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What's Up Archives
This is the 100th article I have written under the name “What’s Up” for Cloudy Nights and I am now going to call a halt. It has been fun and I thank all the folks who have sent me messages saying that they enjoy my writing.
This is the 99th article I have written for the Cloudy Nights website. So, I thought I would do something special. What follows is a listing of images and text about the telescopes I have owned.
Charles Messier discovered this cluster in 1763 while following a comet. His telescope did not have the size to resolve any stars.
This bright galaxy is one of the more unique objects in the sky. The bright core of the galaxy has a prominent ring of dark material around it. This flat disk of material looks like a Mexican hat and therefore gives the galaxy its name—the Sombrero Galaxy.
M 41 has been a favorite of mine for many years. If you are making a table of the best open clusters in the sky and M 41 is not on that list I believe you have made some poor choices.
So, you wouldn’t think I would start a set of articles about the best objects in the sky without including the Orion Nebula, would you?
There are several places in the sky that are unique and once you have spent some time at these locations you will never mistake them for anything else. Certainly one of these places is the Double Cluster in Perseus. Either of these clusters would be a Messier object all by itself, but to have them be just 30 arc minutes apart center to center is remarkable.
NGC 253 was discovered in 1783 by Caroline Herschel. She was searching for comets. When her nephew John took the “Large 20 foot” telescope to South Africa to complete the sweeps of the sky he wrote glowingly of this galaxy.
I have always enjoyed viewing galaxy groups and Stephan’s Quintet in Pegasus is one of the most famous.
How many astronomy texts have had a shot of the North America Nebula included? How many brand new imaging rigs have been pointed at this amazing object? We may never know the answers to those questions, but we can say that this part of the sky have been observed, photographed and imaged for centuries.
Just scanning along our galaxy can dredge up plenty of clusters and nebulae to keep you enthralled for hours. Just lean back in that comfy camp chair and watch it all go by.
I am going to assume that if you are reading this then you have had at least some time out under truly dark skies. I do wish that for you. While there, if you noticed two bright spots in the Milky Way near the Stinger stars of Scorpius, then you have seen M 6.
I do enjoy a great view of an edge-on galaxy, and here we are at one of most beautiful of those.
I have always loved planetary nebulae, they have such interesting detail and are so different one from another. Because some of these nebulae are similar in shape and color to Uranus, William Herschel coined the name “planetary nebula”. He should know since he discovered Uranus.
Now, for something completely different. What I am going to begin with this article is to take on the sky one field of view at a time. These articles will provide lots of information and observations about a few, or even just one, deep sky object at a time.
This is going to be the last What’s Up in the constellation format I have been using for the past 8 years. I have covered the entire sky except a few constellations that have virtually no deep sky objects—Equuleus, as an example. I have covered all the brightest deep sky objects and it has been an enjoyable journey for the writer, hopefully for the reader as well.
I know that I have said this before, but it bears repeating. I like constellations like Perseus because this area of the sky contains a wide variety of object types. From planetary and emission nebulae to open clusters and galaxies there is lots to see within the boundaries of the Hero.
Here we are at our second pass through the deep sky objects in Cassiopeia. This Fall constellation really is quite obvious under dark skies, an “M” or “W” shape in the Milky Way. I included four objects this time, one nebula and three open clusters. There is lots of detail to see in all of them.
Aquila, the Eagle is right in the middle of the Milky Way glow and high enough above the horizon to provide clear, sharp views of many deep sky objects. It does not get better than that!
Let’s take a look at the big “fish hook” in the sky and see what I did not fit into my last article on Scorpius.
Virgo is big and filled up with galaxies. I know that is not a big news flash to most of the people reading this edition of “What’s Up”, but I thought I would just get it out there.
The constellation of the hunting dogs is going to be quickly found by anyone with a new telescope because Messier 51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, lives here. But, there are lots of other fascinating and fun galaxies to observe in this part of the sky.
Leo is one of those constellations that everyone learns right away. The first time you are going around the sky and early Spring comes around—there is it. A nice first magnitude star in Regulus sets off this part of the sky and the Sickle has that bright star at its southern end. It is all so easy to see and remember.
There are many galaxies since this constellation is far from the stream of the Milky Way. I will also include a dim planetary nebulae as a challenge object.
Draco winds between the two Dippers. It has been a dragon or snake in many culture’s stories. An observer of the naked eye dragon needs to be away from city light to appreciate the coil of stars that makes its way around the north celestial pole and ends up in a rather easy to see head.