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Virgo cluster - first viewing

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#1 NEOhio

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 12:29 PM

I may *finally* get out to a dark(er) site tonight on a moonless night for the first time this year. First light for my first telescope was May 25 of last year, so I missed galaxy season, and have decided to spend tonight in the Virgo cluster (weather willing). For background, my galaxy observations have been limited to M31/M34/M110 (the latter mostly averted vision at the site I am going to tonight) along with M81/M82 (solid direct vision at this site) and the whirlpool galaxy (direct vision, saw both nuclei but no connector at this site). Also did catch two of the three Leo cluster galaxies a few weeks ago in my backyard, mostly averted vision again (but that is a red or reddish/yellow zone). Point being I have very little galaxy experience, and the dark(er) site is just that -- better than my backyard but still a yellow zone. My goals tonight are modest: If I can see a few of the brighter (e.g. Messier) galaxies in Virgo with steady direct vision I will be thrilled, if by averted vision not so thrilled but satisfied. Anything beyond that would be gravy. My targets list is: M49, M87, M60, M84, M86 in the Virgo cluster, and may also try for the Leo triplett, M104 (Sombrero galaxy), and M64 (blackeye galaxy).

 

Here are my questions:

 

(1) I can take either the 8" Skywatcher dob or the 6SE. I know the 8" dob is better for galaxies, but I will be on a tight timeframe with work tomorrow, so I'm tempted to go with the 6SE on a manual mount. To avoid swerving off into a discussion on aperture let me just ask this: Has anyone used a 6SE for the Virgo cluster in a yellowish sky, and if so is it sufficient (not best) for direct viewing of my targets under yellow skies? (If you have compared with an 8" dob of course I'd love to hear that as well). 

(2) I'm thinking of going with the Celestron 8-24 mm zoom as the eyepiece, starting at low power then zooming when I find a galaxy as I have read higher magnification helps with galaxies. Good approach or no?

(3) Any other suggestions? (I do plan to make a big effort to maintain dark adaptation, more than in the past, have a head cover now and plan to use it, and will go with the Virgo cluster page of the PSA with a dimmable red light for guidance.)

 

Thanks in advance for any info or advice, 



#2 NiteGuy

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 12:48 PM

For your deep sky adventure, I'd recommend forgetting about the 6 and take the 8. Make sure you have a Telrad finder or at least a decent red dot finder. Ditch the zoom. The apparent field of view on a zoom eyepiece is too narrow to easily find deep sky objects, even at the lowest magnification. A decent atlas that you can read with a red light will preserve your night vision better than a planetarium program on a smart phone or tablet (even if used in 'red' mode).

 

Finding galaxies in Virgo isn't all too difficult. What is more difficult is identifying what it is that you've found.


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#3 clearwaterdave

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 01:31 PM

Hello.,ALL TRUE ABOVE.,The 8" will also give a bit wider FOV overall correct??.,I have seen lots there with my 5" but it's dark here.Also you have to hope for good seeing.,Galaxies do not necessarily need higher power.,They want good contrast because they are faint fuzzies.,I favor a medium power with 68-82*FOV.,good luck.,I'll be looking from Me. at the same part of the sky.,
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#4 REC

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 01:31 PM

I agree, skip the SCT and the zoom and use the 8" Dob. You will need all light gathering power you can get. M84, 87, 60,84,86 are all around 8.6-9.2 magnitude, so should not be a problem in that scope. The way I look for those Virgo galaxies id to start at the star, Denebola in Leo and head east toward the mouth of Virgo. There are about 20 galaxies near and around M87,84 an a lot of NGC galaxies. M49 and 61 are just below that area. Stat out with a low to medium power eyepiece and hopefully one of them are wide angle.

 

I use a 24mm or 20mm 68* to start with (50-60x) and then go to my 13mm 82* 92x for most of them in my Dob. I live in a red zone, so if I use a lower power, bigger exit pupil, the background sky starts to grey out. I haven't been out hunting them yet and was waiting for the moon to go away, but it's been cloudy and raining the past couple of days and today. Hopefully one night this week.

 

Bring your bino's to sweep the sky too. Good luck and let us know how you did.


