Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Cider with Binoculars - astronomy report

Last night was not only a clear one, the moon was out of the way, and atmospheric conditions were good too. I decided to head out with my 10x50s at half past midnight with a bottle of Magners, and see what I should see.

It was probably one of the most rewarding observing sessions I've ever had.

First up, Coma Berenices, looking wonderful in binoulars as always, but sadly not revealing the globular cluster Messier 53 as I'd hoped. The Leo triplet is forever out of reach, and I'm not goping to see any of the Virgo cluster galaxies anytime from my garden, although the starfields in the Virgo bowl are attractive enough in their own right. The globular Messier 3 in Canes Venatici was an easy spot. Later on I picked up Messier 13 and Messier 5, and it is definitely slightly inferior to those two globulars.

I stayed in the vicinity of the Hunting Dogs, and realised that La Superba seemed to be naked eye visible, only, research today reveals I'm looking in the wrong place. Back to the drawing board!

However, first BIG TICK of the night. I found Messier 51, the famous Whirlpool galaxy, for the first time. It seems to form an isoceles triangle with a pair of 6th magnitude stars at 3 o'clock from a line joining Mizar to Alkaid - obviously little detail can be seen, but the fact that I was able to pick it up at all was a thrill.

Struck with my success, I scanned over to Merak and Dubhe, the north star "pointers" of legend, and I think I picked up another faint haze, marking Bode's galaxy, Messier 81, which is apparently absoloutely the furthest object visible with the naked eye. I will confirm this tonight if conditions are good. THRILL number 2.

The final big new spot was Messier 92 over in Hercules, another one to confirm tonight. All these objects are right on the limit from my site, but it's such a reward to be able to find them.

And it's beautiful to be out looking at stars anyway.

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