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Minimum Apererture for galaxies?

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#1 REC

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 11:20 AM

I'm in a Red zone light pollution in a typical suburban neighborhood. I observe from my backyard and have no direct lighting hitting me. I also have no one living behind me, but I face east where there is a light dome from a city 20 miles away. I always wait for objects rising in the east to get at least 30* above the horizon. On a very good night my NELM is about magnitude 4.5 at zenith.

 

So that's my situation and my question is about seeing some brighter galaxies brighter than magnitude 10 in my 4" refractor. My C102 is my main grab 'n go scope when I don't want to set up my other 8-10" scopes. I have a back issue and I figure observing with a 4" scope is better than no scope!  So my first target would be some of the galaxies in Leo and then over to Virgo. Starting out with Leo high in the sky, I wonder if I can make out some of the Leo triplets and others just below the star, Chertan. They have a mag. around 9.5 and are no too far from the brighter stars in the tail. I figure I just need to center one in the 8x50 finder and look about 5 degrees below. I would be starting OUT with a 20mm SWA 68* (50x) and if I spot a fuzz ball, move up to my 13mm 82* (80x).

 

So all, I know galaxies need dark skies, but for now, my backyard will hve to do. So, do I have a good chance, or just wait until I use a bigger scope?

 

Thanks all.



#2 junomike

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 11:32 AM

I'm in a Red zone light pollution in a typical suburban neighborhood. I observe from my backyard and have no direct lighting hitting me. I also have no one living behind me, but I face east where there is a light dome from a city 20 miles away. I always wait for objects rising in the east to get at least 30* above the horizon. On a very good night my NELM is about magnitude 4.5 at zenith.

 

So that's my situation and my question is about seeing some brighter galaxies brighter than magnitude 10 in my 4" refractor. My C102 is my main grab 'n go scope when I don't want to set up my other 8-10" scopes. I have a back issue and I figure observing with a 4" scope is better than no scope!  So my first target would be some of the galaxies in Leo and then over to Virgo. Starting out with Leo high in the sky, I wonder if I can make out some of the Leo triplets and others just below the star, Chertan. They have a mag. around 9.5 and are no too far from the brighter stars in the tail. I figure I just need to center one in the 8x50 finder and look about 5 degrees below. I would be starting OUT with a 20mm SWA 68* (50x) and if I spot a fuzz ball, move up to my 13mm 82* (80x).

 

So all, I know galaxies need dark skies, but for now, my backyard will hve to do. So, do I have a good chance, or just wait until I use a bigger scope?

 

Thanks all.

IME you need Orange skies at least.

I recommend a 120ST F5 as the extra 20mm will aid greatly in your situation.


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#3 LarryManuel

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:01 PM

Living just on the edge of a red zone for light pollution, I could consistently see M81 and M82 with 16x70 binoculars on a reasonably good night. And I followed quite a few comets from my backyard there.  It's my goal to encourage you, not tell you what won't work.  It has been my experience that practice and persistence will be a big help in seeing faint things.

 

In my observing, I find difficult objects require finding the galaxy's location quite carefully.  If the object is at the threshold of detection for me, I have to be sure I'm looking in the right spot [let's say within 1/2 to 1/4 degree circle].  Then I study the area carefully and often the galaxy will come into view after a minute of two -- possibly taking advantage of averted vision.  I'm not particularly good at using averted vision.  I scan my eyeball around, and the area under consideration benefits from averted vision -- intentionally or not.

 

My suggestion is to seek out M81 and M82 first; they are vey well placed for observation this time of year in the evening, high overhead.  Those, to my mind, are considerably easier to see than M65, M66 and M95, M96.  These four I've seen this spring from my observing site that's on the edge of a yellow zone, almost in the green, and I was using 15x56 binoculars. I also sought out and found NGC 3115, although that was a difficult observation.

 

Using a reasonably detailed chart, I try to find [pretty well] exactly where that galaxy I'm seeking is located, and then peer for quite some time, breathing deeply and steadily, often succeeding in finding it.

 

In your situation, you may not see it at 50x, at least not at first.  80x might help a lot with initial detection.  After that, you may find it at 50x.

 

Executive Summary:  Practice, practice, practice.  And know exactly where to look.  And seek out easy things first, then work towards the fainter things.  

