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Can't seem to find those darn galaxies...

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#1 ZetaOrionis

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:23 PM

Last Sunday night I decided to take my 6" schmidt-cassegrain telescope out for a spin on my front lawn after several weeks of no-use. Despite being a pretty cloudy night, with clouds repeatedly rolling in at the different hours, I was still able to see some really great stuff including the Orion Nebula, Messier 35, Messier 79, the central star cluster of Rosette Nebula, and the Eskimo Nebula (which appeared as a tiny greenish star that was too tiny to show any real detail). However the one thing I was really hoping to see, but I was not able to see were some of the galaxies. I tried going to M95, M81, M82, and M51, but despite that I hit no luck.

My telescope has a motorized go-to mount and my alignment didn't seem to be off since I was able to find all sorts of other objects just find, but I still simply couldn't see any galaxies. I live in a suburb which is a class-7 area on the bortle scale, meaning that its pretty light polluted, but I have heard that you should be able to see at least M81 & M82 from light-polluted skies. Ironically enough in the light-polluted area where I live, I have been able to see the faint glowing core of the Andromeda Galaxy, the faint impression of the Sombrero Galaxy, and some spherical galaxy around the area of Coma Berenices that I never identified, but anything else thats extragalactic I haven't been able to see.

What I am trying to figure out is that is this a problem with my scope size (ie. do I need to upgrade my telescope's mirror size to see more galaxies), is this a problem with the light pollution, or am I just simply really bad at finding faint objects? I also have a getaway that I can go thats in only a level 3 area on the bortle scale: would going there on a moonless night improve my chances? Any help/advice would be tremendously appreciated.


Edited by ZetaOrionis, 20 January 2021 - 03:30 PM.


#2 John Miele

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:33 PM

95% sure it's just your light pollution. Those galaxies are probably in your field of view but are so faint you are just overlooking them. Try nudging the scope back and forth. Dim faint things show up better with a little motion.


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#3 Noah4x4

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:38 PM

I suggest you get a copy of a book called "Turn Left at Orion". This shows what you might expect to see, which might be disappointing. Many DSOs under light polluted skies are barely visible except as grey fuzzies.

 

A fair bit of this book can be reviewed on line at https://www.cambridge.org/turnleft

 

For galaxies take a look at the section on April skies. 

 

Don't make the mistake I did. I spent a fortune improving eyepieces, improving diagonal and other equipment for visual. Unless under really good dark skies, you might remain disappointed. Light pollution is why many of us have turned to Electronically Assisted Observing (EAA). However, if you focus on planets and star clusters you can have a reasonably visual experience under light polluted skies, but galaxies and nebula might be difficult. 


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#4 Glen10

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:40 PM

Not my expert subject but from past experience in 2 to 12" scopes & semi dark rural to suburban skies Galaxies can be elusive.

Patience is called for in less than ideal LP'd  skies, waiting for the best nights of transparency.

 

A good start would be checking m31 & companions regularly~ m32 should also be visible ? If you can see m110 also, it's a reasonable night to try galaxy hunting.

m81 & m82 should be a fair bit easier than m110.

 

Not found m33 that difficult to see from suburban skies on a good night & with low power.

 

Suprising what you can see from suburban skies with patience.

 

You will do much better @ your getaway though. For DS an  80mm scope  5miles out of town = 120mm from my backyard.~ your mileage may vary.



#5 rhetfield

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:48 PM

About the only galaxy I can see from my bortle 7 driveway with a 5" newt is a very disappointing view of the central core of Andromeda.  Occasionally M81 on a really good night.


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#6 LIVE LONG

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 03:56 PM

   I have a  Bortle 7/8 sky here in Connecticut. 

 

   The only way I can view galaxies or "faint fuzzies" is with my 10 inch dobsonian. And they are just that "faint fuzzie's", nothing more!frown.gif

 

   The best thing you can do is realize the viewing limitation's in your light polluted skies, and stick to viewing open clusters, double star's, globular clusters, the planet's, and of course the moon.

 

   You can also travel to a site with darker skies, if possible. Your site with Bortle 3 skies, will help!


