A few observations from Canis Minor & Cancer

On the evenings of Sat Jan 21st and Sunday 22nd, I had a quite good run of observations and sketches. My sky meter showed an SQM of 20.98 on Sat night and 20.78 on Sunday night both good readings for my location, the Sat reading being exceptional.

Starting off with this large and well know planetary nebula in Canis minor Abell 21 The Medusa nebula was too large to fit into my narrow fov so I sketched the most interesting section.

Abell 21 aka The Medusa Nebula

Next came another Abell planetary Abell 24, this one I hadn’t observed before, it was smaller and fitted nicely into the Watec video cameras fov.

Abell 24 a planetary in Canis Major

Next a nice open cluster NGC 2355 again in Canis Minor that I literally bumped into whilst slewing around , this I sketched with the 6″ refractor and Watec video cam which captured the whole of the cluster, whereas the 20″ only showed part of it albeit with many more stars!

NGC 2355

stopped off and sketched a very attractive human eye shaped galaxy in C minor, it also reminded me of the old ATV television logo for those of you English and old enough to remember that? It had some interesting brighter regions either side of the central nucleus. I also detected a tiny fuzzy galaxy to the lower left in the sketch.

Galaxy NGC 2350

Completing the Sat night session was a faint UGC galaxy 3946, a rectangular shape with no obvious nucleus, note also the faint galaxy (unknown) to the bottom right of the main galaxy.

UGC 3946 a rectangular galaxy in Canis Minor


On Sunday night, I grabbed just on observation but it was a good one, an Arp galaxy Arp 89. I noted that Mark Bratton had confused this in his superb Herschel Objects book with Arp 84 in Leo, they actually look quite alike. You can not only see the main galaxy NGC 2648 interacting with the much smaller edge on, conected by a faint bridge, but if you look to the right of the bottom of NGC 2648 you can make out a tiny faint C shaped unknown galaxy.

Arp 89 in Cancer

That concludes 2 nights of excellent deep sky astronomy 🙂


A double star and tricky Arp galaxy

14th Jan 2017
I noted with some interest a week or so back some banter  between members of a little group of astronomers of which I am part the subject of Rigel the double. Last evening I had a frustrating time with haze, a rising moon and very poor guiding software for my scope, Cartes du Ciel which has no search catalogues which aid my level of observation (I was transfer to this by Es from Sky Map Pro as my AWR kept having ‘moments with the Sky Map Pro) I was searching for a couple of Arp’s on the Orion/Eridanus border
Any how I digress! all I ended up with was a sketch of Beta Orionis made with the 20″ and Watec on a very ‘backed off’ setting. Beta (b) Orionis, better known as Rigel, is one of the brightest stars in the sky. A companion 1/400 as bright lies just 10 arcseconds to its south, creating one of the most spectacular magnitude-contrast pairs in the night sky.

Double star Beta Orionis

Hope it gives you some interest?


19th Jan 2017

A rather better sky showing SQM 20.50 on the sky meter and some advice via the telephone from Andrew Robertson on how to use my AWR intelligent handset to better effect, this I did and reasonably quickly located Arp 180, although I failed to locate a couple of other Arp’s using the same system. I strongly suspect that the main mirror is now losing so much contrast that I simply can no longer spot faint objects readily. The Atlas image shows ARP 180 so much better than my sketch as does Aladin which my system used to match so closely.

Arp 180 found in Eridanus is a member of the class Narrow Filaments. The Arp Atlas of Peculiar galaxies note says “south arm kinks back, thin filament connects nuclei”. Additionally there are many small galaxies in the field, including four Mitchell Anonymous, my sketch only captures 1. The Arp itself is MCG -1-13-34. I sketched on Jan 19th 2017 using 505mm Mirror & Watec 120n + cooled video camera, N is down. I’m certainly struggling to hit the kind of observing form with my set up that I had in the past with my Hickson observations and sketches.

