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Sun, Sea, Sand and Stars

This holiday Sunday, 26th August, I experienced clear blue sky, miles of clean sand and warm sea…

…on Anglesey!  A day spent swimming, building sandcastles and playing beach cricket was an ideal starter to a very clear and dark night with the ‘scope.

The Moon was to set at about 23:45 BST.  I started observing in the northern sky about an hour earlier.  The open clusters M 52 and NGC 7789 were both easily visible in the finder, a good sign.  I re-visited NGC 40 a bright planetary nebula of mag. 10.7, a 1 arc minute central something was surrounded by a circular haze.

I moved over to Delphinus and found NGC 6891 a planetary nebula at 10.5 and quite unstar-like, brightening with the UHC filter.  The nearby globular cluster NGC 6934 seemed very bright for mag. 8.9.  Fruitless searches for some small planetaries near M11 in Scutum followed.

The Moon had now set completely and I went for the first of my four main aims for the night,  Barnard’s galaxy.  The nearby Little Gem nebula was easy to find but some low-level light glow prevented a confident positive sighting of this large low surface brightness galaxy in Sagittarius.  My next target, the Crescent nebula in Cygnus.  NGC 6888 is given an integrated magnitude of 10 and a size of 20x10 arc minutes.  The location is easy to find with an obvious asterism of 4/5 stars pointing the way.  I looked for some time.  Took off my spectacles and re-focused.  Clasped my hands around the eyepiece to block out the non-existent stray light.  Scanned around the field, nothing.  Moving the focus a little to allow a little space between the eyepiece and my eye I then moved the UHC filter into and out of the FOV.  Suddenly, all became apparent.  An arc/filament of nebulosity started at one star curved through another and for some way beyond.  A half letter C became obvious.  I noted the sighting and was delighted to see it match perfectly with a picture of the Crescent when I came to log the observation in SkyMap Pro some days later.

Observations of some of the many open clusters were next.  A very bright contrasty view of the Veil Nebula allowed lots of braided detail to be seen.  I also thought I could pick out some elements of the central component of the nebula.

1 a.m., a text from Dave T interrupted.  He and Roger L had just christened his new ‘scope at Tegg's Nose.  Sounded very good.

My third aim of the night was to observe objects from the NGC catalogue that are parts of other galaxies!  Moving over to Andromeda I stopped off at Stephan’s Quintet, easily visible to direct vision as a couple of amorphous blobs it lies just down from the nice, edge on galaxy, NGC 7331.  Attempting NGC 2 something in the Andromeda galaxy was a failure, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.  Did I imagine some brightness?  How large should it be?  M33, the big, face-on spiral in Triangulum was plan B.  NGC 604, an emission nebula was obvious!  Why hadn’t I seen it before?  It was easily found near an obvious asterism and adjacent to a foreground star.  The filter improved the view.

My final aim of the night was to pick off some of the few remaining Herschel 400 galaxies.  Three nondescript objects were found low down in the glow around Cetus and Aquarius.

A final few minutes were spent just sitting back and looking up.

by Paul Caugh

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