Edited by LIVE LONG, 20 January 2021 - 04:16 PM.


#7 DSOGabe

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:10 PM

The main issue is the light pollution. Secondary is the size of your scope. I have a 10" SCT and live under B-8 skies. I have a hard time finding pretty much any galaxy dimmer than mag 10 or so. Those that I can see, its just the brighter core.



#8 aeajr

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:21 PM

Last Sunday night I decided to take my 6" schmidt-cassegrain telescope out for a spin on my front lawn after several weeks of no-use. Despite being a pretty cloudy night, with clouds repeatedly rolling in at the different hours, I was still able to see some really great stuff including the Orion Nebula, Messier 35, Messier 79, the central star cluster of Rosette Nebula, and the Eskimo Nebula (which appeared as a tiny greenish star that was too tiny to show any real detail). However the one thing I was really hoping to see, but I was not able to see were some of the galaxies. I tried going to M95, M81, M82, and M51, but despite that I hit no luck.

My telescope has a motorized go-to mount and my alignment didn't seem to be off since I was able to find all sorts of other objects just find, but I still simply couldn't see any galaxies. I live in a suburb which is a class-7 area on the bortle scale, meaning that its pretty light polluted, but I have heard that you should be able to see at least M81 & M82 from light-polluted skies. Ironically enough in the light-polluted area where I live, I have been able to see the faint glowing core of the Andromeda Galaxy, the faint impression of the Sombrero Galaxy, and some spherical galaxy around the area of Coma Berenices that I never identified, but anything else thats extragalactic I haven't been able to see.

What I am trying to figure out is that is this a problem with my scope size (ie. do I need to upgrade my telescope's mirror size to see more galaxies), is this a problem with the light pollution, or am I just simply really bad at finding faint objects? I also have a getaway that I can go thats in only a level 3 area on the bortle scale: would going there on a moonless night improve my chances? Any help/advice would be tremendously appreciated.

I had the same experience with my GoTo scope.   Why can't I see galaxies?  And where are most of the Nebula?

 

I was looking at the Andromeda galaxy and didn't even realize I was looking at it. It was a tiny gray smudge, barely visible in the eyepiece. 

 

The issue is sky glow and surface brightness.

 

Light Pollution
https://telescopicwa...ight-pollution/

 

Magnitude vs. Surface Brightness - very important if you are in a light polluted area
https://www.cloudyni...cant-see-stuff/
https://tonyflanders...ace-brightness/


Edited by aeajr, 21 January 2021 - 11:54 AM.


#9 MellonLake

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:31 PM

I have spent a good deal of time tracking down Galaxies from various observing sites.  At home my skies are Bortle 7-8.  At my winter dark sky site Bortle 4.  At my summer cottage Bortle 2 and a site near the cottage Bortle 1.  The following are what I believe is required for viewing galaxies.

 

#1 Dark Skies

I have spent time looking at the Virgo galaxies from these sites.  Below is my assessment of visibility of these galaxies due to light pollution.

 

Bortle 7-8  No Galaxies Visible

Bortle 4     Approximately 8 Galaxies visible

Bortle 2     Approximately 20 Galaxies visible

Bortle 1     Approximately 67 Galaxies visible (what I found in 2 hours).

 

Nothing has a larger impact on finding galaxies than dark skies.

 

#2 Transparency

If the sky is not really clear with excellent transparency, it can be hard to find faint galaxies.

 

#3 Dark Adaptation

Galaxies are really really faint.  You need to get dark adapted.  No lights for 1 hour, (I prefer not even red lights).  I really mean no light.  At my Bortle 1 site when I am dark adapted I can see shadows cast by the light from the milky way.  

 

#4 Averted Vision

Faint galaxies really require practice with averted vision.  Where I could not see detail in M51 when I started out, I now clearly see the spiral arms and it looks like the companion galaxies is stealing stars.

 

#5 Aperture

I have compared my 120mm refractor (which is similar to your 6" telescope in light gathering) to my 90mm MCT and 10" Dobsonian.  The 10" is in an entirely different class for galaxies.  Not really a comparison. Your 6" will show you the brighter galaxies in Dark skies but aperture really helps for galaxies.  Having said that I have found many of the Messier galaxies in the 90mm MCT in dark skies.  

