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Barnard's Galaxy from Bortle-4 Skies

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#1 Tony Flanders

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 08:30 PM

Every year or so I like to review all my favorite objects -- plus a few nemesis-objects thrown in for good measure.

 

Barnard's Galaxy, NGC 6822, is one of my nemesis objects. It's actually surprisingly easy to spot under dark, transparent skies, especially from southerly latitudes. And like most huge, low-surface-brightness objects, it doesn't need much aperture. I've seen it through my 70-mm refractor from Mount Lassen in California, and there are recorded sightings in 7x35 binoculars.

 

But that's under dark skies. From the backyard of my country home, which I usually rate as Bortle Class 4 on a good night (SQM around 21.3), Barnard's Galaxy is a challenge indeed. It doesn't help that it tops out just 32 degrees above the horizon, down in the light-pollution belt. As I was viewing it last night through my 12.5-inch Dob at 59X, I was reminded of something else I had done some completely other place and time -- I couldn't quite remember. And then it came back to me.

 

Barnard's Galaxy is to Bortle-4 skies as M33 is to Bortle-8 skies. I can see it -- sorta, kinda. I know there's something there, and can even vaguely make out its orientation and size -- which is huge. But it has no edges, nothing firm to grab hold of. If I look straight at it, it promptly disappears entirely. It's impossible to answer the question "does it extend to point X?" If I think the answer is no, then a further look makes it seem as though point X is in fact a smidge brighter than the sky a little further along. But if I think the answer is yes, then additional inspection make it seem as though point X is just like the rest of the background after all.

 

Another useful analogy is that Barnard's Galaxy is to M33 as M33 is to M31.

 

And then, of course, there's the huge, scary world of galaxies with even lower surface brightness than Barnard's. Like IC 1613, which I can barely see even under genuinely dark skies.


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#2 Diomedes

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 08:44 PM

Every year or so I like to review all my favorite objects -- plus a few nemesis-objects thrown in for good measure.

 

Barnard's Galaxy, NGC 6822, is one of my nemesis objects. It's actually surprisingly easy to spot under dark, transparent skies, especially from southerly latitudes. And like most huge, low-surface-brightness objects, it doesn't need much aperture. I've seen it through my 70-mm refractor from Mount Lassen in California, and there are recorded sightings in 7x35 binoculars.

 

But that's under dark skies. From the backyard of my country home, which I usually rate as Bortle Class 4 on a good night (SQM around 21.3), Barnard's Galaxy is a challenge indeed. It doesn't help that it tops out just 32 degrees above the horizon, down in the light-pollution belt. As I was viewing it last night through my 12.5-inch Dob at 59X, I was reminded of something else I had done some completely other place and time -- I couldn't quite remember. And then it came back to me.

 

Barnard's Galaxy is to Bortle-4 skies as M33 is to Bortle-8 skies. I can see it -- sorta, kinda. I know there's something there, and can even vaguely make out its orientation and size -- which is huge. But it has no edges, nothing firm to grab hold of. If I look straight at it, it promptly disappears entirely. It's impossible to answer the question "does it extend to point X?" If I think the answer is no, then a further look makes it seem as though point X is in fact a smidge brighter than the sky a little further along. But if I think the answer is yes, then additional inspection make it seem as though point X is just like the rest of the background after all.

 

Another useful analogy is that Barnard's Galaxy is to M33 as M33 is to M31.

 

And then, of course, there's the huge, scary world of galaxies with even lower surface brightness than Barnard's. Like IC 1613, which I can barely see even under genuinely dark skies.

Funny you mentioned M33. I hunted it down two nights ago for the first time.  Despite my best effort I could not see even a hint of it but then my skies are pretty bright but I thought, maybe I would have a chance with the moon out of the way.  It was still fun to start hop to the location. 


Edited by Diomedes, 21 August 2020 - 08:45 PM.

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#3 sgottlieb

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Posted 21 August 2020 - 11:19 PM

Out of curiosity, Tony, I wonder if the two small HII knots at the north edge of Barnard's Galaxy might be easier under your conditions than the galaxy itself.  They're compact and moderately high surface brightness, so can take higher magnification (to darken the background).  A narrowband filter might help also.

 

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#4 Redbetter

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 12:35 AM

Most of my observation of Barnard's galaxy has been in good Bortle 2 conditions although I sometimes target it in Bortle 3. 

