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Dave Mitsky
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How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new
      #5013879 - 01/12/12 01:00 PM

Here are some tips on locating some of the most popular galaxies in the Messier Catalog.


M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy)

M31 (NGC 224), the Andromeda Galaxy, is a large Sb spiral galaxy (apparent size=185x75 arc minutes) and a member of the Local Group, as is our home galaxy, the Milky Way. It is the brightest of the Messier galaxies (magnitude=3.4, surface brightness=13.6 magnitudes per square arc minute) and the brightest galaxy visible to most northern hemisphere observers. M31 is best seen in the fall and early winter. The Andromeda Galaxy can be seen without optical aid from reasonably dark sites. From light-polluted urban locations, only the core of the galaxy is visible when viewed through a telescope.

M31 has four dwarf galaxy companions. Two of them, M32 (NGC 221) and M110 (NGC 205) are in close proximity. M32, a cE2 compact elliptical galaxy, is due south of M31's nucleus. M110, an E5 peculiar galaxy, ls located northwest of M31. M32 and M110 are the nearest bright elliptical galaxies. Much farther away in Cassiopeia lie NGC 147 and NGC 185, types dE5 peculiar and dE3 peculiar, respectively.

It is possible to observe M31's dust lanes and other features such as globular clusters and stellar associations telescopically under very dark skies. NGC 206 is a vast star cloud similar to but larger than M24. Mayall II (M31-G1) is M31's brightest globular cluster.

http://www.seds.org/messier/more/m031_n206.html

http://www.geoandpat.com/GeorgesastroclustersG1.html

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/A/Andromeda.html

http://www.astronomy-mall.com/Adventures.In.Deep.Space/gcm31.htm

http://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/ANDROMEDA_Atlas/frames.html

Sketches of M31, M32, and M110 are posted at the following URLs:

http://www.gcadventure.com/cosmic-voyage.net/m31.html

http://www.perezmedia.net/beltofvenus/archives/images/2005/img2005100101_M31A_Rev3lg.jpg

Many novices are interested in learning how to locate M31 manually. Here are three ways to do it:

1. Star-hop "down 2" stars northeastward from Alpheratz (Alpha Andromedae) to Mirach (Beta Andromedae), then head northwestward "up 2" stars to Nu Andromedae. M31 is situated 1.3 degrees to the west of Nu Andromedae.

2. Follow the apex of the triangle formed by Schedar (Alpha Cassiopeiae), the southernmost star in Cassiopeia, and the neighboring stars Caph (Beta Cassiopeiae) and Navi (Gamma Cassiopeiae), southwestward for just over fifteen degrees.

3. Use Mirach and Alpheratz to form a near right triangle with M31. M31 lies not quite eight degrees to the northwest of Mirach and approximately fourteen degrees to the northeast of Alpheratz.

The following finder charts may prove useful:

http://www.astrosurf.com/jwisn/m31.htm

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=383

http://www.wikihow.com/Find-the-Andromeda-Galaxy

http://astronomerica.awardspace.com/spacewalk-m31.php

http://www.gaherty.ca/rogers/SkyThisMonth200311_files/Cas.jpg

http://my.execpc.com/60/B3/culp/astronomy/Fall/Andromeda.html

http://www.astronomy.com/~/media/import/files/pdf/1/c/4/m31.ashx

http://www.ttgnet.com/astronomy/winter-messier-program/m31-32-110.html

http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Yourtel?lat=38.6557&ns=North&lon=11.482&fov=45.000&z=1

Telrad finder charts for M31 can be found at the following sites:

http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps/MAP3.PDF

http://www.utahskies.org/deepsky/messier/charts/m031.htm

Browse http://www.skyhound.com/sh/archive/oct/M_31.html and http://www.seds.org/messier/m/m031.html for further information on M31.


M33 (the Triangulum Galaxy)

M33 (NGC 598), the Triangulum Galaxy, is another galaxy that many amateur astronomers are interested in observing. M33 is a type Sc face-on spiral galaxy with a rather high integrated magnitude of 5.7 but a very low surface brightness of 14.2 magnitudes per square arc minute, making it rather difficult to discern through a telescope, especially if any significant light pollution or moonlight is present. However, M33 can be seen with the naked-eye from a very dark site and is a relatively easy binocular target under dark skies. The fall and winter are the best times of year to observe M33.

