a very faint haze in the sky probably wasn't helping matters.

After a short while I noticed that a star in the field was actually rather "fuzzy" when compared to all the other stars. Started to wonder if what I was seeing was M32. My initial impression was that it was further away from M31 than I'd imagined it would appear to be but, that said, that impression is formed from the photographs I've seen of M31 (which obviously show a lot more of the galaxy than I'd be seeing through my 'scope).

Checking with a chart I had to hand the fuzzy object did appear to be in about the right location for M32. To be sure I went and checked with my copy of Sky Atlas 2000 and, looking at that, I convinced myself that I wasn't seeing M32 (based on the pattern of stars near it which seemed to be in SA2000 but not in the correct position for M32). Lesson here: be sure of the width of the field of view of the eyepiece so you can make good estimates of separation of objects.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. The "fuzzy star" still had a fuzzy appearance and still looked quite different from all other stars in the field.

Switched back to the 25mm eyepiece and made the following sketch:

Sketch of M31

At 22:55 UT I finished the session.

Mars pops up

Time: 2005-08-15 22:55 UT

As I was starting to pack up I noticed that Mars had popped up over the roofs of the houses to the East of me. I did consider setting up the 'scope again to have a look at it but given that it was still low down and given that it was very close to a street-light I decided to save that for another night when conditions were a little more favourable.


2005-07-16


Location: Billingborough (South Lincolnshire, UK)
From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT
Equipment: Naked Eye
Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M
Meade 10x50 Binoculars
Notes:

Another reasonable night's observing. Sky seemed quite clear, I think I'd have rated the transparancy as "pretty good" and seeing seemed "very good". The temperature was cool but pleasant. Waxing gibbous Moon.

Moon

From: 2005-07-16 21:27 UT
To: 2005-07-16 21:40 UT

With the naked eye I noticed that on the terminator of the Moon there was an obvious and significant feature jutting into the night-side. For some reason I don't think I've ever really noticed something as obvious as this before.

Using the 130M and a 25mm eyepiece I could see that it was part of Montes Jura, which partly surrounds Sinus Iridum.

I was contemplating trying to make a sketch of the scene when I started to lose the Moon behind a neighbour's house.

Albireo

From: 2005-07-16 22:00 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:24 UT

Turned the 130M on AlbireoCygnus) and companion. Started with the 25mm eyepiece. Reasonably wide pair. Noticed that there seems to be a faint difference in colour but I couldn't quite tell for sure exactly what it was. One of the pair seemed to be slightly more blue in appearance (the fainter of the pair) whereas the other seemed much more white.

Switched to the 15mm eyepiece. Now the brighter of the pair appeared to have a faint orange tint to it. The fainter of the pair had a slight blue tint.

With the 10mm eyepiece the effect was the same as with the 15mm but the colours were more pronounced.

With the 6mm eyepiece the colours were even more pronounced. My impression was that the brighter of the pair has an orange/white appearance to it and the fainter of the pair has a blue/white appearance.

Attempt to find M29

From: 2005-07-16 22:31 UT
To: 2005-07-16 22:52 UT

Decided to have a go at finding M29 in Cygnus. Pointed the 'scope in the general location of the cluster. Using the 25mm eyepiece I thought I'd found it after discounting a couple of candidates. I found this very hard-going given that this is a very star-rich part of the sky due to it lying in the "thicker" part of the Milky Way.

Finding it hard to tell if I'd got the right object or not I grabbed my copy of Neil Bone's Deep Sky Observer's Guide to see if that could help me check if I'd got the right object. Sadly there was no illustration for this object but the text described it as a "south-pointing triangle". The collection of stars that I'd finally settled on seemed to fit the bill but I was still unsure that I'd really found M29.

Made a sketch of what I'd found so I could check later against any images I could find:

Sketch of object

Checking afterwards with Starry Sky I found that what I'd sketched wasn't M29. Annoyingly, I had actually seen M29 but had discounted it as what I saw didn't seem to match the description I'd read. What I had drawn (ignoring the brighter star that I'd marked) was, from what I can tell, the following stars: TYC3152-1679-1, TYC3151-955-1, TYC3151-757-1, TYC3151-1782-1, TYC3151-1591-1, TYC3151-478-1, TYC3151-1573-1, TYC3151-1237-1 and TYC3151-550-1. The bright star I marked was 34 Cygni. Seems I was about 1 off.

It strikes me that there are two useful lessons here: the first is that I should do a little more preparation before going hunting for an object such as this (one that could be easily confused in a star-rich area); the second lesson is that when you're unsure about something you think you've found doing a sketch for later comparison is a good thing.

M31

From: 2005-07-16 23:10 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:20 UT

Noticed that M31 had risen enough to clear the murk of the eastern horizon (not to mention the roofs of the houses near me). Couldn't quite see it with the naked eye (then again there is a street light in that direction and it was still reasonably low down) but found it very easily with 10x50 binoculars. Could see the central bulge rather well with a faint hint of the rest of the galaxy.

I would have turned the 130M on it but, annoyingly, it was obscured by my Pear Tree from where I was set up and I didn't want to get into moving the 'scope and realigning it and everything at that point. I'll save M31 and the 130M for another night when it's higher in the sky.

M51

From: 2005-07-16 23:25 UT
To: 2005-07-16 23:50 UT

Decided to have a go at M51. It wasn't very favourably placed given that it was off in the Western part of the sky and given that that part of the sky wasn't anywhere near fully dark. Using the 25mm eyepiece, after a little bit of effort, I found it. Although all I could see was two faint fuzzy blobs it seemed pretty obvious that it was M51. There was no hint that I was actually looking at a spiral galaxy. With averted vision the blobs did seem a little more extended.

Dropped the 15mm eyepiece into the 'scope and had another look. The impression I got was that it looked a little brighter and, with averted vision, there was the vague impression that the "extensions" to the blobs mentioned above appeared to overlap.

The really enjoyable part about seeing M51 was the realisation that I was looking back in time somewhere in the region of 30 million years or more.

M57

From: 2005-07-16 23:55 UT
To: 2005-07-17 00:15 UT

Decided to have another look at at M57. Given that Lyra was better positioned than the last time I observed it I wanted to see what would be visible with the 6mm eyepiece (I'd tried using it during the last observing session but couldn't see much at all). Also, the sky seemed a lot darker and clearer that the last time (for example, I could now easily see the Milky Way with the naked eye, something I couldn't do the other night).

First located M57 with the 25mm eyepiece, centered it in the field of view and then immediately switched to the 6mm. Noticed right away that the "hole" was very visible, I could more or less detect it with direct vision. Also noticed something that I'd not noticed in the previous observing session: a faint star just to the side of the nebula. I also thought I could detect a faint variation in brightness in the ring but it was hard to pin down exactly where this was and what form it took (this was only really noticeable with averted vision).

Made a sketch:

Sketch of M57

As an experiment I've taken the above, converted it into a gray-scale image and then inverted the colours. This is the result:

Inverted sketch of M57

At 00:15 UT I finished the session.


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Dave Pearson <davep@davep.org>
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