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Galaxies - how to find 'em

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#1 laurelg9

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:44 PM

I admit, I've never seen a galaxy in my telescope. Not for lack of trying. I have a 10" dob, but my front yard, where I observe, is pretty light-filthy. I live in Bortle 6 and have a streetlight over my head. Tonight it was quite clear, so I checked out the moon, Mars, Uranus (which was cool), resolved a couple of double stars, and then tried to find Bode's Galaxy. Andromeda is too high right now and I have zero view to the west.  I have the charts in Turn Left at Orion, and a telrad, and I'm reasonably sure I was in the right part of the sky but.......I can't tell if I'm SEEING a galaxy or not. 

 

Now, I have had lasik, and like I said, I have some pretty severe light pollution right over me.  But really.... 'fess up.  How do you find/recognize/see galaxies??  Are they really that hard?  


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#2 wrnchhead

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:48 PM

Yes they are. They are a broadband target, so they suffer the most from light pollution. Besides Andromeda and the Triangulum, they are also generally pretty small. I was disappointed in galaxies (including the big ones) until I went out to the country and also was truly dark adapted, then the universe opened up. 

 

I know that is disappointing news, but it's the way it is. Save those for when you can drag that water heater out into the country. 


Edited by wrnchhead, 21 January 2021 - 10:48 PM.

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#3 bsshog40

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:48 PM

Have tried using any apps for locating? I use Skysafari and you can search or just hit the night sky and see what is visible for the night. 



#4 Cfreerksen

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:57 PM

I have used my evolution mount and a 6SE Celestron and had good views. But goto and bortle 2 made it easy.

 

Chris



#5 laurelg9

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 10:58 PM

yep, I'm guessing galaxies might be what convinces me to try to drag my scope out into the wild.  


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#6 Knasal

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:04 PM

You need to get away from the light pollution and get to darker skies. Turn Left At Orion gives you a good idea of what they look like, but these are views dependent on a dark sky.

 

My copy of Turn Left says this: “the fainter objects on our list can stand no competition from other sources of light.”

 

If you can get to dark skies with no Moon in the sky, try looking for your targets again, and come back and let us know what you can see.

 

Welcome to Cloudy Nights!

 

Kevin


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#7 RazvanUnderStars

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:05 PM

Laurel, I gather you have a manual dob. Indeed, then locating a galaxy (save for the big ones like M31) is going to be difficult because they are faint and, in a light-polluted sky, it's very easy to move over them. Most likely you will only see the bright nucleus so they will be small. Still, a 10" dob is nice, I used to have one. Some suggestions:

  • look at the sketch at https://www.cloudyni...b/#entry7758752 (that's a similar question). Sketches are better than photos at showing a resemblance of the visual experience. That sketch is with a bigger (16") dob so assume what you'll see will be smaller and dimmer
  • when you can, locate M31 and consider it a baseline: every other galaxy will be smaller and dimmer. Also, see how much you can see from the extent of the galaxy, not just the nucleus. You will find the surface brightness published for objects that you observe. Check the surface brightness for M31's nucleus and for the arms, as much as you can see. In the future, you can check those against the numbers of other targets and thus make a guess whether this other object is going to be visible or not. 
  • a third option is to get a goto mount for your dob. Then the problem of locating objects is solved. Of course, this doesn't solve light pollution, but you'll know at least you're pointing in the right direction.

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#8 gwd

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:41 PM

"moon, Mars, Uranus (which was cool), resolved a couple of double stars, and then tried to find Bode's Galaxy. Andromeda is too high right now"

 

Too high? Could you wait?  It should drop to the west a bit. I thought even under the best conditions here that I couldn't see M31 but a few nights ago I noticed that if I swept north from the moon it would be over there somewhere.  I gave it a try in 20x60 binos and I saw the fuzzy patch of the central core.  I have a lot of experience but still cruising around with a 10 inch dob should let you pick up the core.  Check out the star patterns around there with binos first so you can orient the view in the dob.  

 

I  thought Uranus would be too hard to find because of light pollution.  Why did I think that?  I don't know.  I never tried until about 10 years ago.  Used a Sky and Telescope finder chart and no problem.  That was pretty cool for me but a personal embarrassment that I had that defeatist attitude about light pollution.   If you try to see M31 and miss it, see if you can see NGC752 off the head of the asterism I call "the golf club".   The night I found Andromeda I could pick up the golf club but NGC752 didn't show, except a few of its bright stars.   Its hard to predict which extended objects will be visible in a particular instrument just based on published numbers.  We have to try with the equipment we have.  