 

Based on my experience, the galaxies of Virgo are going to be difficult for you, especially until they've moved away from that eastern light dome you mentioned and are culminating in the south.  There's something that I learned painfully slowly:  know WHAT a galaxy looks like.  This sounds ridiculous.  But it took quite a few years to know what to expect when looking right at a faint galaxy.  With light pollution, many will appear smaller as the low-surface-brightness edges are lost to sky glow.  

 

Good luck.  Never give up!


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#4 Procyon

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:02 PM

Oh man, I think that will be hard. I observe Galaxies from my Bortle 8 backyard (or red-white zone), but that's with 11" of aperture and with a forest instead of neighbors in the back. Never had much luck with an 8" unless on a camping trip or darksite.

 

The eastern light pollution is kind of blocked from my neighbors house/roof so that is helping me also. My view is SE to NW. I try and observe them when they are closest to the Meridian and as close to Zenith as possible. All are faint smudges mostly, but still nice to look at. 

 

On fainter ones, I kind of move the scope/eyepiece up and down so I can notice the Galaxy moving along in the field of view.

 

Try and find M66, one of the 3 Leo Triplets like I'm sure you know, that one seemed to really pop out last week for me. I use eyepieces with 1.7 - 2.5mm exit pupil and 170x-110x magnification usually. 


Edited by Procyon, 24 April 2019 - 12:30 PM.


#5 Astro-Master

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:04 PM

M 81 and M104 are two of the brightest galaxies, I'd give them a try first.  Last night I looked at M104 from my back yard (red zone) with my 6" Mak-Newt.  I was surprised how well it showed up, it was not a very transparent night, SQM was 18.27 and it was damp.

 

Using the Baader 8-24 zoom at 8mm with a 2x barlow at 182x the sky background was pretty dark, and the galaxy was easy to see.

I know a 6" gathers over twice as much light as a 4", but you'll never know unless you give it a try


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#6 TinySpeck

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:22 PM

In general, stars respond to aperture (bigger aperture = capturing fainter stars) and extended objects respond to f/ratio (lower ratio brings up extended objects).  Total integrated exposure time also brings up extended objects.  So for galaxy hunting, reduce your f/ratio and increase your exposure integration for better performance.  You can reduce f/ratio with a reducer on your 4" scope. 

 

But try it out first, as others have mentioned, and shoot for hours of good exposure too.  You may be surprised!


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#7 Astrojensen

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:23 PM

 

So all, I know galaxies need dark skies, but for now, my backyard will hve to do. So, do I have a good chance, or just wait until I use a bigger scope?

I know one thing with absolute certainty: You won't see anything if you don't look. So get out there and try. Who knows, maybe your sky is better than you thought and you can see quite a few galaxies with your 4", but you won't know if you don't try and if you wait until you get a bigger scope, you'll certainly not see anything in the meantime.  

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark


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#8 Astrojensen

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:24 PM

In general, stars respond to aperture (bigger aperture = capturing fainter stars) and extended objects respond to f/ratio (lower ratio brings up extended objects).  Total integrated exposure time also brings up extended objects.  So for galaxy hunting, reduce your f/ratio and increase your exposure integration for better performance.  You can reduce f/ratio with a reducer on your 4" scope. 

 

But try it out first, as others have mentioned, and shoot for hours of good exposure too.  You may be surprised!

The OP is about visual observing, not imaging. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#9 TinySpeck

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:31 PM

The OP is about visual observing, not imaging. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark

Oops, wrong forum...  But the aperture vs f/ratio argument still holds.  Just ignore the bit about exposure time.



#10 M11Mike

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:31 PM

S/B able to get the Leo Triplet with a 4" refractor on a clear night with good seeing and good transparency with fully dark adapted eyes.  But don't expect to see much detail...just three tiny light "smudges".    

 

I have seen them over ALBANY NY (20 miles south) at 45 degrees above the horizon with a 4" Celestron  Fluorite. 

 

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#11 Sketcher

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:43 PM

I wouldn't give up without trying.   Actually, I probably wouldn't ever completely give up!

 

A couple nights ago I was checking out some of the Virgo Messier galaxies with a 1-inch aperture (I have a darker sky!).  There are substantial differences between the visibility of the different galaxies in this region -- especially when using smaller apertures.  So, if you don't succeed with one galaxy, try for a different galaxy!  M87 stood out as being "obvious" on that night (with a 1-inch aperture) while some of the others were in the "averted imagination" category -- in need of confirmation on a different night.  Once the moon rose, I discovered there were thin clouds in my sky -- don't know if they were there earlier or not.

