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Cambrian Darkness

Monday/Tuesday 9/10 May

23:00 – 03:00 BST

Elan Valley, Cambrian Mountains

NELM 6.5+


A list of bright and featured NGC and Messier galaxies culled from the Night Sky Observers Guide.

All these observations were through the 18” Obsession with 13mm Nagler eyepiece giving a magnification of ~ 160.

4216 lies just west of M84, this is a superb elongated, needle edge-on galaxy. An almost stellar core is delineated by a dust lane to one side.

4535 east of M49 this face-on has a very mottled appearance.

4631 found in Canes Venatici is paired with the hockey stick. This is a big needle with bright mottlings and dark blotches

4656 and 4657 form the mottled ‘hockey stick.

4244 is nearby. A bulging, mottled needle.

4762 near M60 is an archetypal flying saucer edge-on galaxy with central dust lane.

M99, a revelation! A perfectly formed 2 armed spiral.

M90, is an oblique spiral with dust lanes.

M61, has 2 main face-on spiral arms and the stub of a third plus dark delineating lanes between the arms.

All the above gave excellent bright views with stacks of detail. More detail and somehow larger than I’d seen in any previous observations of these galaxies. When I turned the scope to M101 I realised why.

M101 appeared as a photo. There were bright, full and complete spiral arms, additional part arms, all of the HII regions connected. Previous observations had picked up the brighter parts as individual features with barely glimpsed arms. Tonight it was the most complete full view of a face-on spiral galaxy that I’d seen…

…until M51. This was another picture perfect view of spiral arms with defined dark lines and brighter highlights. Dark lane superimposed of the companion. Stunning!!

The excellent transparency, lack of light pollution and telescope aperture combined to make this night the deepest deep sky experience so far!!

M81 really does have huge spiral arms!

I also used the 60mm Borg refractor throughout the 4 hours. A 24mm Panoptic gives a 5 degree field at x14.

With the scope un-mounted, I drew the line at deciphering the stars and galaxies within the bowl of Virgo. Instead, I picked off objects near obvious asterisms.

The many Messiers observed added to the tally for the 60mm. Ms 94, 64, 63, 53, 51, 3, 101, 81, 82, 92, 9, 80, 8, 71, 56, 52, 5, 4, 39, 29, 28, 27, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 16, 17, 18, 10, 11, 12, 13, 103 and 6 were scooped up. Spring time galaxies early on and summer Milky Way clusters and nebulae later. The remaining ticks for the finder scope are now mostly tricky galaxies.

Numerous dark nebulae were silhouetted against the bright Milky Way. The conditions were similar to 2000m on Mt Tiede, but much colder!

A smattering of NGCs fell. An excellent catch was 5053, this low surface brightness globular near M53 was barely visible through the 18” from Yarnshaw Hill, yet I could pick it up with a 60mm scope!

I turned to the bright nebulae. Scanning with and without a UHC filter, the Veil (east, west and central) stood out within the single field. The area around the Double Cluster was awash with nebulosity. The Gamma Cygni nebulae filled the view. The Milky Way was flooded with haze from Sh-157 in Cassiopiea, past Cepheus, through Cygnus and on down to the Lagoon nebula in Sagitarrius.

BTW Comet 9P Tempel put in an appearance.

This night was all too short.

by Paul

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