Spent the weekend at a friend’s house (Doug & Jodi) in Fredon N.J., which is near Sparta. Their home was not in viewing distance of any homes around them and there were no streetlights. The trees were a little high in the backyard, but I set up next to the in-ground pool and had a clear view about 50 degrees down from the Zenith all around, a little further in some places. There was plenty of sky to see.
We set up just before dark, had dinner and were observing before 7:00 PM. Since they had never looked through a telescope before I started with many of the usual Messiers. The Sky was real nice. Very clear. The Milky Way was apparent but not crisp. No big dust lane or sharp edges. I imagine it gets extremely clear up there from time to time. Anyway, the first target was M57 the Ring Nebula, that was impressive as always. From there we went to globular cluster M15. The center was brighter than normal with a big bright circle of unresolved stars just off center. The sprinkle of stars around the edge was beautiful. Next M27 the Dumbbell showed nice structure, real dumbbell shaped cloud even without the filter. I put the Ultra Block filter on and it just jumps out of the eyepiece, amazing. NGC7662 the blue snowball didn’t show as much color as I’ve seen before. It was still big and impressive. The Andromeda Galaxy M31 was a naked eye object. Even Doug and Jodi could see it. In the 15x70 binos it extended all the way to the edges. Very nice. We looked at many open clusters including the Double Cluster, M36, M37, M38, M102, M52 and M34. All very popular with inexperienced observers because of the sheer number of stars in the eyepiece at once. I showed them several items in the binoculars then the Telescope just for fun. These included the Double cluster, M3, M37 , M42 and M45. M45 is actually very disappointing in the big scope. You can only see a few stars at a time. It’s really a bino object. Of course Saturn got the typical “I Can’t believe it” and “Oh Baby” from first time observers. I live for that. Jupiter was outstanding when it got very high. I noticed one moon approaching the edge. We kept checking it every 15 to 20 minutes waiting for it to vanish behind the globe. Lost track of time at the wrong time and missed it. Oh well, maybe next time. Galaxies NGC1023 and NGC7331 never disappoint. They look quite similar, bright center bulges with long thin extensions. Love those two. There were lots more, but let me get to the new stuff. Yes, I did some new item hunting. Ran across some real cool stuff, the sky was real nice.
NGC1275/1272 – Galaxy Pair in Per. I punched in NGC1275. I saw there was second Galaxy 1275 on the chart that looked like it would be in the same field. I saw 1275 right away Mag 11.6 dia. 2.6. I noticed a very dim galaxy to the upper right. A noticeable star between them. So I punched in NGC1272, turns out to be a 15th Magnitude dia. 2.5 galaxy. A new record! My first 15th Magnitude item. Just a smudge, but right there.
NGC1662 – OC, Eri, mag. 6.4, dia 20’. Very loose open cluster, several bright stars.
NGC1638 – gal, Eri, mag 12.1, dia 2.5, very dim large smudge, just about visible with averted vision.
NGC1535 – PN, Eri, mag 10.0, – excellent planetary nebula. Big spot. Bright center. Kind of like the Eskimo nebula but the halo was brighter. This will be a regular on my list of item to see all the time.
NGC1514 - PN Tau, mag 10.0, dia 1.9’ – At first I couldn’t find this. There were about 5 very bright stars in the field, nothing that looked like a Planetary Nebula. We put the Ultra block filter on and like magic, there it was. One of the stars had a huge very dim halo around it That had to be it. It was not there on any of the other stars. If not form the filter I would said, couldn’t see it.
The only disappointment of the night was, I couldn’t spot Comet Linear c/2001 wm1. I looked for it twice with no luck. I waited too long, Perseus was right overhead and very difficult to maneuver the scope and contort your body to look in the finder scope. I would not have given up so easily, but I did have first time observers with me, I didn’t want them to get board. About 1:15 AM. Clouds started to roll in. We packed up and buy 1:30 there wasn’t a star in the sky.
It was a great night, wish I had such a dark backyard. I have streetlights and tarps instead. The item of the night was no surprise, a 15th magnitude smudge does it for me. Saturn for the newbies.