Articles by Tammy

Observing With ~T...

As our webpages grow and expand, it adds interest when each of the RAS members publish their "Observing" articles and experiences. It has been my pleasure in the past to have done the field work and written many such articles of this nature. Here you will find a lot of my original field studies and accompanying reports, as well as a few published articles that have co-authored with other astronomy friends as well. You will find many such articles in my own personal reports on my webpage... But to share them all is a complete website in it's own! These are just a few that have been published and I thought perhaps you might like...



"And they say that a hero can save us... But I'm not going to stand here and wait. I hold on to the wings of the eagle... Watch as we all fly away."

Two Degrees From Algol
Pegasus - One Wild Galactic Ride!
Rollin' On the River
The Cup and the Raven
The Field Of Dreams...
The Great Galactic Duet
Runnin' With The Big Dogs
Rockin' A September Night Away...
A Bite Out Of The Sun
Ohio Dark Sky...

Two Degrees From Algol

So, do I always do what you tell me to? Well, yeah! You are my Master... And if you tell me to go walk outside and look to the northwest?

I will obey.

And if you tell me the skies will clear?

I will listen.

If you hand me a dark skies night, one with 6.5 visibility and 7/10 stability... Put a 12.5 scope beneath my hands. If you give me a map... I will walk with you to the stars. If you give me a notebook and a mechanical pencil... I will study. And if you give me a galaxy field?

I will do my best to make you proud.

When I pulled the dob out, I could only see Perseus. Why is it that things happen this way? The cold wind would take a bite out of me quickly if I used the west side yard... But Algol is at maximum and it was simply all I could see! Why would I want to chase after an old study when the east sky is filled with new ones? Why? I don't understand why! All I understand is that tonight I want Abell 426.

Starting at Algol, I shift into my "weird" study mode and stop to ride the diffraction waves. I know I'm rather strange, but I'd really like to know if I can catch a spectroscopic difference between Algol at maxium and Algol at minimum. Yeah, I'm sure I'm probably being kinda' dumb because my equipment is so primative... But I'm curious. OK? Making my notes, I put the diffraction grating away once again. I learn. Therefore I am.

Now, let's rock and roll...

Abell 426 has been a longstanding favourite of mine. It is a curious galaxy cluster in the respect that the finer the night, the more galaxies will reveal themselves. While tonight is not the most exceptional night I've ever encountered, it is a fine one for galaxy studies. Brushing Algol away in the eyepiece, I close my eyes and sing along with the music for several minutes, mentally and visually preparing myself for faint studies. I am becoming accoustomed to the cold, and when my eyes are ready? It's time to go to the finder, for the first study lays right in the field with a star.

The NGC1224 requires wide aversion. It is faint, round, and shows some concentration toward the nucleus with patience. Held indirect, this small galaxy has a UGC-like signature. Next stop on the hop is the NGC1250. Very diffuse and small.... Also requiring wide aversion. While allowing the eye to bounce around the field, it is possible to make out a slight north/south tilt to this galaxy that may indicate it to be a spiral. Curiously enough, it is during this motion that a pinprick of a nucleus can be detected.

Pushing on toward the heart of the Perseus Galaxy cluster, my next destination is a chain of three. First study mark is the NGC1259. Whoa! Extreme aversion here, boss... Very, very diffuse and faint. It can only be caught by focusing attention on the tiny star in the westward drift. The NGC1260 only requires slight aversion, however. It is small and somewhat diffuse. Definately ovoid in structure... And definately the easiest to see of these three! The NGC1264 also requires very wide aversion. Very faint and diffuse. Very round.... Very challenging!

Now, triangulating with this series, it's time to go for the NGC1257. Very faint, diffuse and small with a concentration toward the core, it holds a little surprise. There's a tiny star at the northeast end that allows one to see upon wide aversion that the galaxy itself seems to migrate to the northeast/southwest. Excellent!

From here I have the option of continuing on the same trajectory or doing a lateral "thing". I find myself grinning, because I know from past experience that my maps don't always reveal everything there is to be seen in such a cluster. I'll have to be awfully careful when going toward the heart of Abell 426, or I'll lose my sense of direction and darn well get lost!

Oh well, eh? It wouldn't be the first time I've been told to do so. ;)

The NGC1271 skirts the most populated part of this Abell cluster. If I've got the right one, we're talking abot a super wide aversion, very faint, very small patch that is barely capturable. Even patience and my own set of tricks can draw nothing more than a slightly regular contrast change in this area.

Next up is an extremely challenging triple. The NGC1267, NGC1268 and NGC1269 are three incredibly tiny, very diffuse round gems that would be indistinguishable at lower power. Phew! This little trio is really bad... I couldn't even qualify these as "hairy stars" because they're so diffuse!

Breathing quietly so I don't fog anything up, right now I'd just about sell my soul for a cup of chai and a few minutes by the fire. But, I realize that if I stand down now, I'll lose whatever sense of orientation that I've gained. (and that, coming from a blonde, is no joke.) I can see the "heart" of Abell 426, and I know how easy it would be to just let go... Enjoy!

Not care?

Not hardly. (don't stop, ~T.... just don't stop.)

NGC1273 is faint. It requires aversion, but the brighter core region holds up to indirect vision. The NGC1272, is also round... Almost planetary in appearance. This is a galaxy that is definately a player in this field!! The NGC1270 is very diffuse and a wide aversion. It contains a very small, almost stellar nucleus.

Now the cluster is getting thick and tight. Can I do this and do it correctly? Hey, hey... Let's give it a go. I can't do anything worse than be wrong, eh?

NGC1279 is faint, diffuse, but holds. It stretches just every so slightly, like a thin smear held at slight aversion to the north/south. It is even with no nucleus present. The NGC1274 is very faint and very diffuse and even. It is best seen while concentrating on the NGC1279. Just an incredibly misty oval. The NGC1275... (holy sh*t! one i can see!!) is very bright compared to all the previous studies. Most definately has a bright and easily held direct nucleus.

And now I'm laughing out loud, because these little puppies are everywhere. Much like studying Virgo clusters, once you see a bright galaxy, what seems like swarms come out to play all around! I guess it's time for me to bow gracefully out of the middle of this dance before I make a great fool of myself. Let's just head back toward the outskirts and although these might not be considered to be part of the Abell 426, at least I stand a better chance at identification!

Going for a pair, I find the NGC1282 to be diffuse, slight in size and quite ovoid. Very even in structure, no hint of a nucleus even a full avert. The companion, NGC1283, is very diffuse and I probably wouldn't have even caught it except for that I was looking at some small field stars that triangulate in this area when it made its' foggy apppearance.

Now for the NGC1294 and NGC1293... Wide aversion shows two round fuzzies with prickly nucleus structure. The pair reminds me of two impossibly small "gone to seed" dandelions waiting to be scattered on the cosmic winds...


Listen. When I start writing junk like that in my notes, I'm either high on photons or nearing hypothermia.

Or maybe both, eh?


"It's been awhile... Since I could hold my head up high. And it's been awhile... Since I first saw you. It's been awhile... Since I could stand, on my own two feet again. And it's been awhile... Since I could call you."

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Pegasus - One Wild Galactic Ride!

Ready to take on another Fall EXTREME challenge?  Then look no further than...

~The Pegasus Field

So, you think you're up to a wild ride?  Then grab onto this mane and let's take a walk through Pegasus...

First stop is Eta... then move toward the Lacerta border.  (Yee Haa!) First stop... NGC7331.  This nice looking spiral galaxy has a bright core and a soft form, supported by a defined dark dust lane..  On good dark sky nights, it is possible to make out one soft, swooping arm!  But hey... there's company here!  NGC7335 and NGC7337 are in this too... the are tiny spirals, not much more than a fuzzy ball of light.  But the NGC7340, wants to come out to play too... as a diminuative eliptical!

Now, let's hop back to Eta and head east.  (Howdy, Beta!) and slide toward the north for NGC7457...  Sure, it's tough, but it's one more faint eliptical to target practice on!  (So, feeling frisky yet?  Then let's get down...  ;)

To the really "good stuff"!  Just touch the scope south.  Let's get one of the best groups in the sky...  Stephan's Quintet!  The largest member of this group is the NGC7320, a beautiful face-on spiral  which gives one the appearance of a concentrated galactic center, cupped by a halo of light, and embedded with the brightning of thousands of stars!   The other members of the exclusive/elusive group are eliptical galaxies NGC7317, and NGC7318A... and the ever-so-slightly differing forms of spirals NGC7318B and NGC7319.  When viewed, these are not much more than a faint group... but this is one challenge you won't regret!

Now, let's ride on back toward Eta again... and head west toward Pi.  South of Pi is the average surface of the NGC7217.  This spiral galaxy shows density toward the core region, but the mass of the galaxy is well distributed.  During excellent seeing conditions, a hint of an outward arm opposite the bright field star is possible!  Now jump back to Eta, and let's shake it on down through the finder that resembles a partial Lyra.  Omicron... Mu and stop!  Lambda.  Fade to the west and latch onto NGC7332.  A small, shy eliptical who appears to be hanging out with another scratch of light!?!

You ready to ride this horse on over toward Alpha?  (Well... all right.  ;)  Touch the scope west from here to capture NGC7448.  Just another average brightness spiral, but one with a soft, appealing core.  Now, hold onto them reins... 'cause we're going back to Alpha and continue south just a couple of degrees.  Howdy, NGC7479!  (If this one doesn't get your blood to pumping... nothing will!)  The NGC7479 is a classic "S" shaped spiral, with one arm curved gently above its' head like a ballet dancer... and the other tucked demurely behind.  It you only bother with one in the EXTREME group...   Do this one, eh?  ;)

One last hop now... and this time toward Gamma.  In the northwest is our final galaxy in the Pegasus field.  The NGC7814... (smilin', yet?)  Because this is a perfect example of and edge-on!  Although not as bright or as large as the "Sombrero" (M104), the NGC7814 contains a dark, central dust lane that you just can't miss!!