 

I really can not stress enough how ALL of the above steps are important to finding galaxies.  

 

In November, I spent 4 hours searching out galaxies in Pegasus, Triangulum, Andromeda, Cetus, and Pisces in Bortle 4 skies.  I was able to identify 22 galaxies in the 10".  So finding galaxies even at this time of year is doable.


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#10 spaceoddity

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:33 PM

I agree with the others in that your biggest issue is the light pollution. Yes more aperture will show you more, especially when it comes to faint fuzzies like galaxies, but more aperture isn't going to help much in bortle 7 skies. Surprised you could make out the sombrero though. That one is tougher than the other galaxies you mentioned for me at my latitude. Yes, going to a bortle 3 on a moonless night would help immensely. Think of it this way. The object you will be looking for will be the same brightness but the background will be much darker. 


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#11 spaceoddity

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 04:55 PM

I have spent a good deal of time tracking down Galaxies from various observing sites.  At home my skies are Bortle 7-8.  At my winter dark sky site Bortle 4.  At my summer cottage Bortle 2 and a site near the cottage Bortle 1.  The following are what I believe is required for viewing galaxies.

 

#1 Dark Skies

I have spent time looking at the Virgo galaxies from these sites.  Below is my assessment of visibility of these galaxies due to light pollution.

 

Bortle 7-8  No Galaxies Visible

Bortle 4     Approximately 8 Galaxies visible

Bortle 2     Approximately 20 Galaxies visible

Bortle 1     Approximately 67 Galaxies visible (what I found in 2 hours).

 

Nothing has a larger impact on finding galaxies than dark skies.

 

#2 Transparency

If the sky is not really clear with excellent transparency, it can be hard to find faint galaxies.

 

#3 Dark Adaptation

Galaxies are really really faint.  You need to get dark adapted.  No lights for 1 hour, (I prefer not even red lights).  I really mean no light.  At my Bortle 1 site when I am dark adapted I can see shadows cast by the light from the milky way.  

 

#4 Averted Vision

Faint galaxies really require practice with averted vision.  Where I could not see detail in M51 when I started out, I now clearly see the spiral arms and it looks like the companion galaxies is stealing stars.

 

#5 Aperture

I have compared my 120mm refractor (which is similar to your 6" telescope in light gathering) to my 90mm MCT and 10" Dobsonian.  The 10" is in an entirely different class for galaxies.  Not really a comparison. Your 6" will show you the brighter galaxies in Dark skies but aperture really helps for galaxies.  Having said that I have found many of the Messier galaxies in the 90mm MCT in dark skies.  

 

I really can not stress enough how ALL of the above steps are important to finding galaxies.  

 

In November, I spent 4 hours searching out galaxies in Pegasus, Triangulum, Andromeda, Cetus, and Pisces in Bortle 4 skies.  I was able to identify 22 galaxies in the 10".  So finding galaxies even at this time of year is doable.

I agree with everything except the number of galaxies visible. My dark site is bortle 3-4(dark green on the map) and I've seen every galaxy on the Messier list there plus a few others in my 10 inch dob, probably 35 or more, and I don't have the greatest of eyesight. Now seeing detail in any of those galaxies is another challenge. 



#12 MellonLake

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 05:05 PM

I agree with everything except the number of galaxies visible. My dark site is bortle 3-4(dark green on the map) and I've seen every galaxy on the Messier list there plus a few others in my 10 inch dob, probably 35 or more, and I don't have the greatest of eyesight. Now seeing detail in any of those galaxies is another challenge. 

My comment on the number of visible Galaxies was for Virgo galaxies only! 

 

I agree, all the Messier galaxies are easily visible in a 10" in Bortle 3-4.  

 

Rob  



#13 Sheol

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 07:03 PM

                                 All the above is correct, but you all are omitting the most important element of galaxy viewing. It is simply this: Experience. Without this, the OP will not even tell the subtle difference in the grey of the sky vs. the slightly lighter grey of a galaxy. These are probably the hardest DSOs, well also some nebulae, to view. Some are small & very faint. Some are larger but their light gets spread out, making them seem even fainter. Its probably best to leave galaxies alone for awhile. And when you do try, remember all the advice above here, plus make sure you try for about an hour of dark adaptation.

