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Quite a few Arp observation and a new camera arrives

Adding this Blog retrospectively, pasting in notes added to the web-site postings.

Arp 134
Bright but quite featureless bright round, much brighter in the centre galaxy in Virgo, deciding where the halo stops is difficult. There are many faint tiny galaxies in the field. As an Arp the special interaction is with a very faint & diffuse UGC galaxy barely visible just below the star in the top left hand corner of my sketch. Sketch made early morning 8-2-2018 using the 505mm mirror & Watec 120N+ video cam. The Moon was close by, sky was hazy and dawn was close! Observation 8th Feb 2018

Arp 134 in Virgo


Arp 176
A pair of interacting galaxies in Virgo. As you look at my sketch NGC 4933A is the upper right hand elongated galaxy of the central pair. The larger lower LH one is NGC 4933B, the smaller diffuse irregular galaxy off of the tip of ‘B’ is NGC 4933C. the galaxy higher up on the LH side of the sketch is IC 4134. The one to the RH lower corner is unknown to me at the time of writing. Sketch made early morning 8-2-2018 using the 505mm mirror & Watec 120N+ video cam. The Moon was close by, sky was hazy and dawn was close!A pair of interacting galaxies in Virgo. As you look at my sketch NGC 4933A is the upper right hand elongated galaxy of the central pair. The larger lower LH one is NGC 4933B, the smaller diffuse irregular galaxy off of the tip of ‘B’ is NGC 4933C. the galaxy higher up on the LH side of the sketch is IC 4134. The one to the RH lower corner is unknown to me at the time of writing. Sketch made early morning 8-2-2018 using the 505mm mirror & Watec 120N+ video cam. The Moon

Arp 176

Arp 277 Interacting double galaxies in Virgo. Lower galaxy is NGC 4809 mag 14.2 1.6′ x 0.9′, Upper is NGC 4810 Mag 14.8 0.8′ x 0.5′ They form an interesting ‘T’ shape. Tough observation as nearly light! Sketch made early morning 8-2-2018 using the 505mm mirror & Watec 120N+ video cam. The Moon was close by, sky was hazy and dawn was close!

Arp 277


Arp 326 & Arp 33 in Virgo is an Arp encompassing another Arp, Arp 326 spans Arp 33 in fact, in my sketch 326 is the whole chain of the 4 main galaxies sketched. The catalogue states it as comprising of UGC 8610 & 8613 UGC 8613 Described jointly as 2 Arp’s in the catalogue as ‘a galaxy chain’ Sketched using the 505mm mirror & Watec 120N+ cooled on 12-2-2018. Arp 33 is just the top 2 galaxies as sketched UGC 8613 (2nd down) & LEDA 2141C which is upper most, tiny & faint.

2 for 1.. Arps 33 & 326


Arp 94Using the best cooled Watec 120N+ camera, removed from prime focus from the 20″ to facilitate the new digital camera. Watec now on the 153mm refractor, F9. Trying it out I sketched this Arp in Leo, previously sketched with the old 14″ and basic Watec in 2009. Identical detail seen with the 6″, very pleasing

Arp 94 in Leo, using just a 6″ refractor & Watec video camera!

The New camera!

I have been convinced for a while that digital is the way to go with video, or more correctly electronically assisted astronomy. After patience and studying results from the latest UK CCD camera producers I took the plunge and went for the Starlightxpress Ultrastar camera. Es Reid has been helping me convert the 20″ back from prime focus to Newtonian focus so I can use the new very slim camera with focal reducers & filters. As soon as possible I will be posting sketches that I have made with this new set up.

The new ‘Ultrastar’ digital ‘video’ camera


Dale 20-2-2018

Another 2 tricky Arps

On 19th Jan 2018 the sky was no where near as clear and transparent as it was on the previous night. However with the Watec video camera I can still get to work with such a sky.

