A tour of the Serpent-bearer

Had a nice hour over by Boscabel House with the Opticrom 10x50s. With Jupiter in Libra, I did a tour of Libra, Serpens and Ophiuchus. I found M5 easily, a very bright globular cluster. Far less easy to find were M10 and M12 in Ophiuchus. Very, very faint indeed, and I wouldn’t have seen them had I not known where to look. I’d certainly not have found them by chance, whilst scanning the sky. Special mention goes to the fantastically named, very, very red star, Yed Prior, which means ‘the hand’, according to Wikki.
Galaxies M81 & M82 found easily, as were globular clusters M13 and M92. Loving the Opticroms!

Current Messier list, (which I’d put in a small font size if I knew how!)

  • 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
  • M8 Diffuse Nebula in Sagittarius (A)
  • M10 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus
  • M12 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus
  • 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
  • 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
  • M84 Galaxy in Virgo 2018
  • M86 Galaxy in Virgo 2018
  • M92 Globular Cluster Hercules
  • M95 Galaxy in Leo
  • M96 Galaxy in Leo
  • M103 Cluster in Cassiopeia
  • M104 Galaxy in Virgo 2018
  • M106 Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici (A)
  • M108 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major (A)
  • M109 Galaxy in Ursa Major (A)


More Bobbington Observations

Wolverhampton Astronomy Society met at Bobbington again last week, I’ll put up the observation report soon, but in the meantime here’s four pictures related to the session. It was a good ‘un!

Edit – here’s the text

The first weekend of May gave us the best run of clear skies for months, so we arranged an observation session for Tuesday 8th May at our new observation site in Bobbington. This time we moved to a slightly different area of the site, which gave us a better all-round view of the night sky. The usual ‘It’s on!’ text message was sent out at 5:00 pm, giving details of the session, and when I arrived at the site at 9:30 pm, I was pleased to see people were already there assembling scopes and chatting.
Jupiter was rising in the south-east, and from the area of hard-standing where we were setting up, most of the sky was accessible. It was a pleasant, clear, moonless, slightly balmy evening. The sky was still relatively bright at 10:00 pm. Would this impair our search for celestial objects, I wondered.
There were five scopes in use this evening. Two 200p Skywatcher reflectors on EQ mounts, a Skywatcher ED 80 reflector with go-to, a Skywatcher SkyMax-102 AZ Gti, and a Celestron AstroMaster 130. What a fine array of scopes! (Picture 1).
Throughout the session we swapped views in different scopes, and found some scopes gave better aspects than others on different objects. And as is the case with astronomy, it’s not always ‘bigger is better’, (as I drove home later I thought back on how we’d found the faintest object through the smallest telescope!).
Venus in the west and Jupiter in the south-east were easily visible as darkness fell. I’d brought my 8” Skywatcher rather than the society’s Tom Collier Dobsonian because I wanted to try and capture some images of Jupiter, and the Tom Collier won’t allow for the camera attachment.
It was a moonless night, and after aligning our finder scopes and visiting the naked eye open clusters of Cancer (The Beehive) and Coma Berenices, (Melotte 111), it was suggested we looked for nebulae and galaxies. A couple of scopes turned towards Leo, which was perfectly placed, high in the south. We found the galaxies M65 and M66. These were quite a test for our instruments, being 9.3 and 8.4 magnitude respectively, and I made a quick sketch (Picture 2). They are both spiral galaxies, and M65 in particular displays the familiar elongated shape. I found that even through the eight-inch mirror, it was sometimes tricky to see both without using averted vision and ‘relaxed eye’ techniques.
Undeterred by the not quite dark sky, we headed ‘next door’ to Virgo and the area of the sky poetically referred to as the ‘Realm of the Galaxies’. With the help of the SkyMax’s go-to mount, this small but powerful Maksutov-Cassegrain scope found two elliptical galaxies, M84 and M86. With magnitudes of 9.7 and 9.3, these would be the faintest objects we’d see this evening. Again, they were a real test for our eyes. The May sky never gets truly dark before midnight, so to find 9.7 mag galaxies was quite an achievement for the Skymax. We’re looking forward to seeing how it performs under inky-black winter skies.
The galaxy hunt was far from over. The ED 80 was looking at the Sombrero Galaxy in Virgo, an edge-on spiral galaxy some 37 million light-years away. Using averted vision, we could see the elongated shape and brighter nucleus. Its Messier number is M104.
Easier galactic targets were M81 and M82, in Ursa Major, right overhead. M81 – called Bodes Galaxy – being the brighter of the two.
The Celestron AstroMaster (a recent purchase by one of our members), was doing some good planetary work. Jupiter was rising, and through the AstroMaster we were rewarded with some splendid views of all four Galilean moons, in an almost straight line. The disc was beginning to show cloud bands as the planet rose.
The summer constellations of Cygnus and Lyra were rising above the trees in the east, and the Skywatcher reflector found the intriguing ring nebula, looking like a bright, gaseous planet. It seemed much brighter than the 9.3 magnitude given in my Cambridge Deep Sky Atlas.
We also looked at the Great Cluster in Hercules, (M13), and its smaller brother, M92 was also added to the observation list this evening. The great cluster showed mottling in the even in the smallest telescopes, and the 8 inch mirrors revealed stars on the outer edge.
Perseus is quite low now, and situated over the sky glow of Wolverhampton. Because of this, the double cluster was a little underwhelming. Yet it was only a few months ago were given a stunning view of it through the Tom Collier 10″ Dobsonian at our other observation site in Trysull.
The double double in Lyra was split successfully by the SkyMax, and the Celestron AstroMaster took in a fine view of Zubenelgenubi, an optical double in Libra, to the right of Jupiter, just above it. (Picture 3).
With Lyra climbing higher, we took the opportunity to view Albireo, the famous double star at the head of the ‘Swan’. The colours were obvious. The bright gold star contrasting with the smaller blue companion.
I’d waited a few hours before I took some film of Jupiter, (I was waiting for it to get as high as possible), and I was pleased with the result. I put around a minute and twenty seconds of footage through various free astronomy programs to get the final image (picture 4).
We started packing up around midnight, and everyone agreed it had been a productive session again. We’d seen many galaxies, double stars, open and globular clusters and a couple of planets. Perhaps next time we visit Bobbington we’ll be able to see Saturn, which is rising about 2:00 am now. That’s one of the great things about the night sky, it’s constantly changing, and there’s always something new to see.
Once again, thank you to everyone that turned up, and thanks to those that put a couple of quid in the top hat again, to help show our appreciation to Rebecca and the owners of the campsite who are kind enough to let us use their land and amenities.

