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