 

                            Clear Skies,

                                   Matt.


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#14 sevenofnine

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 07:44 PM

M81-M82 are definitely visible using small scopes. It's just city light domes are going to make them hard to see. If you can take the scope to a Bortle 3-4 area you will be surprised at how many you can see. Good luck & good hunting!


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#15 vtornado

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Posted 20 January 2021 - 10:46 PM

Last summer I successfully tracked down M81 in a bortle 7 sky in a 5 inchf/5  refractor, but boy it was hard.

 

I was using a 30mm 2inch eyepiece to max my field of view and it was in my field of view and I couldn't see it.

Not having confidence that I was looking in the right place, after panning back and forth and watching asterisms, 

I had confidence that I was in the right spot.  It was only when I went down to a 15mm eyepiece I could barely see it.  (exit pupil 3).

 

I have been skunked on seeing any of the leo triplet.


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#16 sg6

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 04:19 AM

Pick the target well.

M31 is a no-no, just too big for your scope and being a low surface brightness you could be looking at it without realising so.

 

As M42 sounds possible consider galaxies of 1 degree and smaller. Which brings M33 into play.

 

So suggesting M33 I would get the 6SE set up well, then goto Almaak, center that pair and synch or whatever the scope and then goto M33. Whatever your widest lowest power EP is use that.

 

There is likely one or two better galaxies, thinking smaller but better surface brightness here, jsut no real idea which. But again get the habit of centering a nearby star, synching, then the final goto the galaxy. Your inherent narrower field of view is the reason for the indirect movement.



#17 alder1

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 06:51 AM

I agree with the consensus here regarding the need for dark skies. Just for the sake of comparison: in my bortle 2 skies, I’ve seen most of the Messier galaxies in my 10x50 binoculars. (Mounted.) And yes, they might only be faint grey blurs, but the excitement of finally spotting one of these elusive objects is thrilling!

#18 WoodlandsAstronomer

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 07:20 AM

I think this is an area where the purveyors of equipment aren’t as honest and transparent as they should be. To be clear, visual and AP are not the same, not even close. In light polluted skies you can see the moon and planet and a few exceptionally bright nebula. Most other DSOs are exceptionally underwhelming if even discernible at all. EAA and AP take advantage of the ability to integrate light collection over a period of time to increase faint signal, something your eyes cannot do. I live in bortle 8+, I prefer visual, I run my AP rig to capture DSOs I can’t see, and then use my SCT to see solar system objects I can. And on occasion I get to dark sites. I know so many ppl that spend thousands on an SCT and accessories and they are super disappointed...

#19 Tony Flanders

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 07:22 AM

Pick the target well.
M31 is a no-no, just too big for your scope and being a low surface brightness you could be looking at it without realising so.


The only this statement lacks is correctness. In fact, M31 is by far the easiest galaxy to recognize, regardless of what instrument you're using and regardless of how bright your skies are. It has fairly high surface brightness as galaxies go, and the central region has super-high surface brightness, making it readily visible to the experienced eye even from the center of a major city.
 
Note that the Original Poster did in fact see M31, together with M104 and (probably) M64.
 

So suggesting M33 I would get the 6SE set up well, then goto Almaak, center that pair and synch or whatever the scope and then goto M33. Whatever your widest lowest power EP is use that.


This, by contrast, is a guaranteed recipe for failure, at least for a newbie. M33 is one of the four or five hardest Messier galaxies to spot under heavy light pollution due to its inordinately low surface brightness (much lower than M31, by any measure!). Yes, I can see M33 under Bortle-8 skies, but I have lots of experience viewing faint objects under bright skies.

In response to the Original Poster, it's conceivable that you were looking right at M95 and failed to notice it. It is exceedingly small and highly concentrated, and can look quite like a faint star if you don't look carefully. Much like M32, though much smaller.

 

But I am surprised about not seeing M81. It's quite a bit brighter than M104.


