Saturday 28th December
NELM: 6 (occasionally)
Duration: 19:00 – 23:30
Conditions: Intermittent cloud for first 90 minutes, then clear with no wind or dew until end when clouded out.
First off, some ‘easy’ globular clusters in M31. Using some recent research data I’d plotted 26 clusters with an accuracy of 1/100 of an arc second in SkyMap Pro. The brightest 8 ranged from mag. 14.2 down to 15 and up to 3 arc minutes in diameter. Appearing star-like or occasionally fuzzy they were found without much trouble. I used the nearby M32 and M110 as starting points. Under better conditions I hope to get down to near mag. 16 on these. M31 could be traced out for about 3.5 degrees and M33 showed up some good detail in the very widespread spiral arms.
Next, I trawled 14 galaxies off the base of Triangulum. A break in the clouds then had me hunting down some nice galaxy triplets near the head of Pisces.
It then cleared completely to provide 3 hours of excellent observing conditions.
Starting at the open cluster of M34 I wandered around near the zenith picking off galaxies at leisure. Of the 18 NGC 1023 and very close companion are recommended. Moving over to the desert of Camelopardalis I found the very big and pale face-on local group galaxy IC 342. A mottled centre and many stars superimposed on a faint round halo were visible.
A dip down into Eridanus (right and up a bit from Rigel) found more galaxies suffering from the LP of Harrogate and Leeds beyond. In darker sky a bright nebula, Sh2-224, forms an arc in Auriga. Then, hopping off from the Pleiades (swathed in nebulosity) I found a nearby planetary nebula PK 171-25.1, a mag. 13.9 disc.
The Horsehead was visible using the UHC filter and the deep sky challenge object J900 shone out using an OIII.
At 300+ the Eskimo looked just like a small black and white version of the Hubble photograph. The twin lobed planetary of NGC 2371 was also magnificent with the high power. Browsing around with the low power big 2” eyepiece and OIII combination found the supernova remnant IC 443 near M35 and the Medusa nebula between Gemini and Canis Minor.
As clouds started to encroach from the south west I cruised around using the short-tube 80mm and 32mm Plossl combination. This gives x13 with a 4 degree FOV. I also used the UHC filter. Many of the big Messier clusters were easy pickings. The filter brought out the nebulosity of NGCs 2175, 1931 and ICs 410, 417 very well.
This weather is desperate!
by Paul Clark