I went out to our dark site (~100 miles west of Houston) last night for a short night of observing. To much going on this weekend to spend the night. Larry Mitchell had his 20" f/5 out so I light-leeched off his scope for a few hours. Another observe had his 16" out so I took a quick peek through his scope.
The night started out weird as we had a "jet freeway" off to our west. As the jets passed their contrails would spread out and drift east. About 5 minutes apart. It was annoying. I looked at one of the planes through the 20"...saw four engines and it was flying upside down. Must have been Allan heading back to Sydney. Thanks mate for the clouds
As Larry was getting his stuff together I decided to have a try at Uranus. Simple you think? Nope...we were still in bright twilight. Looking at Sky Safari Uranus was about 2/3's the way between Venus and Aldebaran, which I could just see. I pointed the scope where I thought it would be, fished around a bit, and bingo...found it! We left it on as the sky darkened and were rewarded with fairly easily seeing the four bright moons.
We looked at quite a few DSO's..from Trumpler 9 to IC418. I will highlight two DSO's that stood out.
Bear Paw Galaxy
NGC 2537 Arp 6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_2537
This compact dwarf galaxy was quite easy to see in the 20" looking more like an evolved planetary nebula then it does a galaxy. Shaped like a chevron. The galaxy really comes to life when upon closer inspection. Pictures show an amazing spiral ring of HII and star forming regions filling the interior of the galaxy. Using high power and averted vision the structure seen in the pics become visible. Some sections of the ring appear stellar whiles others have a definite size to them. Similar to a small faint version of the Antennae Galaxy. With a little patience I could see the "entire picture" at times and make out the bear paw shape.
Hickson 44 Arp 316
This is one of my favorite galaxy groups. Two spirals (an edge on and a face on), a barred spiral and an elliptical make up this grouping. NGC 3190 is the most impressive. A nice edge on spiral with a prominent dark lane. Looks like a small version of the Sombrero. The most beautiful in pics, but the most difficult to see, is NGC 3187. A magnificent barred spiral that shows up visually as an elongated smudge. NGC's 3185 and 3193 round out the group.
It was a tough call to leave but I had to...long drive home. And of course as I was putting my stuff away the skies were improving from decent to great. Sigh...at least I got a little bit of observing in.