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#20 Tony Flanders

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 07:32 AM

Last summer I successfully tracked down M81 in a bortle 7 sky in a 5 inchf/5  refractor, but boy it was hard.


That doesn't sound right at all! Are you sure that your skies are really Bortle 7? Do you have lots of ambient light to fight at that site?

Messier 81 was the fifth deep-sky object that I ever logged, using a 70-mm refractor from my local city park, which is Bortle 8 at best, and possibly Bortle 9.

 

I did log it as "difficult," which proves the importance of experience. Using the same scope at the same site, I now find M81 to be hit-me-over-the-head obvious. And visible though challenging through 10x30 binoculars.



#21 Tony Flanders

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 07:37 AM

In light polluted skies you can see the moon and planet and a few exceptionally bright nebula. Most other DSOs are exceptionally underwhelming if even discernible at all.


Disappointment is in the mind of the beholder. I find DSOs thrilling to view, even under bright urban skies. And a fair number -- almost exclusively star clusters -- are even spectacular.

Granted, DSOs are both vastly easier to find and (with a few exceptions) vastly more impressive under dark skies. But even there, the thrills are in the mind of the beholder. I've seen newbies blow away by the views of galaxies through my 70-mm refractor, while others, under identical conditions, are totally uninterested in viewing the same objects through scopes with 40 times as much light-gathering power.


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#22 Kutno

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 08:50 AM

ZetaOrionis,

 

Except for finding the very brightest members of the group, galaxy hunting has been a very disappointing endeavor.  As others note:  light pollution.   Thought things would improve when I moved out of New York City  -  no dice.  Looking at things on the bright side:  Visiting friends who live either near or in the Pocono Mountains region of northeastern Pennsylvania, many years ago during New Years Eve, revealed a wonderful and bountiful canopy of stars, and a truly spectacular naked eye view of Andromeda Galaxy!



#23 MellonLake

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:20 AM

Most people who complain about galaxies being underwhelming, have not seen them from truly dark skies, in great transparency, and being fully dark adapted. In Bortle 7-8 Andromeda is a smudge.  In Bortle 1 it is naked eye visible, astoundingly huge (bigger than can fit in one field of view of my 10" Dob), has visible features (dust lanes).  Andromeda is an amazing object in dark skies. 

 

In Bortle 1 and 2, many other galaxy and galaxy clusters are very cool (Deer Lick Group), M51, Markarian's Chain, and Leo Triplet.  In dark skies details are visible in bright galaxies like M51, Sunflower, M33, M31, M81...  Virgo is simply galaxy after galaxy after galaxy, the sheer number is amazingly impressive. 

 

Personally, I find galaxy viewing and hunting very rewarding but it is far more rewarding in dark skies.  


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#24 rhetfield

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:22 AM

That doesn't sound right at all! Are you sure that your skies are really Bortle 7? Do you have lots of ambient light to fight at that site?

Messier 81 was the fifth deep-sky object that I ever logged, using a 70-mm refractor from my local city park, which is Bortle 8 at best, and possibly Bortle 9.

 

I did log it as "difficult," which proves the importance of experience. Using the same scope at the same site, I now find M81 to be hit-me-over-the-head obvious. And visible though challenging through 10x30 binoculars.

I do wonder about that quite a bit.  Your urban sky catalogs list things as being quite a bit easier to find from your listed home base than what I experience at my suburban location.  I live only a short distance from Tornado and most often, M81 is not visible.  Generally M31 looks like a relatively small and dim globular.  Lightpollutionmap lists you as being SQM 17.85 vs my 18.73.

 

I wonder if midwestern haze or my city's larger/brighter light dome is a factor.


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#25 Bigal1817

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 12:38 PM

M81 & M82 will show up as faint fuzzies in your telescope.  In a 6" telescope, they may resemble a "smudge" from a fingerprint on your eyepiece or front glass.  Do a little searching on CN about averted vision, its a technique to practice to help you better recognize and observe the DSOs.  Unfortunately, M51 cannot be seen, at least I have not, from light-polluted areas or when the moon is out.  


Edited by Bigal1817, 21 January 2021 - 12:39 PM.



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