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Messier surveys with small apertures

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#26 SNH

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 01:36 PM

I plan to do my first ever Messier Marathon this late March with only my 8x56 binoculars. Should be easy...though I don't know how hard M72 will be.

 

Scott



#27 mwedel

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 05:17 PM

I had a good long look at M29 and M39 this AM. Not new objects, even with this scope, but two new things struck me:

First, how easy M29 is to pick up in binoculars despite there being hardly anything there. In the scope I only logged 7 stars. I sketched it just to be sure I was getting everything.

Second, how perfectly triangular M39 is - I'd never picked that up before.

#28 Joe Eiers

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 06:06 PM

I've always loved Jay's work.  Inspired me greatly.  I too went on a great Messier hunt like so many others.  I saw them all so long ago... but I was younger and played in very dark skies.  Now, some 45 years later, I'd like to try it again, but now I live in an orange zone!

Much tougher, especially with a small instrument.  I wonder how many have seen them all with 100mm in orange zones?

 

  Joe



#29 tnakazon

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 08:06 PM

Matt, I started a Messier project with my Meade 60mm 11.7 back in late 2015 (complete with sketches), which I was unable to continue after 2 sessions.  Hoping I can get back to it sometime soon.   



#30 tnakazon

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 08:14 PM

I've always loved Jay's work.  Inspired me greatly.  I too went on a great Messier hunt like so many others.  I saw them all so long ago... but I was younger and played in very dark skies.  Now, some 45 years later, I'd like to try it again, but now I live in an orange zone!

Much tougher, especially with a small instrument.  I wonder how many have seen them all with 100mm in orange zones?

 

  Joe

Joe, I was able to pick up nearly all the Messiers with a 100mm F/4 Orion Sky Scanner in suburban (orange zone) skies, especially the "hardest" ones, with little difficulty.  Those few which I saw in other equally small scopes, I could have picked up with the 100mm (3.9") as well.  

 

Terry



#31 Astrojensen

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Posted 12 March 2017 - 05:17 PM

The problem with these "orange zones" and "green zones" and all, is that there are orange zones and there are orange zones. An orange zone in a humid climate with loads of water and dew in the air is WILDLY different from an orange zone in an arid, high-altitude climate. One man's orange zone is therefore NOT necessarily identical to another one's and the visibility of objects can vary wildly between them.

 

The color classification of the different zones is based on satellite images and these don't seem to take altitude and humidity levels into account. This means that zones in dry climates are ranked LOWER than they appear to the eye and that zones in humid climates are ranked BETTER, than they are in real life, compared to the average. Living in a borderline blue/grey zone is of little use, when it is so humid, the transparency only allows you to see stars to mag 5.5, as happens on a lot of nights where I live.  

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#32 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 01:00 AM

I've detected about 1/4 of the Messiers with my bare eyes.

 

And there are a number of non-Messiers that are naked-eye detectible.

 

With a small optic, why limit to the Messiers? Go for many objects the Ferret himself missed or even could not see with sufficient certainty. Even without modern filters, under a dark sky a 50mm scope at low power (or bino) can reveal such nebulae as the North America, California, Soul, Pacman, Monkey face, Rosette. And many more open clusters than nebulae are accessible. And in a realm Messier completely overlooked are the dark nebulae, which even the eye alone will reveal numerous of the larger specimens.

 

Finally, there are scores, if not hundreds of non-M galaxies to bag with a small aperture. For instance, my 20.8X60 bino delivers up a wonderful view of the Virgo chain of galaxies arcing to the NE from M84/86.

 

The Messier catalogue is something of a shotgunned collection, seeming almost to suggest parts of the sky were not once swept over, given the absence of so many fine objects that surpass the lesser examples he did catch. To fix on the Messiers is to miss out on a lot of neat stuff.



#33 Tony Flanders

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Posted 13 March 2017 - 05:43 AM

The problem with these "orange zones" and "green zones" and all, is that there are orange zones and there are orange zones. An orange zone in a humid climate with loads of water and dew in the air is WILDLY different from an orange zone in an arid, high-altitude climate.


