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Galaxy observing - what to expect?

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#1 philinbris

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 06:57 PM

Hi All,

I am a newbie (hence posting here instead of DSO forum) and I have started to venture into locating galaxies in my relatively light polluted backyard (Bortle 5 to 6). I have been trying to find any - just one even one galaxy but have not succeeded. I am now wondering if what I am expecting to see and what is reality through an eye piece are not the same. I see the marvelous astro photos of galaxies but I believe not to expect anything like those in my eye piece as the photos are often may frames of long exposure stacked together.

 

A little about my setup. I have an 8 inch newt and a 12 inch dob both f5. I have primarily used the dob as I know galaxies are low light level so I thought the bigger aperture would be good here. I have used a number of eye pieces from a 2 inch 28mm to 1.5 inch 10mm, 16, 20mm and a 7-21mm zoom. No Barlow used yet but I have 2x and 3x 1.5 inch.

 

What have I been trying to locate is M104 sombrero as that is, or should be, quite observable from my location (Brisbane Australia). I know exactly where it should be at a given time and no amount of slewing / panning and eye piece changes seem to locate it. I use a digital level to get me close and then move up and down (alt) slowly by about 5 or 6 degrees and side to side (az) about 30 degrees of where the target should be according to Stellarium. I easily find other targets using this method so assume I should be on the right track for M104.

 

What am I doing wrong?

Has anyone got any suggestions?

Am I expecting a discernible object when it might be just a fuzz ball?

 

Cheers

Phil



#2 Paul Skee

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:05 PM

Yeah, fuzzy, that'll describe them. For a more objective view of what to expect, go on over to the sketching forum and have look at what these folks see at the eyepiece.


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#3 jeremiah2229

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:16 PM

Sombrero is a tough one here. Do not expect the bright galaxy with that stand out dark dust lane around it like the images give. Look for something thin, think of the Cigar galaxy because it will be thin but darker and that makes it easy to walk right over it. I would start around 60x and of course once you hit it try increasing the magnification. I cannot give it much power here as it will just fade out.

 

 

Peace...


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#4 philinbris

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:18 PM

Hi there,

Thanks for pointing me to the sketching forum.

Well that's certainly not what I was looking for. I will have another go with my modified expectations.

So to get better views one has to resort to long exposure imaging then - right?

Cheers

Phil



#5 philinbris

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:25 PM

Sombrero is a tough one here. Do not expect the bright galaxy with that stand out dark dust lane around it like the images give. Look for something thin, think of the Cigar galaxy because it will be thin but darker and that makes it easy to walk right over it. I would start around 60x and of course once you hit it try increasing the magnification. I cannot give it much power here as it will just fade out.

 

 

Peace...

Thanks for that advice too.

So on the zoom, I have a cheap $70 AUD Celestron type zoom. Is there any benefit is getting a higher end one say $350 AUD Baader Hyperion Zoom 8-24mm. Can I expect 5x the improvement or do they all tend to fade the light. I get the feeling $350 would be better spent towards a camera.

Cheers



#6 havasman

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:25 PM

Expect abject failure at first. But keep at it and expect improvement and real success pretty soon. You are extremely lucky to have the superior southern sky. I suggest you might try NGGC5139 in Centaurus. But M104 is also a good choice. You should be able to see NGC5139 naked eye this time of year and that's a huge advantage when you go to spot it in a scope. While you're in the area check out NGC5128 too. It will give you an impression of the differences in the two object classes.

 

You will build galaxy observing skills by observing them. Look for the small faint centers of most galaxies. These same skills can be developed by observing the wealth of open clusters in southern Centaurus. Look closely to see star colors and fainter members. Observing prominent objects carefully to see their less prominent aspects will help you bring those faint fuzzies into view.


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#7 havasman

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:33 PM

So to get better views one has to resort to long exposure imaging then - right?

