Faint Little Fuzzies

Observing notes from the evening of Monday, September 29, 1997

After about a month hiatus, we finally got some decent skies around here. I was greeted Monday morning with a clear, blue sky and a promising forecast for the evening. I gathered with some of my observing buddies for an impromptu observing session at Farrington Point, Lake Jordan, NC. Jeff McAdams, Michael King, and Donald Major attended. We also had a couple of visitors come by. I didn't really have an observing plan. It just felt good to be out under the stars again. Although there was a little haze in the air, the Milky Way still glowed pretty nicely overhead. The teapot of Sagittarius was tipped on its side, indicating the passage of Summer into Fall.

Armed with my Meade 10" f/4.5 Starfinder telescope (in Dobsonian mode), my first target of the night was the globular cluster M22 in Sagittarius. I was waiting for my scope to cool down so I didn't really expect too great of a view. Nevertheless, the sight of this huge ball of stars was beautiful. This southerly competitor to the Hercule's cluster never fails to impress me. It fills the eyepiece and is easy to resolve.

Next up on the list was the globular cluster M2 in Aquarius. Michael and Jeff were going after this one so I decided to find it too. Michael was using his new book, Turn Left At Orion. This is great book for beginners. It tells you how to find about 100 bright objects and describes what they will look like in small scopes. It gives great star hopping directions. Although most of us veteran observers are use to star hopping by forming patterns we see in the stars, a lot of beginners can be confused by this method. It can be kind of hard to get somewhere if you don't know where to start from in the first place. Using the directions from Michael's book and my trusty Telrad, I was able to find M2 on my first try. This is a bright, compact globular. This cluster seems like it shows more un-resolvable core than anything else. You can see a scattering of stars surrounding the core, but my attention is drawn toward the dense middle.

Next up was the globular cluster M15 in Pegasus. I viewed this one through Jeff's 10" f/5 scope. If comparing to nearby M2, M15 will be bigger, and less concentrated. It's easier to resolve and has a tiny, almost stellar looking core. It's a really beautiful sight.

Next up on the list was NGC 7331, which is nice elongated galaxy in Pegasus. In fact, it's my observation of a few galaxies in Pegasus that inspired the title for these notes. NGC 7331 was an easy find with the Telrad. Its elongated shape is very apparent. It has a bright core. The main reason for finding NGC 7331 was to see if we could locate Stephen's Quintet, or at least its brightest member. We could do neither. Both Jeff and I tried to locate the galaxy group but had no success. They should have been in the same low power field of view as NGC 7331. I guess they are for darker skies, larger telescopes, or both.

Since I was in the area, I decided to try for some other "faint fuzzies". There are a lot of galaxies in and around the Great Square of Pegasus if you know where to look. My next target was the galaxy of NGC 7814. Since this was a new observation for me, I was really please when it slid into view. This elongated galaxy has a bright core and glows with a magnitude of 11.7. Even so, it was very dim in the eyepiece. I guess this shows that the sky conditions were not all that great.

Next up was the galaxy NGC 7448 which is also in Pegasus and also was a new object for me. This galaxy is also elongated and of magnitude 11.7. It is suppose to be a member of a galaxy grouping. I could actually pick up another galaxy in the same field of view, but could not positively identify it.

I then decided to find new Messier object. M39 in Cygnus was an easy find. M39 is an open cluster. It is bright and very scattered. It is almost lost against the starry background. If not for its bright members, it probably would be. It fills the eyepiece and kind of reminds me of a dimmer version of the Pleiades (with less stars of course).

During this observing session I would see a meteor streak across the heavens every now and then. I saw about 5 or 6 during the evening. One left a spectacular glowing trail through the Milky Way. Jeff also saw this one. It looked as though someone had taken a green florescent marker and drawn a line in the sky.

Some other objects we observed were the open cluster M52 in Cassiopeia, the Ring Nebula M57 in Lyra, and the Dumbbell Nebula M27 in Vulpecula. We also took a look at the trio of Andromeda galaxies M31, M32, and M110 through Jeff's telescope. We gazed momentarily on the beautiful blue-gold double star Albireo in Cygnus.

We then decided to scrutinize the Veil Nebula in Cygnus for a while. We observed it without filters, with a broadband filter, and with a narrowband filter. A narrowband filter such as an Orion Ultrablock or Lumicon UHC does wonders on this nebula. We cruised along the curving portion of nebula near 52 Cygni. I call this the "snake" or "s" portion while Jeff calls it the "skinny" portion. We then moved up to another section that looks like a large "c" or "claw" shape. I was amazed at how much "real estate" this nebula covers. This is one huge object. I've always just observed the "snake" portion of the Veil Nebula, never realizing the wealth of the other portions. From now on I'm going to explore this area of the sky more thoroughly.

Since the next day was a work day, we decided to shut down and pack up. I took a few quick peaks at Jupiter and Saturn. The air wasn't quite stable enough for high power views. The planets looked good, but I decided to save them for a night with better seeing. My last object of the night was a quick look at the open cluster M45. Known as the Pleiades Cluster, it is located in the shoulder of Taurus the bull. With the arrival of this grouping of stars, Fall and Winter observing cannot be far behind. The Pleiades fill and overflow the field of view of my eyepiece. The beauty of this cluster is better suited for a rich field telescope or binoculars. Long exposure photographs show blue nebulosity surrounding the Pleiades but I have never convinced myself of seeing it visually. I've read about others who have. It did look like it was surrounded in nebulosity, but I didn't know if it was real or just reflections from the bright stars. In any case, the Pleiades star cluster is a beautiful sight and a wonderful way to end the night.

Jeffrey L. Polston


Listed below are all the objects observed. Objects with an asterisk are new objects for me.

M22 (NGC 6656), globular cluster, Sagittarius

M2 (NGC 7089), globular cluster, Aquarius

M15 (NGC 7078), globular cluster, Pegasus

NGC 7331, galaxy, Pegasus

* NGC 7814, galaxy, Pegasus

* NGC 7448, galaxy, Pegasus

* M39 (NGC 7092), open cluster, Cygnus

M52 (NGC 7654), open cluster, Cassiopeia

M57 (NGC 6720), Ring Nebula, Lyra

M27 (NGC 6853), Dumbbell Nebula, Vulpecula

M31 (NGC 224), galaxy, Andromeda

M32 (NGC 221), galaxy, Andromeda

M110 (NGC 205), galaxy, Andromeda

NGC 6960, Veil Nebula, Cygnus

M45, The Pleiades, open cluster, Taurus

Jupiter, Capricorn

Saturn, Pisces


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