Archive for November, 2017

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

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