It was a last-second decision. Winds were forecast to be 15mph plus, but I just couldn't help myself. I was on the road to northeast Michigan.
Having purchased a 10mm and 6mm Delos last week, I wanted to break them in for the galaxy season. I also bought an H-beta from Cner BrentKnight, and I really wanted to see the horsehead and Barnard's loop after years of fascination with them. This new moon is the last chance to see these objects before they sink into twilight.
The weather was pretty great. My lakeside location protected me from all but a few gusts of the westerly wind. There was no moisture in the air, and transparency allowed for a confirmed magnitude 6.4 star.
During twilight, the ISS passed by in the north. I was setting up the Telrad and quickly pointed the scope with a 14mm eyepiece at the station. It was incredible. I've seen truss structures and solar panels before, but the detail at 147x was unreal.
I dark adapted as the night got started. Looking to the south, I popped in the filter to see Barnard's loop above M78. It was immediately obvious as a bright and narrow band. I traced this nebulosity down the constellation. It has uneven brightness and wasn't too hard to follow until the area near Orion's belt. Very cool. I wish I would have held the filter up to the 9x50 or even my eye to see it all at once, but my next target distracted me for too long and Orion was in the trees by the time I was ready to observe it again.
Now it was time. My first Horsehead attempt. I was surprised by how easily IC 435 came into view. IC 435 was a thin and faint band of light, brighter towards HD 37805. The Horsehead's neck was a pitch-black indentation into the nebula, and careful concentration revealed the head shape's bend. It was unreal to finally see this famous object. The Horsehead and Barnard's loop were seen using a 6mm exit pupil with a 1-degree fov. I used my 27 Panoptic without the Paracorr to get the brightest view possible for the dim H-beta filter.
Before the winter circle sank in the west, I took a shot at the crab nebula. There were three dark indentations making their way into the center of this beautiful Messier. I enjoyed the presentation at 200x, where the nebulosity and crab legs stood out with dark contrast.
Hopping down, I decided to look at the open cluster pair NGC 1817-1807. This pair is incredible. 17 is much denser than 07, and the pair looked best at low power.
Now it was time to face east, and I remained here for the entire night. I'm too tired to write all of the galaxies I saw, but I'll share some highlights.
Leo 1 from the notes: "Faint and diffuse, brightest in the center, tappers rapidly. When Regulus is out of the fov, 73x shows it best. 147x looked better since it was easier to frame."
Arp 94: "NGC 3227 has a stellar core that is elongated. There is a fainter outer halo that runs down into NGC 3226. 3226's stellar core is much smaller than 3227's. Nearby, NGC 3222 has a bright core that tappers rapidly. It's elongated slightly and quite bright. The PCG pair 1605532 and 30397 pop in and out with averted vision as two puffy balls that are connected".
I had my best views ever of the triplet.
NGC 3628: "Bright thin core, tappers quickly. Tails extend out of 10mm and 14mm eyepiece fovs. There is a faint but wide dust lane cutting next to the core. It's quite clear."
M65: "Round stellar core appears in the center of a halo sphere. There is a thin and uneven line of brightness extending in two directions. Hints of mottling can be seen".
M66: "There is an arm extending away from the stellar-like core. The tip of this arm is brighter than the base. The galaxy has irregular, brightness, and its shape is very uneven. Hints of a fainter arm."
NGC 4725: "Very nice first observation. Stellar core, narrow and dim bar on both sides connects to bright and vertical ends that bend up and down."
NGC 4565: "The famous needle. Dust lane cuts across an uneven brightness core, tappers rapidly, and thins out. NGC 4562 is nearby and is faint, round, and diffuse. Magnitude 16.0 IC 3533 lies between two 14.5 stars and is a fuzzy point that's extended."
M64: "Steller core tappers gradually. Irregular mottling in the core region, the eye is obvious."
M95: "The bar is clearly seen on both sides of the stellar core. There is an upper and lower halo that connects to this bar. averted vision makes it strong."
IC 1101: This is another famous object I've been meaning to sweep up for a long time. From the notes "Stands out more than the two magnitudes 14 stars nearby, elongated and brightness tappers rapidly. Best with 10mm."
What an amazing night. My new gear is wonderful and the 10mm is now my favorite eyepiece.
I've also been noticing improvements in my detection of low-contrast features and objects. The more you push yourself, the better your observing eye gets. My star-hopping skills have also improved and I now prefer to hop using a medium or high-power eyepiece since the contrast is better. Sure the fov is narrower, but a well-lined-up finder makes it perfectly doable.
I'm leaving out many faint galaxies and other objects, but I hope you enjoyed these highlights!
Time for bed soon. I came in at 2:45 and got up at 8:30.
Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 20 March 2023 - 08:00 PM.