M33 is approximately the same distance - seven degrees - to the southeast of the second-magnitude star Beta Andromedae (Mirach) as M31 is to the northwest. The Triangulum Galaxy lies 4.3 degrees northwest of the third-magnitude star Alpha Trianguli (Mothallah). One method of locating it is to start at Alpha and go 2.5 degrees west to the sixth-magnitude star HIP 7906. The seventh-magnitude star HIP 6862 is situated 3 degrees farther west. M33 lies a bit north of a line connecting these two stars and is closer to HIP 6862, the fainter star.

The following web sites may prove useful in locating M33:

http://www.knoxvilleobservers.org/dsonline/tips/m33fcrt.html

http://www.astrochat.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=748&sid=2ed6b8be7f0674da80abacd6dea901c3

http://www.smokymtnastro.org/Seasons/Autumn/Autumn%20Sky%20Tour%20The%20Zodiac.htm (See 9.)

Telrad finder charts are available at the following sites:

http://avila.star-shine.ch/astro/messiercharts/m033.htm

http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps/MAP3.PDF

The views of M33 can be quite amazing through a large aperture at a dark observing site. Numerous HII regions can be detected within M33, NGC 604 being the brightest. A narrowband filter such as an Orion UltraBlock or an OIII filter such as a Lumicon OIII will enhance the views of these nebulous areas. NGC 604 is over 100 times larger than M42 and can be detected with rather small apertures. I've logged this huge star-forming region rather easily with my 101mm f/5.4 Tele Vue refractor from dark sites. A chart showing M33's HII regions and star clouds is posted at http://astronomy-mall.com/Adventures.In.Deep.Space/M33.HII-Star.Clouds.html

For additional information on M33, click on the following links:

http://seds.org/messier/m/m033.html

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/T/Triangulum_Galaxy.html

http://www.astropix.com/HTML/SHOW_DIG/M33_Triangulum_Galaxy.HTM


M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy)

M51 (NGC 5194, integrated magnitude=8.4, surface brightness=12.6 magnitudes per square arcminute), a type SA(s)bc pec face-on spiral galaxy, and its irregular companion M51b or NGC 5195 (magnitude 9.6, surface brightness=13.1 magnitudes per square arcminute) are perhaps the most prominent example of an interacting pair of galaxies. They are best seen in the spring.

Due to the work of Lord Rosse In 1845, M51 was the first galaxy to be recognized as having a spiral shape. Of course, M51 was merely a "nebula" at that time, which was long before galaxies were determined to be objects external to the Milky Way.

M51 and NGC 5195 may be part of the M101 group of galaxies. Three supernovae have occurred in M51: SN 1994I, SN 2005cs, and SN 2011dh.

To star-hop to the Whirlpool Galaxy, proceed southwest from Alkaid (Eta Ursae Majoris), the final star in the Big Dipper's handle, to the fifth-magnitude star 24 Canum Venaticorum. Continue southwest to an isosceles triangle of seventh-magnitude stars. M51 and NGC 5195 lie just to the south of the triangle, approximately 3.5 degrees from Alkaid and 1/4 of the way to Cor Caroli (Alpha Canum Venaticorum).

Star-hops to M51 can be found at the following sites:

http://starizona.com/acb/basics/using_basics.aspx

http://www.truemartian.com/M051StarHopChart.pdf

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1999JRASC..93..253M

Telrad finder charts for M51 are available at
http://avila.star-shine.ch/astro/messiercharts/m051.htm and
http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps/MAP5.PDF

For further information on the Whirlpool Galaxy, consult these sites:

http://seds.org/messier/m/m051.html

http://www.universetoday.com/35997/messier-51/

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=1073

http://www.backyard-astro.com/deepsky/top100/08.html

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/W/Whirlpool_Galaxy.html


M81 (Bode's Galaxy) and M82 (the Cigar Galaxy)

M81 (NGC 3031) and M82 (NGC 3034) are two bright galaxies in the northwestern section of Ursa Major. M81, a type Sb spiral galaxy, has an integrated magnitude of 6.9 and a surface brightness of 13.0 magnitudes per square arcminute. M82, a type Ir II irregular galaxy, shines at magnitude 8.4 and has a slightly brighter surface brightness of 12.8 magnitudes per square arcminute. M81 and M82 were discovered by the German astronomer Johann Bode on December 31, 1774. Together they are sometimes known as Bode's Nebulae.

To locate this galactic pair, pan from "above" Dubhe (Alpha Ursae Majoris) towards the "front" of Ursa Major. The next fairly bright star is 23 Ursae Majoris (magnitude 3.5). To the northwest of 23 Ursae Majoris lies a moderately bright isosceles triangle of stars consisting of Sigma 1 and Sigma 2 Ursae Majoris and Rho Ursae Majoris. Northeast of the triangle is 24 Ursae Majoris, which shines at magnitude 4.5. Southeast of 24 Ursae Majoris is a magnitude 5.7 star. M81 is immediately to the southeast of that star. M82 is situated about 2° southeast of 24 Ursae Majoris and just 38 arc minutes, a bit more than the width of a Full Moon, to the north of M81. Extending a line from Phecda (Gamma Ursae Majoris) to Dubhe the same distance beyond Dubhe places one approximately one degree south of M81.