Cheers

Phil

Absolutely NOT! From your location you will see the dust lane in M104 with your 12" when your skills mature. Look to the content of the LMC and see the Eta Carina Nebula, likely the finest object in the sky, and work to see the details that are present. Take your time with an observation. When you can, get out of town as just a short trip gets you to some of the best skies on the planet. From there objects will be transformed. A 12" aperture from there is a world class instrument that will certainly give you a new definition of gobsmacked.



#8 philinbris

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:33 PM

Hi Dick,

Thanks for those suggestions - I will be looking for them next session.

Isnt it funny, You think I am lucky with being in the south, but I think you are lucky in the north.

You have Polaris to align to - I find the south challenging for polar alignment. There also seems to be a lot of "stuff" out there written for the northern hemisphere versus the southern. There seems to be way more Galaxies observable - at least it looks like it when I search Stellarium. And not to mention the abundant easy access to Astro gear.

I guess the grass is always greener....

Cheers



#9 philinbris

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:36 PM

Absolutely NOT! From your location you will see the dust lane in M104 with your 12" when your skills mature. Look to the content of the LMC and see the Eta Carina Nebula, likely the finest object in the sky, and work to see the details that are present. Take your time with an observation. When you can, get out of town as just a short trip gets you to some of the best skies on the planet. From there objects will be transformed. A 12" aperture from there is a world class instrument that will certainly give you a new definition of gobsmacked.

Hi again Dick,

Point taken and yes - I am planning a weekend to get out of the light.

Trick is getting one where the clouds go over to New Zealand.

Cheers



#10 jeremiah2229

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:37 PM

Thanks for that advice too.

So on the zoom, I have a cheap $70 AUD Celestron type zoom. Is there any benefit is getting a higher end one say $350 AUD Baader Hyperion Zoom 8-24mm. Can I expect 5x the improvement or do they all tend to fade the light. I get the feeling $350 would be better spent towards a camera.

Cheers

I wouldn't fret about the oculars you are using because these are called faint fuzzies for a reason. As shared above get some sky time in with the gear you have. This object here will show a light wisp above and below the dust lane while the dust lane blends in with the sky until you observe it for a spell. It is easily passed by and when you walk the sky searching stop after every field and use averted version vision to help. It will pop out and once you know what to look for it is easy to bag.

 

 

Peace...

 

edit: lol I'm nuts!!


Edited by jeremiah2229, 29 May 2020 - 07:44 PM.


#11 Paul Skee

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:41 PM

+1 for experience. It is like many other skills. Practice. Patience. It will develop over time. Not long though, once you've glimpsed the immense beauty you'll quickly advance and see more and more. Using "averted vision" was, and is, a huge factor for my enjoyment of just about all that I see through the eyepiece.


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#12 havasman

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 07:45 PM

Hi Dick,

Thanks for those suggestions - I will be looking for them next session.

Isnt it funny, You think I am lucky with being in the south, but I think you are lucky in the north.

You have Polaris to align to - I find the south challenging for polar alignment. There also seems to be a lot of "stuff" out there written for the northern hemisphere versus the southern. There seems to be way more Galaxies observable - at least it looks like it when I search Stellarium. And not to mention the abundant easy access to Astro gear.

I guess the grass is always greener....

Cheers

Ah, you are correct about the published coverage and access to gear. Alignment can be done and with your Dob isn't a factor. I have observed from NSW and would be back there in October in a normal situation to observe with my friend with his array of gear. Those of us who have seen the sky from both N & S have no doubt which sky contains more staggeringly beautiful objects.

 

But the important thing is to see what's overhead, preferably along the meridian for best visibility and to keep looking. Get some good charts. I used the Night Sky Observing Guide volume 3 to prepare for the trip and research objects. My Aussie pal uses it regularly. I highly recommend it as a learning tool. Get some good charts. Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas is really just essential and covers N & S.

 

I look forward to hearing of your progress here on the forums.


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#13 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 08:05 PM

NGC 4945 is a fine galaxy in Centaurus that you may want to take a crack at.

 

https://apod.nasa.go...d/ap150528.html


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#14 Mark54

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Posted 29 May 2020 - 08:07 PM

To begin I will answer your first question..."what to expect?"