I don't agree. I live in the U.S. Northeast, a generally humid area. But we have quite a number of nights with good transparency, and when the transparency is good here, it's genuinely good. Really not very different from the desert Southwest, where I have also done plenty of observing.

The difference between orange zones generically and green zones generically is vastly bigger than the difference between a humid orange zone and a dry orange zone.

It is true, however, that hardly any of the maps take mountains into account. And having a major mountain range between you and your nearest major light source can indeed make the sky a good deal darker than the color zone would indicate.

#34 Sarkikos

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 09:38 AM

It makes sense to create different observing programs to keep oneself interested.  I don't have much patience with amateur astronomers who complain that they are bored with the hobby.  Only boring people become bored.  There is always something different to observe, a different way to observe it, or a different instrument to observe it with.

 

Here are some observing programs that I've put together for myself:

 

-  Memorize the locations of all the Messiers.  Every time you observe, try to see how many Messiers you can find by heart with whatever instrument you are using at the time.  

 

-  Do a Memory Messier Marathon.  Locate and observe - by memory alone - as many Messiers as you can in one night.  Last year I did 101 Messiers by heart with my 10" Dob at a yellow zone site at 39N.  Of course, I knew where the remaining 9 Messiers were, but I just could not see them under the conditions at my site and latitude!   And of course, I've seen each of the Messiers many times with this telescope ... but never all of them in one night.  It would be easier if I could go to a more southern latitude, like SoCal, for instance.  grin.gif  Something for my bucket list.

 

- Make DSO observing lists for each of your telescopes and binoculars.  I do this in SkySafari Pro.  Sometimes I generate Excel spreadsheets for the lists.  Keep track of all the objects you have bagged with each of your instruments.  

 

- Make double star lists for each of your instruments.  We don't always have to be viewing DSO.

 

- Observe the Moon and planets.  Look at them with different sized apertures.  Notice the level of detail that can be seen with one instrument versus the others.  Again, there are other objects to see besides DSO.

 

Small aperture?  You might be surprised what you can see with small aperture, even under light pollution.  At my home in a red zone, I've bagged 280 DSO with my Canon 10x42 IS binos.  That includes 71 Messiers.  (Remember this is from a bright red zone.)   I've also split 137 double stars with these small binos.

 

If you're an amateur astronomer, there's really no excuse for being bored.

 

Mike


Edited by Sarkikos, 15 March 2017 - 10:12 AM.


#35 Astrojensen

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 10:27 AM

 

If you're an amateur astronomer, there's really no excuse for being bored.

^ this. 

 

Here's a couple of other ideas: Do a H400 survey with a scope 80mm or smaller. Do a survey of ALL open clusters in Uranometria 2000.0 with the same scope. This should keep anyone busy for a while. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#36 Sarkikos

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 12:23 PM

Yes, the H400, Herschel 2 and Herschel 3 lists are good programs for amateur astronomers.  I finished up the H400 a couple years ago.  I only have 54 objects left for the H 2 & 3 together.  That's after I blasted through over 60 of them during one transparent night last month at a yellow zone site.  Maybe this New Moon I'll finish them up.  Well, there is a straggler in Cetus that might have to wait.

 

grin.gif

Mike


Edited by Sarkikos, 15 March 2017 - 12:24 PM.


#37 Astrojensen

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 02:49 PM

Yes, the H400, Herschel 2 and Herschel 3 lists are good programs for amateur astronomers.  I finished up the H400 a couple years ago.  I only have 54 objects left for the H 2 & 3 together.  That's after I blasted through over 60 of them during one transparent night last month at a yellow zone site.  Maybe this New Moon I'll finish them up.  Well, there is a straggler in Cetus that might have to wait.

 

grin.gif

Mike

Good work! I recently restarted the H400, now with my 12" dob. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#38 mwedel

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 03:37 PM

The single most useful thing I've ever read about aperture and observing is this (by CN user blb, from here):

 

No matter what size telescope you use, it seems that you are looking at objects that are on the limits of what can be seen with that size scope. Once I realized this and read, some years ago now, what Jay Reynolds Freeman had to say about his observations, I came to realize there were way more objects to be seen in a small telescope than I would probably see in my lifetime. [...] Now add to all that the ease of portability, setup, and use, you see why I have used primarily these two small telescopes the past couple of years.

