Location: Llyn Brenig
Duration: 17:30 – 00:30
Conditions: Clear with a low of -7.5 Celsius.
Uncertain of the road conditions, Don and I convoyed from Denbigh. After a false alarm on an iced/snowed road in the forest we found the track down to the lakeside clear, indeed the Liverpool 30” was already setup when we arrived at 17:00.
After setting up we had views of Comet Kudo-Fujikawa in Hercules. A short tail was evident. I messed around with a few objects and filters while it grew dark. NGC 246 is a brilliant planetary in Cetus, bright and mottled with superimposed stars.
By 19:00 it was fully dark. I spent the next hour painstakingly picking off another dozen globulars in the Andromeda galaxy. A combination of detailed SkyMap charts and photos are essential. I was using a black hood at the eyepiece which gave me much improved viewing compared to my previous attempts. I stalled at around mag. 15.7, turbulent sky, a cooling mirror and the bright snow contributing to the difficulty.
After a break and some socialising I had another go at the Perseus galaxy cluster, Abell 426. This time I could see over 40 galaxies clustered around NGC 1275. I covered all the objects on my 1 degree field chart, reaching a mag. of 15.5.
After another break for chocolate and collimation I looked at NGC 2403. This is a mag. 8.9 galaxy in the barren wasteland of Camelopardalis. Starhopping over from Ursa Major was the easiest approach. I can recommend this object. The central part is bright and mottled with a spiral-like structure and under the dark skies an enormous outer halo is visible. This tripled the visible dimensions to about 25 arc-minutes.
I re-visited Eridanus to find another 17 galaxies, nothing of real interest.
Don had got into gear and was taking photographs.
Orion beckoned. A wallow in the bright splendours preceded a detailed look at NGC 1999. This is a small nebula lying just south of M42. At high power a dark central keyhole is visible. I believe I finally saw the dark notch that makes up the Cone nebula! Other nearby bright nebulae were also picked up. Moving down, the Rosette showed turbulent detail and dark lanes with the aid of the OIII filter. Slightly lower is Sh2-282, a broad pale N-S streak of nebulosity. Even lower still is IC2177 aka the Eagle nebula. A N-S band with the bright nebulae of Gum 1 and Ced 90 at each end. Numerous nearby and involved open clusters make this a very interesting area. These are also visible in binoculars!
West of Sirius can be found Thor’s Helmet, NGC 2539. This appears exactly like a Viking headpiece, essential viewing at x158 with the OIII filter. I finished off with the magical M46 open cluster and the large and bright annular planetary NGC 2438.
by Paul C.