Arp 180

I don’t want to take my mirror out for a re-coat until late spring when there is little time for observing, in the meantime I shall struggle on, grabbing what I can!

Clear Skies, Dale

A cracking Lunar Sketch from the USA

Received this from my friend Frank in Chicago, as I’m not posting anything due to Moon & cloud I thought I would share this exceptional sketch made in ultra cold conditions. Cheers Frankie 🙂

Mare Tranquillitatis

Southwestern Mare Tranquillitatis


I began this sketch which had me at the eyepiece for about two hours. I was wearing my warmest ice fishing gear to ‘create a sense of warmth’. The sky was clear but the seeing was not the best.

I tried to pick out Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin just to the East of the region sketched but only Armstrong was barely visible on this evening. The “Twin craters” Sabine (30 km) and Ritter (31 km) both

have flat, rubbly floors which are also fractured and very shallow from subsurface lava flooding . These craters contrast in appearance with nearby Dionysius (18 km) a very bright, deep, youthful looking crater. This crater is known for its bright and dark ash rich rays, best seen near full Moon. Just north of Dionysius is crater Ariadaeus (12 km) and the western end of Ariadaeus rille (300 km long). Moving eastward crater Manners (15 km) and Arago (27 km) were clearly visible. The sun was just a little too high in the lunar sky to pick out the fine domes in the region under the poor seeing conditions.


Sketching and Equipment:


For this sketch, I used black Strathmore 400 Artagain paper 9” x 12”, white and

black Conte’ pastel pencils and blending stumps.

Telescope: 10 inch f/5.7 Dobsonian and 6 mm eyepiece (241x) riding on an equatorial  platform

Date:  from 01-04-2017 to 01-05-2017; 23:15 – 02:00 U.T.

Temperature: -9° C (15° F)

Clear, breezy

Seeing:  Below average – Antoniadi  IV

Transparency 4/5

Colongitude  352.0 °

Lunation 6.5 days

Illumination 38 %


Frank McCabe

After galaxies in Gemini

On Jan the 2nd I got my chance to catch up with the galaxies in Gemini that the fog thwarted me on in my last blog.

These are the Dec galaxy (s) of the month as suggested by Owen Brazell of the Webb Society. I star hoped with my narrow fov to Pollux (beta Gemorium) and from there to NGC 2487 and its close companion NGC 2486.

NGC 2487 & NGC 2486 a lovely duo in Gemini

A nice pair but the didn’t just ‘pop’ on the monitor once again I had to work hard with settings, timings etc on the camera and also on the monitor to bring out the detail in the galaxies, spiral structure in NGC 2487 and the 2 dark regions and extended nucleus in NGC 2486, I begining to think that my mirror has lost to much reflectivity and requires recoating as I’m just not getting that ‘wow’ anymore.

When I looked up these galaxies for info on the Webb Society web site I noted that it had been up-dated an Owen had added a new galaxy of the month for Jan, or to be more precise a group of galaxies with NGC 2289 being the primary member. With the group also being in Gemini I saw no reason to track them down.

Currently being in southern Gem I hoped up past Castor and onto the busy little group which fitted nicely into the Watec’s narrow fov. There were lots of stars in the field I have certainly seen plenty of less rich designated clusters! Once I had added the stars I sketched in the 5 galaxy members. In the orientation of my sketch with N down they are from the top as follows NGC 2290, tiny NGC 2288, NGC 2289, with NGC 2291 at the lower centre and the N-S elongated NGC 2294 to the lower left.

The NGC 2289 group in Gemini

Not a bad observing session, SQM meter read 20.53 which for my location these days was a bit above average.

Clear skies, Dale

Fog & Adele

A bitterly cold and frosty day gave way to another clear night, but these recent clear nights have been plagued with fog! My village sits at the base of hills to the North, East & West with a gentle rise to the south consequently we suffer with heavy cold air and fog lingering when conditions are right, often remaining all day.

