Deep Sky Winter Observations February/March 2017

Observation Conditions | Orion: Orion Nebula (M 42/43) and M 78 | Gemini: M 35 | Taurus: M 1 | Taurus: M 45 and Mel 25 | Auriga: M 36, M 37, M 38 | Cancer: M 44 | Andromeda: M31 | Perseus: NGC 884/869 Double Cluster | Canis Major: M 41 | Ursa Major: M 81/82 | Monoceros NGC 2237-39/46/NGC 2244 | Monoceros: NGC 2264 | Remarks | References

From the second half of February to mid-March 2017, I conducted simple deep sky "winter observations", which might be of interest to other beginners and are therefore described here. I mostly selected my observation objects on the basis of my short list of Deep Sky objects sorted by seasons.

See also the deep sky observations that closely follow in time: Deep Sky Winter/Spring Observations End of March 2017.

 

Observation Conditions

Sky Region and Objects

I initially (with Heritage 100P) restricted myself to the sky region around Gemini (Twins), Orion, Auriga, and Taurus (Bull) (southwest to south).

On my "observation list" there were firstly (Feb 13): M 45 (Pleyades / Seven Sisters), Mel 25 (Hyades), M 42/43 (Orion Nebula) and M 78, M 35, M 1, M 36, M 37 and M 38. On February 14, I searched additionally for M 44 and M 31, and on February 15, in addition to these also for NGC 884/869. At the end of February, I extended my observation list with about half a dozen further deep sky objects (a.o. M 41, M 81/82, NGC 2237/2244, and NGC 2264).

Overview Map

The following map shows approximately the sky region that I primarily browsed during my observations:

Click the map for a larger version - it opens in a new window. The deep sky objects that I tried to observe are indicated by red dots.

Observation Time

The observations started every day with observations of Venus (from 6 p.m.), which was very bright during these days. And as it should turn out, it appeared (in spite of the enormous brightness!) as a crescent shape in the telescopes. This is described on page Venus Crescent 2017 (for February 13). For the deep sky objects, it was sufficiently dark only from about 7 p.m. on.

General Conditions

The observations started two to four days after full moon, and because the observations took place between 6 and 8-9 p.m. the moon still did not have any significant influence on the observation conditions. At the end of February, we were already passing the new moon (February 26), and the moon did not play a role in the observations. From the beginning of March (March 2) on, the moon returned to the sky and made observations progressively harder. In mid-March, the moon waned again and appeared later during the night so that it did not disturb my observations any more.

In general, the sky above Mühlhausen is "light-polluted" and does not invite you to search for Deep Sky objects. This is certainly one of the reasons why I found some of the Deep Sky objects that I wanted to observe only sometimes or not at all.

Observation Details

Date Observations Further Observations Devices Used Eyepieces Used Remarks
Feb 13 M 45 (Pleyades / Seven Sisters), Mel 25 (Hyades), M 42/43 (Orion Nebula) and M 78, M 35, M 1, M 36, M 37 and M 38   Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P telescope (4" Dobsonian), some objects with Sky-Watcher Skymax 102 telescope (4" Maksutov-Cassegrain); 10 x 20 binoculars (not at all suited to nightly observations) mostly a 32 mm Plössl, sometimes a 16 mm UWA

 

Venus observations: I used both telescopes and, of course, shorter eyepieces, because otherwise I would not have been able to recognize the crescent shape (this was what I thought - but I was able to recognize the crescent already with an 32 mm eyepice in small telescopes...).
Feb 14 The same deep sky objects I also looked in the direction of the Andromeda galaxy (M 31, between Cassiopeia and Andromeda, in the west) as well as Praesepe (M 44, Cancer, in the east) using my binoculars GSO GSD 680 telescope (8" Dobsonian) with red-dot finder; binoculars 32 mm, 16 mm UWA On the following day (Feb 14), I repeated these observations with my GSO GSD 680 telescope (8" Dobsonian) to check (1) if I would be able to find objects with this telescope that I could not find with the 100P, and (2) how the found objects would look like in the larger telescope.
Feb 15 The same deep sky objects Additional excursion to Praesepe (M 44) and the Andromeda galaxy (M 31) and then to the Perseus double star cluster (NGC 884/869, between Cassiopeia and Perseus, near the zenith) Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P Dobsonian telescope on Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount; binoculars 32 mm Plössl, 16 mm UWA, and 7 mm UWA I hoped (1) to be able to find the objects faster, and (2) to clarify whether objects might not have been found just because I had searched for them at the wrong location (hoping that the GoTo control would work properly...).
Feb 18 M 31, NGC 884/869, M 42 (seen like never before), M 45, M 35, M 1 (now found!)   GSO GSD 680 telescope (8" Dobsonian) with Telrad finder 32 mm Plössl, 16 mm UWA, 7 mm UWA I had supplemented the Telrad finder on that day with a dew cap with integrated 90° mirror and a 5 cm riser base.
Feb 26 M 31, M 42, M 45, M 35, M 36, M 37, M 38, M 1, M 78 (finally found!)   Sky-Watcher Heritage P130 telescope (5" Dobsonian) on Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount 32 mm Plössl, 16 mm UWA, 7 mm UWA, 6 mm Planetary, 4 mm UWA