Finder charts for M81 and M82 are posted at the following URLs:

http://www.seeintospace.com/charts/M81-81Wide.pdf

http://www.backyard-astro.com/deepsky/top100/10.html

http://webhome.idirect.com/~rsnow/bdipper.html

An MP3 guide to locating M81 and M82 can be found here and an accompanying finder chart at http://astronomerica.awardspace.com/spacewalk-m81.php

Telrad finder charts for M81 and M82 are available at

http://www.utahskies.org/deepsky/messier/charts/m081.htm and

http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps/MAP5.PDF

For more on M81 and M82, see the following sites:

http://messier.seds.org/m/m081.html

http://messier.seds.org/m/m082.html

http://mysite.verizon.net/vze55p46/id15.html

http://www.ngc891.com/obj.php?id=3031&cat=NGC

http://www.ngc891.com/obj.php?id=3034&cat=NGC

http://www.cloudynights.com/documents/swuma.pdf

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=1424

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=2622

http://observing.skyhound.com/archives/mar/M_81.html

http://www.astropix.com/HTML/SHOW_DIG/M81_M82_Galaxies.HTM

http://www.thestardeckobservatory.com/DSO_OTW_050607.html#Starchart1

http://www.astrofoto.ca/stuartheggie/ccd_photos/M81_M82_LRGB_AP155_U16M.html

M81 and M82 are the major members of the M81 group, which is one of the closest galactic congregations beyond the Local Group. NGC 2976 and NGC 3077 are two other member galaxies that are good targets.

http://messier.seds.org/more/m081gr.html


M101 (the Pinwheel Galaxy)

M101 (NGC 5457), the Pinwheel Galaxy*, is a type Sc face-on spiral galaxy with an integrated magnitude of 7.9 and a very low surface brightness of 14.8 magnitudes per square arc minutes, the lowest of all the Messier galaxies. Because of this fact, M101 is often a difficult target for amateur astronomers observing from less-than-dark sites. However, from a good dark site, this "grand design" spiral galaxy is fairly easy to detect through binoculars.

One method of locating the Pinwheel Galaxy is to Imagine an isoceles triangle above the handle of the Big Dipper asterism made up of the second-magnitude star Alkaid (Eta Ursae Majoris, 85 Ursae Majoris), the final star in the handle, and the second-magnitude, naked-eye double star Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris, 79 Ursae Majoris) and Alcor (80 Ursae Majoris)**. M101 is located at the "upper" vertex of the triangle, as can be seen at http://www.aavso.org/sites/default/files/images/SN2011fe_chart_1.png

Another method of locating M101 is to star-hop northeastward from Mizar-Alcor (the Horse and Rider) to a chain of fifth and sixth-magnitude stars beginning with 81 Ursae Majoris. Continue eastward from 81 to 83 to 84 and finally to 86 Ursae Majoris. From 86 Ursae Majoris, proceed northeastward along a crooked "cross" of fainter stars. (Alternatively, M101 forms a right triangle with the two seventh-magnitude stars HIP 68196A and HIP 68138 north of 86 Ursae Majoris.) M101 is a bit past the top of the cross, as shown at
http://www.ne.jp/asahi/stellar/scenes/object_e/m101.htm

Telrad finder charts for the Pinwheel Galaxy can be found at the following sites:

http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps/MAP5.PDF

http://www.utahskies.org/deepsky/messier/charts/m101.htm.save

Like M33, M101 contains a number of HII regions that can be seen through larger amateur telescopes. Two articles on these regions are posted at http://www.knoxvilleobservers.org/dsonline/spring/m101.html and http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/M101text.html

A number of eleventh-magnitude and fainter companion galaxies surround M101.

http://www.knoxvilleobservers.org/dsonline/spring/m101widecrt.html

The M101 group is also likely to include the M51 group to the southeast and possibly the NGC 5866 group to the northwest.

http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/galgrps/m101.html

M101 has been the host galaxy to four supernovae, the most recent being SN 2011fe. For more on this very bright type Ia supernova, browse http://www.rochesterastronomy.org/sn2011/sn2011fe.html

See the following sites for additional information on M101:

http://seds.org/messier/m/m101.html

http://www.universetoday.com/49625/messier-101/

http://www.kopernik.org/images/archive/m101.htm

http://www.cloudynights.com/item.php?item_id=1424

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/M/M101.html

http://observing.skyhound.com/archives/may/M_101.html

http://www.gcadventure.com/cosmic-voyage.net/m101.html

* Unfortunately, M33 and M99 are also sometimes called the Pinwheel Galaxy.