Anyhow last night I wanted to take a look at Owen Brazell of the Webb Societies galaxy of the season NGC 2487 in Gemini. I opened the obsy under a clear sky and star hoped to beta Genorium just a very short hop from the target, I had promised Tracey my wife I would watch a TV documentary with her about Adele the singer at 9pm local time. I was happy that when I returned Gemini would be in an even more favourable position. The fact is when I returned at 10pm the fog was that thick I couldn’t see a single star naked eye!  The Watec was showing it readily enough at a low setting so I slewed to the galaxy and ramped up the camera settings, but even the Watec video camera couldn’t gather enough light to show NGC 2487!

Frustrated Dale

On the brighter side my friend Simon Kidd grabbed a couple of cracking Mars images despite its tiny size and massive distance, sharing these below.


Boxing Day Treat

Dec 26th 2016, Boxing Day

An escape from the Christmas madness of over indulgence and claustrophobia 😉

Out in the obsy early evening about 7.30pm local time, somewhat hazy but not too bad I went after Wolfgang Steinicke’s Webb Society object of the season challenge.

NGC 1333 is a complex reflection nebula in Perseus. Size 6′ x 3′ (2 ly) distance 1000 light years.  Observed by me with 505mm mirror and cooled Watec 120N+ video cam on 26-12-16. In addition to the nebulosity sketched there was more seen to the upper right SE I think an arc or shield shaped of nebulosity very close to a tight double star.

I’m not greatly excited by reflection nebulae in general but I enjoyed this challenge, it wasn’t very easy to get the max detail on the monitor, I must have spent an hr messing with camera and monitor settings before I put pencil to paper as I had anticipated seeing more than I did with the camera! Wolfgang states a visual mag of 5.6 after all! Which should make this visible in binoculars!

NGC 1333

“In addition to the nebulosity sketched there was more seen to the upper right SE I think? an arc or shield shaped of nebulosity very close to a tight double star.”

Clear Skies, Dale

Dale Holt on Film!

Back on August 20th I was visited by 2 gentlemen Steve Goodwin & Tom Marshall with a view to making a short documentary about Will Hay the astronomer. As the custodian of the Hay, Steavenson Telescope (HST) Calver telescope, and another small Merz refracting  telescope that Will Hay used on his travels along with books and signed photographs all of interest to Tom & Steve and of course to the Hay family and wider public with appreciation of the comic genius.

The filming and interviewing took over 4hrs and resulted in an 8min documentary film that was first screened in Birmingham on November 5th 2016, following the premier it was posted to You tube where it can be enjoyed by all, so do take a look here


Back out there


30th November 2016

Tonight I went for rather brighter targets that I had on Monday night. My Messier file showed my one and only sketch of glorious M74 had been made back in 2010 using the old 14″ telescope, so tonight was going to be an opportunity to point the scope into Pisces revisit and re-sketch M74.

I was very impressed by the numerous bright Ha star forming regions which I endeavoured to capture in my sketch below



I pushed on singling out NGC 515 intense observation, this is a mag 13 galaxy forming part of the overwhelming NGC 507 galaxy cluster.

What a lovely view the 20″reflector and Watec video camera gave me!

NGC 515

NGC 515


Clear Skies, Dale


Going Deep

Monday 28th November 2016

A hazy but clear sky saw me fire the 20″ up for some action. My wife had handed me a tight roll of A4 sheets that on unfurling turned out to be some S&T pages that my good friend Frank McCabe had sent me from Chicago back in Sept 2014! The Steve Gottlieb going deep article featured some obscure interacting galaxies in my favourite hunting grounds, in and around the great square of Pegasus. Now the software that drives my telescope is Carte du ciel, I’m not very good at using it, or maybe the ancient laptop that runs it is not up to the job? Anyhow most of the galaxies in the article were UGC’s and these only seem to be ‘here and there’ on my display, anyhow enough of that. I managed to find by star hoping UGC’s 12914 & 12915, called interestingly Taffy galaxies, it has been suggested to me that the Americans term toffee as Taffy and that these galaxies were seen to resemble the thin strip of stretched toffee that we can remember playing with before we chewed it as children. I of course captured my view in a sketch

Taffy Galaxies

Taffy Galaxies

I moved on seeking another pair of interacting galaxies to the left of the square below the magnificent NGC891 but unfortunately C du Ciel didn’t offer me the same stars as the finder chart gave or recognise UGC ‘S 1810 & 1813 so I failed to locate this duo 🙁

Hubbles view of UGC1810 & 1813

Hubbles view of UGC1810 & 1813

On adding the above illustrative image I find this duo are also catalogued as Arp 273, so I certainly need to return and have another go!