 

 

Mar 2 M 41, M 81/82 (Bode Galaxies), NGC 2237/2244 (Rosette Nebula), and NGC 2264 (Christmas Tree Cluster) in addition M 42, M44, M45 Sky-Watcher Heritage P130 telescope (5" Dobsonian) on Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount 32 mm Plössl, 16 mm UWA, 7 mm UWA On March 2, I finally visited the remaining objects that I had put on my observation list.

 

Mar 16 M 31 (very faint), M 42, M 45, M 35, M 36, M 37, M 38, M 1 (n.f.), M 78 (n.f.), in addition M 44, NGC 884/869 Sky-Watcher Heritage P130 telescope (5" Dobsonian) on Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount 16 mm UWA, 4 mm UWA (Venus only) On March 16, I repeated the observations of some objects.

Bold: First observation during this observation period

Brief Overview of the Observed Sky Objects (Mostly Objects Found)

DSO
Name Constellation Bino* 100P 100P
 GT

P130 
GT

GSD 
680
Remarks Sketch+
Details Page
M 42/43 M 42/43 Orion Nebula Orion yes yes yes yes yes in part very beautiful yes
M 78 M 78   Orion   -- -- yes ??? very faint, not found with 100P yes
M 31 M 31 Andromeda Galaxy Andromeda yes   yes yes yes fairly faint in the West yes
M 35 M 35   Gemini     yes yes yes many stars yes
M 36 M 36   Auriga   yes yes yes yes the brightest of M 36-38  
M 37 M 37   Auriga     yes yes yes    
M 38 M 38   Auriga   yes yes yes      
M 44 M 44 Praesepe Cancer yes   yes yes   in an awkward position for me  
M 1 M 1   Taurus   -- -- yes yes very faint, not found with 100P yes
M 45 M 45 Pleyades Taurus yes yes yes yes yes large  
Mel 25 Mel 25 Hyades Taurus yes yes yes yes yes very large  
NGC 884/869 NGC 884/869 P. Double Cluster Perseus yes **   yes yes in the West, close to the zenith yes
M 41 M 41   Canis Major       yes      
M 81/82 M 81/82   Ursa Major       yes   very faint link only
NGC 2237/2244 NGC 2237/2244 Rosette Nebula Monoceros       yes   only star cluster found  
NGC 2264 NGC 2264 Christmas Tree N. Monoceros       yes   christmas tree not recognized...  

*) 8 x 20 binoculars; +) Sketches by Michael Vlasov, DeepSkyWatch.com; ** found in France in autumn 2016

 

M 45 (Pleyades) and Mel 25 (Hyades)

I know the Pleyades (M 45, Seven Sisters) in Taurus / Bull since my childhood. Finding them was therefore no problem for me, especially since they are already visible with the naked eye. They are also a nice object in the binocular. In a telescope, such as my 4" Heritage 100P, there are, of course, even more stars visible and many of them are almost sparkling. The sight in the GSD 680 8" telescope (on the second day) was even more impressive for me than the one in the 4" telescope (on the first and third day). The same accounts more or less for the Heritage P130 (Feb, 26, new moon; Mar, 2).