Hi Ho Silver... Away!

"Wild horses... Couldn't drag me away."

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Rollin' On The River...

The deep cold gives perfect clarity to the night. Magnitude 6.5 stars shine within the body of Orion, and the heavens walk right down to the ground. Tonight I come alone. No maps, no pencils, no notes... Just the telescopes, me and you.

It is time.

Starting with Alpha Fornacis I find a beautiful, disparate double, a "white" star with its' yellow/orange companion. But this is not about doubles, tonight. It is about deep sky, and Alpha is merely a stepping stone.

And so I hop to Beta, for it is my guide to the NGC1049 to the southwest. Only the dob may reach for this one. The NGC1049 appears to me as a very soft, very faded globular cluster. It is like a "ghost"... seen, yet not seen. An ethereal hint of what lies beyond our cosmos.

Next stop is north, and slightly to the east for a galaxy revealed in both scopes... The NGC1097. In the 4.5 (inch EQ-Newt) it shows as an upright bar of light that pulls at the tips. The 12.5 (inch Dob-Newt) reveals a barred-spiral. (So you want power? Should I give you what you want? For they are very simple equations... You may use my calculator if you like. ;) NGC1097 is truly beautiful. The central portion of the galaxy is evenly illumated from end to end, but, at each of those ends lay the spiral arms, twisting away opposite of each other into space.

Next hop is Omega... again a double star. Much closer in magnitude this time! And pulled apart easily enough with both scopes at a minimum of power... but again, just another port of call. So I head back for Alpha, and north and a bit west into the border of Eridanus in search of NGC1232. The 4.5 can only make out of soft circle of light... a signature I know. The 12.5 reveals a spiral galaxy, but not an exceptional one. It contains a very "stellar" nucleas and fades out evenly towards its' frontiers. Aversion plus magnification can only add just the most wispy of hints of a single spiral arm.

From there I head for Tau4, for this is an oft repeated target! The NGC1300 is a "both scopes" kinda' galaxy... and I can appreciate that. The little one shows are very bright core and transient arms upon aversion that remind me of a cat's eye marble. And the dob holds it direct, allowing for study of perhaps the finest barred-spiral I have ever encountered. It's nucleas is a bright point of light set within its' structure, the "bar" itself being rather ephemeral, and almost nebula-like in appearance. But, two very well defined arms wrap round it, with mottled indications suggesting giant clusters of stars in this faraway island universe! A most fascinating galaxy...

Now back to Tau4, and a shift north and a bit east to return to the "River". NGC1332 is our next stop, an ellipitical galaxy. Just a silver oval in the small scope, and not overly improved by aperature. With the additional light gathering ability, the NGC1332 now contains a much brighter nucleas, and very even form.

So let's go south back down into "the Furnace" and breathe the scopes east to capture planetary nebula NGC1360. Say hello to a ball of greenish light in a small scope and go for aperature. Now we're talkin'! The planetary now stretches itself out and reveals a bright, almost distracting inner star! When you can peel your concentration away from it, averted vision reveals a certain vagueness... almost a transparency inside one very kicking planetary!

Just a touch southwest of here brings up yet another bright,barred-spiral, the NGC1398. Once again, we're looking at easily distinguishable in either scope... but what get's me is WHY does this area of the sky contain so many barred-spirals?! What "string" resonates in the vast reaches of space that spawns this structure?! What musician of the cosmos calls this tune? I want to meet Him...

And the radio plays in the night... keeping me company. Shall I take you on a radio journey? For you see, I often do far more study than you give me credit for! Let's go the Chi1,2,3 and drop southwest for the NGC1316. Hey up! Just another ellipitcal, right? Wrong. The NGC1316 is THE radio source for Fornax A. (i wonder if it does rock and roll? ;) The little oval smear of light shows well in the 4.5, but the dob brings up a bonus! For just a tiny bit north of "the Source" lies a companion known the NGC1317!

Let's hop back to the Chi triangle, and go for yet another. For a degree east will bring on another, the NGC1365. What can I say but Blitzkrieg, baby... Blitzkrieg! Now, do not take that in a skin-headed sense. For the German language has many subtle nuances... The "blitz" is lightning, and "krieg" is war... and very truly the NGC1365 resembles a "lightning war" frozen in the form of a barred-spiral galaxy. There is no "hints" in form here. The 9th magnitude galaxy shows well in the 4.5, and comes alive in the 12.5. The central core is Z-shaped, very definate and bright. The central bar continues to hold up to direct vision, bracketed by two arms that differ. One tends to diffuse away a bit, but the other holds a very solid brightness. Lightning...

(and i am shivering now, for it is very cold. but perhaps it is excitement? for i've waited a very long time to show you this...)

Come with me, now. And be thankful that our feet are upon the ground! I am going to take you to a place I've found. A playground in Never-Never Land... And tonight the sky grants us permission to go there. Together.

One degree northeast of NGC1365...

First I hand you the 4.5. In this new "field" you will see two ellipticals, the NGC1399, and the NGC1404. You remember how to play this game, do you not? Look at those galaxies, yet feel the field with your eyes. Ah.... I see it. I have your attention now, don't I? But play there for a bit, while I move the counter-balance on the dob, and put in my favourite eyepiece. Come now. This is for you. Watch them dance....

With the wide-field eyepiece in the 12.5, the Fornax Galaxy cluster is stunning. How many do you see in one degree? Nine? When you touch the scope, how many in the field? Twelve? Fifteen? Yes, of course some of them we've already visited. The tightest portion of the cluster also has designations: NGC1374, NGC1379, NGC1380, NGC1381, NGC1387, NGC1399, NGC1404, NGC1386 and NGC1389. So tiny, and so very beautiful. You can see now why my heart has ached to return to Eridanus. It shares it's soul with Fornax.

And tonight it shared with us...

"Keepers of the flame... Do ya' hear your name? Can't you feel your baby cryin'?"

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The Cup and the Raven...

Legend tells us that the constellation of Crater is the cup of the gods. A cup befitting the god of the skies... Apollo. And who holds this cup, dressed in black? The Raven... Corvus. The tale is a sad one. The story of a creature sent to fetch water for his master, only to tarry too long waiting on a fig to ripen. When he realized his mistake, the sorry Raven returned to Apollo with his cup and brought along the serpent Hydra in his claws as well. Angry, Apollo tossed them into the sky for all eternity. It is in the south they stay until this day...

And tonight it is my pleaure to study them.

The galaxies I have chosen are done particulary for those of us who still star hop. I will start with a "marker" star that should be easily visible unaided on a night capable of supporting this kind of study. The field stars are quite recognizable in the finder and this is an area that takes some work. The scope I chose tonight is none other than my fine Meade 12.5 dobsonian. The eyepieces are study grade Meade 26mm and 9mm. All of the following studies were observed under a variety of conditions a minimum of three times. Each night I have viewed them has presented slightly different limiting magnitudes and relatively steady conditions. My reports reflect the best of any particular time, for not every night presents the same details. I work cold, my friends... My companions are a map, a notebook, a sketchpad, a red flashlight, a mechanical pencil, an exuberant black german shepherd and a cup of chai. I have nothing to guide me and I am not fast. There is no book or program here to confirm structure for me, I can only guess. Out here in the field we work unplugged. There is only rock and roll music, this beautiful dark night,

And my thoughts of you.

Now, let's go between map and sky and identify both Zeta and Eta crater... Then form a triangle.

At low power, the NGC3981 sits inside a stretched triangle of stars. Upon magnification, an elongated spiral structure with a stellar nucleus appears. Patience and aversion makes this "stand up" galaxy appear to have a vague fading at the fontiers with faint extensions. They rock the night when a perfect moment of clarity arrives and it is possible to see tiny star caught at the edge.

When I first found the NGC3956, my intial thought was edge-on structure at low power. Again, I study. It is a very tilted spiral, nearing those edge-on qualities I so admire. A beautiful multiple, and a difficult double also reside with the NGC3956, appearing almost to triangulate with it. Aversion brings up a very bright core region which over the course of time and study appears to extend away from the center, giving this very sweet galaxy more structure than can be called from it with one observation. Oddly enough, on the finest of the nights I studied, I have a notation in the margin that says "possible faint companion". This is nothing that I can confirm... Just one of those odd "glints" that one sometimes catches while averting.

The NGC3955 is a very even, elongated spiral structure requiring a minimum of aversion once the mind and eye "see" its' position. Not particulary an impressive galaxy, the NGC3955 does, however, have a star caught at the edge as well. After several viewings, the best I can pull from this one is a slight concentration toward the core.

The next three galaxies start with an interacting pair and require that you find 31 Corvii... And we're ready to breathe the scope up.

The NGC4038/39 is a tight, but superior pair of interacting galaxies. Often referred to as either the "Ringtail" or the "Antenna", this pair deeply captured the public's imagination when photographed by the Hubble. I ain't got the Hubble. What I have is a quality set of optics and the patience to find them. At low power the pair presents two very stellar core regions surrounded by a curiously shaped nebulosity. But drop the power on it and practice patience. Cuz' it's worth it! When that perfect moment of clarity arrives, we have cracklin' structure. Unusual, clumpy, odd arms appear at strong aversion. Behind all this is a galactic "sheen" that hints at all the beauty seen in the Hubble photographs. It's a tight little fellow... And worth every moment it took to find it.

Also in the area is the NGC4027. Relatively large, and faint at low power, this one also deserves both magnification and attention. Why? Because it ROCKS! It has a wonderful coma shape with a single, unmistakeable bold arm. The bright nucleus seems to almost curl along with this arm shape and during aversion a single stellar point appears at its' tip. This one is a real treat!!

Now that we've moved back toward star 31, let's look to the sky again and fixate on Eta Crater. Draw a mental line between the two, aim for the middle and breath just ever so slightly east...

The NGC4033 is a tough call. Appearing almost elliptical at low power, it does take on the stretch of a spiral at magnification. It is smallish, even and quite unremarkable. It requires good aversion and a bit of patience to find.