There was a final Arp in Orion that I needed to collect, that would complete every Arp on chart J in the Arp Atlas of Peculiar galaxies πŸ™‚ As with the previous Blog this Arp 52 in fact had no NGC identifier so it wasn’t in the Carte du ceil database so I had to use the RA & Dec readout on the AWR handset to locate it, it was too bad despite being tiny 0.6′ x 0.4′ and very faint Mag 15.6. The Atlas states ‘Spiral with small HSB companion on arm’ I was fortunate in that the mirror, camera and sky just allowed me to see the companion as independent from CGCG 421-27 which is the main galaxy.

Arp 52 in Orion, tiny & faint!

Moving on I selected a target in Gemini Arp 165, by this point the sky was being crossed by patches of scudding cloud which were beginning to coalesce! This galaxy turned out to be a nightmare for me to locate, I had to keep trying re-syncing on nearby brighter stars and slewing back to the marked point in the software, at least this had an NGC designation NGC 2418, not that it helped it took much longer to find it that the previous ones without! I located it once but dismiss it as not being the correct one due to cloud obscuring field stars and making it not match the atlas finder pic! Eventually I decided I had it and made my sketch, I then let the camera run to see if I could get more detail but I didn’t as the sky completely clouded over by 01.00.

I was just able to make out a tiny thin jet like projection exiting the galaxy at 5’Oclock I suspect this not to be a jet as one was not mentioned in the atlas but hopefully the start of a spiral arm extension. There were other very faint galaxy smudges visible close by, I tried to represent these but they may not show in the scanned negative image. The atlas states “diffuse filaments”

Arp 165 in Gemini

And that was it for the night, 2 more in the bag and time for bed πŸ™‚


Clear skies, Dale


Bright, Dark and an Arp

Thursday 18th Jan 2018, after a couple of days of very strong winds causing quite a bit of damage across the SE things calmed down, temps dropped, the sky cleared and was nicely transparent.

I did some family stuff earlier on and watched TV with Tracey and then at 22.00 went outside and got going. Orion was well placed so I sync’d on Rigel for a starter then took a look at the magnificence that is M42 aka the Orion nebula before hoping onto the Horsehead B33, first time I have had the 20″ on it and I was shocked at the size of this dark nebula on my 14″ monitor it filled most of the screen! That shows how small the Watecs FOV is!Β This iconic nebula catalogued by my Hero Edward Barnard needs no introduction. It was a tough one to sketch as basically it is a dark outline on a lighter but still dark background the whole area studded with faint stars. Good to get the sketch of though. I used pastel pencils to depict the nebula and background sky, I added white acrylic paint to pick out the stars.

The iconic Horsehead nebula

With a show piece in the bag I noted another nebula close by on the planetarium display, this time a ‘Bright’ nebula IC 435 is close to B33 and the larger ‘Flame’ nebula it is boxy in shape, in it’s centre is a star bright enough to show diffraction spikes using the 20″ mirror, this star appears to be a triple or multiple? Nice, and I’m sure this is the source of excitation for the nebula making it glow. It was fairly subtle and took a lot of twiddling and adjusting to show it off to its best on the monitor. I noted one region close to the star, at 7 o’clock on my drawing where the nebula appeared brighter. Size is listed as 5′ x 3′

IC 435 a bright nebula in Orion

Now enough of this sightseeing, on with the work, that being observing Arp galaxies. Just across the Orion border into the constellation of Eridanus I located a difficult Arp to observe by any standards, small faint 15th Mag. It does not have an NGC identifier so I had to locate it by RA & Dec which with my cameras small field is tough. Pleased that I got it though. Visually 2 small 15th mag galaxies with a star between them identified as MGC+0-12-55. Stated in the atlas as ” spiral with HSB companion on arm” there is a more prominent galaxy to the upper right in my sketch, this is MGC+0-12-53. The much larger galaxy to the upper left in the sketch is UGC 3105.

Arp 61 a challenge in Eridanus

It is now 1am and time for my bed. Not a bad session.




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

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