Date: Friday 15th February 2019. 0300-0615am
Scope: 20” f3.6 Lukehurst Dob with Paracorr (fl = 2089mm & f4.1).
Night Vision: PVS-14 with Photonis 4g INTENS.
Eyepieces: Plossl 55mm (f2 x38), Panoptic 35mm (f3 x60), Panoptic 27mm (f4 x77), DeLite 18.2mm (f5.8 x115). Ethos 21mm, Ethos 13mm.
Filters: Baader 610nm red filter.
Moon: 70% (until 0415)
With the Devils Orb big and bright in the sky, my plan was to have a sleep and then come out just in time to see off the Orb and try to get whatever darkness there would be before the inevitable dawn of the Sun.
Yesterday, I created a “supernova” observing list in Sky Safari and marked up NGC8577, NGC3304, UGC7367 & UGC7534. These 4 galaxies contained supernova that I intended to try to observe.
I had also had a pre-session play with Sky Safari and “Comets” to see which may be available to view from the shed, where the Dob is up against the West wall meaning that Zenith, South and East are “available”.
Time to Wake Up
The alarm went off at 0230 and I spent 10 minutes coming around before heading downstairs to get dressed into my three layers of clothing. My eyepiece case and books were pre-prepared and waiting to go (As it was going to be “warmer”, I was fancying my chances of using multiple eyepieces – usually when its cold then I just stick to one or two for the whole session).
I was in the shed by 0245 and set about getting setup and ready to go…
Right, Lets do some observing!
M3 globular - By 0300, I had completed the 2-star alignment for my Nexus and I checked the alignment by observing M3 globular cluster in the Ethos10. The view was a bit washed out with the moon so I swapped to the 35mm Panoptic, added the Baader 610nm red filter to the Paracorr and attached my pvs-14 night vision device to the Panoptic. Now, the globular was bright and sharp against a much darker background. It was resolved to the core and I spent some time admiring it. It was interesting how the x200 of the Ethos10 seemed to show less than the x60 of the Panoptic35!
Comets up first…
C/123P West-Hartley – With the help of Sky Safari, I quickly located a small fuzzy patch sitting next to a star. It had a small dot core and there was a surrounding dust halo. I was using the Pan35 at x60 magnification.
C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) – I spent quite a while hunting around for the R2 comet but failed to find it. The moon was still affecting the sky so I will put it down to that.
Supernovas next up…
I selected my supernova observing list in Sky Safari and made my first error of the session by nudging to the nearest galaxy NGC8577…
SN2019va (NGC8577) – I started with the 18.2 DeLite (x115) and 610nm red filter installed. I could make out the galaxy faintly (which was an improvement on my last attempt) and sure enough with averted the tiny supernova came into view underneath the galaxy. I swapped in the 27mm Pan (x77) and again I could see the host galaxy (although fainter) and with averted and a little time and patience eventually the supernova too. The moonlight was dimming now and I removed the 610nm red filter and returned to the 18.2 DeLite. I got my clearest view of the supernova of the night. In all cases the supernova was not immediately obvious, it took some time and looking for it to eventually appear into view.
SN AT2019arb (UGC7367) – This was a far easier supernova. With the 27mm, the host galaxy was bright and easy. An extended brighter section above the core was the supernova. I swapped in the DeLite 18.2 and then the Ethos 13mm for more magnification to try to get a “split” between the core and the SN, but each time the galaxy lost brightness and the detail less easy to see!
SN2018hna (UGC7534) – This was the most confusing to identify the supernova but the supernova was the brightest and furthest from the core (making it look more like a field star). Due to the later viewing time the whole scene had rotated from my last visit which only added to my initial confusion. Eventually I got my bearings thanks to a triangle of bright stars on the edge of the FOV. And then I saw the oblong star shape. The brightest corner star also reveals hints of galaxy dust to one side. There is a field star in-between this bright star and the SN which was more easily seen than my last visit. But this one is pretty easy to get. I used the 27mm Pan for this target (x77).
SN2019aik (NGC3304) – By the time I was ready to target this SN, the galaxy was too far west of the shed for me to get the scope on target. I should have targeted this galaxy first! I was disappointed as I had got all of the other 3, but 3 from 4 isn’t bad.
Spend time with the famous galaxies.
M51 - Next up, I headed for M51 to see what I could get with varying eyepieces and magnification. After trying the 27mm (x77) for some scale and getting a decent view, I swapped to 55mm (x38) and 35mm (x60) for comparison. M51 looked decent in all the views but the 55mm Plossl provided just that bit more detail. The second fainter sweeping arm could be seen to extend almost around the back of the first arm. This detail was only seen in the 35mm “because I knew it was there”.
