Quite a night!

Both our lads had been taken down by the ‘so called’ Aussie flu. Tudor the eldest, a strapping lad battled it, self regulated his soaring body temp with open windows, kept drinking and trying to eat and was on the way to recovery after 48hrs, his brother Aubrey on the other hand is less beefy not as tough and resilient! It was the evening of Jan 7th 2018 and Aubs was hallucinating with high fever and generally very poorly the NHS was contacted and I had to take him to hospital at 1am. With the panic and concern rife in the household I had only managed to open the observatory and got the scopes tracking before we left.

We returned from the hospital at 2pm and with Aubrey reassured that he would pull through I got out into the observatory. With the scope tracking Regulus I looked local for some new quarry NGC 3153 was very close so I hopped over and took a look, only small at 2.1′ x 0.9′ and heading towards Mag 14 it did however show some pleasing spiral detail via the Watec and despite the gibbous moon pretty close by. I made a sketch that caught it pretty well I think.

NGC 3153 in Leo has a lot going on

I reminded myself that Arp galaxies was what was really on my agenda, so I took a look around for some that were local. Settling on Arp 263 & Arp 43 sitting one above each other and very close. Arp 263 had an NGC designation which allowed my rather limited Carte du ceil goto software to locate it. Wow this was an interesting one! Box shaped, no definite core, a bright star showing diffraction spikesΒ  very much amongst the galaxy from a visual perspective, and with lots of knots and interesting patchiness going on. To the upper left was another galaxy, smaller but more conventional with a definite core. NGC 3239 was listed as mag 11.4 and diffuse. Size 5.0′ x 3.3′ and relatively close at 30Mly and 43,000 Ly’s across. A very interesting Arp, nice one πŸ™‚

Boxy complex and very interesting, Arp 263

Now Arp 43 is only designated as IC 607 which very frustratingly is not in the Carte du ceil database although other IC’s are! What is that about?

So to over come this I looked at the displayed RA & Dec on my handset, looked at the listed co-ordinates, wrote down the very small differences andΒ  applied these to the listed RA & Dec for Arp 43 finding it pretty easily. Boy this was a tiddler, but quite attractive with a central bar much in evidence. Looking very much like a TIE fighter from the earlier Star Wars films. Mag 13.3 and small at 1.8′ x 1.5′ there was some thickening of the outer regions but no sign of the listed “LSB companion” in the catalogue! Still another one seen and quite interesting too.

At 43 looks like a TIE fighter to me!

I now thought of going for a brighter Messier galaxy that I had not sketched, I went for M100 in Coma Berenices (the Maidens hair) I star hopped along the length of Leo and out into the realms of untold galaxies πŸ™‚ I landed on M100, I could see the galaxy at barely a second exposure, so I centred and upped the exposure to 15 seconds. The screen refreshed to grey? I altered the gamma , gain and screen contrast but nothing? I nipped outside to see mass cloud scudding in from the east…grrr the night was over. 03.30 and time for bed. Not a bad haul, now to get that son better so he can get back to Uni and exams!



Christmas observations

This is the second go at this blog, just lost the first before I managed to post it, so now I’m not happy so this one is going to be short!

27th Dec 2017 was snowy, made sure obsy would open in the day after snow stopped. That evening I got out and made 2 observations in Auriga.

First was IC 410 the Tadpole nebula, my sketch using the 20″ and Watec shows some tadpole detail and lots of stars from NGC 1893

IC 410 showing some ‘tadpole’ detail and lots of stars from NGC 1893

After a break indoors I caught a rare galaxy in Auriga, found by W Hershel in March 1793, likely his faintest and most distant discovery. Mag 15, distance 895 Mly. There was also another tiny companion at the end of one arm, unidentified at the time of writing!

NGC 2387 Herschel’s toughest observation!

After nabbing these 2 observations I had a tough job to close the obsy which was very frozen and still snow covered. I had to use pieces of timber to lever the 2 separate roof leaves closed! Not fun at midnight, -5 and trying to be quiet.

Happy New year if I don’t get another chance to observe, hope 2018 is going to be my best ever for observing πŸ™‚ Dale


One from the evening sky and two from the morning sky

Firstly from Dec 14th a lucky observation just after dark and before the cloud rolled in! Very cold. Arp 112 is a delightful trio in Peg. The central galaxy is NGC 7806 mag 14.3 1.1′ x 0.8′ a hint of a spiral arm pointing down can just be seen in my sketch. To the right is NGC 7805 mag 13.3 1.2′ x 0.9′ and to the left the svelte tiny arc of MGC+5-1-26 at mag 16.5 and 0.6′ x 0.2′

Arp 112 a beautiful trio

I next got out a day later but at the other end of the night 5am rather than 5pm! 0n Dec 16th I revisited M90 the bright mag 10.3 spiral in Virgo. Interestingly I had never noted the companion actually attached by a faint arm IC 3583 is mag 13.3 they are actually 100,000 light years apart. together they are Arp 76.