If you’re interested in attending an observation session, please give a committee member your mobile number and you’ll be put on the text notification list, and will be informed of every upcoming session.

References – The Cambridge Deep Sky Album – Newton & Teece, Cambridge University Press

A run of blue skies at last!

We’ve had a smashing run of blue skies. Last night in Shropshire I enjoyed a beautiful dark sky, and the Heritage 100p and 10X50 Opticron binocular combination proved a winner.
The 100p performed admirably. Venus’ disc, and later Jupiter and three moons. I’m still unsure of which galaxy I’m seeing in Leo though, I’m pretty sure it’s M65, I’m hoping to go out again later to sketch the area.
The Beehive and Coma Cluster, the Perseus Double Cluster, all good stuff. Very nice to see was M51 in bins – the Whirlpool Galaxy. It’s a testament to the dark skies of Shropshire, that I was able to see several galaxies with these new bins. And now I’ve finally worked out how to align the red-dot finder on the 100p, I’m finding stuff with the minimum of faff. M81 and M82 were found in no time, and the Hercules globular clusters were also seen, with M13 proving to be very bright, and  quite detailed in the 100p.
The 100p also showed the asterism of ‘the diamond ring’, which is basically, Polaris and the stars that form a line-of-sight circle effect.
I split Castor at high power, and wished I’d found Andromeda, just to ramp up the galactic count. If it stays clear tonight, I think I’ll see how many I can find in the bins alone.