The last resides by a star. In order to "see" anything even remotely called structure, this one is a high power only galaxy that is best when the accompanying star is kept out of the field as much as possible. It holds a definate stellar nucleus and a concentration that pulls away from it making it almost appear barred! Wide aversion and moments of clarity show what may be three to four glints inside the structure. Ultra tiny pinholes in another universe, eh? Maybe a supernova... Or perhaps an unimaginably huge, bright globular cluster... While attention is focused on trying to draw out these points, it is then that you notice this galaxy is quite haloed by arms. Another true beauty and fitting way to end this particular study field.

The constellations of both Crater and Corvus hold many, many more such fine galaxy studies. Perhaps another year I shall hunt them all down, eh? But for now... My eye is on Virgo. You know that I've tipped the scope up that way, don't you? I look forward to walking through that expanse of galaxies once again...

But not half as much as I look forward to seeing you.

"Change has been... And change will be. Time will tell... And time will ease. Now my curtain has been drawn... And my heart must go where my heart does belong.

I'm goin' home."

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The Field of Dreams...

The seeds of galaxy-quest lie within each of us... Regardless of whether we use large scopes, or small, we can span the Limitless Ocean of Space to visit distant "Island Universes"!

In this exciting episode of "Galaxy Quest", we take a step on our endless journey and spend some "quality time" with "twin" galaxies M84 and M86 in Virgo.

Galaxy pair M84 & M86, like more distant M85, are part of the Coma-Virgo Galaxy Cluster. The pair - plus M85 - lie near the center of the Local Supercluster which includes our own Local Group of galaxies. At heart of this huge collection is the supergiant elliptical galaxy M87.

Galaxies M84, 86, & M87 were all discovered in the year 1781 by comet-hunter Charles Messier. Galaxy M85, of similar size and luminosity, was first logged that same year by Messier's associate Pierre Méchain. 1781 would prove to be the pinnacle of Messier's productivity, for later in the season he suffered a mishap and spent the next year recovering. Not too long after this, the Torch of Deep Sky Discovery was passed to William Herschel. Charles Messier then went on to add several comets to his list of discoveries before passing in the Spring of 1817 at the age of 87.

Some Useful Facts ...

Like M85, the M84/86 pair is best observed in early Spring just after skydark. Though the pair may be located through a 2 inch or larger scope, most satisfying views are seen through 200 millimeter (and larger) instruments under dark skies.

M84 Virgo, Type: Galaxy, Magnitude: 9.3, Apparent Size: 5x4' RA: 12 25.1, Dec:12 53, Optimal Scope Size: 200mm.

M86 Virgo, Type: Galaxy, Magnitude: 9.2, Apparent Size: 7x6' RA: 12 26.2, Dec:12 57, Optimal Scope Size: 200mm.

... And Intriguing Thoughts

While contemplating this pair, two ideas of some intrigue surface. First, after turning up a few of the brightest galaxies in the region, Charles Messier went off to explore elsewhere. This left Messier's associate (Pierre Méchain) the opportunity to harvest the twelve remaining bright galaxies (M88 - M100) found there. It would appear that Charles Messier wasn't into mopping up!

Second, and more uniquely, is the fact that the M84/86 locale bears a resemblence to the Hubble Deep Space Galaxy Field - a region of intense galactic concentrations on the very edge of the HST's photographic reach. As such, this region is the amateur's "Not-So-Deep Space Galaxy Field". By lavishing time and attention thereon, one can make of it "The Galaxy Field of Dreams"...

At the Eyepiece

We begin our tour by "getting small". Although this pair of 200mm-optimal elliptical galaxies may be turned up in a 50mm scope, little more than a certain "vague fuzziness and ill-defined central brightening" is possible. At 40x, a good 75mm achromatic rich field refractor begins to distinguish each galaxy's core within a faint core region. No sense of galactic orientation is possible. (However, the nice dark background sky such scopes ubder modest magnifications and conditions makes both galaxies obvious in the field of view!)

So far - no "Field of Dreams"....

A 114mm newtonian reflector, reveals these galactic mates with little effort. During average seeing, the M84/86 pair expands on an 80mm refractor's ease of distinction. The two galaxies appear a "matched set" of readily discerned "twin ellipticals". As such, both display well distributed core regions, but little else to give each its unique due.

On moderately dark nights (5.5 ULM), averted vision begins to hint at the fainter riches this area holds. But, a larger collection of photons is needed to begin serious prospecting in the region!

At 150mm, the western member of the pair (M84) is seen slightly brighter and visibly smaller. With an average surface brightness (ASB) of magnitude 12.2, M84 is brighter than more distant Virgo cluster member M85 - while at ASB 12.9, M86 is slightly dimmer. In terms of apparent size, M84 shows maybe 3 arc minutes of face-on presentation. Like M85 further afield, M84 displays a star-like nucleus surrounded by a bright core, enshrouded with wispy nebulosity. Under eye movement, M84 appears to swell in every direction. Since there is no particular direction of flare, the sense of "face-on" presentation is readily reinforced.

In the same field as M84 (east and slightly north) lies M86. This galaxy's nucleus is broader, and less intensely brilliant, than that of M84. On eye movement through 150mms, its core position shifts slightly north. (This as M86's luminosity diffuses south.) In apparent size, M86 is about 1/3rd larger than M84. A bit more than half its full extension can be seen through a six inch scope.

Despite less dramatic structure, M86 holds visual attention just as well as its brighter, more compact, confrere.

Using 318mms in aperture, we see the galaxies literally "leap" out of the eyepiece. This even at the most modest magnifications! (Not surprising, huh? The 12.5 is well beyond the 200mms needed to get an "optimal view" of this face-on pair.) Under direct vision, one's attention is immediately riveted on these intense galaxies. Strangely though, additional prominent structure fails to be seen. As such, M84 gains very little besides a brighter appearance over the six inch instrument.

Increased magnification reveals only slightly more than what can be viewed with a good six inch scope on a dark night. The major difference is that all detail is immediately present - no tricks of the eye required. M84's central concentration is notably more diffuse and its' fade to the outer frontier is more dignified.

At 318mm, galaxy M86 shows somewhat better form. Evidence of flattening appears along the longer edges. There is a sense that the galaxy is being "squeezed together" by the combined influence of the billions of stars that make it up! Finally, there is even a "hint of resolution" along the edges....

Beginning at 6 inches - and more so at 12.5, one of the most fascinating features of this area becomes apparent. While studying the bright galactic forms of the M84/86 with direct vision, aversion begins to welcome many other mysterious strangers into view. As noted, M84 and 86 dwell in a galaxy-rich region of space. Within a single 40 arc-minute field of view, and with a little effort, a six inch scope can reveal three other companions!

Forming an easy (almost equilateral) triangle with the two Messier's (and located about 20 arc-minutes south) lies NGC4388. At magnitude 11.0 and 5X1 arc minute apparent size, this edge-on spiral has an ASB of 12.4. As such, you'd think it would show as much structure as the brightest of the Messiers! But, this is not the case. All that is possible is to get a sense of NGC4388's spatial orientation (east-west) and size (maybe 3/4 X 3 arc-minutes). Sharp-eyed observers using six inch scopes may also be able to detect a dim, star-like 13 plus magnitude core - but increased sensitivity due to eye movement may be essential.

At magnitude 12.0, 2x1 arc-minute sized NGC4387 is also a 12.4 magnitude average surface brightness galaxy. This NGC galaxy is conveniently located in the midst of a triangle formed of the two Messiers and NGC4388. Despite a relatively bright ASB, NGC4387 requires 120X for definitive detection - especially on marginal nights of seeing. Eye movement may also give this faint galaxy a hint of a stellar nucleus as well.

While no real structure on the NGC4388 is possible at 6 inches of aperture, a 12.5 reveals a touch of definition under averted vision. As such, the galaxy takes on the classic form of an edge-on spiral. And we here at Galaxy Quest especially like our galaxies edge-on!

Experience tells us that locating one arc-minute sized galaxies often requires higher magnifications. At lower overall magnitudes, their small cores are often indistingushable from faint stars. Increased magnification darkens the sky and spreads available light out. This combination improves contrast and reveals their non-stellar natures. The eye also makes distinctions based apparent "size". As such, size, contrast, and luminosity are very important factors in eyepiece detection. For these reasons, higher magnifications are often needed when attempting to track down dim galaxies approaching 1 arc-minute in extent and magnitudes near a particular apertures limit for sky conditions.

As a result, NGC4387 is a tough customer in both scopes. Under 318mm inspection, a very small face-on spiralesque structure with round "stellar" nucleas is possible. The galaxy's light disperses more or less evenly to its' frontier. Despite another magnitude and a half of reach and use of highest available magnifications, details can not be easily pulled out of this one, (And reflect on the wonder it can be located at all at in telescopes with one quarter the light gathering capacity!)

Meanwhile, moderate magnifications (138x) shows that NGC4388 possesses an evenly illumined core region. A certain "stretched appearance" is possible at the margins. Finally, the western frontier can be seen notably thinner and more diffuse.

About 10 arc-minutes north of M86 is an even dimmer swatch of nebulosity - NGC4402. Bearing an ASB of magnitude 12.9, galaxy 4402 appears "distinctly" ill-defined. Like NGC4387, 4402 demands moderate magnifications (120X) through a six inch instrument for confident detection.

Gathering four times the light does have its advantages! Bearing an apparent size of 4x1 arc-minutes, there is enough of NGC4402 to make its' presence well known. The galaxy displays edge-on structure. This improves its' contrast immensely. Large apertures at high power (300x) reveals a noticeable dust lane. The central structure forms a curved "bar" of light. Luminosity appears evenly distributed end to end, while the dust lane cleanly clips the classic central bulge of the core.

