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First time in a dark sky with my 10x50 BA8!

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#1 ngc 9999

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 06:50 PM

Hello and happy New Year's Day!

The day before yesterday I came to stay in my aunt's house to celebrate New Years Day, and I took the binoculars with me, in order to take advantage of any dark skies opportunities in Kissemmee, Orlando. In our way to Keeseeme, me and my family were passing through a dark area and the sky was just incredible!

Compared to my LM 5 backyard where you could see the Aldebaran with two bright stars around, I could see about 8 stars in that cluster while heading to Kisseemee, and also could see more stars around Orion. Magnitude 3 stars started having the diffraction spikes that you normally see when watching Jupiter naked eye. There were stars almost everywhere!!

When we arrived to the destination I helped my parents to pack everything inside including my binocs, and then I went outside but the moon was interfering and the transparency was bad. But the best part was the following day, the 31st, when we were waiting the next year that I took a bath, put on my clothes and went outside at about 8 pm when I figured that the sky was full of stars and was about mag 6-6.2, the darkest spot I've been since my childhood!!

I brought my binoculars and waited ten minutes for pupil dilation because there are some low lights that prevented me from dark adaption. Here are some of the objects that I visited ( this was a non tripod braced in a pole position):

M 33: This object is known to have very low Surface Brightness, needing dark skies in order to be seen. I was looking for this object in my yard to no avail, not even a hint of the core. I started first locating the Triangulum constellation with the binoculars, then followed the tip of the triangle until I found the diamond asterism where the galaxy sits. To my surprise, the galaxy appeared before I could locate the asterism and it was a direct vision object, brighter than I expected, and big and elongated north to south, I quickly bagged in my list of Messier objects.

M1: There has been mixed observation of this object claiming that it is fainter or brighter than M78 because of the size or brightness. I have to disagree with those people because when I found it, it took several seconds to make it appear from the star background and it was adverted vision only object, passed several time in this area to believe myself that I saw it, and it always was visible. Object bagged to the messier list.

M78: Same as above but in my opinion in this sky it was easier and bigger than expected. Some people have trouble finding this object, but I have an easier way of how to locate it: first find aniltak and swing a bit left until you find what I call the House asterism, which is an asterism of four vertically parallel stars with a bright star as the "roof", then in one of the bottom stars fix your sight left or right depending on which of the two bottom stars you chose, use adverted vision and it will appear, of course only in dark skies. Object bagged to the messier list.

M45: I have seen this object about several dozen times because it is so beautyfull, there hasn't been a time when Taurus rises at about 30 degrees without taking a look at this cluster, no matter the conditions. In this occasion when I pointed the binocs to this wonderful clusters everything I saw was a bowl shape of blue stars against a black sky with several chains of stars running inside and outside from the centermost star. I passed a second time to see this cluster, this time from Aldebaran, and the background around the brighter sisters seemed a bit brighter then the black background, indicating hints of the Merope Nebula.

M36, M37 and M38: Those objects are another "always visit" object whenever the winter season comes, I bet some of you don't finish the session without visiting those clusters. In light pollution, M38 is difficult to see, requiring adverted vision to see it or glimpse it. In my occasion the story was different: not only the cluster was seen with direct vision but the cluster was resolved in it's entire face, and I also found the little cluster NGC 1907 in the left eye of the " Chesire cat". Going down to M36, the cluster was seen along with M38, but when I centered it, the cluster has about 6 to 10 stars resolved within the glow. M37 looked bigger than in light pollution and the background stars was awesome.

M35: This is another showpiece object that no astronomer wouldn't let pass, especially in a dark sky. In a light pollution environment it is difficult to make M35 from the background star field, but in my case in this dark sky, M35 was not only seen but I detected the glow that surrounds the cluster plus several stars resolved. I didn't look for the little cluster close by.

M31, M32 and M110: Another showpiece that is dissapointing in the big city, but in dark conditions the galaxy extended about half the field of the binoculars along with its satellite galaxies, I had to wiggle a bit the field to find M110, and had to brace the binoculars against an iron pole to detect M32. M32 and M110 bagged to the list.

M79: This object is new to me and the constellation Lepus was visible completely naked eye. The globular cluster appeared as a bright, small center with a diffuse external glow close to a bright star. Bagged to the Messier list.

