Observing Report: May 13, 2015

Posted in Observation Record on May 14, 2015 – 5:35 PM
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Once again, it had been a very long time since I got out with the telescope. A very cold winter followed by a cloudy Spring has left me needing photons. I needed a fix so bad, that I took an hour or two on Wednesday night, where it wasn’t even dark enough to see stars until almost 9pm, to pull the scope out.

My skies are quite light polluted. I bought an iPhone app which measures sky brightness and got a reading of 4.99 NELM (there was no moon interference). I’d say that is pretty accurate. I had decided to work on double stars / star clusters, but it had been so long the lure of the Messier DSO’s were calling me to me.

Location: My Home, Raleigh NC
Telescope: 10″ Dobsonian Reflector
Seeing: Fair

M51: My yard has many tall trees around. From my driveway, the Big Dipper loomed large overhead. I was able to very quickly local M51. This object is one I struggle with sometimes, especially in light polluted skies. But I found it on the first try. Two cores could easily be seen, but little other structure.

M63: I moved over to Canes Ventici and found M63. This was an interesting object which came into and out of view. Averted vision was required. No structure could be seen, but the galaxy was clearly anchored by a star on one side. I had some width, but clearly more elongated. I found it best with my trusty 20mm eyepiece (60X). I explored different magnification and filters to try and tease out some more detail. At lower magnification the sky brightness dimmed the object and when I tried to increase the magnification with my 9mm eyepiece, the sky was dark, but the galaxy lost its contrast. Wide field (2″ eyepiece, 35mm) with a skyglow filter completely lost the galaxy. Adding a Ultrablock LPR filter to the 20mm eyepiece also reduced the contrast of the galaxy versus the skyglow.

M94: Also in Canes Ventici I found M94. This object was bright, compact, and nearly perfectly round. At first, I thought it was a globular cluster, but at high magnification was unable to resolve into pinpoint stars.

M109: Moving back to the Big Dipper I looked for M109. This object was a challenge, but I was finally able to make out the faint fuzzball. There was not much to see at any magnification. Another inspection should be repeated under darker skies.

M3: I couldn’t end the evening without getting one globular sighting. M3 was high in the sky and always one of the best globs in the sky. At 133X many jewels sparked in the eyepiece. Globular clusters are always sights to behold.

Saturn: Luckily for me, as I prepared to pack up I saw a yellowish star just over the trees. Having a strong suspicion, I turned my telescope towards it and sure enough saw the familiar rings. Saturn is back in the evening sky! The rings were open nicely, though clearly different from the last time I viewed it – probably last summer. I pushed the magnification up to 200X with my 6mm TMB planetary eyepiece and I could make out a little bit of fleeting color variation on the disk. It was reasonably low on the horizon further compounding the marginal seeing conditions.

It was a great night. Warm and clear. Very comfortable other than a few mosquitos. I’m definitely craving some new eyepieces and got envy when I saw a fellow club member’s Moonlite focuser for his Dob. Hopefully more clear nights are upon us!

This entry was written by matted, filed under Observation Record.
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