We've now gone as 'deep" as we can. East of M86 are two brighter NGC galaxies - 4435 and 4438. 4435 is roundish (3X2 arc-minutes) and bears a visual magnitude of 10.8. 4438 is larger (9 X 3) and cumulatively brighter (10.1). At 12.4 and 13.4 ASB respectively, neither are particularly difficult. And their larger apparent sizes support lower magnifications nicely.

Through a six inch, galaxy 4435 - like its nearby sibling - is easily picked out at low power (50X). Scrutiny at 120X shows about 2 round arc-minutes of wispy luminosity containing a bright star-like core. A slight amount of flaring northeast to southwest is possible as the eye moves across the field.

While NGC4435 consists of simple star-like core/wispy round body structure, Galaxy 4438 adds a dim, 1 arc-minute sized core region plus beginnings of edge-on extensions northeast and southwest. These details are barely perceptible through a six inch and only under eye movement. In general, NGC4438 looks pretty much like 4435 - except a tad brighter.

Even at 318mm, ellipitical galaxies tend to be rather uninteresting creatures, but the beauty of the NGC4435 and NGC4438 are their proximity to each other. The 4435 shows true elliptical structure, evenly illuminated - with a sense of fading toward the edges... But the 4438 is quite a different story! This elliptical is much more elongated. A highly conspicuous wisp of galactic material can be seen stretching back toward the brighter, nearby galaxy pair M84/86: A faint arm of luminosity reaching toward the greater light.

Studying a galaxy complex can be both frustrating and highly rewarding. Frustrating in that highly developed skills of mind, hand, and eye are needed to make confident identification of specific galaxies possible. Rewarding, because we denizens of the Blue Planet tend to find our greatest joy and satisfaction in pushing the envelop and overcoming our limitations.

It is our hope that the information provided in this article offers you the inspiration and guidance needed to reach for the stars!

Farewell Fellow Galactophiles!

From the "Not-So-Deep Space Galaxy Field" and "The Field of Dreams", we wish you...

Clear Skies and Happy Hunting!

(c) 2002 Tamela Jean Watt/Plotner & Jeff Barbour

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The Great Galactic Duet...

Welcome, Traveller...

To the dark arms of the night. Our celestial journey resumes to the north, in the realms of Ursa Major: the Great Bear...

"Let my lamp at midnight hour, Be seen in some high, lonely tower. Where I may oft outwatch the Bear."

Our sojourn will take us to a place of intrigue. A realm where two galaxies hold each other in cosmic embrace. A place where a single gem of spiral perfection is mounted against a setting of broken promises. Here we continue our Quest in exploration of Bode's Galaxies - twin jewels of the circumpolar north sky - M81 and M82...

Discovered in December, 1774 by JE Bode at Berlin, these two deep sky favourites hold secrets between themselves. Photographed as early as March, 1899, this pair is central to a group of galaxies encompassing the northern circumpolar constellations of Ursa Major and Camelopardalis.

Modern photos (such as at the left taken by Robert Gendler), show the superb spiral structure of the M81. At some 36,000 light years in diameter, it is one of the densest known galaxies. One third of the mass is concentrated at the core! Its' glow is the combined luminosity of twenty billion suns...

Often mistaken in the small telescope for an edge-on spiral, M81's neighbor - M82 - shows no sign of "swirling". A true space "oddity"! The light from M82 journeying back to our eyes, is polarized. This galaxy probably contains a super-massive magnetic field. Not only is M82 polarized visually, it is also a powerful radio source. Within its' broken structure lay huge masses of dust accompanied by the radiance of stars possessing unusual spectral qualities. These facts lead scientists to believe that a violent outburst may have occured within the galaxy as recently as 1.5 million years ago... About the time when our own adventurous ancestral species, Homo Erectus, began seeking pattern in the Night Sky!

It is estimated M82's defining event released the energy equivalent of several million exploding suns! "Shock waves" emanating from the galaxy greatly resemble synchrotron radiation. This phenomenon was first discovered in association with planetary nebula M1 - but within the M82, on an enormous scale! Can you image a super nova remnant the size of an entire galactic core region?

Roughly every one hundred million years, M81 and M82 make a "pass" at one another. Immensely powerful gravitation arms reach out and intertwine to produce a spectacular embrace. It is theorized that during the last go-round, M82 raised rippling density waves which circulated throughout M81. The result? Possibly the most perfectly formed spiral galaxy in all of space!

But M81's influence left M82 a broken galaxy. Filled with exploded stars and colliding gas, a galaxy so violent it emits X-rays. Reactions induced by colliding dust and gas caused the birth of numerous brilliant stars. Stars capable of creating extremely dense atoms... Some of which are now excited by the kind of extreme motion that induces immense magnetic fields.

The end may already be envisioned. Scientists speculate within a few billion years, out of the two, there shall be one. Two Cosmic Lovers locked in full embrace. Indistinguishable but for the welter of radiation only such an embrace can foment. It is known this same Danse Galactic awaits our own galaxy. Billions of years hence, our own galaxy and its' largest neighbor - the Great Spiral in Andromeda - shall swoop together in consummation of their own Cosmic Courtship.

Let us not speak only of this fascinating galactic duet however. For the M81 and M82 also have some very unusual playmates! Neighboring galaxy NGC3077 displays some of the same "peculiarities" as its' larger companion, M82. At 6,000 light years in diameter, NGC3077 is little more than a third the size of its protoype. Southwest of Spiral M81, is yet another "odd ball". Like NGC3077, NGC2976 is a dwarf. At less than 1/5th the size of M81, NGC2976 is some 7,000 light years across. A value only thrice the distance between our own Sun and the nearby, spectacular Great Nebula in Orion!

Three faint, irregular galaxies are also associated with our galactic pair. The NGC2366 jumps the border into Camelopardalis. IC2574 is found just a bit southeast of the M81 and is a real "toughie"! A smaller system known as Ho II was discovered in 1950 by astronomer E. Holmberg. Even farther into Camelopardis is the large spiral NGC2403, also thought to be a member of the M81/82 "family" of galaxies. As one of the two galaxy groups closest to our own "Milky Way" system (the other lies in Sculptor), this region presents a fascinating opportunity for study by the backyard astronomer. Why, the main pair can even be seen through 6x35mm binoculars!

So, let us turn our telescopes toward study. Drawing an imaginary line between Phecda and Dubhe, we extend that just one step further into space...

And thus Galaxy Quest continues!

Some Basic Information:

Like many galaxies seen at right angles to the Milky Way's galactic plane, M81/M82 Galaxy Group members are best observed during Spring just after skydark. Of course, these galaxies may be observed year-round from the temperate northern hemisphere, but best views are had when found in the middle third of the sky. Despite the brightness and susceptibility of the main pair, amateurs take it as a source of some pride to readily locate the pair in what amounts to a rather nondescript region of sky.

M81 Ursa Majoris, Type: Spiral Galaxy, Magnitude: 7.0, Apparent Size: 26x14' RA: 09 55.6, Dec:69 04, Optimal Scope Size: 150mm.

M82 Ursa Majoris, Type: Irregular Galaxy, Magnitude: 8.4, Apparent Size: 11x5' RA: 09 55.8, Dec:69 41, Optimal Scope Size: 150mm.

NGC2976 Ursa Majoris, Type: Irregular Galaxy, Magnitude: 10.2, Apparent Size: 5x2' RA: 09 47, Dec:67 54, Optimal Scope Size: 250mm.

NGC3077 Ursa Majoris, Type: Elliptical Galaxy, Magnitude: 9.9, Apparent Size: 5x4' RA: 09 59, Dec:68 58, Optimal Scope Size: 250mm.

IC2574 Ursa Major, Type: Irregular Galaxy, Magnitude: 10.6, Apparent Size: 13x5' RA: 10 28, Dec:68 25, Optimal Scope Size: 400mm.

NGC2366 Camelopardalis, Type: Irregular Galaxy, Magnitude: 10.9, Apparent Size: 8x3' RA: 07 29, Dec:69 13, Optimal Scope Size: 325mm.

NGC2403 Camelopardalis, Type: Spiral Galaxy, Magnitude: 8.4, Apparent Size: 18x9' RA: 07 36.9, Dec:65 36, Optimal Scope Size: 200mm.

Our Telescopes:

80mm Orion ShortTube Refractor mounted on an Orion Skyview Deluxe Equatorial Mount. Eyepieces include 35/25/15/10mm Orion Ultrascopics, 3x Apochromatic and 2x Shorty Barlow Lenses. This scope is capable of revealing stars to magnitude 12.0 with direct vision. It cleanly resolves matched double stars to 1.5 arc seconds of apparent separation. Under optimal seeing conditions, it can reveal all deepsky studies found in the Messier catalogue. (Optimal seeing is defined as unaided and direct perception of stars to magnitude 5.5 overhead and clean resolution of matched double stars at Dawes limit.)

Celestron 114 Newtonian Reflector with CG3 Equatorial Mount. 10 and 25mm, Celestron SMA, 17mm Orion Sirius Plossl, 9 and 26mm Meade Series 4000 eyepieces plus 2X Orion "Shorty" Barlow. This scopes performance is comparable to the 80mm achromat in double star resolution but is able to go half a magnitude deeper in stellar reach.

150mm Orion Argonaut Maksutov-Cassegrain mounted on an Orion Skyview Deluxe Equatorial Mount. Eyepieces include 35/25/15/10mm Orion Ultrascopics, 3x Apochromatic and 2x Shorty Barlow Lenses. This scope is capable of revealing stars to magnitude 13.4 with direct vision. It cleanly resolves matched double stars to .8 arc seconds in apparent separation. Under optimal conditions, almost all studies described by William Herschel may be found in the night sky.

Meade 318mm Starfinder Newtonian Reflector on Altazimuth Dobsonian Mount. 2 inch 32mm Televue plus 17mm Orion Sirius Plossl, 9 and 26mm Meade Series 4000 eyepieces and 2X Orion "Shorty" Barlow. This "lightbucket" actually resolves matched double stars to .5 arc seconds. Stars to magnitude 15.0 may be held direct under good conditions. It is capable of revealing virtually all members of Dreyer's New General Catalog plus a number of Index catalog (IC) studies as well!