Edited by REC, 23 April 2017 - 01:33 PM.


#5 NEOhio

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 02:30 PM

All, thanks for the input. The dob is loaded in the car now, so item (1) is moot :-)

 

I agree the main Messiers at least really ought to be doable from our club dark(er) site with an 8" dob. Of course, I keep thinking M33 ought to be doable from there as well -- yet never seen it. But the Virgo galaxies are smaller, so I guess that increases surface brightness. I have read about the difficulty in identifying which galaxy is in the FOV, and easy to see from the sky map that this is an issue. Frankly, I will be happy to see any galaxies -- can then at least say I observed the Virgo cluster! Figuring out which one(s) I'm seeing is step 2. 

 

Niteguy, REC, I was wondering about the AFOV issue with the Celestron zoom. However, I really do not have any wide AFOV eyepieces except the Meade SWA 5.5 mm (which is narrower due to the high mag) and a 32 mm Q70 - but that may be too low in magnification(?) and in any event I don't want to be switching between 2" and 1.5" eyepieces. Maybe I'll go with a 25 mm Plossl or something like that for the searching; I think one of mine is labeled "wide angle" or something like that, but since it was a stock EP with a scope I doubt that means much. I am going to go with the PSA rather than Skysafari for the dark adaptations reasons you mentioned.

 

Dave, nice to hear someone else will be looking at the Virgo cluster. One of the neat things about amateur astronomy -- people in completely different parts of the world can observe the same object at the same time (or if on different continents, at least over the same night). 


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#6 NYJohn S

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:00 PM

Good luck Rob. That should be a nice night. I've had my 6SE to a green zone and I could see a lot of detail in the larger ones. M51, M81 & M82. If I had a 8" dob I would bring it if I was good at star hopping. If not the goto with the 6se would help find and identify some of the galaxies in the Virgo cluster. Most of those are smaller and dimmer. I would add NGC 4631 the Whale Galaxy to the list if you can. It's right next to Coma Berenices and quite large. It also has a small compainon NGC 4627 just above it. Take sweep through the Coma cluster if you have time. Lots of little puffs in that area from all of the small galaxies.

 

Happy hunting!



#7 Love Cowboy

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:11 PM

All, thanks for the input. The dob is loaded in the car now, so item (1) is moot :-)

 

I agree the main Messiers at least really ought to be doable from our club dark(er) site with an 8" dob. Of course, I keep thinking M33 ought to be doable from there as well -- yet never seen it. But the Virgo galaxies are smaller, so I guess that increases surface brightness. I have read about the difficulty in identifying which galaxy is in the FOV, and easy to see from the sky map that this is an issue. Frankly, I will be happy to see any galaxies -- can then at least say I observed the Virgo cluster! Figuring out which one(s) I'm seeing is step 2. 

 

Niteguy, REC, I was wondering about the AFOV issue with the Celestron zoom. However, I really do not have any wide AFOV eyepieces except the Meade SWA 5.5 mm (which is narrower due to the high mag) and a 32 mm Q70 - but that may be too low in magnification(?) and in any event I don't want to be switching between 2" and 1.5" eyepieces. Maybe I'll go with a 25 mm Plossl or something like that for the searching; I think one of mine is labeled "wide angle" or something like that, but since it was a stock EP with a scope I doubt that means much. I am going to go with the PSA rather than Skysafari for the dark adaptations reasons you mentioned.

 

Dave, nice to hear someone else will be looking at the Virgo cluster. One of the neat things about amateur astronomy -- people in completely different parts of the world can observe the same object at the same time (or if on different continents, at least over the same night). 

 

I too will be hitting the Virgo cluster soon, as I have only 44 Herschels left and they are all in the cluster or elsewhere in Virgo.  I must ask, why do you not want to be switching between 2" and 1.5" eyepieces?  If you are only using two eyepieces, you can always just leave the 1.25" eyepiece in the adapter and treat the combo as a 2" eyepiece.  I do that all the time.  That being said though, you should be fine using a 25 plossl as a finder eyepiece in an 8" dob. 


