Archive for August, 2012

Back to the Hickson groups again…Hoorah

Blog for the night of August 20th and early   morning of the 21st


I had tried to observe the previous night, that being Sunday 19th, it was a good one and I was eager to pick up on my too long dormant Hickson compact galaxy group quest, but once again my AWR goto set up had thrown an unexpected and unexplained wobbly, and decided it was in the southern hemisphere. I wasted 2hrs under a great sky and achieved nothing, very frustrating!!! Come on Alan Buckman sort your systems glitches out.

A call to friend and something of an AWR system boffin, Andrew Robertson the next evening (20th) saw him talk me through resetting the controls, a very complex procedure. But I was ready to observe again and very grateful to Andrew for his time, especially as he missed out on watching something that he and Amanda his wife were looking forward to!

When dark enough I was off, firstly getting Hickson 87 in Capricornus, that was pretty low, a small group that was tough due to sky glow (a) member PGC 65415 did give a hint of a dust lane though, (a)-(c) mag range was 15.2-15.9 member (d) was tiny and faint at mag 17.6 see my sketch of HCG 87

Hickson 88 in Aquarius was next to be observed and sketch, a nice little tumbling cascade of 4 members starting with an edge on and ending with another at a contrasting angle, the 2 middle members appearing to be face on spirals. Take a look at HCG 88 here.

Next I raced off to Hickson rich Pegasus and caught Hickson 94. This is a large and complex group arranged in a chain extending N-E to SW there are 7 members which is as many as I can remember in any group previously (a) & (b) members are NGC 7578 a & b right down to PGC 70941 at mag 18.4 that comes in as (g) member, the upper most galaxy in my sketch, I didn’t identify but it isn’t part of the catalogued group, I suspect it may be near 19th mag. See HCG 94 here.

Last conquest of the night was again in Pegasus Hickson 95 proved to be a brighter and very attractive quartet of galaxies with a good level of detail much of it spiral structure to be seen in all of the members. See lovely HCG 95 here

Well that wasn’t a bad night’s work, closing up at 2am, not a care as I was off on holiday for the rest of the week and feeling rather euphoric with 4 more Hickson’s taking my tally to 65 or 66 out of the possible 100 🙂

Deep Sky Dale

Perseids and more in Italy

Blog August 11th to 18th 2012 inclusive


A fantastic week with the family as paying guests at our friends idyllic organic hazelnut farm in the hills of the Piedmont region in NW Italy.

Astronomy was the order of the week, friendship, relaxation and unwinding was but a little astronomy was enjoyed over the 7 days. For starters it was peak Perseid time, so wine, lights off and dark skies saw many beautiful shared meteors, you can’t get better than that.

I noted that the locals were aware of the shower taking place and youngsters were making a point of getting out watching the shooting stars, a combination of their darker skies than ours add to the Italian romanticism perhaps?

When we visited in 2012, I took over a small 105mm Edmund Scientific reflector, which I left behind so that Darren and their 15 year old son Mathew might enjoy some observing together, this was complimented with a Meade ETX 90mm Mak Cass OTA that I took with me on this occasion, the idea being to leave that over there as well so that it could be used for day time viewing of the stunning scenery and birds and then turned to the Moon & planets at night for sharp high power views.

Mainly with Darren and on one night in particular where my Sky Quality meter was reading 21.5, the Milky Way was prominent and striking, we swept up a number of deep sky objects all noticeably higher than from the UK, namely, M8 (lagoon nebula) M11( Wild duck cluster), M13 (Great Hercules cluster), M22,  M25, M27 (Dumbbell nebula),M31 (Andromeda galaxy with M32 & M110), M57 (Ring Nebula), coloured double star marvel, Alberio, the stunning Perseus double cluster, The enigmatic Owl cluster NGC 457 in Cass….and likely a number of other objects that I have since forgotten.

I think they were appreciated the views, I know that I enjoyed them, it was good to be back to basics, locating bright objects through a small scope requiring skills, left rusty by computers and motorised slewing. Having said I would certainly like to have a driven 20” reflector at that location with its dark skies, high 600 meter altitude and more numerous clear nights that my home location…hmmm perhaps for the future ;¬)

When the 18th came we were very sad to leave, but not before agreeing to go back in 2013.

You can visit their excellent website here you might even fancy a trip there for a spot of R&R and observing yourself!



Oh to ride a Rocking Horse

                                                    Blog Thursday August 9th

Here I go with a really quick blog, a lovely sunny day gave way to a clear if hazy evening sky. With garden watering, allotment grass cutting and poly tunnel watering completed, not to mention a very enjoyable Harmonica lesson in town it was time for stars J


I didn’t intend it to be a long one, just one sketch would be fine, I had in mind an open cluster that Sue French had detailed in her latest & current Sky & Telescope Deep Sky column, NGC 6910 in Cygnus, known as the ‘Rocking Horse cluster’ it lies very close to Gamma Cygni in the direction of Deneb. Bright at mag 7.5 and fairly large at 10’, it showed up nicely on the monitor using the original 120N Watec running through an 80mm Stellarvue finder scope, visually attractive through my 6” refractor at 51x where direct vision showed the brighter members forming the distinctive if upside down rocking horse, using averted vision but many more stars into view and gave the central region a real mistiness from many fainter suns. I agree with Sue I see the 2 bright stars as wheels rather than a rocker, although a little imagination can add the curve of the rocker in ones mind.


The sketch I made using the 503mm mirror and later Watec 120N+ camera gives a detailed view but perhaps one lacking perspective due to the narrower fov. See my sketch here

Close up quickly 01.30 local time, work in only a few hours, and so to bed, happy, Dale

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