At the Eyepiece

M81 & M82:

So Traveller, shall we start with the 80mm? Here we find the M81 shows an obvious starlike core, with bright and extended core region blending into the beginnings of faint spiral arms. Although this showpiece galaxy flares to all directions on eye movement (which basically double's any scope aperture), it appears somewhat "flattened", showing a better defined frontier to the west. On nights of superb transparency (and at low magnification - 40x), the broad extensions of the galaxy's spiral arms may be seen clearly with strongly averted vision. And surprisingly, some five arc minutes north of the galaxy's core, a faint condensation may be detected. But the limits of small aperture leave the observer pining for more...

So, let's increase to 114mm... At 53X, we find M81 as a lovely, soft "disc" with an intense nucleas. By increasing the power to 90X, its true spiral form begins to show. Meanwhile, the central portion of the galaxy takes on a very concentrated appearance, and the outer frontiers fade gently away. Still, no "definitive" view of this superfine study, however.

Time to check out the view in the 150mm...

At 52x, spiral galaxy M81 sports a very bright, star-like central core. It's core is large, elongated, and displays a considerable luminosity gradient from core-central to faint spiral arms. At this magnification, extended spiral arms require but the slightest aversion of the sight. As large as M81 is, it's still helpful to bump up the magnification. At 70x, averted vision reveals a certain subtle "spiral-sweep" about the core region. The core itself orients more or less north-south and extends perhaps 5 by 10 arc-minutes in apparent size. This sweep of the core region is larger than many galaxies! A pair of 12th magnitude stars lie just off axis to the southwest. Careful inspection shows that the galaxy as a whole orients toward the more westerly of these two field stars. Under less than optimal conditions, less than half of M81 is susceptible to direct vision. But under optimal conditions, we are rewarded with fine views of large faint splotches of outlying luminosity. Through a six inch instrument, this grand galaxy needs to be doted over to be truly appreciated. While the core is easy, M81's spiral arms are quite faint and need a good night of seeing to reveal themselves as something more than vague "mounds of luminosity".

Increasing the aperture again to 310mm, let's go to the eyepiece...

At minimum magnification (60X), the M81 does indeed remind one of a miniature "Andromeda" galaxy. The intense nucleas, the sense of spiral arms folding round, all say "Grand Spiral". But let's head to a "higher power" (170X) and rock out structure. At this magnification, indications of dark dustlanes begin to exist at the outer edges. The central formation of the galaxy itself is impenetrable. More than two-thirds of its' structure holds even concentration and makes the core area intense. It is toward the elongated edges that our attention is drawn with direct vision. Here are the classic "spiral arms" we've been looking for! At the highest of magnifications (312x), they fold themselves very close the the body of the M81, with each "tip" extending both above and below the central structure evenly. At the outermost fringes of these arms, averted vision reveals the mottling of distant clusters, and a sense of "trailing away" that give this well-endowed spiral real "class"!

Now, let's go back to the 80mm and examine the M82...

On shifting the field to the more northern M82, we immediately catch the dark vertical break that splits this edge on west of the galaxy's irregular core. Direct inspection of the galaxy fails to show more than where the break occurs - since little of luminosity can be seen further west of the discontinuity. Both the northern and southern frontiers are well defined and quite linear - even under marginal conditions. Aversion of the sight shows a bit of an extended halo outside the bounds of the flanking frontiers. We also note that the eastern extension shows a well defined "daggerlike" blade and tip!

At 114mm, that first view at low power (36X) screams "edge-on"! But, with patience and practice, delicate detail with averted vision begins to form, and the dark "break" becomes perceivable. Increasing the magnification to 90X makes this division more apparent, and causes the M82 to appear "spindle-shaped"... much like a child's dirty kite string wrapped round a stick. Very little in the way of structure is seen, other than the fact than it's "lumpy"!

Let's move to 150mm...

M82 stretches out perhaps 10 arc-minutes east and west like a knife splitting the sky! It's core is not of the luminous star-like variety... A gradual brightening is seen from one end of the galaxy to the center and back again to the opposite extreme. Unlike M81, the change is very gradual. A curious kneadiness or mottling is apparent - especially to the west. This edge-on irregular galaxy is broken by a dark lane along its southern frontier. The lane is not visible - only the sharpness by which it truncates the galaxy. In addition, a more obvious cleft of darkish matter divides the trailing half of the core. Overall, the visible part of the galaxy covers a region perhaps 2 by 8 arc-minutes in apparent size. A pair of 11th magnitude stars are visible west-southwest. In many ways M82 is more interesting than M81. It's beauty lies in subtle variations of surface brightness which defy notions of pattern and verbal description.

Shall we seek in the 310mm? Then let's find some answers...

At moderate magnifications (90X), M82 begins revealing structure to direct vision. The dark "break" one third of the way across its' breadth is fully apparent, and the thickening portions along the body of the galaxy itself warrant closer investigation. Moving now to higher magnification (170X), we get the structure we were looking for... The galaxy no longer can be called "edge-on", and clotted appearance of what must be thousands upon thousands of clusters make this one truly fine. The central portion bears no nucleas... pardon the descriptor, but it looks like cottage cheese! Toward one end, the dark division holds the lump of galactic mass in a gravity "lock", and bleeds away into what almost appears with averted vision to be several open clusters. At the other end of the M82, all thoughts of resolution stop. Here the galactic matter appears to be "smeared"... as if the inner concentration of stars might perhaps be calmer, somehow. A very fine galaxy... It has earned its' classification as irregular!


Continuing with our study, we break away from this splendid galactic pair, and move onward toward yet another... This galaxy "lives" within a large house of 10th and 11th magnitude stars south-southwest of M81. The peaked-roof of the house lies to the east. And its' name? NGC2976...

Starting with our 80mm refractor, this galaxy is difficult, but positively located within the same "house" of stars. The sense of large apparent size remains present. Quite diffuse overall with slight condensation, it requires extreme aversion. Despite a dearth of structure, the galaxy hints at north-south orientation with a possibly better defined frontier to east.

Moving now to the 114mm newtonian reflector, we find it is detectable at 114mm in aperture... but that is all it is. A soft, elongated smudge that requires averted vision just to make out form.

Through 150mm at 52x and under 5.0 ULM conditions, NGC2976 appears large and diffuse. Maybe 3x5 arc minutes of the galaxy is possible with a southeast to northwest orientation. It displays a large, but dim core region. This gives it a sense of structure.

On eye movement, the galaxy flares to all directions, but less so to the southwest. It's core region appears quite large, football shaped and diffuse. Bumping the magnification to 70x gives the core a somewhat edge-on appearance. At 120x the low surface brightness of this large galaxy causes it to completely dissolve.

At 310mm in aperture, the NGC2976 does not rock out detail in an expected fashion either! Now we are talking about being able to hold this galaxy direct, which means averted should bring out structure... What structure?! A tear drop, grainy-looking patch on the night with a bright star at the edge, tapering off into a chain of stars... That's it. No sense of a nucleas.... no apparent fading at frontiers.

Time to move on? You bet! Let's head off to capture another...


Going to the 80mm, we find this galaxy easily located but lacking structure under direct perception. NGC3077 is small and diffuse, with faint extensions north and south. Sense of vague truncation (flattening) to east along with a soft, but perceptible degree of central condensation. Extreme aversion of the eye is needed to make out any of these details.

Now, moving on to the 114mm we find the NGC3077 is also detectable... as a very dim glow of galactic light with extreme averted vision, and one pinpoint star nearby.

Shifting our view points to 150mm we find at 52x and a 5.0 sky, this vaguely football-shaped galaxy is easily located but lacks obvious structure. There is a subtle sense of east-west orientation. Preceptible flaring appears on eye movement to all directions -except north. This lack of northern flaring hints at a dark lane that direction. A very faint star-like point can occasionally be seen near the center of the nebulosity. A slight amount of central condensation is possible but the lack of a defined core region means a very loose and diffuse appearance.

At 70x, the faint starlike-nucleus occasionally seen at 52x becomes a bit more consistent. The beginnings of a core region also emerges. At 120x a roundish blue core region with a soft, "unstarlike" nucleus can be seen, but the bulk of the galaxy is lost to sight for lack of photons...

Going to the 310mm dobsonian at differing ranges of magnication changes the picture just slightly. The most pleasing view is at 180X. Here we see an egg-shaped elliptical... evenly lighted, but there is a certain amount of degeneration at the edges... a sense that the light is being eroded away. Several field stars are also visible. A chain of three varying magnitudes to one side, and an elongated rectangular structure to the other.

Ready to rock on? Then let's head toward a particularly difficult study...


IC2574 is next. Welcome only to large aperture telescopes! Once again, a faint, elongated, lumpy bar of light. This one shows "lobes" of concentration at either end of it's structure. Not only does this one appear as "lumpy"... but there are a great many field stars that accompany it... like very precise open clusters! They are vague... and when the dob presents you with vague light in the presence of pinpoint stars, we would venture to say that this galaxy is accompanied by some nebulosity!

Right? Wrong? It's a study... and we're not through yet. So let's head on back to our galaxy hunt, and see what else we can find!

Another faint member of this group stretches across the border into Camelopardis. It is also a rather difficult study... But that's why we've brought along the power of aperture!


Between apparent size and surface brightness, the NGC2366 is best left to the larger scope. Detectable as low as 48X as a tiny, grainy bar of light, the best view comes at 170X. At this magnification, the NGC2366 takes on structure. Several areas of light concentration are seen, making it appear as though it has three centers. Adding the barlow and increasing to 340X pulls the picture in much closer, losing hard edge clarity, but reveals at one end, a notch occurs in the galaxy... Much like a crescent wrench. Opposite of this "notch" is also what may either be a small open cluster, or perhaps a bit of wayward galactic material. Going back to 170X is much more comfortable, and the lumpy figure of the NGC2366 most definately has earned its' classification as an "irregular" galaxy!


