Observation Report 6/3/2011

Another clear night, but again with unexceptional transparency. The more I go out the better I am getting at judging the quality of the seeing. I’ll still go out pretty much any night there are stars to be seen nonetheless. The practice at finding objects is well worth the effort, to be able to make the most of those times with the seeing is good.

Back to the ST102 for this evening and on with some hardcore Messier-hunting.

I wanted to revisit a few of the objects I’d first seen with the ST80 having gained a bit more experience finding them, mostly just to confirm my original sightings, so initially I found M1, M35, M42, M43, M44, M48 and M67 in quick succession before moving on to newer things.

As with my previous session the objects in the western sky were too obscured by the haze on the horizon to be worth spending time on. I think I’ll have to wait until the late summer before I can see them. So, the first new target for tonight was M106 and, like last time, another failure. With M88 it was a completely different story though. Working from Stellarium I put the red dot finder in what I thought was roughly the right place and as soon as I put my eye to the eyepiece a galaxy jumped out at me. Unfortunately, given the number of galaxies in this area of Coma Berenices and Virgo I couldn’t be sure which one it was. For the same reason I was able to hunt around, occasionally returning to the first one to find my bearings and pick out two more galaxies and by sketching their relative positions and those of the stars around them and comparing the result to what I could see in Stellarium I decided I’d found M87 first of all, followed by M86 and M84.

Given the locations of these three objects I decided I ought to be able to navigate around and find a lot more and was happy to have my deductions confirmed by finding a long list: M88, M91, M98, M99, M100, M58, M59, M60, M89 and M90. The last I visited was M98 which, being edge-on, is unmistakable in shape. I was very pleased to have found all these and to have identified where I was in the first place. I look forward to viewing these again when Virgo is higher in the sky.

To finish off for the night I decided I’d have another go at finding some of the galaxies in Leo that I’d failed on previously. Starting from ρ-Leo I managed to star-hop neatly to M95 and M96 and M105 was then an easy jump. I was surprised to see two fuzzy blobs in the eyepiece once I got to M105 though. According to Stellarium the second would have been NGC3384.

A busy night, but I’m pleased to have found so many objects, taking my total Messier count up to forty-eight. I think my “eye” is definitely improving. If only the seeing would…

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