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#8 NEOhio

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 03:42 PM

John, thanks for the suggestion, added the whale galaxy to my observing list, though with only a couple hours tops I doubt I will get to it tonight. LoveCowboy, I do keep the 2" adaptor with the Q70, but the Skywatcher dob also requires a 1.5" extender to use 1.5" eyepieces so then that has to be switched between different 1.5" eyepieces. I may try the Q70 though if I am finding I can see a number of galaxies - the wide FOV of that EP could give a nice panorama. 


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#9 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 04:08 PM

I would go with the Q-70..  If the skies are reasonably dark, dark enough to see the Milky Way, you will see galaxies and with the Q-70, there will be fields with multiple galaxies.  I love to point a scope with a low power Widefield eyepiece half way between Vindemiatrix and Denebola and just go looking.

 

I think I understand about swapping between, 2 inch and 1.25 inch Eyepieces with the XT-8, each one has its own adapter.

 

Jon


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#10 Achernar

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 05:25 PM

Definitely go with the Dob, the faster set up time and larger aperture are exactly what you want to look at this vast cluster of galaxies, at least 100 of which are good objects for an 8-inch at a reasonably dark site. With an even larger telescope even more galaxies will come forth, but an 8-inch will show the best and brightest throughout the Virgo Cluster. Low power eyepieces are good for sweeping them up, or looking at multiple galaxies at the same time. Use medium or high power for closer inspection of individual galaxies. I know this is the first time you're touring the Virgo Cluster, but expect to see a large number of NGC galaxies that equal or even surpass some of the Messier galaxies. M-85, M-87 and M-59 and M-60 have NGC companions that are obvious through an 8 or 10-inch scope. I recommend adding NGC-4565 and NGC-5746 to your list, both are fine edge-on galaxies like M-104. When skies are clear and dark, their dust lanes will be evident, as will M-104's dust lane.

 

Taras


Edited by Achernar, 23 April 2017 - 05:31 PM.

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#11 Glob

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 06:08 PM

I definitely recommend checking out the Leo Trio, if for no other reason than it's so easy to find.  Just point your Telrad or red dot or whatever at the midpoint between Chertan and iota Leo and there they are. M66 is the brightest, M65 just a little less bright, and the slash of NGC 3628 even less bright, but generally still easy enough to see.  If you bag some easy stuff early on, then it will be easier to be relaxed and take your time later if the navigation gets tougher.

 

I really like the Virgo cluster chart at the back of the PSA.  It strikes a nice balance between showing enough to navigate by, but not so much as to be hopelessly cluttered.  I usually start at the stars Com 6 or Com 11 and work from there.  When I get lost, I usually return to the star I started at and head out again.  Each excursion adds a layer of familiarity to that area of the sky.  It may not be the most efficient way to navigate, but for me it's a great deal of fun!

 

Good Luck!  ---Bill


Edited by Glob, 23 April 2017 - 06:12 PM.


#12 thomasr

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 06:24 AM

Too bad I missed this thread, but I hope you had a great session.

I had my 6SE out at a green zone on Saturday night (see my thread in the deep sky forum on Torrance Barrens) and had an amazing trip. Don't fool yourself: the C6 can be a ton of fun under dark skies. I don't know why you would consider the GoTo setup to be a lot of up-front hassle. Even dealing with a power box and cables before doing the actual alugn, it's ten minutes or less, and your scope is acclimating to ambient during that time anyhow.

Decently dark skies + a printed observing plan with NGC numbers for the spring galaxies + a 6SE + a book like the Concise Catalog of Deep Sky Objects (with pictures of each NGC) = one very, very productive evening out under the stars.