On to our last study, the NGC2403... This one is definately a "all scopes" kinda' galaxy!

In the 80mm there is nothing diffuse about this galaxy! Orienting northwest to southeast, it displays a well-developed northwest spiral extension and surprisingly little to the southeast. (Giving NGC2403 a very "cometlike" appearance.) This baby is definitely overdeveloped! No starlike core, just a general brightening toward the center. Bright stars flanking it complicate the view. It's not hard to be both baffled and impressed by this bright galaxy way out in the hinterlands of Camelopardis!

Easily found and recognizable in the 114mm at 17mm as a spiral, the little scope pulls out a stellar core and definately sense of fading toward the frontiers.

Moving up to 150mm, we find that although NGC2403 fails to rival Bode's Galaxies in terms of brightness and structure, it makes a good run for it. The galaxy is large, conspicuous and possesses a well-defined northern frontier, starlike core and extended core region. It also presents mostly edge-on (cigar-shaped) and shows well even under marginal 5.0 ULM skies.

At 70x, two faint spiral extensions are possible, with the western extension more obvious than the east. This gives the sense of the core region being offset in that direction. At 120x, a tiny blue nucleus can just be held with slight aversion. Complicating the view of this galaxy are a series of bright 7th and 8th magnitude stars flanking it along the southern frontier.

314mm time? Oh, yeah... Now here is some superior structure! Mottling begins even with as little magnification as 60X. Adequately large enough to be studied at lower magnifications, we find the view at 90X the most pleasing. Concentrated, egg-shaped nucleas... one soft "horseshoe" of a dark dust lane, and hints of globular clusters that cry out for more! Comply? Of course. Let's set 170X on it... We have what appears to be globular structure in a very "open" looking arm! Not only here, but several knots exist throughout the NGC2403. And yet again, we "make out" something that looks like a small, attendant open cluster! No nearby bright stars at magnification as markers, the field is nothing more than some fine chains... But who cares?! Cuz' this is one fine galaxy!!

Parting Thoughts:

And so we have journeyed eight million light-years across the night together. And still I would stay with you, Traveller.

For a hundred billion more.

"The Bear that sees star setting after star... In the blue brine, descends not to the deep."

The stars, the night, and the far flung universe awaits us...

Farewell Fellow Galactophiles!

From somewhere in the Orion Spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy we, your Navigators of the Night, wish you...

Clear Skies and True Travels!

(c) 2002 Tamela Jean Watt/Plotner & Jeff Barbour

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Runnin' With The Big Dogs

The Puppis and Canis Major Star Fields are an exceptional challenge that took me many weeks of study to complete... and even then I haven't captured all that can be seen! But, let's take a deep breath and head out... Shall we?

Starting in the area of the M46 and M47, a great place to hunt out is NGC2423, a soft collection of stars that resembles a fishook.

Now, dropping south of the M47, we head on to tiny planetary nebula, NGC2440, who appears as nothing more than a slightly elongated "soft star". Then continue southwest for open cluster, NGC2421, a small open cluster that reminds me of an exquisitely tiny Brocchi's Cluster!

Ready for some more? Then let's do it!! Go for the M93 next, because a move southeast will find the NGC2482 a pretty, looping open cluster.

Time to start nudging the scope to the southeast this time, to capture NGC2467, a gentle open cluster also accompanied by a faint nebula. Continue on the same trajectory for open cluster, NGC2453, a small "patch" of faint stars.

Think we can possibly sink any lower? Darn right we can! When Puppis stands straight up on the southern horizon, a clear sky provides a "peek" into those much sought after open clusters that can't be found at any other time! (told you this was a challenge!! ;) This time we are going to push the dob from east to west, dropping the field south on each successive pass. Starting southwest of Rho, we find the NGC2489, faint, but well resolved, this cluster is a double handful of diamond dust. Now, bump the field, and let's rock again!

Hang on, though. Because I'd know that "light" anywhere! It's the ISS!! (hey... i just like watching it, ok?) Just sailing serenely across the sky... Not a care in the world! OK... back to business.

Next pass brings up NGC2489, a rich field of stars, that seems to concentrate. (yes, i see it... next pass, ok?) Return again, and let's capture NGC2533, a very faint field of stars that are basically the same magnitude.. And over brings us to NGC2439, who is much brighter, and also has a much larger star in the field..

Get "down" now... for the NGC2571, once again, a "looping" field of faint stars with a couple of brighter members.. And let's go just a bit lower this time for NGC2567, a delightful group of stars that remind me of a greek letter!

Canis Major ~

By locating Beta, this galaxy drop is fairly simple by continuing on a basic southern trajectory (working the "fall line" one fov at a time from west to east...). Use mid-range magnification as you move between Beta and Theta, then power up as you locate each one!

The NGC2207 and IC2163 is an interesting double spiral galaxy complex. While the results shown in the dob are far from a Hubble picture, it is possible to make out two brightened galactic cores whose outer regions overlap! A most curious region to explore... and well worth the hunt!

The NGC2223 is next along the line, and is also a spiral galaxy. There is a subtle hint of a core region, but for the most part, this galaxy is evenly distributed, with just the faintest indications of spiral structure at the outer edges.

Continuing south will find the NGC2217 a somewhat brighter spiral galaxy, that appears under higher magnification to have a halo surrounding it!

Now for a jump back to Sirius (but don't look at it!) and drop south below the M41. The last of the galaxy hunt in Canis Major is tiny spiral, NGC2280. Set in a delightfully rich field of stars, this shy oval of galactic "stuff" reveals only the faintest hint of an arm during excellent seeing conditions.

And when I finish with this morning's studies, I stand with my cup of coffee in hand... my thoughts far away. There is still a bit of time before dawn, and many things I could look at. But I could only think of one. So when I return, it is to my favorite lawn chair. H and Ranger are playing round the scopes, while above the meteors play with the sky. And me? Well... I think I'll just sit here for awhile.

Looking up and thinking...

"And my ties are severed clean. The less I have, the more I gain. Off the beaten path I reign...

Rover... wanderer... nomad... vagabond...

Call me what you will."

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Rockin' A September Night Away...

September 12/13, 2001 - Saggitarius, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus, Cephus, Aquila, Sagitta, Vulpecula, The Study Fields of Capricornus, Aquarius and Picis Austrinus... Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Andromeda, Triangulum, Perseus, Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and the Moon...

Comments: Those of you familiar with me know that I often feel the need to "skywalk"... an all night love affair with the night where I tie together study fields, and hop about the constelllations for pure pleasure! And last night was such as night.... I didn't have to force myself to nap away the beginning evening hours, because I had been up very early that morning to view the planets and film the Moon. So, I left the garage doors open so the scopes were ready to rock.... and slept until Scorpius and Mars had begun to set. Batteries charged, I was ready to take on Saggitarius (as always) first!

Rather than bore you entirely out of your gourd, I shall skip the descriptive narrative of last night's wanderings... and let it suffice to say that I take everything Saggitarius has to offer me! And I smile... and say "thank you"... a let it go on its' way.

I've still some time to kill before my study field sits proper... so it's off to Hercules to enjoy the strength and size of the M13. A bit of play with the eyepieces... and I've a view that matches one I've seen at the observatory! (Too bad it was one of their lesser eyepieces, eh?) No matter, it was fun! And I trucked around until I picked up the M92, who's small, but dense core turns me on!

Off for a visit with Lyra, and a smile it the perfect "Ring" of the M57... and a nudge at the "Hedgehog", M56. Epsilon splits cleanly, with a paper thin line of sky between each component. It's going to be a fine night! And so I just surf around the right and beautiful stars in this area... (hey... what the heck is the double star that closely resembles a faded albeiro? plenty bright, easily split... members run opposite of albeiro.... just... curious!) And wander into the Milky Way for a visit with Cygnus. Of course, NGC6940 is a "must" for me... but I enjoy the "Coathanger", tiny planetary NGC6826, the open cluster on the edge of darkness, M29. And who can NOT stop by Albeiro? It is the finest, most colorful double in the sky!

Still not time, I hop ahead to Cephus, for a peek at a memory target... delicious spiral NGC6946 and open cluser NGC6939. Then run back south for Aquila, and the Barnard's "Double Dark" nebula near Tarazed. Back up to Sagitta, for a peek in on the M71... and into Vulpecula to quiver over the living presence of the M27! (it's the spectra!)

So... are you ready to rock and roll now? Then let's turn up the tunes... and let me turn you on to what I've been into!

Capricornus ~ Psi Capricornius is the anchor star to hunt out a faint galaxy. In the finderscope, find Psi and hop two stars east... and when you hop again, it will put you in the neighborhood of NGC6907. This is a moderately bright, fine spiral galaxy that reveals its' "S" shape very well under the right conditions. Return to Psi and head west for Zeta... continue southwest to 41 Capricorni and pick up a small globular! The M30 might be tiny, but it is very beautiful. Set in the "hook" of a question mark shaped asterism, the M30 resolves quite well a moderate magnification. It has an unpenatrable core region, but the outlying area simply explodes into tiny stars... with a host of colorful doubles and triples to delight the eye! Of course, you simply cannot wander through Capricornius without a visit the Neptune, whose blue body lies just southwest of Upsilon Capricorni (at this time) and our greenish companion, Uranus who sits just a bit above Delta and Gamma. Say "howdy" to the neighbors!

Aquarius ~ Aquarius, you're up next... and what a fine study you have been too! (I haven't had this much fun since Virgo!) So, let's grab that big scope and "Do it to it, Pruitt!"

