Given the somewhat less than desired results with M104 I decided to take a look at the area between Leo and Virgo. Research indicated this area is rather densely populated with galaxies, including M84, M86, and M87. Chart five of NightWatch does not even plot the individual galaxies, just indicates the area as the central region of the Virgo supercluster.
I pointed my 'scope about midway between Denebola and Vindemiatrix, and rather lazily just started scanning the area (in the EP, at ~41x). It was not long before I found a faint smudge, then another, and another. As I continued to scan around, I found more and more. For the first time ever, I decided to get a pen and paper (actually a piece of a 24 pack of soda box). I went back and forth between my sketches and the EP for probably close to an hour.
I was having some issues with variable visibility. At first I thought I might be getting dewed out (it was still quite humid), but given the temperature I should not have been out long enough for that, and typically the primary is the last thing to go. When I was putting things away I noticed some very thin high clouds, and I believe they were the culprit.
Despite the less than perfect conditions, I plotted 13 galaxies, and I strongly suspect I could have plotted more had I continued searching. I guess now I know why they call it a supercluster!
After putting everything away I wanted to try to identify everything I had seen. Looking at the third picture on https://www.messier-...com/messier-84/ I was easily able to identify M84, M86, and NGC4388 as my starting point. I was very pleased to see that I had correctly recorded the orientation of NGC4388. From the same image I was also able to identify NGC4435 and NGC4438, which I had unknowingly started referring to as "the eyes" (apparently this pair is actually referred to by this name).
From there I opened Stellarium, and based on my sketches and notes identified the following1:
- M84 - Slightly brighter than M86. More compact than M86.
- NGC4388 - Barely visible in direct vision
- NGC4387 - Not consistently visible, very diffuse. Barely visible if at edge, but somewhat confident it's there.
- NGC4435 - Quite faint, visible in direct vision, brighter center discernable
- NGC4438 - Same as NGC4435
- NGC4461 - Very faint
- NGC4473 - Visible in direct vision, but very faint
- NGC4477 - Same as NGC 4473. Very nebulous, but core barely visible.
- NGC4474 - Barely visible, mostly when moving. Almost averted vision only, but visible in direct vision.
- M87 - Brightest or second brightest. Very similar to M86.
- NGC4478 - Much smaller than M87. Much fainter than M87, but visible in direct vision.
As indicated in my notes, some of those were very faint. In fact, several of the objects I only added to my sketch after jumping back and forth several times and being able to get a good glimpse, and then (given the issues with visibility) only by providence. I suspect that under better conditions many of the objects would be much easier to discern.
Most of my viewing was done at 125x, though I did jump out to 41x a few times to see what I could see and to try to get a better idea of the relative positioning of the different objects (particularly M87 in relation to the M84-M86-NGC4388 triangle).
There were several (very faint) suspected objects that I did not note, because at the time I thought to myself that there could not be that many that close together and that I must be imagining it. Having now spent some time exploring the area in Stellarium, it has become aparent that I barely scratched the surface of what is there.
By and large the individual objects were fairly unimpressive. I would generally rate them a 1/5 with the exceptions of M84, M86, and M87 which I would give a 1.5/5. Being able to see M81 and M82 at the same time was neat, but the M84-M86-NGC4388 triangle puts four objects in the EP at the same time! I would still say M81 / M82 are more impressive though, so I would give the triangle a 2/5.
The experience of being able to chart 13 objects in one evening, even in sub-optimal conditions is a solid 4/52. Being able to point the telescope at a general area of the sky and jump from object to object without having to invest any effort in locating things, 5/5.
I will definitely be revisiting this area when the opportunity arises, hopefully under better conditions.
1 In my notes I simply numbered them. Here I replaced my numbers with the more broadly used designations.
2 This has already proven to be a valuable experience:
- This is probably the first time I have used the data in the charts to help confirm that I was looking at the correct navigational references (so to speak), which was confidence booster. This definitely helped me locate M104 on my first attempt, in no small part because I knew I was looking in the correct location.
- Being able to look at such a wide array of objects and compare them to eachother has helped me to better understand what I can expect when looking for other similar objects. This also positively demonstrates that my understanding of what I am looking for and my ability to recognize faint objects has dramatically improved over when I first started.
- Being able to note object positions and orientations accurately, including two objects right at magnitude 12 (even under less than optimal conditions), is a huge confidence boost for being able to locate fainter fuzzies and being able to trust in what I am seeing at the EP.
Edited by Mr. E. Figure, 29 March 2020 - 01:50 PM.