 

You should expect a pleasing surprise in the first accomplishment and recognition. That is how it was for me the first time.

And this leads me to M104. My first view of this faint fuzzy, which was also my first observed galaxy, was accomplished with my ES80MM APO. I found it by pure accident in my early meanderings in the stars. This was in the late spring of 2017. I only identified it after searching my planisphere. It was one of the few Messier located on this tool. 

 

It is, in this 80MM glass, well enough resolved to reveal the dark lane, but just barely. Seeing and transparency were very good

 

Visually galaxies are not spectacular. Intellectually they always please me. They appear as anything from a star like dusty glow to the more refined shape with even some resolve of arms and particular shape.

 

With my 127 SLT Mak I have observed most of the Messier galaxies. My sky is more or less bortle 4.

I would recommend an eyepiece that will give you something near 2mm or more exit pupil.  To determine your exit pupil simply devide the focal length of your eyepiece by the focal ratio of your telescope.

 

If you have an f10 telescope a 20mm eyepiece will give you 2mm exit pupil. Smaller exit pupils will dim the already dim faint fuzzy.

 

Do NOT expect anything so well defined as an astrophoto.

 

Clear skies and Good hunting to you!



#15 philinbris

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 02:55 AM

Those of us who have seen the sky from both N & S have no doubt which sky contains more staggeringly beautiful objects.

 

I used the Night Sky Observing Guide volume 3 to prepare for the trip and research objects.

 

Get some good charts. Sky & Telescope Pocket Sky Atlas is really just essential and covers N & S.

 

I look forward to hearing of your progress here on the forums.

Thanks for this info, I will check out these resources. I subscribed to S&T - the American / northern one before I realised there was an Australian version. The American one has more publications than us. Anyways, I will check out the pocket atlas.

I will take it from the masters that south is better - I am OK with that grin.gif

And I will report back.

Cheers


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#16 philinbris

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 02:56 AM

NGC 4945 is a fine galaxy in Centaurus that you may want to take a crack at.

 

https://apod.nasa.go...d/ap150528.html

Another to add to the list - thanks Dave.



#17 philinbris

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 03:04 AM


 

Visually galaxies are not spectacular. Intellectually they always please me.

With my 127 SLT Mak I have observed most of the Messier galaxies.

Do NOT expect anything so well defined as an astrophoto.

Thanks Mark.

An ordinary start is not that visually pleasing - but I love looking at them and dream how the light for some of them that I am seeing would be when dinosaurs were roaming the earth. Absolutely mind blowing for me.

Its great to see that you use a Mak for DSO. I have a 127 as well so I might give that a go. I always thought a Mak FOV was too small for DSO.

And nice confirmation on my suspicions on astro photo.
Cheers


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#18 chrysalis

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 03:10 AM

Lots of good replies. I'll just add a few things.

 

Check this website to generate lists of objects in constellations. Regarding galaxies, your skies are the same Bortle class (5) as mine. At first, while you hone your observing skills, concentrate on the galaxies with the greatest surface brightness values.

 

http://www.virtualcolony.com/sac/

 

Looking at other observers' drawings is a good way to recalibrate your expectations. Some good sketch websites:

 

http://www.deepsky-archive.com/

http://www.kolumbus....akko.saloranta/

http://skytour.homes...com/sketch.html

http://www.deepskywa...y-sketches.html

http://www.perezmedi...ves/000433.html

http://www.inet.hr/~...h/sketches.html


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#19 philinbris

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 06:38 AM

Thanks Mark.

I found these two sites particularly useful.

Cheers


Edited by philinbris, 30 May 2020 - 06:40 AM.


#20 MellonLake

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 07:00 AM

Phil:

 

I think the biggest thing that helped me find galaxies was getting to dark skies. I had a really hard time finding any galaxies in my 10" Dob when I first got it and was going to Bortle 4-5 sites.  I then started regularly going to a Bortle 2-3 site and found all of the Messier Galaxies.  I went back to my Bortle 4-5 site, knowing what galaxies look like and could find most of the ones I saw at my Borlte 2-3. 

