Blog for the night of Tuesday May 22nd 2012

With the New Moon window ‘leaking away’ with no observing opportunity it was with delight that the weather changed. I’m not picking up my Hickson observations at the pace that I would like and with the late spring into summer window of observable dark sky being very narrow getting some under my belt over the May June & July New Moon periods is essential if I’m to catch those groups which are well presented during the period commonly known as ‘the closed season’

So you will have gathered by know that I got a clear one! With Andrew Robertson away on Mount Tiede, Tenerife with Stewart Moore (BAA Deep Sky Section Director) Dave Balcombe & Mark Turner friends of mine from the Norwich Society and telling me of the wonders they were enjoying night after night at 28 deg north with a 25”. I needed to get some in for myself.

There were lots of targets that I wanted to catch up with in Virgo, galaxy of the season etc for the Webb Society and others on a list in the observatory, but as much as I would like to look at brighter or tricky exciting challenges I must stay focussed to the Hickson challenge and complete that before I dally off in other directions.

My target constellation is Serpens, plenty of the little Hickson smkudges showing on my chart there. I didn’t start working seriously until post 11pm local time due to the light sky, it also gave me chance to collect my son from Army Cadets, practice my Harmonica and enjoy (some of the performers on) Jools Holland Later on the TV.

I star hoped up into Serpens from the horizon via Virgo and onto my first catch HCG 76 With 7 members that are well spread out, this group in Serpens is a tough one. The edge on galaxy to the upper right in my sketch is PGC 55307 (g member) and is mag 17.5! See my sketch here

Next I tackled HCG 77 another tough group in Serpens but a a more interesting one with 4 members UGC 10049 A-D, the brightest being 16th mag! the faintest (D) mag 17.2 even with the watec (D) appeared to be continuous with C, the Palomar Survey imaged showed a slight dark dust lane dividing them! On a better night I should have got that, but by now the haze was turning to fog (well that is my excuse) this is the closest yet I have come to not being able to detect a HCG group member! See the sketch here

Last up for the night was the most interesting and rather well known HCG 79 better known as Seyfert’s Sextet again in Serpens with an attractive outline, 4 members NGC 6027 (A) through to (D). (B) is the most interesting with spreading arms like an Acer seed. (D) member to the lower right was a tough observation, perhaps due to haze although the Sky Quality meter read 20.75, mag for this member is listed as 15.3 See my sketch here