A Binocular Tour

Just got back from a visit to a new dark sky site 0.4 miles off the road from Bridgenorth to Much Wenlock. Spend most of the time trying out a new lens on my DSLR, but got some observations in through the new bins. A quick write-up before I catch some Zzzs.
Spent quite a bit of time with Leo looking for galaxies. Found M66 but thought it was an NGC galaxy, an I’m thinking the star atlas I was using led me astray. Got to double check this.
Bodes galaxy and its companion found quite easily. M35 in Gemini, cool! The clusters in Perseus/Cassiopiea border. Nice!
The two globular clusters in Hercules found easily in bins, they’re very bright! M13 and M92.
Beehive luster, in between the twins and Rigel, stunning, (possibly the best binocular object, certainly top ten). The cluster in Coma Berenices was really bright and I was a bit amazed that I’ve not paid much attention to until recent years. But then, I’ve been visiting darker skies recently. I called it Melotte 111 in a recent entry, but it’s probably better called the simple Coma Cluster.
Venus was dipping in the West, Jupiter rising in the opposite direction, and to the right of the gas giant is the double star Zubenelgenubi, in Libra, a constellation I know nothing about.
Summer constellations up high already. Bootes, Hercules,  Corona Borealis, and Lyra and Cygnus getting in the scene, I even saw the coathanger and convinced myself I’d split Albereo! (got to check on this one).
What else? The Auriga clusters, tried to find the M51 (nope!), and saw the meteorites. Phew!

Bobbington Observations..

(Stolen from the society newsletter, but I wrote it anyway, so y’know!)

Bobbington Observation Session Friday 20th April 2018

By Richard Harvey

With our Tuesday Trysull observing sessions clouded out for much of the winter, we’ve tried to find an alternative observation site that’s available on other nights of the week. To this end, we visited a new site in Bobbington on Friday 20th April, and I’m pleased to report it was a most successful evening.

Members setting up at Bobbington
Pic 1: Astronomers Assemble

Members started assembling at 8pm, (picture 1), just as the sky was darkening and Venus began shining in the west. There was a five day old Moon also quite high in the west, which made an excellent target for us to align our finder-scopes.

Ten society members attended, and six telescopes were lined up on the hard-standing, ranging from small table top Dobsonians to larger 8” reflectors on equatorial mounts. I’d brought the society’s 12” Tom Collier in my van, but had forgotten to bring the swivel base! (Luckily, I’d also brought my own 8” reflector. We’ll be sure to use the Tom Collier Dobsonian next time).

The stars started appearing around half eight, and the constellation of Orion was spotted, very low on the western horizon. We took the opportunity to look at the Trapezium, below the belt of Orion, for possibly the last time this spring. The constellation was placed too low to detect the surrounding nebulosity of M42, but the large open clusters Hyades and Pleiades could still be seen as they headed towards the horizon, making room for the summer constellations of Bootes and Hercules, rising in the south, behind us.

I took some single shot lunar photographs with my DSLR, (pictures 2 & 3) before moving on to Venus.

Pic 2: The Moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 2: The Moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 3: The moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 3: The moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 4: Venus (Richard Harvey)
Pic 4: Venus (Richard Harvey)

The disc of the planet could be easily seen, and its gibbous disc around 90% lit could also be seen by keen eyes through the larger scopes. Venus will continue to ‘grow’ over the next few weeks and months, and will eventually display a much larger crescent as it moves towards us. (picture 4).

The new observing site is on the grounds of a campsite, and people from the adjoining campsite were invited to join us. Many of them enjoyed views of the Moon and Venus, having never looked through a scope before. At times, there were crowds of upwards of twenty five people milling around the telescopes, asking questions about space and telescopes. Having visitors made a nice addition to the evening, it’s always fun to share astronomical views of the night sky. The campers particularly enjoyed views of the lunar craters Hercules and Atlas, which were dramatically well lit on the north-east part of the Moon, to the south-east of Mare Frigoris.

Martyn was hunting double stars with his pillar-mounted 110mm reflector. The constellation of Gemini was looming high above us in the south-west, and Castor made for a striking double in the eyepiece. Castor is at least a sextuple star system, about 45 light years away. The two golden binary stars we could see this evening have an orbit of 400 years.