That idea is a spore that landed in my brain three and a half years ago, and it has been quietly growing ever since (and I liked small scopes even before that!). 

 

Another strong influence on me is my friend and fellow CNer Terry Nakazono, who has now observed and sketched over 1500 objects (DSOs and asterisms) using telescopes of 4.5" or less - including, I believe, all of the Herschel 400s. 

 

Finally, I have come to realize that to truly understand all that I can see in the night sky with 10x50 binoculars will be the task of a lifetime, with no guarantee that I'll finish. 

 

Glenn wrote:

The Messier catalogue is something of a shotgunned collection, seeming almost to suggest parts of the sky were not once swept over, given the absence of so many fine objects that surpass the lesser examples he did catch. To fix on the Messiers is to miss out on a lot of neat stuff.

 

Oh, I agree! When I went to the Salton Sea a couple of weeks ago, I set out to log as many Messiers as possible with the 4-inch refractor. I got 22 that night, but I also got 24 non-Messier NGCs along the way, because I just couldn't pass them up.

 

Still, once you've seen all the Messiers you've seen a good diversity of DSOs, including many showpieces and a few stinkers, and doing that with a single instrument ought to teach you something about that instrument, maybe about yourself as an observer, and hopefully about the sky as well - even if you've seen them all before. At least, that's the goal for me with this project.



#39 Astrojensen

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 03:59 PM

 

Another strong influence on me is my friend and fellow CNer Terry Nakazono, who has now observed and sketched over 1500 objects (DSOs and asterisms) using telescopes of 4.5" or less - including, I believe, all of the Herschel 400s.

 

Still, once you've seen all the Messiers you've seen a good diversity of DSOs, including many showpieces and a few stinkers, and doing that with a single instrument ought to teach you something about that instrument, maybe about yourself as an observer, and hopefully about the sky as well - even if you've seen them all before. At least, that's the goal for me with this project.

An interesting thing happens, if you set yourself a challenging - but possible - goal: You'll work much harder to reach it, than you otherwise would, which naturally drastically increases your chances of success and also vastly improves your skills as an observer. It's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you challenge yourself, the fainter objects you can see (eventually). There are limits, of course, but they're far beyond what most people believe possible. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark


Edited by Astrojensen, 15 March 2017 - 04:02 PM.


#40 musicengin

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Posted 15 March 2017 - 04:32 PM

'Sides all which, it's just so much fun!



#41 Astrojensen

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 03:19 AM

'Sides all which, it's just so much fun!

Yes! 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark



#42 mwedel

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 03:56 AM

Added four more Messiers tonight to my Bresser AR102S Comet Edition tally: M1, M51, M81, and M82.

 

I was out with a friend and we shut down before midnight. There were plenty more galaxies we could have gone for, but we spent the earlier part of the evening looking at the winter Milky Way. By the time we turned to galaxies, the moon was coming up. And we were getting tired. We finished with a look at Jupiter.

 

I love looking at M81 and M82. Their contrasting orientations show well even in small instruments and at modest magnifications, and for some reason seeing two galaxies at the same time is more than twice as exciting as seeing a single galaxy. They also tend to be crowd-pleasers when I'm taking people out stargazing for the first time.

 

Here's the updated visual log:

 

Messiers tally For Bresser Comet Edition 2017 03 15


#43 musicengin

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 06:00 AM

I really enjoy hearing from people who enjoy the Messier chase.  Thanks to everyone for all your input!

 

One of the things I like about it is the sense that I'm starting at the ground floor, in a historical sense, following the path -- the life work -- of someone who in his time was pushing the envelope right out to the limit, in his field.

 

Looking at Jupiter and Saturn is like getting a tiny glimpse of Galileo doing the same thing.