M42 and M43: Showpiece object that you wouldn't want to observe it from home after seeing it in a dark location. When I located this object I was overwhelmed by the amount of nebulosity visible, something that can only be remembered after observing it for the first time in a dark location. The central part of the nebula was so bright that it interfered with the detection of M43 and careful observing made the nebula grow longer with noticeable bat wings. Also viewed NGC 1981 with dozens of resolved stars. M43 logged to the list.

M93: This is an object that it's washed out by light pollution in latitudes higher than 40 degrees. I always tried to log this object but for some reason I couldn't. With Canis Major in the meridian, the moon was about 60 degrees from horizon, but I could find it, and it looked almost like a small version of M38 but smaller and with the stars a bit more separated. M93 logged to the list

M46 and M47: Two open clusters between Canis Major and Monoceros. Not much to say about those clusters, M47 resolved in dozens of stars while M46 was found close to a bright star as a small round smudge. The moon washed out those views. M46 logged to the list.

M74: This not too impressive binocular sight has the fame of being the most difficult to see galaxy in the messier list due to the low brightness. I proved my luck into trying to find this galaxy by starting from Mesarthim to the bright star that forms a triangle with another to stars. Looking in the right spot I suspected slight background brightening, but I am not too sure. When I took off the binoculars the transparency was starting to get worse from the north to where M74 was. Unfortunately will have to wait for another opportunity, maybe today.

M77: This galaxy is located in Cetus and the constellation was seen with all the bright stars plus fainter ones. Same thing as M74, bad transparency.

And that was my experience with the dark skies in my aunt's house, and I almost forget, I finished the session with a quick look at the moon.

Thanks for reading.

#2 BobinKy



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Posted 01 January 2013 - 07:07 PM

Thank you for this excellent dark sky report. I remember my first time under a dark sky. Actually, I was a bit unnerved. I will never forget the experience; and I look forward to each time I can get away to a dark site. Now, you have a very GOOD reason to visit your aunt. :woohoo:

#3 Rich V.

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 07:25 PM

Nice report, Jose! It sounds like you had a very productive evening. Sky quality really does make a big difference as you've so aptly demonstrated.

Good to hear you're enjoying your new binoculars. :D


#4 ngc 9999

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 08:05 PM

I am looking forward to go in the summer to enjoy the summer Milky Way!

#5 Michael Rapp

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 09:53 PM

I only needed to read as far as M33 to know you had an awesome time! (Ah, M33, someday I will see you too....)

#6 ronharper



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Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:27 AM

"That's what I'm talkin about."

#7 RichD



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Posted 02 January 2013 - 04:36 AM

good stuff, what a difference a dark sky makes.

Whenever I have been away and encountered dark skies I either don't have a bino to hand or get so wowed by the naked eye view I never actually view any objects!

#8 daniel_h



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Posted 02 January 2013 - 05:56 AM

Terrific report

#9 Man in a Tub

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 07:20 AM

I've read your report three times already. I'm glad you got to a dark sky.

It's unfortunate that the Moon washed out M 46. M 46 is an old and delicate cluster easily affected by light pollution as well. Perhaps another time you'll get a better view of it and M 47. Always look again and again. I've done that and been rewarded.

Your comment about M 74, "Looking in the right spot I suspected slight background brightening, but I am not too sure," aptly summarizes my experiences with this galaxy.

With the Crab Nebula and other faint deep sky objects in mind, I appreciate this comment in Sky Vistas by Craig Crossen : "Like other physical activities, astronomical observing is an acquired skill: the sensitivity of your eyes will increase the more you observe."

Clear skies

#10 ngc 9999

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 10:47 AM

I was observing from a village in Haines City, Florida. According to the light pollution map, it is an orange zone.

#11 Mark9473



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Posted 02 January 2013 - 10:56 AM

Nice report Jose. Nothing like the winter constellations in a good sky to cheer you up.

Just a small point: if you saw the same kind of glow around the Pleiades' stars, then it's not the Merope nebula, which just hangs below Merope. See Rony's sketch here which gives a good impression of the Merope nebula.

#12 wky46


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Posted 02 January 2013 - 04:57 PM

Thanks for the great report! Can't wait to get my 10x50's (Nikon AE) out under some dark skies and I'll use your report as a reference for a few targets :cool:

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