** Mizar and Alcor are actually a sextuple star system.


M104 (the Sombrero Galaxy)

M104 (NGC 4594), commonly known as the Sombrero Galaxy, is one of the easiest-to-see galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. This type SA(s)a spiral galaxy shines at magnitude 8.0 and has the highest surface brightness (11.6 magnitudes per square arc minute) of all the Messier galaxies.

http://www.seds.org/messier/m/m104.html

http://www.gcadventure.com/cosmic-voyage.net/m104hop.html

How does one go about star-hopping to the Sombrero? It's actually quite simple. Approximately 2.5 degrees to the northeast of Delta Corvi (Algorab) is a triangle of fifth and sixth-magnitude stars that points to the Stargate asterism. The Stargate is also triangular in shape and, in turn, points to an asterism known as Jaws. Jaws lies 25 arc minutes west-northwest of M104.

http://www.bisque.com/tom/asterisms/virgoa.asp#Asterisms%20The%20Jaws%20and%20The%20Stargate

http://www.backyard-astro.com/deepsky/2003_04_18/18april2003.html

http://www.backyard-astro.com/deepsky/top100/15.html

An alternative method of locating M104 is by following a line of fifth and sixth-magnitude stars heading northeastward from Gamma Corvi (Gienah).

Telrad finder charts for the Sombrero Galaxy can be found at the following sites:

http://avila.star-shine.ch/astro/messiercharts/m104.htm

http://www.atmob.org/library/member/skymaps/MAP14.PDF

Dave Mitsky


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Maverick199
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Dave Mitsky]
      #5013904 - 01/12/12 01:15 PM

That's a load of useful information Dave, thanks.

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Jon Isaacs
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Dave Mitsky]
      #5013923 - 01/12/12 01:25 PM

Dave:

Thanks for taking the time to put all that together. There is a lot of good information there. A good way to hunt for these objects is start with some binoculars, not necessarily to see the objects themselves but to get a better view of the area of interest.

From my urban backyard, M31, M51, M104 and M81-82 are doable, I leave M33 and M104 to dark skies where both are visible in 40-50mm binoculars.

Jon


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craytab
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5014042 - 01/12/12 02:46 PM

Thanks Dave! I still have yet to get M101 and I have not tried M104, didn't know that one was so accessible until now. They are on my list now for when they get up high enough!

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inept
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: craytab]
      #5018731 - 01/15/12 11:40 AM

Thank you, this is very helpful since I'm just starting out.

Your first link is broken (it has the parentheses and period included in the link)

Edit: That link worked on the forum where I originally posted the information on M31 but not here. I've incorporated it into the final sentence in the first paragraph.

Thanks for catching it.

Dave Mitsky

Edited by Dave Mitsky (05/08/12 09:13 PM)


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jimbo216
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: inept]
      #5021714 - 01/16/12 09:15 PM

Thanks Dave !

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RichieZ
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: jimbo216]
      #5025968 - 01/19/12 12:04 AM

This is super helpful, Dave. Thank you! I'll use this next night out -hopefully this weekend.

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marc_rosson
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: RichieZ]
      #5062210 - 02/08/12 01:19 PM

Some great information there, Very useful Nice one!

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poorman
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: marc_rosson]
      #5062300 - 02/08/12 02:03 PM

Excellent post Dave, thanks.

I as well have yet to glimpse M101 or M104, using the info you have provided has re-energized my desire.


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Orion58
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: poorman]
      #5063445 - 02/09/12 09:07 AM

Thanks for putting all this information together Dave! It helps us beginners out tremendously! Great job...

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OldManInHawaii
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Orion58]
      #5121303 - 03/14/12 02:16 AM

Thanks, this is a real good source of information & I'll be using this in the near future.

I'll never forget one of my first attempts at finding deep sky objects about 35 years ago involved positioning the scope to the specified celestial coordinates by using the setting circles on the equatorial mount without knowing much about the object itself. I got a good laugh when the scope ended up being pointed down to the ground for one of the objects I was hunting for that night!


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GpB311
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: OldManInHawaii]
      #5294964 - 06/29/12 02:15 PM

Cant wait to put this to use, thanks for putting it together. I was trying my best to find Andromeda last night, but seeing conditions, and perhaps my inexperience, just werent working with me. While not a galaxy, I did manage to find M57(Ring Nebula) and M29(Open Cluster) which I suppose qualify as my first DSOs.