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#9 Codbear

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 12:01 AM

You may not need to go too far away to really see a difference. I live in a Bortle 4 area and I can easily see Andromeda with my unaided eyes. After 1:00 am when more house/porch lights are off it's even better - that's when I can see M33 if it's high in the sky.

 

Sky Safari is great for learning where the galaxies are and you learn a lot more about the night sky hunting them down. There will come a time in a Bortle 4 or better where you can't pull yourself away from Leo...the galaxies are almost pouring out of your 10" dob!


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#10 rblackadar

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 12:53 AM

Bummer about that streetlight. You need some way to keep from looking at that thing, or your dark adjustment will get blown away and you'll have no chance.

 

One thing that helps, for me -- and I wonder why I don't see it recommended more -- I wear a red laser safety goggle (the cheap wraparound plastic kind, under $10 from China) at all times except when looking through the eyepiece. Or at least, whenever there's a chance somebody or something (like a passing car) will shine a light in my eyes.

 

It might even help to do something wacky, like put a cloth over your head and eyepiece while observing, like the old-timey photographers used to do.

 

I think the easiest galaxy, after Andromeda, is M51. Right now, it's not very high in the evening sky of course, but it does have some advantages over M81: it's closer to the nearest bright star (Alkaid) and the distance is easy to judge and roughly in the direction of another bright star (Cor Caroli). Also the distinctive shape of M51 has a way of popping out at you like a pair of ghostly owl eyes. For me, it was bigger than I expected -- not all galaxies are tiny.

 

Galaxies will get a lot easier to find, once you know what to look for and get some experience star hopping. I'm all for Telrads in a dark sky, but if you can't see enough stars with yours to hop reliably, you might find it helpful to get a magnifying finder like a 9x50 RACI.


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#11 Hesiod

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 01:03 AM

I suggest to keep trying for M81 and M82 since are probably the easiest ones after M31 due to very high surface brightness.
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#12 Redbetter

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 01:46 AM

File this under:  "why can't I see galaxies during the day time?"  Same basic problem.  We have to wait for darkness, so it makes sense that if the sky isn't actually dark, various things will be difficult or impossible to see. 

 

I don't understand why people expect to see faint extended objects under moonlight or severe light pollution.   Planets and stars have high surface brightness, galaxies and nebulae do not.


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#13 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 05:47 AM

Laurel:

 

Most galaxies are difficult to see under light polluted skies.  If your skies are truly Bortle 6 and you can setup somewhere where you can avoid the direct light from the streetlight, then you should be able to see some galaxies.  

 

M81-82 should be visible but they are not such an easy star hop.  M31 should be visible but if you have no view to the west, that is a problem.  

Under light polluted skies, M31 is generally visible in hand held binoculars but all one sees is the bright core.  A fuzzy spot.  This is all one will see in a 10 inch Dob.  M32 will be visible in the 10 inch as a fuzzy spot.  

 

Under dark skies, galaxies take on a different nature but most are still just a fuzzy spot. 

 

Other galaxies visible are M51, an easy star hop, it should be visible as two bright spots.  M104, the Sombrero galaxy is very bright and a relatively easy star hop but does not rise until later in the night. M65 and M66 are doable but again, just two fuzzy spots.

 

Right now, the moon is a big factor, you should either wait until after moonset or wait until sometime after the full moon so you are observing from moonless skies.

 

Jon


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#14 spereira

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 08:56 AM

Moving to Deep Sky Observing.

 

smp


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#15 rblackadar

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 09:26 AM

 

I suggest to keep trying for M81 and M82 since are probably the easiest ones after M31 due to very high surface brightness.

Perhaps when I recommended M51, I should have added your mileage may vary. My point was to not get stuck on one bright galaxy when there's another equally bright one that might be an easier star-hop. I confess that I had a devil of a time with M81-82 back when I only had a red-dot finder. I had to use the main scope to star-hop, and M81-82 are a long way from Dubhe. (I also found it confusing to do the hopping upside down. Again, YMMV.)

 

Pull out all the stops, first time. Later, it gets easier.

 

Let me again emphasize, you should be diligent with your dark adaptation, and by that I mean don't expect 10 minutes to be enough.