I have only learned more about the Hyades (Mel 25) in the Taurus / Bull in the winter 2016/17. They roughly form a triangle, which helps you to orient yourself. In February, for example, you can find them by starting from the Pleyades and continuing a little to the left until you reach a conspicuously yellow star. This is Aldebaran in the Taurus / Bull, which limits the base of the Hyades triangle on the left. You can then proceed to the right to the right tip of the triangle and follow the other side again to the upper left. The Hyades (5° x 4°) just fit into the field of view of opera glasses, I read (I do not own any ...), and can therefore not be seen completely in my telescopes and binoculars. The GSD 680, of course, showed an even smaller section due to the threefold higher magnification. I therefore prefer the view in the 4" telescope. The Heritage P130 was in between...

    
Pleyades  

Hyades (large)

 

Orion: M 42/43 (Orion Nebula) and M 78

Orion is probably one of the constellations that almost everyone knows. His belt is also well-known, his sword probably less and also not as good to see as the belt. But exactly in the middle of this are the Orion Nebula M 42 (galactic emission nebula) and its "Appendix" M 43 located.

It is said that the Orion Nebula can be seen with the naked eye. This definitely depends on the viewing conditions, but the sword can be seen shimmering in any case when it is dark enough. It is difficult to tell for me what exactly is the the nebula in alt this shimmering... Using binoculars, one can already see the nebula well and within it some bright stars (the Trapeze). The same applies, of course, to small (and larger) telescopes. Not quite unexpectedly, the Orion Nebula appeared to me most beautifully in the 8" Dobsonian telescope. But on 18 February, it appeared as detailed and beautiful with this telescope as I had never seen it before. The sight with the Heritage P130 (with GoTo) was very nice as well (Feb, 26, new moon).

Only at higher magnifications, I was, however, able to resolve the Trapezium, an arrangement of 4 closely spaced stars at the center of the nebula (see sketch further below).

In simple terms, the Orion Nebula has approximately the same size as the Moon or Sun (25 'x 30'). How extended it actually appears depends, on the one hand, on the viewing conditions and, on the other hand, on the dark adaptation of one's own eyes. Often I return (for different reasons) to brighter areas and thereby destroy my painstakingly built-up dark adaptation...

M 42 and M 43 in Orion's sword; M 78 (top left) is located between Alnitak and Betelgeuse

When I used the GoTo control for the first time, I started my observations with M 42 and afterwards returned to it from time to time to check whether the GoTo control was still correctly adjusted.

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch):

Sketch of the Orion Nebula by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

The galactic reflection nebula M 78 in the Orion constellation is not on my "Winter list" (it has only a "one star" rating...), but because it seemed easy to find to me, I looked out for it, as well. It is located at 1/4 of the distance between the left girdle star Alnitak (the name does not need to be remembered ...) to the left of "shoulder star" Betelgeuse and a small amount outside (or to the left...) of Orion's body.

Well, all search seemed to be in vain - I did neither find M 78 with the binoculars nor with the small 100P Dobsonian telescope (4") - not even with GoTo mount. With the larger 8 " Dobsonian GSD 680 telescope I might have caught a glimpse of M 78 and another nebulous object, but I would not want to denote this as "find"... But finally, on February 26 (new moon), I indeed found a weak glimpse of M 78 with my Heritage P130 5" Dobsonian telescope on my GoTo mount (and thus, conclude that I had seen it with the GSD 680 as well).

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I should have - and may have - observed:

Sketch of the M78 Nebula by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

 

Gemini: M 35

Constellations are arbitrary patterns in the sky, which I find hard to remember because of their randomness. I do better with simple star patterns, called asterisms (the big dipper, the summer triangle, the trapeze...) or with prominent stars (Vega, Sirius, Aldebaran, ...).

I did not know the Gemini / Twins constellation so far, but recently a friend pointed me to Castor and Pollux, a pair of stars, which can be easily found at the nightly sky. The older form of the Gemini constellation reminds me of a jug lying on its side. I can therefore remember this and use it as an aid for finding the open star cluster M 35, which is supposed to be visible even to the naked eye. M 35 is, however, located on opposite (open) side of the jug (on the right) above the final star of the constellation (which somewhat "turns upwards" = the "spout").

M 35 above the right upper edge of Gemini / Twins

There is a third star on this line, but it is slightly weaker and no longer belongs to the constellation of Gemini. If you go a little bit to the left, you should find the star cluster M 35 (approximately above the final star). "Should", because despite many efforts with Heritage 100P and binoculars on the first day (Feb 13), I was not sure about whether I had actually found M 35 or not. There was something glimmering in the area, but that could have been a part of the Milky Way, which is in that region... With the 8" Dobsonian, however, I found M 35 the next day. The open star cluster looked very nice and showed many stars (it is said to be the open star cluster with the most stars in winter). Perhaps, I had searched for M 35 at the wrong location with the Heritage 100P...