 

Use the opportunity to refine your observing techniques -- if necessary.  It's a great help if you can match star patterns in a telescope's eyepiece with those on a detailed chart, thereby removing all doubt concerning whether or not you're pointed precisely at your target's location.

 

It's challenges, especially those that we initially fail at, that help us all become better observers.


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#12 REC

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:43 PM

Oh man, I think that will be hard. I observe Galaxies from my Bortle 8 backyard (or red-white zone), but that's with 11" of aperture and with a forest instead of neighbors in the back. Never had much luck with an 8" unless on a camping trip or darksite.

 

The eastern light pollution is kind of blocked from my neighbors house/roof so that is helping me also. My view is SE to NW. I try and observe them when they are closest to the Meridian and as close to Zenith as possible. All are faint smudges mostly, but still nice to look at. 

 

On fainter ones, I kind of move the scope/eyepiece up and down so I can notice the Galaxy moving along in the field of view.

 

Try and find M66, one of the 3 Leo Triplets like I'm sure you know, that one seemed to really pop out last week for me. I use eyepieces with 1.7 - 2.5mm exit pupil and 170x-110x magnification usually. 



#13 REC

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 12:48 PM

Hey, thanks all for your feedback, makes perfect sense to keep trying! I do know what galaxies look like as I have seen quite a few of them in my 8" Go-to SCT. Maybe on the next really good transparent night I'll bring out my LS-8 and the C102. Find them first in the LS and then try it in the 4". That way I'll know exactly where I'm looking at!.

 

Clear skies all !


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#14 CeleNoptic

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 02:06 PM


I'm in a Red zone light pollution in a typical suburban neighborhood. I observe from my backyard and have no direct lighting hitting me. I also have no one living behind me, but I face east where there is a light dome from a city 20 miles away. I always wait for objects rising in the east to get at least 30* above the horizon. On a very good night my NELM is about magnitude 4.5 at zenith.

 

So that's my situation and my question is about seeing some brighter galaxies brighter than magnitude 10 in my 4" refractor. My C102 is my main grab 'n go scope when I don't want to set up my other 8-10" scopes. I have a back issue and I figure observing with a 4" scope is better than no scope!  So my first target would be some of the galaxies in Leo and then over to Virgo. Starting out with Leo high in the sky, I wonder if I can make out some of the Leo triplets and others just below the star, Chertan. They have a mag. around 9.5 and are no too far from the brighter stars in the tail. I figure I just need to center one in the 8x50 finder and look about 5 degrees below. I would be starting OUT with a 20mm SWA 68* (50x) and if I spot a fuzz ball, move up to my 13mm 82* (80x).

 

So all, I know galaxies need dark skies, but for now, my backyard will hve to do. So, do I have a good chance, or just wait until I use a bigger scope?

 

Thanks all.

 

Well, sounds familiar, I'm in a Red zone too (18.5mpsas at zenith). While I use here mostly 8" Dob, I did multiple experiments and suspect my findings could be applicable to your 4" frac or any other scope under similar observing conditions. My East and South East LPed by the Capitol Hill light dome (17.9 mpsas at 45*) and the darkest is least interesting North (18.3 mpsas at 45*). Messier galaxies like M81/82 or M64 are visible when high in the sky. The 'exit pupil window' allowing to see Messier's or similar low contrast dim fuzzies is pretty much narrow and strict, 2.5-2.7mm. What puzzles me this same narrow 'window' also works when dense filters used, e.g. Celestron OIII on DSOs like M97. I guess you may need 25-27mm eyepiece on the frac f/10, but you can try your 28 and 24mm Meade SWAs at least. When Leo Triplet high enough in the sky I can see/detect M65 and 66, but not the third member. For my sky and 8" aperture Surface Brightness of ~13m or so seems is limiting factor.

 

In this situation  Sky Quality Meter is really helpful for estimation of what can be detected both generally and on any certain night. I have it and can highly recommend to anybody. In combination with this Visual Detection Calculator and visibility forecasts (cleardarksky.com., meteoblue.com, calsky.com, weather.gov) it allows to plan observations more consciously. But you always need experimenting since Surface Brightness data published are not reliable and it's not rare when you see what 'theoretically' shouldn't and vice versa grin.gif . Unless you've read them I can also recommend GlennLeDrew's publications like A new DSO object visibility chart etc.