 

I consider 21.3 MPSAS to be marginal Bortle 3, but that will depend on specifics of surroundings and transparency as well.  My low altitude dark site is in a blue zone transitioning toward green, and 21.3 is fairly common on good nights.  On the best nights when the air is dry and transparent and the Milky Way is positioned on/below the horizon the site will hit 21.5, while on poor nights it runs 21.1 or even a little brighter.  Southern exposure is over a large city light dome that provides much of the damage to the site, making Barnard's more marginal there--probably a mid Bortle 4 there, vs. mid Bortle 3 facing due north at the site.  The latter is probably similar to what you describe

 

In Bortle 2 skies on transparent nights the galaxy is readily apparent in the ST80 in finder mode.  When I was trying to show the galaxy and its two brighter HII knots to a complete novice in the 20" at a Bortle 2 site, he lined up on the finder eyepiece instead.  I had shown him a few other things and he had been doing well, so I didn't realize he was now looking in the finder as I described the faint haze of the main bar.  He took some time, then said he saw it, but it was "small."  That prompted me to look over and realize he was looking in the wrong eyepiece.  He was much happier with the view in the big scope!   Funny thing about it was he was developing cataracts which were impacting his night vision.

 

IC 1613 benefits from very large aperture in dark sky, since it has a number of features that can be detected with the combination, making it a more interesting subject if one also has a chart of what to look for.  Although low in surface brightness, it is sufficient to be detected in the ST80 in Bortle 2 sky, but Barnard's is considerably better.  An added problem for IC 1613 is the gegenschein.  It is best to observe IC 1613 during times of the year when it is out of the main glow of the gegenschein as the latter noticeably reduces the contrast of the galaxy.  It is still impacted by the zodiacal band, but not to the same extent as the "football" of the gegenschein.


Edited by Redbetter, 22 August 2020 - 02:02 AM.

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#5 Araguaia

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Posted 22 August 2020 - 03:08 PM

I enjoy the challenge of Barnard's Galaxy from my dark home, but I thought it would disappear with any LP except for the brighter knots.  Even from here it takes effort to determine how far it extends.  Even Jupiter, which is hanging nearby, seems to have made it harder this year.


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#6 Inkswitch

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Posted 23 August 2020 - 10:34 AM

I observed 6822 for the first time last night.  This one has low enough surface brightness as to make M33 easy.  I put it at 2:1 or perhaps 2.5:1 with the long axis almost exactly N/S.  There is a group of stars to the east that looks a little like an open cluster.  A degree or less to the North is a gem of a planetary nebula.  Transparency was iffy but the seeing was great which made the PN the more interesting target.  This was from bortle 3.5 with my 300mm reflector.  With 6822 it wasn't hard to see something was there at 45X, I observed with various magnifications up to 375X.


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#7 Bill Barlow

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Posted 23 August 2020 - 11:14 AM

I’ve had glimpses of it a few times from our Astro clubs darker site 25 miles south of KC using a C14, a 12” Meade SCT and a C11.  But the transparency has to be above average to see it.

 

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#8 BrooksObs

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Posted 24 August 2020 - 09:16 AM

In my experience Barnard's Galaxy is a real challenge for an experienced observer in a sky that is truly a Bortle class 5 whether using  binoculars or a small instrument..and utterly hopeless in a class 6 and above sky at our latitude of +41*. From a class 6 on upwards the sky background will always be brighter than the surface brightness of that galaxy.

 

BrooksObs


Edited by BrooksObs, 24 August 2020 - 09:19 AM.


#9 Chesterguy1

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Posted 07 September 2020 - 12:14 PM

I'm in a Boatel 5 zone and have yet to see it for the reasons Tony enumerated. I have tried with my 8" and 15" several times in good transparency. Location, location, location. It's a tough bugger that's for sure.

 

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#10 Astrojedi

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 12:23 PM

Every year or so I like to review all my favorite objects -- plus a few nemesis-objects thrown in for good measure.

 

Barnard's Galaxy, NGC 6822, is one of my nemesis objects. It's actually surprisingly easy to spot under dark, transparent skies, especially from southerly latitudes. And like most huge, low-surface-brightness objects, it doesn't need much aperture. I've seen it through my 70-mm refractor from Mount Lassen in California, and there are recorded sightings in 7x35 binoculars.

 

But that's under dark skies. From the backyard of my country home, which I usually rate as Bortle Class 4 on a good night (SQM around 21.3), Barnard's Galaxy is a challenge indeed. It doesn't help that it tops out just 32 degrees above the horizon, down in the light-pollution belt. As I was viewing it last night through my 12.5-inch Dob at 59X, I was reminded of something else I had done some completely other place and time -- I couldn't quite remember. And then it came back to me.

