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May Dark Sky at Llyn Brenig

After a late departure (from the GM) I had a disastrous arrival at Llyn Brenig!  My flask had broken, was leaking coffee and left me with the daunting prospect of a caffeine free observing session!

Starting low down I star hopped from gamma Hydrae to some nearby galaxies in Virgo.  NGCs 5084, 5068, 5087 and IC 4237 were a moderately interesting group.  NGC 5084 was a nice edge-on sliver.  I had started down here to try and find some large but faint planetary nebulae using a new OIII filter.  After some fumbling about I gave up trying to do long star hops with the heavy wide-angle eyepiece unbalancing the scope at these low elevations.

Moving up into the Bowl of Virgo, I re-located NGC 4536.  This has a broad central bar with some faint arms.  Another visit to the NGC 4762/4754 combination gave a breathtaking view.  I was using a new 13 mm wide-angle eyepiece.  This gives a FOV wider than a 20 mm Plossl with 55x more magnification.  The bright edge-on spiral is set amongst 3 bright stars and a complete contrast to the nearby face-on galaxy.

I then tried out the eyepiece on M51.  Astounding!  Stacks of detail at x158 with lots of surrounding dark sky.  I also took the opportunity to round up half a dozen nearby galaxies.

The Deep Sky Scene in the Astronomy Now for May had brought M101 to my attention.  Armed with a detailed chart from SkyMap Pro I was able to identify 9 components of the galaxy honoured with their own NGC number.  M101 was at an elevation of 89+ degrees and the view was stunning.  Many fragments swirled around the two main brighter arms.  Again I took the opportunity to round up another 9 nearby galaxies.

Using the magnificent combination of M81/82 as a starting point I searched out Coddington’s Nebula or IC2574.  This is a very large low surface brightness galaxy at 15.4 mag/sq arcmin.  No wonder I’d never noticed it through the 140 mm scope!  M82 showed great detail.

Moving down into Canes Venatici I had a look at NGCs 5005 and 5033.  The former has a very bright area separated from the nucleus and looked very much like another ‘Black eye’ galaxy a.k.a. M64.  The latter showed up some mottling from dark dust lanes.  Both are quite bright at mags. 10.6 and 10.7.

Finally, I turned to NGC 4565 in Coma Berenices.  This classic stretched completely across the field of the 13 mm eyepiece and looked stunning at x158.

by Paul Clark

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