Friday 14 September 2012

Triangulum Joy

Night before last, all was chilly and clear. Autumn has decided to start suddenly and early, as summer started suddenly and late. I came back from a quiet and short pint at a comfortable hostelry knowing it was a 10x50s night, so I grabbed a drink of sadly unmulled cider and headed outside.

It was a profitable little observation session. I worked my away over from West to East - M15, M71 in pretty little Sagitta, the Fox's curious Coathanger - Messier 39 looking more and more to me (and wrongly) like a miniature Pleides at the end of a long trail of beautifully myriad stars along the back of The Swan before you jump across the see faintly the two NGC clusters at the head of Lacerta the Lizard.

I took in a few coloured stars too, Scheat, the star Elenin is it? In Draco's head? Enif, the Beta and Gamma Andromedae pair. I then had to switch position and scare any awake neighbours, before catching the usual Perseus suspects and the two Cass clusters, and The Pleides for real, and the Hyades. Even in my shaky hands Jupiter's moon Ganymede was visible.

A sure sign  of winter approaching, a couple of the Auriga open clusters were visible, although it was smoggy lower down - can never remember off hand which Auriga cluster is which.

The Andromeda Galaxy was plain, but it was in Triangulum below my special goal lay. Starting at the bright orange star in Aries, I starhopped up to the point of the Triangle before heading off towards two o'clock and the corner of the square of Pegasus.

Sure enough, a surprisingly large but very faint hazy smudge was visible, at this sort of orientation it seemed \\\\\\\\\ - it was the Traingulum spiral, Messier 33. The third main galazy of our local group, and at 3 million light years away, supposedly the furthest object visible with the naked eye.

No chance of seeing it with the naked eye, and looking at how low its surface brightness is compared to Messier 31, I'm amazed you can; but it's the furthest object I've picked up in my 10x50s - I had a look for Messier 81 in Ursa Major and failed, and I've never really picked up Messier 51, so, that record may stand for a while!

Unless I ever go to a deep sky park!

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