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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 🙂

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”  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 🙁

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 🙂 Well I have to keep the good lady happy 😉 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 🙂 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 🙂

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 😉

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


Star Parties

Well after having a great time at Kelling Heath in September, warm weather and some pretty good observing. Especially with my 6″ binoculars, Steve Loveday’s incredible 8″ binoculars and Andrew Robertson’s 24″ The big refracting binoculars do give such a unique almost 3D image with a very wide view, the brain seems so much happier working with both eyes and delivers such detailed widefield views.

Then a few weeks later I’m at the Breckland star party at Haw Wood Farm Hinton, Suffolk, a much smaller affair but with better skies than Kelling and great horizons 🙂

From this location I was able to view the Helix nebula, a tricky target from the UK as it is so low. I observed it with my 6″ binoculars on Oct 13th and with Andrew Robertson’s undriven 18″ Dob, at the end of the observations I made a sketch from memory and the next night observed it again with Andrew’s 18″ when I added the stars in. UHC filters were used with all observations. The sketch isn’t an accurate as my usual video work but hopefully captures the visual impression quite well?

Image cropped and inverted

Total Eclipse USA

Great sketch made by my great friend and fellow sketcher during totality, south Illinois

Franks Eclipse drawing

“Drawing of Totality during the August 21, 2017 Eclipse

   We viewed the eclipse from a town 15 minutes to the south of Johnston City namely  Marion, Illinois. We had heavy cloud cover the afternoon of the previous day. At noon on the day of the event cumulous cloud began building. As we approached totality the clouds began to collapse due to the decrease of heat convection as the Sun disappeared behind the Moon. The temperature (104?F/40?C) at first contact which fell to (91?F/33?C) at totality. It was breezy at totality. I made a few drawing between first and second contact and recorded notes throughout the event. I did not see any interference bands on a nearby white building before and between Bailey’s beads and the Diamond ring or at any other time. I pulled the filter off the telescope and took a 15 second look to make marks for drawing after the event was over. I am sure I missed things but even 2 minutes 20 seconds is too short for me to make a decent sketch. My daughter Michelle  and soon Tommy helped with words describing how they saw things. Three other relative were there to look through the telescope as well. I got the general extent of the corona over most of totality by naked eye views and two obvious proms in the 15 seconds I had at the eyepiece. The high humidity and numerous clouds below 40 degrees altitude kept the sky brighter than I expected. We were unable to see any stars like Regulus but all of us viewed Jupiter and Venus. It was well beyond words to witness all this.”


” Dale, you would have loved this; I wish you were here for this).”


Drawing Materials used Post Eclipse


Dark blue/gray drawing paper 8.5” x 11”

Pastel pencils (black and white) and one pink oil pastel crayon

Clipboard, blending stumps.

Baader Solar filter before and after totality

Telescope: 4.25” f/5 homemade Dobsonian 26 and 28mm eyepieces

cvWeather: Warm and humid

Bootes Bonus

Blog Sunday Feb 5th 2017


A clear sky drags me from my warm bed and out to the observatory carrying the obligatory cup of tea. I’m moved by the sky that greets me once outside of the back door; despite the fact I’m not dark adapted the sky is still spectacular. I’m momentary disorientated by an unfamiliar sky as this is a late spring evening sky, not the mid winter one I have become accustomed to! I work from Arcturus locating the constellations until I’m familiar with the scene which takes a few minutes. Jupiter blazing to the south makes the sky look rather odd too.


As I enter the observatory I decide that I shall hunt down an Arp galaxy in Bootes for a sketch. Five minutes or so sees the scope slewing to Arcturus and it is soon centred on the monitor. I decide on Arp 43 a short hope from the brilliant yellow star. The goto puts the fuzz of a galaxy just on the edge of the fov with the camera set to a short exposure; I centre the ‘fuzz’ and extend the exposure to 10 then 15 seconds. As the camera settles I given a busy but rather grainy site, clearly a very nice spiral plays the central role with a smaller fuzzy galaxy just off the end of one arm, there are clearly many other faint and tiny galaxies in the field, one revealing itself as an edge on. I fiddle with the monitor and camera settings before deciding ‘this is the best view I will get’ and freezing the frame. It is now 5am and dawn will not be far off, with the frame frozen I can sketch at my leisure with now fear of losing my target. I get the stars draw in Ink and add the galaxies, the very faint stars I add last with gentle dabs of a pencil. Happy I have captured the view I take off the freeze function and the image is refreshed, the image shifts by around 25% but is pretty similar to that I froze 30mins before, then as often happens with Watec video cameras for some unexplained reason on a 15 sec frame refresh the screen goes very bright, normally I ignore this and things settle down on the next refresh. However on this occasion despite the very bright back ground the image of the main galaxy, was far sharper and more defined that before although the fainter outer regions were washed out! Quickly I froze this image and turned the image brightness down on the monitor; to my delight the resulting image was far cleaner and more defined that the previous one, in fact I would go as far as saying that it was way better than the Watec commonly delivers! What is going on I wondered? Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I got to rework my sketch; I could now see a fork in one arm of NGC 5829 which is the main spiral and the other arm that points towards a close by bright star showed a string of tiny bright knots looking rather like a spine. The cluster of fainer galaxies now showed their true nature, bright cores and diffuse outer halos no longer just non stellar smudges! I would love to know what had happed to the Watec to deliver such an awesome image? After all if it can deliver such as a “glitch” why could it not deliver the same by design?

A 42 with Hickson 73 companions


OK enough on that matter, I noted on the Carte du Ciel display that close by was another galaxy, not sure what would show up at 6am, I sent the scope there and was delighted to see a pair of fairly bright galaxies close together. I twiddled the knobs, froze the frame and sketched NGC 5859 & NGC 5857, the former showing quite considerable spiral detail and being the larger of the two. NGC 5857 however had a noticeably brighter core, a very nice pair of, as I found later, non interacting galaxies.

NGC 5859 & NGC 5857


With my observations in the bag, I did some research on Arp 42, finding out that the largest of the galaxies after mag 13.9 NGC 5829 was in fact IC 4526 with a mag of 17. I also found that Arp 43 which is made up of these 2 galaxies also forms part of Hickson 73 along with a number of the fainter surrounding galaxies! I had therefore observed and sketched this group a number of years ago as H73! I compared sketches and this is by far the better of the 2, especially when viewed as originally drawn black on white!






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