Bob used two Barlow lenses in conjunction on a Skywatcher 200p, to give a very ‘close’ image of a small lunar impact crater inside a larger one, a surprisingly sharp image, we all agreed. Meanwhile, Cath’s table-top Dobsonian was taking in some final views of the Pleiades as it headed towards the horizon. This cluster, (also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45), contains hot B-type stars located in the ‘winter’ constellation of Taurus. It’s one of the nearest star clusters to Earth.

Pic 5: A pair of Opticrom 10X50 binoculars
Pic 5: A pair of Opticrom 10X50 binoculars

Although Cassiopeia and Perseus were at their lowest position on their circumpolar travels, they were well placed for observation from this site with such a low westerly-northern horizon. It was an excellent opportunity to explore the clusters in this area of sky. A pair of Opticrom 10X50 binoculars, mounted on a photographic tripod gave us lovely, steady, wide-field views of this area. (picture 5). The first port of call was Melotte 20 – the Alpha Persei ‘Moving’ Cluster, a lovely loose cluster in binoculars, which includes the 2nd magnitude white-yellow supergiant Mirfak (also known as Alpha Persei).
Moving along from Melotte 20, we found the famous Double Cluster, NGC 869 and NGC 884 which lie at a distance of 7500 light years.

Also spotted was the smaller, less visited nearby cluster of Stock 2. This isn’t marked on all star maps, but it’s well worth a view. Travel upwards and to the right of the double cluster, and there it is.
Underneath the great ‘W’ of Cassiopeia, the Owl Cluster – NGC 457, (also called Caldwell 13) was also observed, very pretty and easily spotted against the now quite dark, spring night sky. I also found ‘Eddie’s Coaster’ – a recently named asterism in the style of The Coathanger in Vulpecula.
Next stop was Stock 23, also known as Pazmino’s Cluster. A pretty, small loose open cluster above, and to the left, of Cassiopeia. This region of the sky is rich in star clusters and very favourable for wide-field observing, and the clusters make for excellent targets when the night-time moon is out, and nebulae and galaxies are lost in the brightness.

The pillar-mounted 110mm reflector was still hunting double stars. Fine views of Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici, and Algieba in Leo. Cor Caroli is 130 light years away, and it takes 10,000 years for the secondary to orbit the primary. Algieba is 1000 light years away, with a 600 year orbit.

With Leo high in the south, the moon’s brightness made hunting for Leo’s galaxies a tough task on this night, but in between Gemini and Leo, we enjoyed splendid views of the Beehive cluster, both via an 8” reflector, and the tripod-mounted 10X50s.

With Capella shining brightly in the west, the bottom half of Auriga revealed its wonderful chain of star clusters, M36, M37 and M38, which were easily found in both telescopes and binoculars, above the ‘Leaping Minnow’ asterism.

In the south-west, after 10pm, a bright ‘star’ appeared above the horizon. We’d been hoping for a sight of Jupiter this evening, and we weren’t disappointed. The completely cloudless sky allowed us to get a telescopic view of the great gas giant. Having a low aspect, and looking through so much haze, the planet’s cloud belts weren’t apparent, but four moons were. I made a quick sketch, and later added the moon names after consulting the Jupiter section in April’s Astronomy Now magazine. Second furthest away from the planet, the great moon Ganymede shone slightly brighter than the rest, easily viewable in the two telescopes that were re-located for a better viewing of the Jovian world. One member told me this was his first telescopic sighting of Jupiter, which was a very nice ‘first’ to add to the evening.

Pic 6: Line of telescopes
Pic 6: Line of telescopes

Everyone agreed it was a very successful, enjoyable session. It was great to see the telescopes lined up in the viewing area, which was well out of sight of the main road (picture 6). Thanks to Wolvas member Steven Hare for accompanying me to the site to ask permission initially, the previous weekend, and special thanks must go to Rebecca for kindly letting us use the site.

Thank you also to the campsite residents for making us feel so welcome. We’re very much looking forward to returning to Bobbington for more astronomical treats.

If you’re interested in attending an observation session, please give a committee member your mobile number and you’ll be put on the ‘text notification system’, and will be informed of every upcoming session.