When I tried the Heritage 100P with the GoTo control, I was, of course, able to access the star cluster directly and found it. At the beginning, it was hardly visible because the sky was too bright. But later, when it was darker, it was beautiful, too, and showed lots of stars in this smaller telescope even with a 7 mm eyepiece.

I looked for M 35 once again on February, 18, using the GSD 680 telescope, and again it appeared rich of stars and beautiful. The sight with the Heritage P130 (5", with GoTo) on February, 26 was very nice as well (new moon).

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch):

Sketch of the M35 Nebula by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

 

Taurus: M 1 (Crab Nebula)

Taurus / Bull is another constellation that I only knew by its name. Thanks to the Hyades (Mel 25), it has now become somewhat more familiar to me - at least its star Aldebaran, which glares conspicuously yellow (or golden).

While the Hyades are at the center of Taurus, the galactic emission nebula M 1 (NGC 1952), also known as Crab Nebula, is located at its left end and slightly above the end star zeta Tauri. With a size of 5 'x 4', M 1 is not large, but it received a "three-star rating". Unfortunately, this does not affect the fact that I was not able find it at first (binoculars, 100P). But maybe I was looking for M 1 at the wrong location, and it was not the nebula itself that was too weak to be seen. Using my GSD 680 8" Dobsonian the next day, I was also not able to find M 1. And the same accounts for the Heritage 100P on the GoTo mount: There was nothing to see! I therefore assume that light pollution here is too strong to be able to recognize M 1.

On February 18, however, I looked for M 1 again using the GSD 680, and this time I was able to recognize, at least, a weak glow with this scope - and this was reproducible! The same applies more or less to the Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount (Feb, 26, new moon).

M 1 (Crab Nebula) between Gemini / Twins and Taurus / Bull and below Elnath in Auriga

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch):

Sketch of the Crab Nebula by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

 

Auriga: M 36, M 37, M 38

Auriga (with main star Capella) belongs also to the constellations that were more or less unknown to me thus far. At the core the constellation forms a hexagon if you take it exactly, but it is likely that you will perceive only a pentagon... This is a very striking pattern, but it is located very high up in February, so you have to look steeply upwards to see it. Perhaps this is a reason for my ignorance with respect to it...

In Auriga there are three more striking Messier objects, the open star clusters M 36, M 37, and M 38. They are located almost on a line, which projects from the outside into the hexagon. The exact sequence is: M 37 (outside) - M 36 Inside) - M 38 (further inside).

M37, M 36, and M 38 in Auriga with surround for easier finding (larger version)

On the first day, I looked with the Heritage 100P (4" Dobsonian) for all three star clusters, and found two of them without a doubt, namely the inner clusters M 36 (which is regarded as the most beautiful and therefore probably got the lowest number "36") and M 38. I was able to find M 36 more easily and reproducible, whereas I had some problems with finding M 38. But despite all the efforts, I was not able to find M 37. Whether this was due to a wrong alignment of the telescope, I do not know. In any case, it was very difficult for me to point the LED finder at these three targets because they were so high up in the sky. I therefore tried it on "good luck". Here a 90° angle finder would surely have served me well!

The trials with my GSD 680 (8 "Dobsonian) the next day showed another pattern: I did not find M 38, but found M 37 and M 36. M 37 appeared to me more beautiful this time, and M 36 not quite as beautiful. On the third day, I found all three open star clusters with the Heritage 100P on the GoTo mount. This time my verdict was: M 36 appeared to me most beautiful, M 38 came in second, and M 37 was a little weaker than the other two clusters...

On February 26 (new moon), I once again accessed all three open star clusters with the Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount and found them all. M 36 was the smallest, but brightest cluster with comparatively few stars, M 37 was relatively faint and in small magnification almost just a glimmer, whereas M 38 was the largest cluster, but also fainter than M 36.

The visibility and rating of the three star clusters thus fluctuated quite a bit. But at least one can state that all the three star clusters were more or less well recognizable even when using a 4" telescope.