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#13 NEOhio

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 10:12 AM

All, just a final report, contrary to consistent forecasts of clear skies with good transparency and seeing, we had about 50% cloud cover last night with more sky glow than usual at this site, and poor seeing, no Milky Way visible in spite of being moonless. However, we did get out from dusk to 11:30 pm. My first dive into the Virgo cluster was not too bad considering the sky conditions. I was able to see what I think were several galaxies mostly with averted vision (or popping in/out while scanning the FOV), and saw what I think was two or three galaxies with steady direct vision. The steady vision ones seemed to be spherical, though there were occasional hints of elongation with averted vision. Unfortunately I could not orient myself at all within the cluster so I don't know which galaxies I was looking at. Fuller report is posted at the Newbie's Early Observing Log

 

Thomas, thanks for input on the 6SE. Unfortunately last night was definitely not a green level sky, and even my best "dark" site available to me right now is a dark yellow. As far as the goto, I have used the 6SE on the goto mount only a couple times, only one being a longer session and there the battery ran out after only a couple hours. Obviously a battery problem not a scope problem, but still.... My plan right now with the 6SE is to use it as my main backyard scope due to the goto being useful as star hopping is tough there, and I have picked up the AC adapter for it so will not have any battery issues. Once I am more familiar with the controller and using the scope from those sessions it will likely go on the road again. 


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#14 REC

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 10:54 AM

All, just a final report, contrary to consistent forecasts of clear skies with good transparency and seeing, we had about 50% cloud cover last night with more sky glow than usual at this site, and poor seeing, no Milky Way visible in spite of being moonless. However, we did get out from dusk to 11:30 pm. My first dive into the Virgo cluster was not too bad considering the sky conditions. I was able to see what I think were several galaxies mostly with averted vision (or popping in/out while scanning the FOV), and saw what I think was two or three galaxies with steady direct vision. The steady vision ones seemed to be spherical, though there were occasional hints of elongation with averted vision. Unfortunately I could not orient myself at all within the cluster so I don't know which galaxies I was looking at. Fuller report is posted at the Newbie's Early Observing Log

 

Thomas, thanks for input on the 6SE. Unfortunately last night was definitely not a green level sky, and even my best "dark" site available to me right now is a dark yellow. As far as the goto, I have used the 6SE on the goto mount only a couple times, only one being a longer session and there the battery ran out after only a couple hours. Obviously a battery problem not a scope problem, but still.... My plan right now with the 6SE is to use it as my main backyard scope due to the goto being useful as star hopping is tough there, and I have picked up the AC adapter for it so will not have any battery issues. Once I am more familiar with the controller and using the scope from those sessions it will likely go on the road again. 

I saw one guy put a laser pointer on his C6 for Go To and then just swing his Dob the laser spot and then turn it off. Sounds pretty cool way to find things fast.



#15 REC

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 10:56 AM

I would go with the Q-70..  If the skies are reasonably dark, dark enough to see the Milky Way, you will see galaxies and with the Q-70, there will be fields with multiple galaxies.  I love to point a scope with a low power Widefield eyepiece half way between Vindemiatrix and Denebola and just go looking.

 

I think I understand about swapping between, 2 inch and 1.25 inch Eyepieces with the XT-8, each one has its own adapter.

 

Jon

Ah, so that's the name of that star in Virgo! That's what I do, start with Denebola and slew to the left of it with low power.



#16 Love Cowboy

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 12:35 PM

All, just a final report, contrary to consistent forecasts of clear skies with good transparency and seeing, we had about 50% cloud cover last night with more sky glow than usual at this site, and poor seeing, no Milky Way visible in spite of being moonless. However, we did get out from dusk to 11:30 pm. My first dive into the Virgo cluster was not too bad considering the sky conditions. I was able to see what I think were several galaxies mostly with averted vision (or popping in/out while scanning the FOV), and saw what I think was two or three galaxies with steady direct vision. The steady vision ones seemed to be spherical, though there were occasional hints of elongation with averted vision. Unfortunately I could not orient myself at all within the cluster so I don't know which galaxies I was looking at. Fuller report is posted at the Newbie's Early Observing Log

 

Thomas, thanks for input on the 6SE. Unfortunately last night was definitely not a green level sky, and even my best "dark" site available to me right now is a dark yellow. As far as the goto, I have used the 6SE on the goto mount only a couple times, only one being a longer session and there the battery ran out after only a couple hours. Obviously a battery problem not a scope problem, but still.... My plan right now with the 6SE is to use it as my main backyard scope due to the goto being useful as star hopping is tough there, and I have picked up the AC adapter for it so will not have any battery issues. Once I am more familiar with the controller and using the scope from those sessions it will likely go on the road again. 