The NGC7293, "Helix" nebula is the first stop. The Helix is quite lovely, reminiscient of the M57, but much larger! Its' nebular signature more closely resembles a ( ) rather than a O. A double sets neatly on the edge of the structure, while several bright stars are contained within it. Averted vision will definately bring out an interior star in this one! ;) From the Helix, move west past a field double for the NGC7184. A wonderfully structured spiral galaxy with a bright circle at its' core! Keep bumping east to pick up NGC7492... this is a small, faint globular cluster which offers no resolution, but is a pleasing catch! Continue east to Omega Auquarii... and from here, jump north for the NGC7723. This spiral galaxy is faint, but shows an evenly lighted surface, slightly "flattened"... with very little frontier. (Yeah, I know they're not amazing... but I just like hunting them down!! ;) Continue north to find the NGC7727... also a spiral galaxy. This one appears very even, with a hint of a central core and a delightful indication of faint arms curling off into space!

The triple Psi Auquarii group is next... and south of Chi is the NGC7606. This is a fairly bright spiral galaxy, with a decent core structure... but it also appears "flattened" looking to me! Now, the going gets tough here... but you and I, we're "tough", aren't we? So let's get going!! Return to the Helix Nebula, the sweep dead east to find NGC7392. This one is a faint, but excellently formed spiral galaxy. It has a great core region... sports a "finger" of light, and has a trailing outer arm! Very nice.. and worth the hunt!

North of the Helix is 53 Aquarii, our stepping stone for the next target. Moving west toward Delta Capricornii, approximately one third of the way is spiral galaxy NGC7218. This one is most unusual, because its' center structure appears "lumpy"... almost like a cluster of grapes! Back again to the Helix, (tired of looking at it yet?) and cruise southeast to capture NGC7377... an "even" eliptical galaxy of average brightness. Back to the Helix, (yes...again!) and drop south toward Epsilon Piscis Austrius. A little more than a degree northwest of that brings you to NGC7314. This one is detectable with the smaller scope, but it's spiral "attitude" walks right out with the big one! A nice, bright nucleas... and hints at dark dust lanes within the galaxy proper make this one quite a worthy study!

Of course, I'm not letting you leave Aquarius without looking in on the NGC7009, "Saturn" nebula. This blue baby is lots of fun, if given half a chance! Picture Saturn out of focus... and paint it blue. With concentration, the edges just tweak out away from the general form during a moment of clarity. And, of course, the triangle of stars designated as M73... (whoopee) and the very open, barely resolvable structure of the globular M72. It's outer members are speckled around the edges, but a minimum of resolution requires averted vision.

Not so with the next study... M2 is superb. Its' dense, dense central core is very bright compared to the other objects we've just looked at! At mid-level magnification (17mm) the stars absolutely "spray" forth from the edges! A glorious profusion of pinpoints of stellar lights!! Thanks, Aquarius! It's been reaL... Piscis Austrinus ~ The last stop in the current study field (for now, eh? ;) is a constellation best viewed when it reaches due south. But, for early season viewers, it is worth the wait!

Locate Epsilon and Xi... because between this pair is NGC7314. A terrific elongated spiral galaxy, oriented from north to south... the one appears to be almost edge on! Head now toward Formalhaut... then slide west to capture NGC7361. This one is also and edge-on spiral, aligned from the north to south... evenly lighted and with no real core area. (But I LIKE it!) Now, draw a mental line (you've always known i was a "mental case", haven't you?) between Theta and the double Mu, and Eta... At just east of the center of this "triangle" is the NGC7172. Beautiful! And I do mean BEAUTIFUL! Of average brightness, the NGC7172 is a splendid edge-on with a prominent dark dust lane dissecting it... the best part is that it is also part of a "love triangle" of galaxies with the two faint scratches of light... the NGC7176 and the NGC7174! A superb study field...

Time to call it in? No way, baby! But I will acquiesce to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cup of coffee... And as I stand, enjoying my impromptu snack, I get the strangest sensation. (ok... i'm being metaphysical here, bear with me.) My left side began to feel extraordinarly warm... (no, i didn't have a stroke.) and the feeling passed across my shoulders... To coin a rather old phrase, it totally freaked me out! It was like having someone put their arm around me... but there was NO ONE there!! Something touched me... (Hey, I'm a realist. It was just the caffiene and sugar, right? Ha! So what brushed the top of my head????)

Looks like a good time to roll the dobby around to another of my favorite shadows and explore some more!! Cassiopeia and those beautiful open clusters come next... The "Queen" is high north, and the stars fall from her lap. As always, the NGC7789 and M52 steal the show...

Back over now to Pegasus for the M15... and some time to "prowl" around... because there is more here, too! And since the M31 is so visible without the scope, and simply cries out for attention... I am happy to accomodate Andromeda and that outrageous galaxy! I find the core on the M31 beyond galactic compare. (my pupils contract just thinking about it!) And, while structurally it is not my favorite of galaxies, the sheer size of it staggers the imagination! Even at the lowest I posess, (32mm, 2") it walks right out of the field at either side of the eyepiece! Magnificent... And just a touch of the scope bring its' attendant galaxies into easy view.

How about Triangulum and the M33? I find this to be one of the more difficult galaxies. Its' immense size, low surface brightness, and diffuse nature do not exactly endear it to me... but I am always pleased to snatch it out of the sky!

Perseus sits well now, and the "Double Cluster" is also a naked eye object. So, off I go! To enjoy its' twin beauty at low magnification, and admire the wide open spaces of the M34! Trailing behind it is Auriga... and the M36, M37 and M38 aren't exactly "difficult" targets either! (Don't we wish that all deep sky objects were as easy as seeing the smudge in the sky, the shape in the finder, and the DSO in the eyepiece? Nah... it's more fun to hunt them down! ;)

Dawn is not far away... and the already risen Moon is going to obliterate the fine stuff. But, I would take the time to visit the Plieades and Hyades.... and run across the M42! I thought about scratching around for the M41 and the M44, because Orion is dominating the upper third of the southern skyline... but it will wait for another time.

Because I want to see Saturn. Enjoy its' tiny moons at the outer edges of the ring... and marvel over the Cassini. I want to figure out why Jupiter seems "overexposed" at the moment... and enjoy seeing that the galieans have switched places from 24 hours ago. I want to film the Moon... and drool on Keplar Crater! I want to watch Venus rise from the trees.... and the soft fingers of dawn stroke the face of the sky! The rare occurance of some many clear nights in a row will disappear, for this IS Ohio after all. Work will take the place of play in the days to come. And the harsh realities of our United States trajedies will fill the day.

But we had the night....

"I sank into Eden with you. Alone in this church, by and by. I read to you here... save your eyes. You'll need them... your boat is at sea. The anchor is up... you've been swept away. To cradle the baby of space... And leave you here by yourself, chained to fate. I alone love you. I alone tempt you. I alone love you. Fear is not the end of this..."

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A Bite Out Of The Sun...

June 10, 2002...

Comments: They said it couldn't be done from Ohio. The maps said it wasn't going to happen here. But the numbers? Ah! The numbers never lie, do they?

All I needed was a clear horizon.

And that was as tall an order as a ship and a star to steer it by! Ohio's ninety plus days means chances are slim that you're going to get sky around the five to seven degree area. But you know what? I truly am one of the most patient people you know... And I firmly believe that if opportunity knocks?

You gotta' be there to answer the door.

Off to the hill. It overlooks Owl Creek and the surrounding flat lands in a very quiet fashion. Actually, I suppose some would call it a knoll... And they'd be right. But here on the plains, anything slightly higher than a house qualifies. I set up the Celestron with the solar filter over a half hour in advance. When shadows are long, it's not easy to aim using my fashion, and I didn't want to stress the situation out by waiting until the last second. Hey... I even polar aligned! (now, ain't you proud of me? ;) For I could somehow see myself at the eyepiece when the "play" ran out. Horizon found. Sun in eyepiece. Camera charged. I am ready.

Do you know how l o n g thirty minutes can seem when you're waiting?! I kept tracking the Sun and talking to the Canadian geese I tried to kill the other day. (they've quite forgiven me, cor... ;) I kept my back to the west, so I'd resist temptation to look directly at the Sun... And even more so, because I didn't want to see those clouds wafting in. A look at the watch. A look at the eyepiece. A glance at the sky....

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The minutes crawl by... And the clouds push on. I sample the Sun through the camera... and find out that not enough light passes through at sunset to show through the telescope and solar filter. Oh, man... My heart fell. Picking up the camera, I tried capturing the image straight through the filter. Again, a "no go".... Tick, tock. Three minutes to go....

A band of cloud passed over the Sun, while I capped up the 4.5... They were right. I'll never see it from here. Oh, well... Huh? Easy come... Easy go...

And then the door opened.

Dropping stately down through the bright orange clouds was an even brighter white Sol... With a "bite" taken out of the edge!

Ah, now... How is it I knew you could never disappoint me?

I shouldn't have been looking at it naked eye... But I did. My own repeated lessons to others have been abandoned in the joy of the moment. But, neither am I a fool. (arguable point, here...) Holding the camera directly in front of the Sun, I watched through the LCD screen as it blazed its' image onto the film... And as the clouds softly veiled it?

I looked again.

Magnified by the atmosphere, the huge disc of Sol did its' very best to defy the atmosphere. I cannot describe how very beautiful it looked. Deep orange, almost hurting the eye. Tendrils of smoke blown across its' face... And a brilliant horned edge would show briefly through the grey...

And then it kissed the trees...

Did I chase it? You know I did. Like someone you don't want to leave behind, but know you must. Laughing and running down the hillside along the edge of the field where the new shoots of corn stick up their brave green fingers. I ran after that cinnamon disc with the bite taken out of it. Watching it turn dustier and darker as it fell into that final horizon.... Smiling and waving...

Sending the chakra west.

"This is how you remind me of what I really am."

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Ohio Dark Sky

February 26, 2003 - Version 7.0...

Comments: I don't even know how to start this report... All I know is that I spent the first half hour of good skydark goofing around waiting on Hydra to rise, and when I walked out?

The sky gods smiled down.

If I had even begun to realize that I had a 7.0 night with at very least 8/10 stability (more like 9) on my hands, I surely wouldn't have been inside that long! I simply cannot explain the amount of stars. There were points visible inside and outside of Orion that I have only seen a handful of times in my life... and stars below Lepus and Puppis and the rising Hydra that simply defy my knowledge of the constellations! When I tell you that the stars walked down to the ground? I'm not kidding.