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#15 Tony Flanders

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 03:20 PM

I can see quite a lot of galaxies with my 100-mm refractor from my local city park, which has a zenithal NELM around 4.5 (for me). But none of them are easy, except perhaps M31, M81, and M82. Still, I think I'd have a good shot at seeing all the Messier galaxies.


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#16 brentknight

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 08:49 PM

Hey, thanks all for your feedback, makes perfect sense to keep trying! I do know what galaxies look like as I have seen quite a few of them in my 8" Go-to SCT. Maybe on the next really good transparent night I'll bring out my LS-8 and the C102. Find them first in the LS and then try it in the 4". That way I'll know exactly where I'm looking at!.

 

Clear skies all !

I just received my Orion 120ST - have not had a chance to observe with it yet though.  I think my skies are a little better than yours, but I plan to do something similar to what you suggest above.  I'm going to attempt to get the object in the field of my XX14g and let my GLP point to the exact location that I can then find with the 120.  Not sure how well this might work, but it's worth a try...  I'm very interested to see how well the refractor will do on an extended galaxy like M101 as I can just barely make it out with the 14".

 

I think it was Herschel who mentioned something about finding an object with a superior instrument making it easier with an inferior one.


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#17 Procyon

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 09:07 PM

The thing I like about Galaxy observing is the sheer size of them, both in real life and for many of them, thousands++ probably, within the eyepiece. There's some that you just cannot miss. Just saying this in general, I know REC has seen it all. 

 

Clear skies !


Edited by Procyon, 24 April 2019 - 09:11 PM.


#18 havasman

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 10:48 PM

From this white zone and under a full moon I was impressed with M94 last week. A Seyfert galaxy, the nucleus and core are very bright and the inner halo was also showing. You might want to add that one to the list of currently worthwhile options.

 

I expect there will be some galaxies you can see with a 4" refractor from a poor site.


Edited by havasman, 24 April 2019 - 11:35 PM.

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#19 David Knisely

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 12:40 AM

Well, a number of galaxies are visible in smaller apertures (and at least two have been seen with the unaided eye).  However, if you mean seeing them as anything more than just fuzzy spots with a hint of shape, then you probably need a bit more in the way of aperture.  In my little 2.4 inch refractor, as a rank "school kid" beginner before I really knew what I was doing, I managed to track down about 11 galaxies (M31, M32, M33, M81, M82, M51, M64, M94, M104, NGC 205 (M110), and NGC 253).  None showed much in the way of detail until I got my 8 inch f/7.  In my 4 inch refractor, I can see the dust lane in M104 on a good night, and get mottling over M33 and some detail in M31, including the main dust lane along one side and hints of the spiral arms, but to get much more than that, I have to go bigger.  My 8 inch showed hundreds of individual galaxies, but many of them just have shape and brighter cores.  The 8 did show the ring-like spiral form of M51, the mottling in NGC 253, and the "black eye" of M64, along with some darker patches in M82 (all with averted vision).  M81 only showed very slight hints of spiral structure in the eight inch, and even in my 10 inch and 14 inch Newtonians, that spiral never shows its form nearly as prominently as something like M51 or even M101 do.  Dust lanes in some edge-on spirals do show up in both my 8 and 10 inch scopes, although the 10 inch definitely has the edge when it comes to detail.  Still, as still a rank beginner, the first time I blundered into NGC 4565 (the "Needle") using my 8 inch, I instantly recognized what it was, as its form was almost identical to what I had seen in some low resolution photographs of it.  8 inches of aperture sort of gets you "over the hump" as far as galaxies are concerned, but at 10 inches, with some visual experience, you can tease out quite a bit of detail in a number of galaxies.  I would advise you to use what you have to boost your observing skills and then look at a good 10 inch for going for the galaxies from a good dark sky site.  Clear skies to you.


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#20 Astro-Master

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:51 AM

Just finished a nice little session with the Slellarvue 105 APO.  My CGEM II mount has been in the garage since Nov. with all the winter rain in sunny California.  I almost forgot how perfect the double stars look in a nice refractor.

