Observation Report 15.07.12
After a week of rain and cloud that saw me purchasing a star lamp and sticking glow in the dark stars on my ceiling
, it finally cleared today and revealed a crystal clear sky. The Milky Way was a faint line of mist curving across the heavens and the faintest of stars twinkled and shone.
I found a patch of ground that wasn't muddy and set up for the night, fully intending on finding my first galaxy. My target was M104 and I had been researching most of the late afternoon, trying to find out as much information as I could to make it as easy as possible to find. I remembered that my friend had given me a copy of the Sky Atlas star maps and decided to highlight the brighter, more familiar stars to help me find my target. When I first looked at the maps, I was overwhelmed. They were so unbelievably detailed that familiar objects just seemed to fade into the rest of the map.
After studying and highlighting them, they started to make more sense and I knew that I would need something detailed if I wanted to find my galaxies.
I set up and got to work on locating the brighter star, Algorab and its close neighbour eta corvus. Once I did that, I continued east and got a bit bamboozled. I think I went too far so I retraced my steps and tried again. I got out the binoculars too and checked the view and then compared it to the star maps and also the print outs from Stellarium I had printed in the afternoon. I found the familiar asterisms that make it easy to find M104, found the 'Jaw's asterism and followed the three stars in a line and checked the eyepiece. I was so shocked, I had actually found it!
As soon as I saw the 'Jaws' asterism, I knew I was in the right place and started getting excited. But to actually see it was another thing all together.
It appeared just like any other star in the 25mm eyepiece, except a definite hazy area ran through it like a line of smoke, with the 'star' seemingly bulging from its centre. I put in the 10mm eyepiece but it was rubbish. I could barely make out anything, the eyepiece isn't very good when it comes to galaxies it seems. It seems alright for brighter objects like planets and open clusters but I found the views far more impressive through the 25mm eyepiece.
I kept looking at it for quite some time and wasn't prepared to give it up, afraid I wouldn't be able to find it again. I even called my Mum (who was upstairs) and told her to come down and have a look
. She couldn't see it because she wears glasses and found it hard to make out through the eyepiece. But I showed her Saturn and Omega Centauri and she was impressed! My Dad even came down later on for a peak at Saturn, Omega Centauri, M6 and the Lagoon Nebula. I showed him the Alpha Centauri binary but he couldn't split them.
Once I was by myself again, I decided I just had to find Centaurus A. I had tried before, a few times, even deluding myself into thinking I could see it when the Moon was high in the sky
but it had eluded me and I was getting frustrated. I knew where it should be but every time I looked, I just couldn't see it
. The fact that I had read that it was visible in binoculars, was what finally got me my second galaxy. I knew it was beneath the triangle of stars (psi, upsilon and mu centaurii) but so far I hadn't managed to match any stars beneath it with maps to better guide me. I grabbed my binoculars and got the triangle into view before moving downwards.
Following mu centaurii downward, I came to a small group of stars which I like to call "the square" before a smudge with a dark band jumped out at me. In my head I was chanting "I think that's it, it has to be it!". I aimed the telescope toward the triangle and centred mu centaurii before moving downward. I located "the square" and continued on until a smudge appeared. I took in a deep breath and looked in the eyepiece. There it was! Centaurus A, my beloved NGC5128, I had finally found it!
An object that had eluded my friend and I in my first months of observing and I had found it. I was more than proud. I think I even did a little bit of a dance in my silly cow patch gum boots and giggled heartily.
In the 25mm eyepiece, it was a faint and fuzzy blob, with a definite dark lane crossing through it, from top to bottom. I just couldn't believe my eyes that I had to look again and again and assure myself I was actually looking at my second galaxy of the night. My first ever galaxies found all by myself, with no one to help me (except of course for the amazing help from my astro buddies who pointed me in the right direction
) and just myself to talk to.
This was definitely the highlight of the night.
After finding two galaxies, I wasn't sure where to go to next. I tried for NGC5102, as my star maps had it very close to iota centaurii but alas, I could not find it. Looking on stellarium now, I think I may have a better chance next time. I also tried for NGC5121 which is close by but didn't have any luck there either. By the time I started looking for NGC3918, it had dipped just below the tree line so it will be an object for another night. I know where it is now, it's just a matter of tracking it down before it gets too low in the sky!
I decided to try for M22 in Sagittarius, knowing I had found it before awhile ago. Of course, I always have difficulties with figuring out the shape of "The Teapot" because it really has to be the most ridiculous teapot shape I've ever seen
. After scrutinising the sky, I finally had it figured and pointed the scope toward Kaus Borealis and tada, there she was! M22, brilliant and bright, it shone and twinkled like ice crystals in the sky. What a beauty!
I then looked for NGC6231 in Scorpius. Through the viewfinder, it was absolutely incredible! A long line of stars on either side of a dark lane, the colours of the stars bringing this cluster to life. I remember seeing this cluster through binoculars and was absolutely blown away!
I briefly tried for NGC4945 but had no luck here either. I was getting tired by this point, my toes were going numb and my back and shoulder were protesting something fierce
. So I called it a night and packed up.
A very fruitful observing session if I do say so myself. I went out hoping to find just one galaxy and ended up finding two! Not too shabby for a night's work!