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#16 NYJohn S

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 10:08 AM

One thing you could try is getting up early. The Moon should set by you around 3:24am and M81 / M82 will be in a better position. I have been taking readings with a dark sky app at night and in the morning. I'm surprised how much darker it is in the morning when fewer people have lights on.

I can see M81 & M82 from my Bortle 5 site with 10x50 binoculars so I'm sure you'll see them with your 10" Dob from there with a little practice. Another very easy galaxy in light pollution is M94. You probably won't see much more than the bright fuzzy core but at least you can check off a galaxy as observed.

Edited by NYJohn S, 22 January 2021 - 12:41 PM.


#17 erick86

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 10:25 AM

yep, I'm guessing galaxies might be what convinces me to try to drag my scope out into the wild.  

Yes!!! Do it!  It is so worth it. When I take my 8” out of the city, I literally feel like I just doubled my aperture. It’s such a treat!

 

Eric


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#18 erick86

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 10:28 AM

I have been taking readings with a dark sky app at night and in the morning. I'm surprised how much darker it is in the morning when fewer people have lights on.

This is an interesting observation!  I haven’t heard of this theory / trick before. Makes sense!

 

Eric


Edited by erick86, 22 January 2021 - 10:28 AM.


#19 George N

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 11:09 AM

10-inch? Under dark sky it should show tons of galaxies. You also mentioned moonlight - you should not hunt galaxies under a bright moon.

 

Last Spring, from my moderately light-polluted yard I observed maybe 35 of them in one night with my Celestron 9.25" Evolution on a typical night.

 

From a dark sky location it is difficult to NOT see a galaxy or three in the eyepiece field of my 20-inch Dob pointed away from the Milky Way. In a single sweep from zenith to Southern horizon during "Springtime Galaxy Season" I've counted dozens.

 

In addition to dark sky it may help to install DSCs on that 10" if you don't have one.


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#20 rblackadar

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 11:54 AM

 

One thing you could try is getting up early. The Moon should set by you around 3:24am and M81 / M82 will be in a better position. I have been taking readings with a dark sky app at night and in the morning. I'm surprised how much darker it is in the morning when fewer people have lights on.

Yes, and also, your dark adaptation will be ideal, as long as you can stumble outdoors without turning on any lights. I keep my red wrap-arounds at bedside to help with that, and also because one of my neighbors *doesn't* turn out his light.

 

(I seem to be the dark-adaptation crank today. wink.gif )



#21 KidOrion

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 12:37 PM

The first two galaxies I found from a Bortle 8--after M31--were M84 and M86. Both pretty high surface brightness, both fairly easy to find (almost halfway from Beta Leonis [Denebola] to Epsilon Virginis [Vindemiatrix]). They were easier to find than M81 & M82, in part because it was easier to look between two brightish stars than to "leap off" from a brightish star.


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#22 John J. Hudak

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 02:38 PM

I admit, I've never seen a galaxy in my telescope. Not for lack of trying. I have a 10" dob, but my front yard, where I observe, is pretty light-filthy. I live in Bortle 6 and have a streetlight over my head. Tonight it was quite clear, so I checked out the moon, Mars, Uranus (which was cool), resolved a couple of double stars, and then tried to find Bode's Galaxy. Andromeda is too high right now and I have zero view to the west.  I have the charts in Turn Left at Orion, and a telrad, and I'm reasonably sure I was in the right part of the sky but.......I can't tell if I'm SEEING a galaxy or not. 

 

Now, I have had lasik, and like I said, I have some pretty severe light pollution right over me.  But really.... 'fess up.  How do you find/recognize/see galaxies??  Are they really that hard?  

My condolences! I, too, live in a Bortle 6 area and it is next to impossible to do any serious star gazing from my house. I suggest you give up stargazing under a streetlight and drive your scope to darker sites.  Use light pollution maps like this one to find locations that have darker skies: cleardarksky.com/maps/lp/large_light_pollution_map.html

I used Google Maps satellitle view to scout out parks or other space that is open to the public at night.

 

Use this website to get a forecast of seeing conditions to avoid bad nights:

https://www.cleardarksky.com/csk/

 

Then, you will still need to spend a couple of hours to research the locations of the objects you wish to find and print out some star charts you can then use to star hop to your target. Binoculars, a wide field, low power eyepiece and a medium to high power zoom eyepiece would all help. I have a 6 inch f/8.3 reflector and use a 40mm Plossl (31x, 1.22 deg. TFoV) and a 24-8mm (53-160x, 0.79-0.44 deg TFoV) Baader Zoom.

