Tuesday 4 June 2013

Pimms and Astronomy

As expected, last night offered some decent conditions for backyard astronomy; the milky way could even be seen in Cygnus, a faint shimmer against the urban skies.

With Pimms Number 1 in a very pleasant combination with rasberry and blackberry sparkling water, I took my 10x50s outside at about 1245am, and first up took in the sight of an angry, red-green flashing Antares within the branches of the trees blocking my lower southern aspect. No chance of seeing Messier 4, that's for sure, but Antares itself is always a great sight, the celestial scorpion's angry, unmerciful eye as it chases the virgin across the sky.

Sweeping around, I picked up the Messier 3 and Messier 5 globular clusters - as it turned out viewing conditions were a little hazier than I had first thought - and then strained to find Messier 51 and Messier 81. Messier 51 seems to be visible as a very faint smudge forming an equilateral triangle with two 8th mag stars, but 81 I'm never sure of. Which is odd, as it ought to be easier to spot than the Whirlpool.

I had one target in mind for the night's observing, and picked it up fairly easily. Having seen Messier 71 in Sagitta, I headed NE from there, and was able to pick up Messier 27, the famous Dumbell Planetary Nebula, reasonably easily.


I thought I had spotted this the night before, but this will have been the Open Cluster NGC6885 north of the well known "Coathanger" asterism.

I finished off the evening with a sweep through Cygnus, spotting Messier 29 and Messier 39, before heading into the rising world of the west through a stop off at NGC 7243 in Lacerta. I caught my first summer look at the Mirfak and Perseus double clusters. A joy, but a warning of autumn days ahead, sadly.

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