Arrived 12:00. Scope assembled in the evening. Surprise, surprise a clear sky, a brief session hidden behind the wall of the swimming pool revealed mag. 6 skies. The spiral arms of the Whirlpool, an impressive NGC 4565 and a scintillating M3 were visible through the 10” travelscope.
The next evening I drove up to Monchique mountain range and parked at 750 metres. The whole of the Algarve was laid out to through east, south and west. M 83 is a showpiece galaxy from southern latitudes. At mag. 8 a central bar and arms were visible. A dozen faint fuzzies around and about to mag. 13, low down in Hydra and Centaurus followed.
A couple of globulars in Lupus and Hydra were so different to the galaxies. I moved on to Scorpius and M4, more of an open cluster than a globular. Nearby is NGC 6144 a mag.9 globular cluster. This can be hidden by the glare of Antares. It also reminds me of home? (A 6144). I roamed around southern Ophiuchus picking up another dozen globulars. NGC 6453 is interestingly located near the big bright open cluster of M7.
A while was spent around the steaming spout of the Sagittarius teapot. I observed many globulars, some nice open clusters and the obvious Ink Spot dark nebula. A final quarter moon stopped the show at 02:00.
Four nights later and a passing cloud bank had swept any haziness from the skies. A high wind kept me down to 700 metres amongst some protective trees. I’d hung a bottle of water off the back of the mirror cell to solve balance problems encountered during the first session. I’d also remembered to take along some filters this time!
A few difficult galaxies were dug out of Antila early on. A browse around and north of M104 gave plenty reward with detail and galaxies. M53 the second Messier globular in Coma was in stark contrast to the nearby elusive haze of a globular NGC 5053. This is a good object to hone the observing skills of beginners. Four of the brightest galaxies in Abell 1656 were also visible (some contrast to the 100+ through the 18”!). M5 looked excellent in Serpens Caput along with the nearby edge-on galaxy NGC 5746. Indeed, I was very satisfied with the performance of the 10”.
Turning to the OIII filter many planetaries were picked up in Scorpius, Sagittarius, Ophiuchus and Lupus. A stunning find is the Bug Nebula, NGC 6302 in Scorpius, an obvious squashed figure eight. I also revelled in the views of the Swan, Triffid and Lagoon nebulae. Interesting contrasts were a nice globular near a ‘stinger’ star in Scorpius and another globular and bright nebula, NGC 6726, in Corona Australis.
To wrap up I spent time scanning the Milky Way and dark nebulae. The Pipe was very obvious and the full bulge of the centre of the galaxy was visible from the start of the Cygnus rift through and beyond Scorpius.
Another couple of nights sleep preceded the final session. This time I stayed relatively low but moved to a location less impacted by some light pollution to the south east. There was a gentle breeze, it was warm enough to wear shorts and I had a very relaxing session sat in a patio chair in the middle of nowhere…
…apart from the wild boar!
I’d called in at COAA in the interim and picked up some printouts of galaxies from Canes Venatici down through Coma and into the bowl of Virgo. Again I was very impressed with the detail visible through the relatively small 10” ‘scope.
There are so many great views to be had, all brighter than mag. 12. If anyone needs recommendations, please ask.
I spent quite some time globular chasing in Ophiuchus. Some big and bright, many small and dim. To finish I worked up through the wondrous Milky Way. From Scorpius, through Sagittarius and over to Cygnus, magnificent!
by Paul C.