 

Barnard's Galaxy is to Bortle-4 skies as M33 is to Bortle-8 skies. I can see it -- sorta, kinda. I know there's something there, and can even vaguely make out its orientation and size -- which is huge. But it has no edges, nothing firm to grab hold of. If I look straight at it, it promptly disappears entirely. It's impossible to answer the question "does it extend to point X?" If I think the answer is no, then a further look makes it seem as though point X is in fact a smidge brighter than the sky a little further along. But if I think the answer is yes, then additional inspection make it seem as though point X is just like the rest of the background after all.

 

Another useful analogy is that Barnard's Galaxy is to M33 as M33 is to M31.

 

And then, of course, there's the huge, scary world of galaxies with even lower surface brightness than Barnard's. Like IC 1613, which I can barely see even under genuinely dark skies.

My experience pretty much mirrors yours. Look for the nebulous knots. They are visible a little bit more easily.



#11 j.gardavsky

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Posted 10 September 2020 - 01:56 PM

There is only one entry on the Barnard's Galaxy in my observing logbook:

15x85 binoculars, Ciablun Farm in Dolomiti Mountains, Bortle 2, 12th June, 2013

 

I have never tried this galaxy from my backyard, even if the Triangulum Galaxy becomes sometimes visible with unaided eyes.

 

Best,

JG


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#12 Allan Wade

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Posted 13 September 2020 - 01:36 AM

Location, location, location. It’s a nice galaxy for southerners, especially in larger scopes. But from here M33 can be a very difficult naked eye object.


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#13 Arcticpaddler

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Posted 16 September 2020 - 09:48 AM

I can see Barnard's Galaxy from my Bortle 3 backyard with 15x70 binos and my 4-inch refractor.  But it requires good transparency from my latitude above 47 north.

 

On those types of nights M33 is always a naked eye object.


Edited by Arcticpaddler, 16 September 2020 - 09:51 AM.

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#14 havasman

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Posted 16 September 2020 - 07:36 PM

I've tried NGC6822 several times. A couple of times I'm pretty sure I've seen the bright H-II regions and once I thought I'd seen some of the galaxy's low SB "structure" but I'd never swear to it. That's with the 16" from the club dark site.


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#15 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 16 September 2020 - 08:26 PM

I see Barnard's galaxy on a regular basis with my 12.5 inch, 16 inch and 22 inch Dobs from our place in the high desert. The skies are typically 21.2 mpsas at 40 degrees elevation that represents the galaxy near the meridian.

 

Epsilon 1 and Epsilon 2 and HR7496 are an easily recognizable group of three magnitude 5 stars that I use to find it. A line from epsilon 2 through HR7496 nearly points at Barnard's galaxy and Epsilon 2 and Barnard's galaxy are nearly equidistant from HR7496.

 

For me, it's an object I recognize by it's low contrast, large area.  I see it in smaller scopes but the "knots" are best seen in the larger scopes.

 

Jon


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#16 Astrojensen

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 10:41 AM

I observed Barnard's Galaxy for the first time last night, through my 63mm Zeiss refractor. It was near the meridian and the sky seemed fairly good, though by no means perfect, in that direction. After starhopping to the area, I glimpsed a very vague, slightly elongated glow at 20x (42mm GSO Erfle). 42x (20mm GSO Erfle) made it completely invisible. I only got a few, solid glimpses of it at 20x, before a slight haze made it invisible and further observations impossible.

 

The Little Gem planetary to its north should not be overlooked, once you're in the area anyway. It was visible with direct vision at 20x and 42x as a completely stellar object, but I didn't recognize it as a planetary, until I used 84x (10mm GSO Superview). At 189x (10mm GSO + 2.25x Baader Q barlow), I suspected a darker center. The nebula was bright at this magnification and could have taken a bit more magnification. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark 


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#17 Inkswitch

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Posted 18 September 2020 - 01:12 PM

The Little Gem planetary to its north should not be overlooked, once you're in the area anyway. It was visible with direct vision at 20x and 42x as a completely stellar object, but I didn't recognize it as a planetary, until I used 84x (10mm GSO Superview). At 189x (10mm GSO + 2.25x Baader Q barlow), I suspected a darker center. The nebula was bright at this magnification and could have taken a bit more magnification. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark 

It does indeed have a darker center.  I saw it as a fat ring in my 300mm.  To stay on topic I observed this PN and Barnard's Galaxy, both for the first time, during the August new Moon.


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