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.
March 15th and March 16th, 2009 Observation
On the evening of March 15th and lasting to the early morning of March 16th I was able to locate, view and sketch M78, M42, Sirius and Sirius B the Pup, M108, M97, M106, M99.
I began by going to Canis Major and looking at Sirius. It was rather a fancy after studying about the Pup to see if using my 8 inch reflector to see if I could see the Pup. Sirius showed up very well at 92x in my 13mm Stratus. Conditions were really good and I had no extra light pollution this night. Seeing was 9/10 and transparency was 4.5/5. Skies were calm and these were some of the best conditions I've had in the backyard at my house. At 184x I caught a glimpse of the Pup and decided to take it up to 240x and then 266x with a barlow and at both I was able to pull the Pup. The Pup faded in and out and then held for around a minute or two. I confirmed using the charts I had. The Pup is a small white star that was father out from Sirius than I thought it would be, about three rings out from Sirius. A great sky and great conditions helped me to capture the Pup.
Next I viewed M42 as a farewell since it is fading into the west so quickly and weather here in is not looking good from now to the end of the month. Next I went decided to see M78 and though I've seen it before, I confirmed how I find M78. I went to Alnitak and then up to HIP26736 and then up to HIP26893. I noticed the asterism of arrow pointing left. From that star I went up diagonally from HIP 26736 to M78. The two tenth magnitude stars are evident as is the fan like wisp behind the stars (first time I have seen that). I really enjoyed observing this object tonight.
Since it was right before 10:00p.m. and conditions were really good I decided to try some objects that I've had a hard time finding. I used the Telrad to go to Merak and went up to a bright star which is down from Merak passing a lesser star on the way. Next I went up further (down) and then to the left following a chain of stars going NW to SE. At the end of the fifth star in the chain, just above and to the right is M108. The core is faint and small at 92x and I saw the core before I saw any other part of the galaxy. Using averted vision at the core the galaxy showed herself. I eventually got to where I could discern the galaxy without aveted vision but the details came with averted vision. M108 is edge on, faint and diffused, though the edges are well defined. The core is brighter then the rest of the galaxy and no stars are visible in the dust lanes.
My next object was M97. I started from M108 and went NE to a three star L that is on its side. Up from the conern star of the L is M97. M97 was much bigger than any other planetary nebula I have seen. I was able to view it tonight visually first, though when I used my UltraBand NB filter I could see much more in terms of size and brightness. With the 13mm Stratus at 92x no details were evident, just a grayish circle or blob. I tried a 9mm with a 2x barlow but it just didn't capture the PN at 266x. So I went down to 133x and finished the observation and the sketch. The nebula is a circle in shape (disk shape I believe it is called) and the edge is sharply defined. No color other than gray is visiable at 133x. On the north edge of the PN there is a star visible but not the central star which is not visible. My mind wants to say I could detect the eye shapes of the owl's face but my mind knows better. . .
I next tried M109 but failed to located it though according to charts I was in the right area. During this time a neighbor turned on a back porch light and I think that impacted me. Luckily they turned it off after around twenty minutes when their dog was done with its business. After failing at M109 I went back to Phecda and jumped to 5 CV and then to 3CV. My object now was M106. From 3 CV I jumpted to to HIP60125 and then to a brighter star. From the brighter star I worked my way up north and found M106. The galaxy is a spiral that is face on. There are bands visible while the edges of the galaxy are somewhat diffused. The core is very bright, much brighter than the rest of the galaxy and the core is very compact. No stars are visible in the lanes.
My last object was M99. I went to Denebola and then over to CB 6. From CB 6 I went over to HIP59941 and then down to HIP60089 ( the three stars form an inverted L. M99 is next to HIP60089 and I could see it visually. Averted vision though really hlep to make out the galaxy and its shape and details. M99 is a face on spiral, with diffused edges. The core is just slightly brighter than the rest of the galaxy, lanes are visible and there are no stars visible in the lanes. My sixteen year old daughter now came out around 12:40a.m. and reminded me I had to go to work the next day. Oh well, I wish I could have not gone in and stayed out.