 

I recently went to a Bortle 1-2 site and spent a couple hours cruising around in Virgo and noted well more than 50 galaxies (I realize you can't see Virgo frown.gif ).    In my experience getting to a really dark sky area, finding and viewing a couple galaxies will really help when trying to find/view them in Bortle 5.  In your 12", the Sombrero, M104 while still fuzzy will be very very obvious at a dark sky site (In Bortle 5 it is hard to detect)    Once you find and view M104, you should also be able to find M83 (Southern Pinwheel) it is a little more difficult, faint and fuzzy, but is still pretty apparent in dark skies (I could see it in my RA finder at the Bortle 1-2 site).

 

Also when I first viewed galaxies I did not see structure, now because I have learned to use averted vision, I have been starting to see structure in them.   They really require averted vision to see the structure.  

 

All the best.

 

Rob  


Edited by MellonLake, 30 May 2020 - 07:13 AM.

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#21 MellonLake

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 09:57 AM

Also the southern pinwheel will look something like M51 at this telescope simulation site. This site simulates objects well.  However the simulations of DSOs are more representative of the views at dark sky sites.  


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#22 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 11:55 AM

An ordinary start is not that visually pleasing - but I love looking at them and dream how the light for some of them that I am seeing would be when dinosaurs were roaming the earth. Absolutely mind blowing for me.

That seems to be a fairly common misconception.  The brightest individual stars can be resolved telescopically in a few of the nearest galaxies but other than supernovae, which are not ordinary stars, can't be resolved in galaxies that lie at distances of sixty-five million or more light years.

 

So with a few exceptions all the stars we observe lie within the Milky Way galaxy.



#23 FredOz

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 11:56 AM

What have I been trying to locate is M104 sombrero as that is, or should be, quite observable from my location (Brisbane Australia). I know exactly where it should be at a given time and no amount of slewing / panning and eye piece changes seem to locate it. I use a digital level to get me close and then move up and down (alt) slowly by about 5 or 6 degrees and side to side (az) about 30 degrees of where the target should be according to Stellarium. I easily find other targets using this method so assume I should be on the right track for M104.

 

I've been easily able to find M104 from my Bortle 5 front yard in Prescott, AZ via "star hopping."  Apparently most CN'ers follow a line of dim stars north from Corvus looking for asterisms called "star gate" and "jaws."  But I developed a star hop path from Spica following a line of three, 4th magnitude stars to the west and then south less than one finder-field to M104.  I made a chart from Stellerium that you can find at

https://www.cloudyni...ombrero-galaxy/.

 

Since you are from "down under" my right is your left and perhaps my down is your up.  You may want to make your own chart.

 

When you see jaws, which is a line of stars, in your low-power field, you will find it points right at M104 in the same field.  (I do not see why that asterism is called jaws -- I think the one called Stargate looks more like jaws, but whatever.)

 

You can see a nice photo of these asterisms at 

https://xt8dob.wordp...h-the-stargate/.

 

--- Fred


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#24 zipzipskins

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 02:56 PM

What I have found in my limited time looking at galaxies (from Bortle 8!) is that once you definitively find and are certain you've seen and observed your first "fainter" galaxy (i.e. not Andromeda or the LMC or what have you) others become much easier to pin down. For me, once I got M81 and M82 down for sure, I followed the next several nights seeing 7 different Messier galaxies- once you know what to look for as you can, they really do start to jump out of the eyepiece at you, and it becomes that much easier to see them.

 

Nate


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#25 Chesterguy1

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Posted 30 May 2020 - 03:24 PM

Like Fred and the OP I have Bortle 5 skies. I have no trouble finding M104 at a similar latitude to Fred. I have seen the dust lane with my 8” so that should be possible. With my 15” it is easy. I will say that it’s an object that never gets super high (about 40 degrees) even at my more southern latitude in the northern hemisphere, making it a more challenging target than it should be if there is any nearby city light pollution or hazy conditions.

 

Chesterguy


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