I had set out the 150mm Intes Maksuktov, nicknamed "the Ottoman" before dark to cool. My intent was planetary work tonight. Beside it stands the 4.5 Celestron - meant for a Messier hop. But when I saw that kind of sky, I'm afraid I had to park the two of them outside my plowed observing area in the snow drifts...

Cuz' I NEED my 12.5 Meade.

Pulling the dob out and starting the cooldown process, I set up the table and fetched my Uranometria and field notes. Hydra has a while yet to rise, and I've yet to really play with the "Ottoman" and deepsky. But first? A spectral challenge, eh? Can I capture the absorption lines in Sirius with totally simple equipment and a 4.5 telescope? Grabbing my trusty camcorder and the diffraction grating, I went to the eyepiece. I'm here to tell you that it's no small achievement to get the camera angle right, or to keep it there handheld. The single digit temperatures were mean to my unprotected hands... But when I looked in the LCD screen and saw wide breaks between each spectral band? Dude... I maintained. It didn't take long at this temperature for the camera battery failed, but whenever that little band of rainbow barcode showed up on the screen, I filmed it. I have yet to clearly go over the results... And chances are that I still haven't found what I'm looking for...

But I had fun.

Now for the Intes! First destination was Jupiter and to try out a new piece of equipment. OK, so it works, yet it doesn't work with power. You were right. I'm not ready to give up on it yet, and I have ideas of my own on how to correct it. But not now. Right now I'd rather drop back to the 40mm eyepiece and just see exactly what this baby can do! There's not a thing wrong with the image of Jupiter, nor the M44. But honestly, I don't want to mess with the planets on a deepsky night. My next object was doubles, eh? And it is one FINE performer. I am totally shocked that our benefactor never managed to split Dubhe with it, because I can at 26mm. Rigel, Theta Orionis (6), and Hind's Crimson (ok, it's not a double - but i like it) as well.

And daggone it... I looked at the M42. Again!

From there I couldn't stop. Send the polar alignment police, because I don't care. Arrest me... I'm a rule breaker and a DSO taker. When the finder got diffcult to use, or the position uncomfortable? I picked it up and turned it around. And ya' know what else? I stood up! I kept the tripod fully extended and liked it. The M76, M78, M41, M45, M46, M47, M93, M35, NGC2392, M67, M81, M82, M97, M51, M94, M95, M96, M105 and even the M65 and M66 down near the horizon were mine. Did I fast hop? Darn right I did. Each and every object was caught with ease with the 40mm and sky saavy. It's a very, very fine telescope and I'm proud to be it's caretaker.

By now Hydra is up and right where I want it. It's time to cap up the "Ottoman" and the 4.5 and take them back into the garage. I cant help but smile when I go take them in, for only the light of the old Kenwood receiver and tape deck shows the way. I had found an old Jim Croce music book when I was going through some stuff, and I had hooked up the antiquated cassette player so I could listen to his music once again. How funny it seems... For my original things of his were on vinyl. The concepts of cassette tapes were still to come! Ah, Jim... Your music was simple. Your voice was beyond compare. And you live on thirty years later... Suprisingly enough I still remember your songs by heart.

Snatching up an old pair of very dark sunglasses, I wander back indoors for a bit to make a cup of tea, fill the thermos and warm up. I'm ready to go skyhoppin' now... The past is gone.

Let's rock.

Heading back to Hydra, I don't want that which I've already seen over the years. I want those studies! It is normally my way to observe all new studies a minimum of three times, be able to take you to these things without the aid of a map and to identify them without charts. Tonight I'm breaking the rules. There will be no finer night than this one for two areas I've been studying and I will do my very best with what I have and what I know. Time to slip the Tantric CD into the walkman...

And roll.

My first mark was one that confused me the other night. Sky conditions were not the best, but I can now confirm that I was on it. The NGC3109 gave me the impression of being a fine-starred open cluster for a reason.... It looks like one. Tonight with pristine sky and good postion, the 9mm reveals the NGC3109 to be very remeniscent of a galaxy I once studied in Saggitarius... the NGC6822. What I have here is a silver smear of galaxy, with no defined nucleus. It looks like it has been "brushed" across the sky and spangled with stars. Classed as an irregular, it will stand up to direct vision when well adapted, but loses those interior stellar points. Avert even slightly and you will see "lumps" in the structure as well as stellar points. A very fine and very curious galaxy!

The next was chosen for ease of location. By moving south of the "Ghost of Jupiter", NGC3242, the next hop is to star 44 in the finder and the next galaxy is also right in the field with a finderscope star. Designation? NGC3309. The other night when I hunted this one up, I was shocked to find that the map I was using (Cambridge Star Atlas) did not designate this as a pair! Then, two nice egg-shaped patches greeted my eager eyes... Now? &%$*!!! There's three! Snatching up the Uranometria, I began cruising for designations and confirming at the eyepiece. NCC3309 and NGC3311 are indeed bright, easy ellipticals and the faint, averted oval with the slightly more intense center is a spiral - NGC3312. Happily doing a fast eyepiece impression on my notes, I went back to relax, listen to the music and just look at them. There is a reason why I do field studies in this manner...

It's a freeking cluster!!

By just relaxing, letting the field drift in the 12.3mm and re-centering the scope, more and more tiny faint smudges of light came out to play. I can't even begin to express what happens upon complete aversion, but I know that anyone who scopes can understand. I would catch something, and make the ultimate mistake of looking at it to watch it disappear. Then another would appear somewhere else! I have absolutely no idea of what this crazy thing is, but I have every faith in my ability to "see". It's wild... It's beautiful... And I would have given anything to had my partner with me.

Now, I realize that I'm going into Crater and out of Hydra for a short hop, but this was also chosen for ease of finding. Beta... OK! A pair that STAYS a pair. Dig it. The NGC3511 and NGC3513 duke out the night together in the same field with the 12.3mm. The NGC3513 is diffuse, faint, but definately spiral in structure. Patient aversion brings on suggestions of spiral arms over and under the major concentration of the nucleus opposite the two stars that flank it. The NGC3511 is very diffuse with low surface brightness. It has a condensation toward the center of the structure and a star caught at the edge. Good show!

Next up is Chi1 and Chi2, (oh, please... i could use another cup!) and a hop on to the next galaxy, NGC3585. Here we have a very bright, direct and silvery spiral galaxy in a stellar field! Not really much structure to speak of, for it is fairly even in appearance... But I like it!

Time to go warm up, sneak a peek at that spectral footage and find that second cup of chai... Cuz' were' doin' Leo.

When I came back out, I couldn't have asked for better position on Leo. The finder is right in the comfort zone. I'm feeling loose. I'm feeling good. I'm feelin' the rock and roll...

And I'm feeling like I just can't miss.

92 Leonis is the marker. In the finder you will see a close configuration of three stars. Using the 26mm, go to the eyepiece... Just a touch. There it is! Copeland's Septet. Oh, rock on!! I wasn't kidding when I told you in an earlier report that this greatly resembles a "little Leo" written in galaxies. It, and the stars, have an unmistakable pattern that resembles a question mark. Now, let's kick in the 12.3mm and see what I can do from my incomplete notes.

There is a grouping of three, these are NGC3754. a fairly bright spiral with even structure... NGC3753, which requires average aversion and is diffuse and very large, and the NGC3750, which is also a bright ellipitcal appearing galaxy. Now, I'm doin' this cold, ok? I'm takin' a whack at identifying a tight field with Uranometria only, so if I'm off? ;-P Now for the next triple set at the top of the question mark... NGC3758 is fairly bright, but the NGC3745 and NGC3746 require more aversion for this pair of soft, round galaxies. And the one farthest out? I believe that to be NGC3751 and it's stellar, baby... Almost like one of those fascinating little UGCs!

Breathing a foggy sigh of satisfaction, it's time for me to take a look round for a moment! Have a smoke, pour a cup of tea from the thermos, and walk around to warm up a bit. The winter Milky way is just asolutely sparkling, and I just wanted to admire it and try to get some feeling back in my feet and hands, eh? It's already gotten to H, for he's at the door asking to go in?! Smiling, I let him back into the warm indoors, but I'm not ready. I've got the "night eyes" thing going on right now, and I'm not about to go!

So ya' wanna' trip back with me over something else I found? Then set the scope on 93 Leonis, get back to the 26mm, and let me take you into Abell 1367.

I absolutely cannot comprehend all that is here. It goes beyond my simple ways. But partner? I'm going to do my best. There are a couple of stars noted on my map to help. Let's try. Hand me the 12.3mm. These two are both over and under a star. The NGC3857 is diffuse and edge-on looking. The NGC3859 has a stellar nucleus and a soft, round structure with aversion. Next star? NGC3861 is pretty easy. A somewhat diffuse spiral that shows a concentration toward the north. NGC3860 at the other side of the star is really faint, guy... Requires wide avert to pick out a very diffuse round structure. And over there? Over there is a whole chain of these little puppies!!!

Oh, m'gosh... I'm in over my head.

Well, I said I missed swimming, didn't I? Setting to paper numbers like NGC3840, NGC3844, NGC3845, NGC3841, NGC3851, NGC3842, and NGC3837 means that I'm on it. But what I don't like is studies that I can't rock hard confirm. There is just too much crowded right there in that little field that keeps popping in and out that I'm having one heck of a time paying strict attention to! I know the hour has grown long past midnight, for the dob is standing almost straight up now, and I'm having a devil of a time keeping my balance over the top of everything! For now, I've made some good prelimary notes, and hopefully have a chance like this to revisit with you. For I've gotten lost here...

And I don't want to be found.

"Photographs and memories... All the love you gave to me. Somehow it just can't be true... That's all I have left of you.

But we sure had a good time, when we started way back when. Morning walks and bedroom talks...

Oh, how I loved you then."

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