Finally, we got some decent weather on the weekend here in N.J. The last good night we had was 4/19. On Friday the sky was jet black till the 90% Moon came up at about 11:45. Saturday, the sky was clear till clouds rolled in at about 11:15. By 12:30 the clouds cleared but it looked like we still had a haze very high. On Friday I was joined by my friend Roley, on Saturday we had Roley, Steve and Paul who is a new observer. We spent about 75% of the time on favorites we’ve seen many times and new favorites, the rest on hunting down new stuff. Because of the moon and clouds we didn’t get too many new items.
Globular Cluster season is open and in full swing. M13 was stunning. The higher it got the better it got. We had the scope up before dark and watched it fade in from 8:30 to 9:30. In that time we also looked at Epsilon Lyre the double double. Very clean split even in dusk. M92 is so dense at the core, I think it’s the brightest in terms of surface brightness. M3 sensational. Also quit bright. M5 wonderful, lines of stars going through it in all directions. Beautiful! These are the cream of the Globular Cluster crop. In the next level we don’t get as much resolution M10, M12, M56, M52 & M71are smaller with some stars resolving. M71 looks almost like a dense open cluster. M14 and M107 get no resolution at all. Note: Oph. was hanging above a street light so we had some problems there we wouldn’t have at a better location. We couldn’t find any of the NGC Globulars in Oph, we had trees in the way also. There’s a nice little Globular in Her NGC6229. Very good item. This one gets a powdery resolution along the outside, like someone spilled the salt, continuing to a bright center. This should be an easy target in an 8” scope, maybe even find it in a good 4” refractor.
Many Planetary Nebula’s are available during Globular Cluster Season. Leading the pack are of course M27 the Dumbbell and M57 the Ring. Both were outstanding this weekend. The best views came with the ultra Block filter and the 14MM eyepiece at 218x. The background became very dark while the item remained bright. M57 had structure in the ring. It had that look of several rings on top of each other. Dark thin areas running through the ring like strings. Very impressive. M27 was huge. Like 2 fans emanating from the center. The lobes were still round at the far edges, not like the pictures where they fade off almost in a line. When we removed the filter, the difference was dramatic. The background washes out quite a bit of the detail we were just looking at. It’s more noticeable when you remove the filter that when you put it on. NGC6543 in Draco, the ”Cats Eye” nebula. Extremely bright item. Very blue, for those looking for a colorful item. You don’t need the filter on this one. It looks great as is. It stands up will to high magnification. But with the filter and the 8MM Radiant Eyepiece at 381x we start to see some graininess in there. We can see points on the sides like the Saturn nebula. Don’t miss this one, it’s great. I’m sure it’s visible in an 8” reflector or a 4” refractor and maybe even a smaller scope. Another favorite is the Blinking Planetary NGC6826. Very strange item. I love it! It’s very visible without the filter at almost any magnification. There’s a bright star at the center with a very bright halo or glow around it. Quite impressive. When you look directly at it, the halo disappears and you only see the star. Now this halo is way too bright to be the sort of thing you can see only with averted vision. It’s way brighter than that. I don’t know why it vanishes like that with direct vision. It’s just so cool. When you move your eye across the field, as you cross it, it vanishes for a split second or blinks at you, hence the name blinking planetary. With the filter, it’s amazing what happens. The central star is gone, the halo turns blue and no longer vanishes. It resembles NGC6543 the “cats eye”. Next we have NGC6210 in Cyg, another extremely blue Planetary. Also hold up with high magnification. One of my favorites is NGC6905 in Del. It’s small and sort of horseshoe shaped. Not very bright, about mag. 12 or so. What I like so much about this one is it’s planted in the middle of a beautiful star field. It make a wonderful picture with the 40MM at 76x. Check it out!
We looked at lots of our favorite Galaxies. M51 was outstanding, very bright centers with companion NGC5195. Can see very bright area around the center of M51, if you keep looking, it’s starts to spiral. Very nice. NGC4449 is in UM and looks like a flying saucer. Real big nucleus. NGC5557 in Boo is mag. 11.1 but only dia. 2.4. Very bright center, like a bright ball with a very consistent haze around it. Best at 138x with the 22MM eyepiece. NGC4450 also very nice, mag. 10.1 dia. 4.8, bigger that 5557 but not as bright.
Here are the highlights of the new stuff we saw;
NGC6572 – PN, OPH, mag. 9.0, dia 6”. Very small bright blue spot, very visible. Fatter than the stars, that’s how you spot these real small ones. Looks better with high magnification.
NGC6633 – OC, OPH, mag 4.7, dia 27’ big bright open cluster, similar to IC4665 in OPH but more stars and closer together. This should be visible in almost any telescope.
NGC6181 – GAL, HER, mag. 11.9, dia. 2.6, just a smudge, must see again, saw when clouds cleared but still a hazy sky.
NGC6058 – PN, HER, mag 13.0, dia. 24”. This was bright because of the small size. It was a spot with a little haze around it. Like one of the stars in the field is out of focus. That’s how you know you got it.
NGC5899 – GAL, BOO, mag. 11.8, dia. 3.0, just a smudge with averted vision, must see again on a clearer night.
NGC5689 – GAL, ???, mag. 11.9, dia. 3.7, just visible edge on, again need to see again. Didn’t write down the constellation.
NGC5676 – GAL, ???, mag. 10.9, dia. 3.7, dim galaxy with a flat top, maybe a dust lane. Must see again.
I wish we had a better view if Mars. I need to get to good location soon this year. We saw it between the tree branches with electric cable all over the place. This severely degraded the image. But still we could see the size, “Huge”, as big a Jupiter. Big dark area in the globe with rough edge maybe a point on one side. No white cap tonight. I must get out, it will be worth the trip just to Mars. But the item on the night (or weekend) was absolutely NGC5353/54 in CV which I have dubbed the, ”Leopards Eyes”. This was the second time I saw this and the first time under a good sky. Oh Baby! There is a double star with a bright orange or yellow component and a pale blue companion. There is another bright star under them in the field. The 2 Galaxies are above the double to the right. They are both oval shaped and at about a 60 degree angle forming a “V” shape. The bright galaxy has a bright nucleus, the dimmer has a nucleus but not as distinct. When you look directly at the double star, the galaxies look like cats eyes lurking in the background, hiding in the glare, like a Leopard in the trees. Outstanding! The Galaxies are mag. 11.2 & 11.5 and small. The best view was at 138x with the 22MM eyepiece. You have to see it to believe it. You may see this in an 8”, I’m not sure about a smaller scope. Try for it, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If you can spot the double star, and I’m not sure it is an official double it just looks like a double, stare at it, see if the Leopard Eyes are staring back. Good Luck. Clear Skies;