Here is what I do to generate my own star charts:

1. Go to this website, https://theskylive.com/
2. Click on Planets. Then planet of interest, then Information.
3. Copy location coordinates and paste them into the Virtual Telescope found at: fourmilab.ch/yoursky/ Then click on Aim Virtual Telescope.

4. Under the white-on-black star chart click on Color Scheme/ Black on White  Background, then click Update.
5. Manipulate this black on white interactive chart to zoom in and set the max magnitude of stars to get views you need.
6. Right click on chart and select Save Image, then paste it into a Word Doc and print it….OR…
7. Right click on chart and select Copy Image, then open WORD doc. and “Paste Picture”, then resize and print it.

 

Once I print it I calculate what fields of view my eyepieces have and draw circles on the maps to show me how to approach the target.  See attached Neptune star chart.

It's surprising to find that our eyepieces only show very small sections of sky. All this homework will save you a lot of time and frustration once you are out in the field.

 

Happy Hunting,

JOHN

Attached Files


Edited by John J. Hudak, 22 January 2021 - 03:50 PM.

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#23 Supernova74

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 03:05 PM

Unfortunately with galaxies it’s not so much the instrument you use (within reason) firstly thay just demand darker sky locations even with a moderate size scope ie your 10” dob on many objects you still need to train your eye to a certain degree and I’ve found useing averted vision slighty does help the process.even with a dedicated CLS I used it once then sold it as myself personally found it useless as image brightness was reduced dramatically perhaps the more expensive variety may differ some what however I believe are mainly effective on imaging.

 

I also live in class bortal 6 sky’s same as yourself and on exceptional clear nights some galaxies are easier to detect and that’s with a 12”Meade ACF without a doubt the M81,M82,M31,M33 and M65 galaxies are the easiest targets to observe even with smaller telescopes however it’s not such a painstaking process as I’ve got goto.so it’s not so much as having the largest light bucket at your desposal it’s the sky conditions is your weakest link so perhaps you can travel to darker sky locations and I’ve heard from various members that galaxies only seem to shine more in contrast and construction of spiral arms etc is in class 3,4 sky’s and for exsample the M51in the plough or Big Dipper shows as a nucleus type glow with 2 stars similer to nebula and on some occasions can see tiny little detail with the spirals start forming.

 

thats not saying it’s not worth finding some of the brightest galaxies as thay are definitely worth a view but darker sky’s are your best weapon of choice here not your 10” dob as it’s a very caperble instrument.


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#24 jayrome

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 05:47 PM

Another good one to go after is M94 in Canes Venatici. Magnitude 8.2 but it always seems brighter than that somehow (high surface-brightness?) - but this time of year you'll be staying up a little later to see it. Easy to find as it forms a nearly isosceles triangle with Cor Caroli and Chara. Of course M51 is nearby but a bit harder to spot.

 

Bottom line - what most have already said in this thread, get out to darker skies. Even if you can get out to somewhere Bortle 4 or even 5 it will make all the difference.


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#25 Sheol

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Posted 22 January 2021 - 07:25 PM

                                               Lose the durn streetlight at the very least. If you cannot dark adapt your eyes, you will see absolutely nothing. After doing that, & finding a decently dark area ( even if its just away from porch lights!) you need to let your eyes get used to seeing in the dark, I either lay in my lounger & look at the Sky, picking out all the constellations & seeing how faint stars I can finally see. Or I start by viewing Open Clusters & other bright DSOs in my 'Scope. I generally find 2-3 favorites & go through my EP collection testing how well the Seeing and Clarity is, also. I try to spend about 10-15 minutes on each OC. If you do something like a lawn chair DA, you will need a minimum of 40-45 minutes. Even then, you are not fully dark adapted, but as you look for objects in Finders, etc. that should  help it along. Hopefully, you have also brought out a decent Star Atlas. One that goes to Magnitude 7 at least, Mag. 8 better. Check your target along with how the stars should look in your Finder & go.. Or get your alignment stars & get your object dialed in. ( I do not find that as satisfying as Star hoping myself tho..)

 

        Clear Skies,

                  Matt.


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