Messier 90 & IC 3583 make up Arp 76

With still time for another observation before it gets too light, I look at the many nearby Messier galaxies, pulling down my Messier file I look through and finding no sketch of Messier 91! Really, I need to put that right! M90 or NGC 4548 is a classic barred spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices. Mag 10.1 5.4′ x 4.3′. 53 MLY distant and 83,000ly across.

Messier 91, a long overdue sketch!

*note the 2 small galaxies above and below M91 right at the edges

Friday frustration and Saturday night show winner

This late November New Moon period has been a cold one generally with a good number of clear nights. My good friend Andrew Robertson noted that he normally finds November a poor month for deep sky observing, from his location anyway, which isn’t too far from my own, we are both in East Anglia in the UK. Andrew however has had better skies closer to the coast than I have, mist, sky haze “clagg” as Andrew would call it have had a major impact on me, frustrating my observations. I have tried a number of evening and early morning ‘slot’ and the poor sky despite a biting frost has foiled my attempts, I have located my ‘Arp’ target but it has been like bird watching in the fog! rough undefined shapes in the murk only! There was one evening when the sky was crisp and clear but then the wind blew shaking the big scope making deep observations impossible, that was Friday night. That is enough of the negatives, it all came good early on morning of Sunday 26th Nov.

I got up at 5am and my west facing bedroom window showed Orion well so I made a nice cup of tea and got out into the obsy. I was soon up and running and aligned on Deneobla beta Leonis, Arabic for the Lions tail. From here it was a short and sure hop to NGC 3268 also designated Arp 316. In more common speak this is the third member of the beguiling Leo triplet, being the fainter elongated edge on member visual astronomers often struggle to get into a low power fov with M65 & M66.

Using the big mirror and Watec camera combo the edge on 3rd member became a stunning picture, the dust lane vivid and invaded by stellar material like the teeth of an alligator. Unfortunately the galaxy stretched right across my monitor screen with some detail being lost at either end. If I were more adept or perhaps more adventurous I would have sketched the view then panned left then right adding the full extent of the galaxy. I didn’t do this, I didn’t even think of doing it to be honest, so freshly out of my bed, I did just wish that I could use a focal reducer to increase my fov, something that with my current set up I can’t do.

Now bright, large and complex objects are not easy to capture accurately, I spent an hour on my sketch which is considerably longer than most of my observations take. But with such a subject I had to catch the wow, the drama of the galaxy. Did I manage it? you will need to decide, but the response from social media where I published my sketch just an hour after completing has been very complementary, showing that although the faint, very distant and tiny galaxies and groups of galaxies might excite me, most people like the bright show stoppers far more! I need to keep this in mind and add one to my observing schedule on a frequent basis to keep others engaged and entertained πŸ™‚

NGC 3628 the 3rd Leo ‘Tripleter’

I want to dedicate this observation and sketch to my dear friend Jeff Young and fine astronomical sketcher in Lough, Ireland. Who kindly presented me with his own wonderful sketch of NGC 3628 which has hung on my landing for the past 7 or so years and inspired this long overdue sketch of mine.

Pax stellarum, Dale

Despite a hazy sky 2 more Arp’s bagged

On Thursday Nov 16th around 20.00 UT I was able to get a view of a couple of Arp’s in Pisces despite a poor sky especially poor that low to the south. Firstly I got Arp 68 a rather nice ‘spidery’ looking galaxy. Mag 12.7 and 2.5′ x 1.8′ in size. The Arp atlas describes it as “spiral with small HSB companion on arm”Β  the companion is really diminutive and would be a challenge in anything sub 20″ visually I suspect, unless under pristine skies. I managed to see it as a possibly detached region to the right of NGC 7757 and slightly brighter than the spiral arms. The sky was very hazy when I made this observation so I could have seen more on a better night, plus from my location it was low in the southern sky looking towards London! Sketch made using the 505mm + cooled Watec 120N+ camera.

Arp 68 a spidery galaxy

Next to be added to my list was Arp 284, suggested to me by Alan Snook an avid Arp observer from Kent. UK who had recently observed it and then found there was a quasar in the fov, although he could see it at mag 18 and I don’t know if I have caught it in my sketch either? Arp 284 is a pair of galaxies in Pisces, very close to bright star pisces 16. NGC 7714 is the RH galaxy and has interesting structure with a very bright round nucleus. With my set up it looked rather like the letter ‘G’. NGC is mag 12.5 and 2.2′ x 1.1′ and 7715 is mag 14.5 and 2.6′ x 0.5. Arp atlas says ” Double galaxies: infall and attraction”
The sky was very hazy when I made this observation so I could have seen more on a better night, plus from my location it was low in the southern sky looking towards London! Sketch made using the 505mm + cooled Watec 120N+ camera on 16th Nov 2017. N is down.