 

One of my closest looks at Saturn -- I was out trying out the spiffy new 5mm eyepiece which is a bit too much for my little 3" reflector -- that was fun, but then when I stopped to rest my eyes and take a break, I happened to be looking in just the right direction for an amazing bolide to zoom down from above and catch on the atmosphere, blaze up, split, drifting slowly across the sky with my eyes right on it the whole time -- the blaze lighting the trail of smoky bits above the flaring pair of fragments -- nothing else would have had me out on a bare, cold hilltop in the middle of the night  looking in the right direction at the right time. Nothing else: nothing short.

 

And the tie in with the Messier's is I know that hilltop well, and feel comfortable up there because it is one of my Messier spots; and also, I'm that much better at using my scope because of the kind of autopilot plan that the Messier list gives me: it's about all I can see in my little scope anyways, so I'm not distracted by this that and the other possibility, I'm going out looking at Messier objects and planets and once a very faint comet, and that's it, pretty much.  So I don't have to spend time on making up a plan, I just go out with the plan Charles Messier built as his life's work, and that's plenty 'nuf fun until I get a bigger scope.



#44 Astrojensen

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 12:54 PM

 

I love looking at M81 and M82. Their contrasting orientations show well even in small instruments and at modest magnifications, and for some reason seeing two galaxies at the same time is more than twice as exciting as seeing a single galaxy.

Agree! I consider M81/M82 *the* finest galaxy pair in the northern hemisphere. Even a 60mm shows them well. 

 

 

Clear skies!

Thomas, Denmark



#45 musicengin

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 11:01 AM

I can only just see them in my 3" reflector on a very good night, but since they're one of the very small number of galaxies I can see ANYTHING of, it's always exciting to catch a glimpse!



#46 mwedel

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:29 AM

I continued my Messier survey last night at the Salton Sea. I got a late start, didn't arrive until about two hours after sunset, and there was a cloud bank to the west, so I missed out on all of the early evening objects. I skipped right over the winter objects, having spent the last 6 weeks observing them repeatedly with a variety of instruments. 

 

I logged 14 new Messiers for the 4-inch scope: M3, M5, M6, M7, M11, M13, M53, M64, M65, M66, M92, M95, M96, and M105. That brings my tally with the scope to 43:

 

Messiers tally For Bresser Comet Edition 2017 03 19

 

I got even more with the 7x50 binoculars that came with the scope. From midnight to 1:00 AM I laid back in a lounge chair for a bino-only run. I got all of the 14 objects listed above except M5, and also caught M63, M94, and M101. The pattern of which objects I got with the scope only, with the bins only, or with both, is complicated - there was a high thin haze that would congeal or disperse unpredictably, and which really got bad after the moon rose. I had been just about to make my run through the Virgo cluster galaxies when that happened, so I switched gears and did some double star work. My Messier tally with the binos stands at 40:

 

Messiers tally For Bresser 7x50 bins 2017 03 19

 

It was fun seeing the globulars M3 and M53 in binoculars. The very first time I observed them, it was with binos, on a backyard camp-out with my son back in early 2008. I remember being shocked at how bright M3 was.

 

After the moon rose, I spent a good chunk of time observing it, as well as Jupiter and Saturn. In fact, I fell asleep observing the moon with the scope - I believe that's the first time in almost a decade of observing that I have ever fallen asleep at the eyepiece. It was a good night, imperfect skies notwithstanding.



#47 Glob

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:09 PM

Nice report Matt, I don't know how you managed to fall asleep at the scope rather than in the lounge chair!



#48 mwedel

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:26 PM

Well, I did my lounge chair observing right after midnight. Didn't fall asleep at the scope until a little after 4:00 AM. Then I did fall asleep in the lounge chair, but that was deliberate - usually I am too lazy to set up a tent, so I sleep out under the stars on a cot or a lounge chair. I moved the chair around to the west side of the car to stay out of the sun, and managed to sleep until almost 11:00.

 

The difference between the air temperature and the surface temperature of objects in direct sunlight was vast. I woke up about 8:00 to make the short walk to the restroom and got uncomfortably warm even during that brief time in the sun. Once I was back in the shade, I needed my leather jacket and a fleece blanket to keep from being uncomfortably cold.




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