NGC 5474, NGC 5473 and NGC 5631 Galaxies in Ursa Major

So last night I went back to the Pit as I call Pit n Pole in the Rush Valley/West Desert of Utah. When we arrived it was very cloudy but as I am use to this site I knew if we waited for about an hour after sunset when the heating of the day cools, the clouds would disperse and sure enough, they did.

Here are some images at sunset. Yes, I've posted them before but though it is a desert, the quiet, the insects (non-biting out there) and the birds just make a chorus of nature that sings to the soul in my opinion. I can understand how John Muir felt in his writings as he try to captures those moments. I'll post images from my journey into the mountains next week. Same feeling though.

Looking North, skies are good!!!!

Looking west, skies are good (while clearing out nicely!!!).

That southern horizon isn't looking to good, but it will clear up, always does out here after the sun drops down.

The XX14i set up and ready to collimate.

The backside of the XX14i with my black Nissan Pathfinder there. Its not like my Altima which gets about 29 or 30 mpg (it gets around 21 or 22 mpg) but it sure is great for this stuff. If I want I load up at the end of the night and sleep in the back.

So after nightfall the skies cleared. I had several companions this night and the XX14i became the focal point as one friend compared the views to his Zhumell 12 inch solid tube and that occurred for about an hour this night. Another friend and fellow SLAS member who I sold my XT6 to was out on his first trip and loves Saturn and that occupied him for awhile and then he moved into the DSO's and was WOW! I love hearing a newbie see new things and all night all I kept hearing was WOW! I love that sound as much as I love the quiet and stillness that the desert brings to the ears and to the soul. Its weird, very comforting.

I was able to nail all objects at all areas of the sky without any problems. Collimation earlier went extremely well after I added two milk jug washers to the secondary for the knobs to rest on. I'll take pictures and describe that. Thanks to Steve and others and especially Jason on CloudyNights who came up with this modification.

M13 was wonderful, M4 was also and M22. The Omega Nebula as terrific as was the Trifed and Lagoon. It took me a few minutes to find M51, I was operating the Dob as a Refractor not as a Reflector, a rookie mistake but I guess I was too excited about testing it out. When we say M51 I have never, and I mean never seen it better. Should have sketched it and I regret not doing that (my friend with the Z12 recommended it). Both arms were readily apparent with direct vision and the bridge was also. Cores were bright and it was just fantastic! We did some comparisons with the two scopes and the XX14i won hands down. 2 inches of aperture in this case made a HUGE difference. My friend is Alpha Orionis on Cloudy Nights and he posted about that in the Reflector forum if you want to read his comments.

I only got in three Herschels before everyone was leaving. Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I am going camping at a mountain site SLAS uses and am observing each night, most of the night. I am getting my July Herschels done and some planetary nebulas that I have a date with and are calling to me.

Since I include my observing information on my sketch I am not going to duplicate by typing unless someone comments that they find that useful.

NGC 5474 in Ursa Major

Original Sketch of NGC 5474:

STScI Image NGC5474

One thing I noticed is that the irregular shape I saw of this galaxy is probably the structure shown in the photo though not as clear nor with that level of detail. It hints at the structure, nothing more, teasing the observer at a dark site.

NGC 5473

The Original Sketch:

STScI Image of NGC 5473

NGC 5631

STScI Image of NGC 5631

It felt REALLY good to be back out and observing again! Lets hope everything holds up for the next several months and we all get chances to observe. Good to sketch again thought I felt rushed on these three. May your skies be clear; your equipment work well; may your family and loved ones be both supportive and near to you and may each of us make new friends on our life journey that will share our walk from time to time. Cheers!