Arp 284 and a possible Quasar in the sketch too!


The following night also looked very promising, it was very cold and looked lovely and transparent, I opened up around the same time as the previous night and soon had Arp 323 in Pisces on the monitor, as I fiddled with settings to try and maximise the image it began to fade! Within a minute it had gone totally, I went outside and the whole sky was fogged over, I was very disappointed, no sketch πŸ™

By 4am the following morning I awoke to see a good sky with Orion splendid to the west. I rushed outside and decided that I would go for NGC 3628 the faintest and most extended member of the Leo Triplet which is also known at Arp 317. I had never sketched this well know galaxy. I got it onto the monitor, very large, extending right across the screen but the images was washed out, and then believe it or not, the sky fogged/clouded over very quickly and that was the end of that! I couldn’t believe it! Well I can really as that is astronomy in Britain, often frustrating.




ARP 282 on a windy night

The trouble with wind is that it shakes the scope not allowing the camera to exposure for very long without streaking on the screen, in other words pretty useless unless something is very bright and the camera can grab a good image quickly. Last night was blowy, however I luckily went for an Arp in Andromeda that turned out not to have too much faint detail so a relatively short exposure camera setting got me enough detail to be quite representative of the object!

Arp 282 in Andromeda

Not the most exciting of the Arp’s. The larger NGC member is mag 12.4 2.7′ x 0.7′ and the tiny IC galaxy mag 14.7 0.8′ x 0.4′. North is down in the sketch. Made on 12-11-17 using the 505mm mirror * cooled Watec 120N+ video camera.

Arp 212 through the haze

Monday evening, cold but hazy around 6.15 UT I locate Arp 212 close to Peg 68 which made it easy to find. I take a while to adjust the monitor & camera settings to get the best contrast and resolution. I then ‘freeze’ the frame and go in for my evening meal at 6.30 πŸ™‚ Well I have to keep the good lady happy πŸ˜‰ I get off lighter than usual with the washing up and get back out to the obsy and make my sketch. Not the most exciting of galaxies but there is something going on, here is my sketch and my notes from the Web Page :

Arp 212

Within the Square of Peg in the same fov as 68 peg we find Arp 212 NGC 7625. listed by Halton as showing “irregularities, absorption and resolution” “Narrow chaotic absorption tubes across one end” I certainly saw mottling and distinctly dark regions within the galaxy. As an aside I noted that the 2nd brightest star in the field (102 peg) was distinctly ‘egg’ shaped with E-W elongation, I suspect this must be a double just on the verge of resolution in my 20″ set up. Sketch made on Nov 7th 2017, using the 505mm mirror and cooled Watec 120N+ video cam. Sky very hazy. N is down

Arp 65 under a first quarter Moon

Yay I got out again πŸ™‚ I was straight onto a rather attractive Arp 65, a pair of NGC galaxies, just to the mid left of the square of Peg. NGC 91 is the attractive central spiral (mag13.6) with NGC93 to the left (mag13.3). “Tiny companion galaxies lie off projected ends of both spiral arms”

I got some of the companions, but no all I’m sure, a good observation though and another Arp tick for me πŸ™‚

NGC 91 & NGC 93 make up Arp 65

Arp 13

Continuing with my renewed vigour I grabbed a small break in cloud last night to grab an observation and sketch. It isn’t the most exciting galaxy so I wont post this on social media, but as I’m working through the Arp’s I can’t just pick the cherries πŸ˜‰

Located in Pegasus, very close to alpha Pegasi. Quite bright mag 11.6, elongate N-S. Described as a spiral with detached segments. I noted a bright nucleus, and a brighter region on the northern tip, down in my drawing. I saw the galaxy as having a slightly curved nature. Drawing made on 25-10-17 using the 505mm mirror and Watec 120N+ Cooled video camera.

Arp 13 NGC 7448

Back in business

Hello again,

I’m doing and getting stuck into some observation after a relatively long quiet period.


I got out in the observatory last night and made a sketch I had not researched a target, just went for Peg galaxies I sketched NGC 7549 which is a 13th mag stunner. Researching it this morning I see it forms part of Arp99 and Hickson 93 so I had observed & sketched it before! Although not as a standalone object. Should research before observing!!

Still avery nice object and I pulled out some good detail with the 20″ and cooled Watec 120N+.

Best wishes, Dale

P..S. the galaxy to the left is NGC 7553

NGC 7549 a stunning galaxy in Pegasus


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