 

The conditions were probably better than you thought if you were using the Milky Way as an indicator... the winter Milky Way is relatively faint compared to summer, and would have already been relatively low by the time you had total darkness, whereas the summer Milky Way will not have risen yet and the spring Milky Way is out of view to the south for us Northern Hemisphere viewers



#17 Kent10

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 12:54 PM

Hi Rob,

 

Thanks for your post.  I hope you get a chance to really see these all sometime soon.  Your post was extremely timely for me.

 

I was out 2 nights ago and it was the 1st time I was amazed at all the galaxies in the Virgo area.  I have been observing for about 4 years and have seen lots including some galaxies in Virgo.  But I haven't ventured too far from some of the objects I like to view and I usually view them over and over but in various scopes that I own and with many eyepieces.  I love the different views.

 

2 nights ago I decided to try something different and hadn't viewed the galaxies in Virgo for a while.  I had a new wide angle eyepiece on and with my 16.5" dob I started looking for a galaxy, but I forget which one, one of the Messier ones.  In my FOV, I could not believe what I saw.  There were galaxies everywhere.  I kept scanning and they never seemed to end.  It was amazing.  I also came across the "Butterfly Galaxies"  https://en.wikipedia...67_and_NGC_4568  Was that ever neat!

 

Also thanks to the others in this thread, last night I had another go and looked at the Whale, amazingly big, and the NGC's listed.  Just beautiful. 

 

So thanks again for starting this thread and to the others for their suggestions.  M104 is always incredible with its easy to see dark lane.

 

Kent


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#18 REC

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 02:07 PM

Hi Rob,

 

Thanks for your post.  I hope you get a chance to really see these all sometime soon.  Your post was extremely timely for me.

 

I was out 2 nights ago and it was the 1st time I was amazed at all the galaxies in the Virgo area.  I have been observing for about 4 years and have seen lots including some galaxies in Virgo.  But I haven't ventured too far from some of the objects I like to view and I usually view them over and over but in various scopes that I own and with many eyepieces.  I love the different views.

 

2 nights ago I decided to try something different and hadn't viewed the galaxies in Virgo for a while.  I had a new wide angle eyepiece on and with my 16.5" dob I started looking for a galaxy, but I forget which one, one of the Messier ones.  In my FOV, I could not believe what I saw.  There were galaxies everywhere.  I kept scanning and they never seemed to end.  It was amazing.  I also came across the "Butterfly Galaxies"  https://en.wikipedia...67_and_NGC_4568  Was that ever neat!

 

Also thanks to the others in this thread, last night I had another go and looked at the Whale, amazingly big, and the NGC's listed.  Just beautiful. 

 

So thanks again for starting this thread and to the others for their suggestions.  M104 is always incredible with its easy to see dark lane.

 

Kent

Wow, the Butterfly galaxies looks really cool, have to check that one out. Hope I can see it in my 8"-10" scope!

 

I'll have to take a look at Stellarium  for it and others! This post and threads have me want to go galaxy hunting!



#19 Kent10

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 02:34 PM

I didn't know what I was seeing at the time (Butterfly) but I looked up pictures of galaxies in Virgo and that was it.  I recalled seeing it in pictures before so to come across it while scanning was really neat.  It is quite large and bright.



#20 NiteGuy

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 11:53 AM

Rob, I'm a bit late getting back to this thread but glad to hear that, despite the conditions, you were able to see a few objects. For next time, a 2x Barlow for your 32mm Q70 would give you a nice 16mm (equivalent) wide field eyepiece. It would also turn your 25mm Plossl into a nice 12.5mm. And, to answer your earlier question, the 32mm is probably a lower power than you might want but it's still very useable, especially if you can find a legitimately dark sky site.

 

Achernar mentioned NGC4565 in Coma Berenices...that is an absolute jewel...edge-on with a nice dust lane. Absolutely add it to your list to track down. The Siamese Twins, mentioned earlier, is another very worthy target. One of the best observing nights I ever had was from a very dark sky site when I opened up the star atlas and decided to only observe tight pairs (or triples) of galaxies. Did that for the whole night and saw some great sights that I never would have seen otherwise. As you probably learned from your outing, it really helps to have a written observing plan with a fallback plan B if conditions are less than ideal.