Moving on I looked at what my software offering locally and sent the scope there to take a look, NGC 305 turned out to be a diminutive but rather attractive barred spiral, well worth seeing and sketching 🙂 Note the 2 super faint smudges either side of a star directly above the main galaxy, these are of course distant galaxies 🙂



A couple of good ones from Frank in Arizona

These are great, thanks Frank 🙂

Harbinger Mountains with Prinz & Kreiger

Harbinger Mountains with Prinz & Kreiger

Prinz, Kreiger, Harbinger Mountain Region

The kilometer high rim of Prinz (47 km.) crater was casting a shadow across its own lava flooded floor. The uplifted Harbinger mountains were also casting fine shadows in this region with its large magma ponds pushing up and freezing in the distant past. The uplifting doming in the region created many fissures for lava escape and flooding to occur. Several fissures could be seen clearly on this night of steady seeing conditions. From the crater Krieger (22 km.) north and somewhat east of Aristarchus (not in this sketch) four distinct long shadows could be seen crossing the edge of the Aristarchus plateau where the terminator was located during the rendering of this sketch. In addition to these features the following are included in the sketch: Angstrom (9.8 km.), Wollaston (10 km.), Artsimovich (9 km.), Van Biesbroeck (10 km.), Dorsa Argand and the Prinz rilles.


Sketching was somewhat challenging for me without my drive platform for the scope.




For this sketch I used: black Canson paper, white and black Conte’

pastel pencils and blending stumps, white Pearl eraser

Telescope: 16 inch f/ 4.4 Dobsonian and 9 mm eyepiece 199x

Date: 11-11-2016, 01:00 – 02:35 UT

Temperature: 22° C (72° F)


Seeing: Antoniadi I-II (very good)


Frank McCabe


Crater Gassendi

Crater Gassendi

Gassendi Crater,


Protruding inside the northern rim of the Mare Humorum is the large floor

fractured crater Gassendi. If you close your eyes and try to picture in your mind

a large lunar crater, the image may look something like Gassendi. The 114 km.

walled plain crater is shallow as a result of lava upwellings beneath the floor,

especially toward the east side where the highest concentrations of floor fractures are located

and crisscrossing.  The shallow south end is tipped facing the center of Mare Humorum.

The northern end of the crater floor is rubble strewn and hummocky. The eastern

floor sports ridges and small craters in addition to rilles which were clearly

visible in the good seeing of this night. The southern floor has an irregular

ridge that is parallel to the low rim. The large central peaks (1.2 km. high) and

several smaller ones were seen in good relief with sharp black shadows. The deep

crater Gassendi A (32 km.) on the north rim of the larger Gassendi contrasted nicely with

respect to depth.

Shallower and smaller Gassendi B (25 km.) is just north-north-west of A.  Mare

Humorum is estimated to be 3.9 billion years old and Gassendi perhaps 100 million

years younger. If Apollo 17 planners had chosen Gassendi as the last lunar landing

site we would likely know the ages more accurately today.





For this sketch I used: black Canson paper, 9”x12”, white and

black Conte’ pastel pencils and a blending stump and White pearl eraser.


Telescope: 16 inch f/ 4.4 Dobsonian 6mm eyepiece 298 x

Date: 11-11-2016 3:05-4:45 UT

Temperature: 18°C (66°F)

Clear, calm

Seeing:  Antoniadi II


Frank McCabe



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