M101 – Onto one of my favourite galaxies – M101. The 55mm Plossl provided the most instant gratification with decent views of arms above and below the galaxy. The detail was clearer close to the core and needed more time and averted to get hints of arms further out. I threw in the Ethos13 (and removed the NVD) for a traditional view. Once my brain adjusted to the 100 degree FOV of the Ethos then I started to notice coloured stars in the FOV (of course, these are not there with the NVD as everything is shades of grey). Then I started to notice M101 and at x150 it is really big. As I nudged around I came upon several NGCs from within the galaxy but the sheer scale of this galaxy needs the Ethos 21. (I walked back up to the house to get it from the cupboard…)
With the Ethos21 loaded, M101 took on a smaller scale that my eye was more easily able to digest. I could see a lovely circle of arms close in to the core. The other arms started to appear as I worked the eyepiece and eyeball using time and averted vision as my aids in this task. Eventually, I eeked out as much as I had seen in the 55mm Plossl (with NVD) but it was more of a challenge and I enjoyed it. It seems M33 and M101 demand the Ethos21 to get the best from them. Although the instant gratification of the Plossl and NVD were great too.
Time is moving on, can I bag a few more of the “brightest galaxies”…
My 2019 galaxy task is a list of 211 brightest galaxies (I found and added another good one NGC4762 last time out).
NGC4605 – With the 35mm Pan, I saw an edge-on galaxy with a swirly appearance.
NGC5676 – A side-on with a similar swirly appearance.
NGC5689 – A side-on with a bright core and swirly appearance to the disk. There is a faint galaxy pair nearby.
NGC5005 – Bright core with extended bright halo/bar. Then a larger swirly disk beyond.
NGC5363+NGC5364 – 5363 has a bright core with a surrounding dust halo. 5364 is larger and fainter, circular in shape with a dot core and bar.
NGC5248 – Core with bar. Faint circular arms seen. One for another day when better placed. Nice.
NGC5846+NGC5846A+NGC5845+NGC5850 – A nice patch of galaxies (with others outside the FOV too). 5846 & 5846A sit together like little & large. There are further galaxies (one either side) within the FOV. No detail seen in any of the galaxies but these are low down.
NGC5746 – “Galaxy of the day” to finish. This is a bright edge on with a lovely black dust lane running along the leading edge. Nice. I tried the 55mm and 35mm on this galaxy with the extra scale of the 35mm proving worthwhile in seeing the dust lane better.
With the sky brightening, finish with some Globs…
M3 – Back to M3 as its closest to my current position. I switch to the Pan27 (x77) for better scale. The globular is bright and fully resolved. Globs really are great with Night Vision they just resolve and stay resolved no matter where they are in the FOV. It’s a very different experience to conventional view as they just drift across the FOV in all their glory.
M5 – Wonderful. It’s a sight to behold with night vision. The stars seem to be in chains looping around the central very bright core. A highlight.
M13 – M13 is very nice but I am now starting to think that M5 is king of the northern globs? It really is that good when fully resolved with night vision. I change to the 18.2 DeLite (x115) for one last look at M13 as the sky continues to brighten…
Its 0615 as I decide to pack-up.
Thoughts of the observer.
- 3 out of 4 supernova. Happy with that but with better planning I could have gone to the most western located galaxy first!! It was good to find that the 18.2 DeLite can be useful on supernova! The loss of brightness of image (when using night vision with eyepieces less than 27mm) will be an issue with some targets but stars(& SN) seem to be ok.
- I would have liked to find a second comet but it will make it more meaningful if and when I find R2 PANSTARRS next time!
- I really struggled to move easily through my brightest galaxy list as they had passed the southern drop-down side of the shed at this early morning observing hour.
- NGC5746 was a surprise, I was just hitting some low down bright galaxies as they were about all I had left available. This provided the best galaxy view of the night.
- Night Vision is a game changer on these brighter galaxy targets, but the Ethos 21 & 13 remain key weapons in our arsenal foron the larger dimmer face-on galaxies which include my two recurring yearly favourites M33 and M101. The close-up “fly-by” experience with the added 100 degree surround-sound peripheral vision is just a special experience between me and my scope.
- I really love M5 now. The view with Night Vision is really something different. It has inspired me to create a “globular” observing list in Sky Safari just now. I think that I will try to get a “run” at some of these in April & May to see if there are any more lurking surprises…
It was nice to get one last session in before the Devils Orb takes over the skies for the next week or so. I hope we get a few more supernova above us while galaxy season is still here!
Edited by alanjgreen, 15 February 2019 - 06:35 AM.