Monday 24 March 2014

Spring Observations Under a Freezing Sky; The Northern Globulars

This is the first really clear sky without any hint of a moon I've had a for a fair old while, or so it seems, and I was really looking to take advantage of this. Despite a frost in the air that was making my hands glow purpley-blue in the darkness or so it felt.

I took a tiny tot of rum with me for warming purposes - those heating vapours, you know - and got my binoculars out, starting out with M44 the Beehive, already low down by midnight in March, but barely seen all year with all the bad weather. It wasn't the best view, but there, I'd seen it. I also took time to observe the beautiful constellation of Coma Berenices, a glittering waterfall of faint stars filling the field of view in my 10x50s. I can't spot any of the galaxies, but I really don't care.

I then turned my attention to my main targets; the great globular clusters of spring. There's more on them here:

I've never seen M10 or 12, and Ophiuchus is not really a March constellation at this time in my garden, so I headed further North and picked out all my targets very quickly. It is interesting that to me, Messier 5 is almost equal with Messier 13, while the more diffuse (to my eyes) Messier 3 is rated as superior. I like finding Messier 5, as to navigate to it, you start at the bright orange and fascintatingly named star Unakalhaut, Alpha Serpentis.

Good name for a star that, almost as good as Zubenelgenubi in Libra.

The fourth on the list is the other, overshadowed globular in Hercules, Messier 92. I've found it easily before, but last night, the reduced observing schedule of the winter had put my eyes out of practice so badly, they were squinting shut! My poor eyes!

So, it was with disappointment in my heart that I headed for bed without craning my neck (and probably straining it again) to look for the Ursa Major galaxies.

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