On the evening of March 18, the sky was clear and I thought it would be a good time to retry for NGC 2371/2, a planetary nebula in Gemni. I set up and waited for the scope to cool down and around 8:30p.m. began my search. I started at Pollux and went east past 2 stars in line with Pollux, and they are around 4 degrees apart. I then went past two close set of stars to a triangle, with its point pointing SW. Just off the point star in the triangle I went diagonally and using the filter bagged NGC 2371.
At 92x in the 13mm Stratus the PN was very faint and averted vision showed some detail. I was able to see a break in the PN, as if it was in two parts. At 92x the PN is gray and is diffused near the edge and a very bright center. Central star at 15th magnitude is not visible. I used the 2x Shorty Barlow on this with the 13mm Stratus at 184x and it really helped. The diffused outer shell is visible at 184x with a bright inner core, and the nebula is in two parts. The SE part is larger and brighter on its NW side. The upper or NW portion is smaller and is also brighter on the NW side. The white dwarf or star this is in the process of becoming a white dwarf has to be in between these two parts. Looking at images after I observed I believe the two bright parts of the nebula parts are the two parts that are outside the nebual. Wonderful object to really look at and in the right conditions to practice on drawing out details. I'll be back on this one.
Prior to going in on the 18th of March, I observed M40 in Ursa Major. I started at Megrez and using the finder I went to 70 UMa. I then moved SE from 70 Uma until M40 came into view. This is not a spectular item and probably the most disappointing to me in the whole Messier list that I've seen. M40 at 92x appears as a widely spaced pair of ninth or tenth magnitude white stars. The two stars appear to be very close to the same magnitude.
MARCH 20th, 2009
The night of March 20th came out with a good clear night with no clouds! Been awhile since I've had that. Earlier I went to my son's play and so got a latter start. In the end, it was a much better thing. I got set up and the scope was cool around 11:30p.m. and I went and looked at Saturn, then M64 and M65. After this I went to Denebola and then to 6 Com. From 6 Com I went two stars two the left of it (behind it) and then continued left until I saw two stars that were vertical and to the left was M100. At 92x M100 was very faint, though a bright core is visible. It is a spiral galaxy that is face on and averted vision brings out good details in the arms at 133x. At 92x the galaxy is to the left of a Y asterism (left of center). At 133x the bright core comes out and I can see the ghostly shape of an arm with some hint of variance in it. The arm is coming out of center to the west, heading NW (left) and the arm wraps around the core towards the north (or up). The arm does not bend up and back to east-southeast. It is faint but I can see it and another one that comes out and bends to the west.
After M100 I went to M85. I went to Com 11 and started working towards Com 24. About a third of the way there I reached M85. It has a bright central core with a halo around it at 92x. No real structure is visible at 92x. The edge is diffused and NGC 4394 is visible as a much smaller galaxy to the left of M85. At 133x M85 shows a larger conre with more halo visible around it. NGC 4934 is a spiral galaxy that at 133x shows a small bright core with a minor halo. No arms were visible. M85 is a lenticular galaxy. I could not see a central bar running through the axis of M85 as some have.
M88 was the next item that I came to. I put Com 6 and Com 11 on the right edge of my finder and in the bottom left corner was a lone bright star SAQ100127. M88 is up and to the right in the EP and easy to see in the sixty eight degree 13mm Stratus. I viewed M88 at 92x and 133x. M88 is oval shaped at the core with an oval halo around it running east to west. Some detail is visible with parience and with time. At 133x a dark band is present about the bright core almost slicing into it. M88 is a spiral galaxy at a 30 degree angle. For me it is rather face on, but is probably more edge on. This is a galaxy that I would really like to spend more time just observing to see what details in the arms and in the galaxy itself I can make out.
The next object I viewed was M87. I went to Com 6 and went to star HIP60150 and then jumped down to M84/86. From M84/86 I went diagonally adn I came to the elliptical galaxy M87. M87 is a relatively bright and large and it shows a bright core with diffusion around it. There actually seems to be three layers of halo present, a bright one around the core, with a less bright halo next to that and then a slightly darker third halo next to that one. All three halo's diffuse into the next one with the last one having a defined edge. Averted vision brings no more details from the core or from the area around the core. No stars are visible in my XT8. I did write at the end of this observation if anyone in millions of years will be looking back at the Milky Way wondering if someone was looking at them at the time the light left?
M59 and M60
I started by using the Telrad to get to Vindemiatrix and went NE and reached them easily after seeing NGC 4362. I found two bright stars in the northern half of the finder which formed an east-west line that pointed to M59 and M60. Both are elliptical galaxies. M59 is the upper one and has a bright core with a halo that is diffused around it. M60 is similar to M59 as it has a bright core but M60 does not appear as birght as M59. I passed on both items at a higher magnification (giving me an excuse to come back) and only used 92x the 13mm Stratus on these two. As a result I know I am leaving details but it was 3:00a.m. and I had one more item before I needed to come in due to a commitment with the wife later in the morning on Saturday.
M58 is a barred spiral galaxy that is face on. From M59 and M60 I came down to the left and M59 was right there. M58 has a very strong inner core and it is visible with mottling with averted vision. There is diffusion around the core with a halo that moves out and becomes fainter. Hints of the arms are present but I would need slightly more magnificaiton than the 92x from the 13mm Stratus provides. I will come back and sketch when I have more time and I really want to bring out the sprial arms on this one.