In praise of dark skies and small ‘scopes

It’s been pretty severe weather here for almost a week, but there were clear skies tonight, and I was free from commitments after 6.30, so I headed out. I found a nice spot even beyond the White Ladies a few weeks ago, and I spent quite a while there tonight, with the viewfinder of my 8″ Skywatcher. I’d hope to do some more constellation photography, but the battery was almost dead on the camera.
So, I did some scanning with the viewfinder, and the Beehive and other open clusters were great, but I got to wanting to go a bit more deep sky, and it wasn’t happening. M31 and M42 where fine, but I wanted to see other stuff.
I spent ages looking for the Triangulum alaxy. I’ve been convinced I was thos as a naked eye object in the 90’s in Wiltshire. But now I’m not so sure. It really is faint.
I looked for M81 and M82 for ages too, in 10X50 bins, and also the viewfinder, but they were not there. It was looking bleak.
cccccccccccccccccccccThen I got the little 4″ scope out, and without even star-hopping, I found the two galaxies by pointing the red dot finder in the general area of where I thought they’d be. Just as I found the Andromeda Galaxy in Perton a couple of weeks ago. (It was of course from Perton, not in Perton), actually).
The red dot finder really works for me. With the wide-field eyepiece I easily found M35, the open star cluster in Gemini, and the open clusters in Auriga, which I posted about in my last entry. I’m pleased I found this spot, only ten miles from the centre of he city, and nice and dark. Shame about the snow…



Auriga2I took some consellation photos on the 12th & 13th February. I need to be less scared of upping the ASA I think. Anyway, here’s Auriga, and the faint blobs of the three open clusters that form almost a straight line. Clusters

Mare Imbrium


I took the above photo of the area around Mare Imbrium a few nights ago on the 27th February. It was a single shot at 1,600th second at 400ASA. I’ve labelled a few of the craters below. I was lucky to get such a clear shot, the Moon was almost right overhead. Its highest elevation for ages.

Messier list update

I found an old observation book a week or so ago, so I’m able to update my nerdy Messier list. I’ve seen more Messier Objects than these, but these are the verified documented ‘official’ findings from my observation logs. A go-to scope would find this many in a couple of hours, but these were all found with maps and star-hopping, or by memory. The ‘A’ suffix means the records are from my none-current observation book. My current book lists sighting from 2016 onwards, so they’re objects needing a re-visit.

  • M1 Supernova Remnant in Taurus (Crab Nebula) (A)
  • M2 Globular Cluster in Aquarius (A)
  • M3 Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici 19/04/18
  • M5 Globular Cluster in Serpens (A)
  • M8 Diffuse Nebula in Sagittarius (A)
  • M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules (‘the ‘Great Cluster’)
  • M16 Open Cluster in Sagittarius (A)
  • M20 Nebula in Sagitta (Triffid) (A)
  • M24 ‘Star Field’ in Sagittarius (A)
  • M27 Dumbell Nebula in Vupecula
  • M31 Galaxy Andromeda Galaxy
  • M32 Galaxy (Andromeda ‘companion’)
  • M33 Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum
  • M34 Cluster in Perseus (A)
  • M35 Open Cluster in Gemini
  • M36 Cluster Auriga
  • M37 Cluster Auriga
  • M38 Cluster Auriga
  • M39 Open Star field in Cygnus
  • M41 Open Cluster in Canes Major
  • M42 Orion Nebula
  • M43 Nebula in Orion (A)
  • M44 Beehive Cluster
  • M45 Pleiades Open Cluster
  • M47 Open Cluster Puppis 2018
  • M 51 Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Whirlpool)
  • M52 Open Cluster in Cassiopeia
  • M54 Globular Cluster in Coma Berenices 19/04/18
  • M56 Globular Cluster in Lyra (A)
  • M57 Ring Nebula Lyra
  • M63 Galaxy in Coma Berenecis (Blackeye) (A)
  • M64 Galaxy in Coma Berenicis (A)
  • M65 Galaxy in Leo
  • M66 Galaxy in Leo
  • M67 Open Cluster Cancer
  • M76 Planetary nebula in Perseus (Little Dumbell)
  • M81 Galaxy in Ursa Major (Bode’s)
  • M82 Galaxy in Ursa Major
  • M92 Globular Cluster Hercules
  • M95 Galaxy in Leo
  • M96 Galaxy in Leo
  • M103 Cluster in Cassiopeia (A)
  • M106 Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici (A)
  • M108 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major (A)
  • M109 Galaxy in Ursa Major (A)