 

Any night full of stars beats any night full of TV commercials.


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#21 dhawn

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 01:06 PM

Astronomy Day falls on my birthday (4/29) this year, and I'm taking the opportunity to head out and up into the darker skies of Figueroa Mountain here in California. I, like the OP, am looking forward to my first real look at the Virgo/Coma area.  I'm working up my list (thanks to all the posters) and keeping my eye on the weather forecast. Looking OK right now. I've been anticipating exploring this part of the sky for quite some time and would have never believed a year ago so many galaxies were view-able with an amateur scope. Hoping for an epic viewing report after this weekend. 



#22 REC

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 01:30 PM

Rob, I'm a bit late getting back to this thread but glad to hear that, despite the conditions, you were able to see a few objects. For next time, a 2x Barlow for your 32mm Q70 would give you a nice 16mm (equivalent) wide field eyepiece. It would also turn your 25mm Plossl into a nice 12.5mm. And, to answer your earlier question, the 32mm is probably a lower power than you might want but it's still very useable, especially if you can find a legitimately dark sky site.

 

Achernar mentioned NGC4565 in Coma Berenices...that is an absolute jewel...edge-on with a nice dust lane. Absolutely add it to your list to track down. The Siamese Twins, mentioned earlier, is another very worthy target. One of the best observing nights I ever had was from a very dark sky site when I opened up the star atlas and decided to only observe tight pairs (or triples) of galaxies. Did that for the whole night and saw some great sights that I never would have seen otherwise. As you probably learned from your outing, it really helps to have a written observing plan with a fallback plan B if conditions are less than ideal.

 

Any night full of stars beats any night full of TV commercials.

Wow, I just looked up NGC 4565 and it looks fantastic! At 10 mag. I should get a good view of it. I'll have to start off with my 8" SCT that's go-to so I can find these faint fuzz balls and the switch out to my 10" Dob for greater light gathering. It will be interesting to compare them in each scope. Maybe I'll use a focal reducer to get the focal lengths closer?



#23 NEOhio

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:04 PM

Astronomy Day falls on my birthday (4/29) this year, and I'm taking the opportunity to head out and up into the darker skies of Figueroa Mountain here in California. I, like the OP, am looking forward to my first real look at the Virgo/Coma area.  I'm working up my list (thanks to all the posters) and keeping my eye on the weather forecast. Looking OK right now. I've been anticipating exploring this part of the sky for quite some time and would have never believed a year ago so many galaxies were view-able with an amateur scope. Hoping for an epic viewing report after this weekend. 

Happy (almost) birthday, dhawn, and good look with your observing trip. 



#24 NEOhio

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 11:09 PM

Went out tonight with the 6SE in my backyard. Pretty successful initially, was able to observe M86 and M84 of the Markarian chain (but no other galaxies of it) with direct vision. Ditto with M87 (Virgo A). Then tried to goto the blackeye galaxy and alignment was off, ended up calling it a night. So, the 6SE is good enough for at least the brightest galaxies from my suburban backyard. Fuller report is posted at the Newbies Early Observing Log.



#25 thomasr

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  • Joined: 26 Apr 2015
  • Loc: Greater Toronto

Posted 26 April 2017 - 06:46 AM



Went out tonight with the 6SE in my backyard. Pretty successful initially, was able to observe M86 and M84 of the Markarian chain (but no other galaxies of it) with direct vision. Ditto with M87 (Virgo A). Then tried to goto the blackeye galaxy and alignment was off, ended up calling it a night. So, the 6SE is good enough for at least the brightest galaxies from my suburban backyard. Fuller report is posted at the Newbies Early Observing Log.


Another suburban 6SE owner here. I generally find the goto accuracy to be quite reliable, with targets typically landing well within 0.5° of the centre of field - often much less.

Where things get tricky is when I try to find targets of low surface brightness. Under light polluted skies, I can be bang on target and the DSO is simply not visible in the eyepiece. I'll have to try the black eye galaxy next chance I get, but with that dust lane blocking a good part of the bright nucleus, it wouldn't surprise me if it eludes observation from my back deck.

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