Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brief Observing Session - April 21, 2009

Having an oh so joyful day at work today, I decided to take the Lightbridge out to the local observing spot instead of stay at home and write research papers. I needed to chill! The night was warm and a bit humid, and the sky was very clear indeed. Seeing was maybe 3/5, there was something high up in the atmosphere which gave stars a blurry appearance. Even my binoculars picked this up.

Anyway, I targeted some galaxies tonight, primarily. I started off with the familiar sight of M81 and M82. Even in the local, light-polluted skies they appeared bright and stood out clearly from the dark background of space. I could see a little bit of detail in the Cigar galaxy, but not too much. I then went onto the M51 "Whirlpool" galaxy, and could only really discern its two central bulges, like two grey eyes looking back at me. I also found the Leo Triplet which are a group of galaxies I have not observed often but need to pay moe attention to. I managed to get all three in the field of view of my Panoptic 22mm, and it was a pleasant sight.

I also checked out the Owl Nebula, and spent some time observing Saturn. I could see a fair amount of surface coloring, and the rings looked elegant as they appeared to pierce the plant through its center. There was a very small level of tilt to the rings that I could observe, as well as maybe three moons.

I was only out for about 1.5 hrs before I felt too tired and needed to come home. Still, it was nice to be under the stars again - it had been a while.

I also took my DSLR and tripod and experimented around a little bit. I took the image below of the Auriga constellation, which consists of around 18*25 second exposures at F5.6, ISO800. I pointed out some of the neater features of the constellation as well.

Click on image for full size


Rory said...

Nice photo, Phil! I've been planning on taking some shots like this one, too. I know what you mean about blowing off steam. A nice, quiet night under the stars is good stress relief.

I found M37 and M35 in the photo, too. M37 is up and to the left of M36. M35 is the fuzzy patch on the left edge, about 1/6th of the way down from the top.

Comet Cardinal (C/2008 T2) is just below M37, if this was taken on Tuesday night. I can't make it out. Maybe it's visible in the full-size image...

Phil said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks for the post! Yep, I should have pointed out M37 as well - it is visible indeed. I'll add that on the weekend just for grins.

Your comment about Comet Cardinal has me intrigued. I've looked at the full scale image and cross-checked it against SkyAtlas 2000.0 and can't quite make out anything out of place. I'll keep checking though...

Phil said...

Okay. I slightly modified the image but couldn't see a blob that would represent a comet. I did however add a label for M35 - thanks for that!

Rory said...

Below is a link to a picture taken on April 21 by Mike Prokosch. Two comets are visible below M37. But this was taken through a scope at probably 20X+ magnification. I guess they wouldn't show up in a regular photo.


Polaris B said...

It's a great area of the sky. You remind me great things can be done with just a camera.