One To Go

Observing notes from the evening of Saturday, March 28, 1998

I set up the 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope in the backyard Saturday night with hopes of doing a little astrophotography.  But, with the light pollution and gusting winds, I soon gave up.  Instead, I decided to track down a few objects for some casual viewing.

The first object of the night was the Orion Nebula, M42, which was just about to slip behind some trees.  This nebula is king of the winter sky but is fading fast as summer approaches.  The nebula was splendid through the eyepiece.  The wispy clouds remind me of a giant angel fish.

Next up was the Eskimo Nebula, NGC2392, in the constellation of Gemini.  Although this is a small planetary nebula, I now can find it rather quickly.  I guess practice makes perfect.  To me, the Eskimo Nebula looks like a small, blue snowball.  I really couldn't see any structure in it.

I then decided to go after those last few remaining Messier objects I haven't seen.  Since my telescope was reasonably polar aligned, I was hoping that the setting circles would help me find them.  First off was M102.  Some people say that M102 is just a duplicate observation of M101, so they skip it when going through the Messier list.  However, there are some that believe that the coordinates were wrong and Messier was really observing NGC5866.  Just to make sure that I have really observed them all, I decided to find NGC5866.  I dialed the coordinates into my setting circle.  I looked through the eyepiece and saw nothing.  But, after pushing the scope around a little bit, an elongated galaxy came into view.  It had a somewhat bright core and is located in the constellation of Draco.  This of course was a new observation for me.

I then dialed in the coordinates for M83, a spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Hydra.  This was on my southern horizon which is where I have my worst skies.  It took me about three tries before I finally spotted the faint little fuzzy through the telescope.  I actually finally gave up on the setting circles and decided to starhop my way to it.  Using my trusty Sky Atlas 2000.0, and my 8x50 finder, I located the proper starfield and then the galaxy.  It was faint, but definitely a fuzzy spot.  It would probably be quite nice in darker skies.  It had an oval shape and formed the top of a "cross" with some nearby stars.  Log this as a new observation for me.

A couple of days ago I also observed M68 with my 8" SCT.  Also located in Hydra, M68 is globular cluster.  Even through my southern horizon murk, I could still resolve it as a ball of stars.  This particular night I was trying out a new finder and decided to see if I could find M68.  M68 was a new observation for me.  This object, coupled with seeing M83 and M102 (NGC5866), leaves only one more Messier object to go and I will have seen them all.  The last object is M62, which is a globular cluster in Ophiuchus.  Since it is currently rising after midnight, I haven't had a chance to track it down yet.

My next object of the night was actually a cluster of galaxies.  I star hopped my way over to the galaxies of M65 and M66 in Leo.  These two galaxies are a great pair to observe.  M66 is a fat oval while M65 is very elongated.  I also picked up another elongated galaxy, NGC3628, in the same field of view.

I finished my observing session by taking a peek at two excellent globular clusters.  First up was M3 in the constellation of Canes Venatici.  This 6.4 magnitude globular is easy to resolve and is a great introduction into the world of globulars.  But to really be dazzled by a globular cluster, I zoomed in on M13 in Hercules.  This glorious cluster fills the eyepiece with a multitude of stars.  It is the best of the northern skies.

Jeffrey L. Polston

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