 

I wanted to take a look at M104 in the 4" refractor after all this talk about is a 4" big enough for galaxies in a Bortle red zone.  I was using the Baader 8-24 zoom, and found it looked best at 8mm at 92x.  It looked almost as good in the 4" tonight as it looked in the 6" Mak-Newt last night.  The transparency was much better tonight, as well as the seeing.

 

I could just make out M66 with a 17mm sterling plossl at 43x.  The last object of the night was the double star Porrima, it looked amazing at 368x with the 3-6 Nagler zoom and the Celestron Ultima 2x barlow.

 

So there you have it, a 4" is big enough to see some of the brighter galaxies in the dreaded red zone, and its one of the best scopes to observe double stars with hands down!


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#21 Keith Rivich

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 07:28 AM

I'm in a Red zone light pollution in a typical suburban neighborhood. I observe from my backyard and have no direct lighting hitting me. I also have no one living behind me, but I face east where there is a light dome from a city 20 miles away. I always wait for objects rising in the east to get at least 30* above the horizon. On a very good night my NELM is about magnitude 4.5 at zenith.

 

So that's my situation and my question is about seeing some brighter galaxies brighter than magnitude 10 in my 4" refractor. My C102 is my main grab 'n go scope when I don't want to set up my other 8-10" scopes. I have a back issue and I figure observing with a 4" scope is better than no scope!  So my first target would be some of the galaxies in Leo and then over to Virgo. Starting out with Leo high in the sky, I wonder if I can make out some of the Leo triplets and others just below the star, Chertan. They have a mag. around 9.5 and are no too far from the brighter stars in the tail. I figure I just need to center one in the 8x50 finder and look about 5 degrees below. I would be starting OUT with a 20mm SWA 68* (50x) and if I spot a fuzz ball, move up to my 13mm 82* (80x).

 

So all, I know galaxies need dark skies, but for now, my backyard will hve to do. So, do I have a good chance, or just wait until I use a bigger scope?

 

Thanks all.

Don't wonder if you can see them...take your scope out and give the brighter galaxies a go.

 

Report back how you do.


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#22 InkDark

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 08:41 AM

My backyard is in a red-orange zone.

 

Your best bet is observing as close to zenith as possible. With my 10 inch I can always see M13 even if it is in the weeds. But when it is over 75 degrees or so, it is accompanied by the somewhat easy to see "little" galaxy (which I beleive is NGC6207).

 

Using my 6 inch Newt (with central obstruction), at this time of the year, I can see M81, 82, 51, 87, 65, 66, and more. You'll find bright ones around CVn.



#23 REC

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 10:37 AM

Just finished a nice little session with the Slellarvue 105 APO.  My CGEM II mount has been in the garage since Nov. with all the winter rain in sunny California.  I almost forgot how perfect the double stars look in a nice refractor.

 

I wanted to take a look at M104 in the 4" refractor after all this talk about is a 4" big enough for galaxies in a Bortle red zone.  I was using the Baader 8-24 zoom, and found it looked best at 8mm at 92x.  It looked almost as good in the 4" tonight as it looked in the 6" Mak-Newt last night.  The transparency was much better tonight, as well as the seeing.

 

I could just make out M66 with a 17mm sterling plossl at 43x.  The last object of the night was the double star Porrima, it looked amazing at 368x with the 3-6 Nagler zoom and the Celestron Ultima 2x barlow.

 

So there you have it, a 4" is big enough to see some of the brighter galaxies in the dreaded red zone, and its one of the best scopes to observe double stars with hands down!

Hey, thanks for your post, interesting! I too have the Baader zoom, so will give that a try too! What is your kind of zone you live in, red too?



#24 jjbag

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:10 PM

When I first started 2 years ago, it was in a borttles 8 zone. I used a Meade Mini 130 (5"). I was able to see ALOT of galaxies and a lot of globular clusters. For me at least it was never an aperture issue with the brighter DSO's, it was usually me being off on my initial setup with my setting circle and angle finder that did it.. Once i conquered that, I was golden on most things... (mumbles bout stupid nebula's)...



#25 Astro-Master

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Posted 25 April 2019 - 02:44 PM

Hey, thanks for your post, interesting! I too have the Baader zoom, so will give that a try too! What is your kind of zone you live in, red too?

Yes I live in the dreaded red zone, but every month around the new moon I drive 75miles to the blue zone in the Anza Borrego Desert with my Obsession 18, and leave the red zone behind.


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