Observation Report 30/01/2011

It’s been a beautifully clear day here, so I put the scope outside as the sun was going down on the off-chance of getting some clear sky despite the signs of cloud coming in. At 8pm there was still some cloud hanging around to the north, but it was clear to the south and I could make out at least some of the Milky Way so I decided to go out and pick off a few Messier objects.

I quickly found M42/M43 just to get my eye in and then went hunting M36, M37 and M38 which I was determined to find tonight having miserably failed on Friday. Switching between the bins and finder scope I finally located one and hopped to the next, but whilst I decided I could see all three in the bins I just couldn’t find the last one in the scope. It took quite a while for me to realise I’d found M36 and M37 when I thought I’d found M38 and then M36, so I was looking at the wrong end of the group for the last one. That problem sorted I found M38 fairly easily. Now I’m back inside and have had a chance to look at Stellarium I think that through the scope I’d mistaken the cluster of stars around Chi-Aurigae for those around 14-,18- and 19-Aurigae, so misidentified the first cluster I found. I’m not entirely surprised that should happen; I’m at a pretty dark site so there are a large number of stars visible in both the finder and scope. Inexperienced as I am, I find it far too easy to pick the wrong star as I’m star-hopping between objects.

From there I moved on to the Crab Nebula, which I’m fairly sure I found given that there doesn’t appear to be much else to mistake it for in that area of the sky, but in my scope it didn’t seem much more than a very small fuzzy patch.
To finish off for the evening I had a look for M41 which was pretty much jumping up and down shouting “Over here!” by comparison to the others.
That took me up to about midnight by which time I was starting to lose the feeling in my feet, so I had a brief look at Saturn before calling it a night.
Given practice and time to get more at home with what I can see through the scope I think I could find them all far faster than I did tonight, but we’ve only had three reasonably clear nights since I got the scope at Christmas, so I’m happy with what I achieved.

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