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Seldom
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: GpB311]
      #5367511 - 08/13/12 10:55 PM

My scope is a homemade 6" f8 Newt whose mirror I ground and figured. M104 was the first galaxy I found, because M31 was too low in the sky. The "Jaws" and M104 lined up so I was able to confirm the smudge I was seeing was M104.

I live in a blue zone, with a fairly bright Milky Way, but M101 is my bugbear. I know EXACTLY where it is (plotted a finder sheet with Eye & Telescope), but I can't see anything at all there with 7x50 binoculars. The best I can do is to point the scope in the direction of M101 on a really dark night, and look for a faintly lighter smudge where I know it is. Then, if I rotate the scope about 1/4 degree, and the smudge doesn't move, I know I've found it. Messier must have had really dark skies. What does that say about mine?


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Novaguy
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Dave Mitsky]
      #5389868 - 08/27/12 02:27 PM

Thanks Dave, for all this info. No wonder M101 has eluded me! I'll pick on the easier targets for early success with my scope, an Apex 90 with Antares ALP nebula filter.

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bremms
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Novaguy]
      #5413600 - 09/10/12 03:38 PM

M101 is hard to see without a very dark sky. I lived in Upstate NY and my sky was moderately dark (35 years ago) and it was not really easy in a 6"f8. I did take the scope to the bush in Quebec and I could see it pretty easily. But yes it is challenging if your sky isn't really dark.

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wookie1965
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: bremms]
      #5420374 - 09/14/12 03:17 AM

Thank you for this i have been frustrated to say the least early March to April tried many times to find the Leo triple never found them and recently after months of rain tried to find M51 and failed many times, have recently bought a Telrad finder so now hoping combining both my finders and this post will help me find more Messiers

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Bugsi
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies [Re: wookie1965]
      #5427587 - 09/18/12 02:56 PM

Galaxies are fun to hunt down, but for beginners, here's basic info that would have helped me before I got started:

1: Galaxies are really faint. They're really hard or impossibe to see in light-polluted skies. To combat this, aperture and dark skies are your friends. Either one helps.

2: Binoculars and good dark skies may be the best combination for finding galaxies. –The wide view helps locate galaxies quickly by star-hopping. Big aperture telescopes are great, but are more difficult to scan through swaths of sky.

3: Short focal length scopes on an Alt/Az mount are more useful for hunting galaxies. If you're lucky enough to have a large aperture fast scope, USE IT. If you're on a budget, dark skies are free if you simply go to them. Under dark skies, even a small aperture fast scope is a good galaxy-hunter.

4: Have patience. Andromeda is one of the easiest to find because of its size. If you're just starting out, try for it first. Have plenty of time to let your night-vision adjust. Averted vision may be necessary to see a galaxy.

5: I suppose computer guided mounts would make locating galaxies easier, but in practice I've been more successful using a starchart and star-hopping. If you're going to do that with a scope (in addition to binoculars to help you hunt), you want a Right Angle Correct Image (RACI) finder scope, and probably a correct-image prism diagonal for your scope for scanning. Once you've zeroed in on your galaxy, you can switch over to a mirror star diagonal for better viewing if you like. There is nothing more maddening that trying to mentally switch back and forth between a star chart and a reversed left-right or upside-down view for star-hopping with a scope. A Telrad finder and chart are probably great galaxy-hunting tools as well, although I've not used one.

6: You'll probably find a lot of other interesting stuff while you galaxy hunt. There's nothing like sitting on one patch of sky for finding low-earth-orbit satellites and bright double-stars. Plan on spending some extra time viewing nearby interesting objects to keep your galaxy-hunting nights interesting. I've had more nights where I was not successful finding galaxies I was hunting (due to light pollution), so having secondary targets makes your time under the stars worthwhile.

Happy hunting!


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sking0
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: Bugsi]
      #5573755 - 12/16/12 09:00 AM

Very new here and this is great. Can't imaging not being able to sort any issues out in the future with this forum available.

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kenrenard
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Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: sking0]
      #5578958 - 12/19/12 01:47 PM

Great information. I am trying the Messier Objects with a 72mm refractor. It has been a challenge but very rewarding. Thank you Dave for taking the time for putting the info together.

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Vinayak
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Reged: 12/22/12

Re: How to Locate Some of the Major Messier Galaxies new [Re: kenrenard]
      #5585006 - 12/23/12 01:38 AM

Nice information.Thanks

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