 

Cancer: M 44 (Praesepe/Crib)

Cancer / Crab belongs to the constellations that I do not really know. And I had not read of the open star cluster Praesepe (M 44), which is also called Crib or Beehive and impressive 70' large, until 2016, when I bought deep sky books. Praesepe is located in the east and fairly low in February and was not visible from my terrace (at least , I thought so...). That is why I did not attempt to observe it on the first day. On 14.2. I went on our balcony and found Praesepe using binoculars. It is located roughly at the intersection of lines emanating from Castor / Pollux and from Procyon, and was relatively weak in my binoculars - almost like a nebula, but small star dots were recognizable.

On the third day, I used my GoTo mount and the 100P on our terrace and just set the control on M 44 - and lo and behold, I was able to see Praesepe through a gap. For some time it was still possible to repeat this, but later M 44 was hidden and could not be seen anymore. Unfortunately, I only remember that I was able to see single stars and did not have the foggy impression of when using binoculars. Perhaps, the the rising moon already affected this sky region.

On March 3, I caught a nice view of M 44 with my Heritage P130 on the GoTo Mount. Here, I was able to see single stars, not just a fuzzy cloud... The same accounts for March 16.

Praesepe (M 44) in Cancer / Crab and its position relative to Castor and Pollux in Gemini / Twins

 

Andromeda: M 31 (Andromada Galaxy)

After I had searched on the balcony for Praesepe with the binoculars on the second day, I just looked into the other direction, that is, to the west, to see whether I would not "stumble" over the Andromeda Galaxy M 31. I know more or less where it is in the sky, and in February, where the Andromeda is oriented vertically, the galaxy should be particularly easy to find (with binoculars because of the large section of the sky that they show...). And so it was! Since it was still quite bright in the west, the impression that the galaxy made in the binoculars was not overwhelming, but the galaxy was recognizable without any doubts. With the GSD 680 (8 "Dobsonian) on the terrace, I was unfortunately not able to find the galaxy (with the binoculars I was able to find it from there, too...). I had trouble to orient myself with the LED finder in this sky region, because the weak stars in the respective region were hardly or not at all visible in the finder.

On the third day, when I used the Heritage 100P on the GoTo mount, I found M 31, of course, but the galaxy was only faint; the same applied to my binoculars. Obviously, the sky in the west was still too bright... On February 18, I looked for M 31 using the GSD 680 for a second time, found it this time, and was able to see the galaxy well, but not in detail. The same applies more or less to the Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount (February, 26, new moon).

Andromeda Galaxy M 31 and double star cluster NGC 884/869 in Perseus

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch):

Sketch of the Andromeda Galaxy by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

 

Perseus: NGC 884/869 (Perseus Double Cluster)

On the third day of my "winter observations", I tried to find the double cluster NGC 884/869 in Perseus. I was able to find the open clusters, but using my binoculars, I was not able to tell which of the two clusters I was viewing, or even both. The same was true for the 100P telescope. Using the GoTo mount, however, revealed that I probably saw more or less both clusters. At first, the star clusters appeared faintly, later they were better to see, but never as beautiful as we saw them in France in autumn 2016, where they sparkled. But there the sky is particularly dark. On February 18, I once again looked for the double cluster with the GSD 680, and with this telescope I was able to recognize the double cluster well.

Double cluster NGC 884/869 in Perseus (between Perseus and Cassiopeia); for an Overview map see M 31

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch):

Sketch of the NGC 884/869 Double Cluster by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

 

M 41

The open star cluster M 41 in the constellation Canis Major is located fairly deep in the sky, even below Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. With the help of Sirius, M 41 should be easy to find (provided that Sirius is already visible).

I found M 41 on the March 2, using my Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount. As can be read in Karkoschka's book, this star cluster does not impress in the telescope, and so it was.

M 41 below Sirius (Canis Major)

 

M 81/82 (Bode Galaxies)

On March 2, I looked out for the Bode galaxies M 81 and M 82, using the Heritage P130 telescope on the GoTo mount. This way, I was fairly certain that I would have them in my view. Whether I would be able to see them was, of course, open... Actually, I was able to see both of them very faintly. M 81, that is, the galaxy at which one looks from above, was a little bit easier to recognize.

Without the GoTo mount, I probably would never have found the galaxies...

M 81 and M 82, the Bode galaxies in Ursa Major

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch): Sketch of the Bode galaxies by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016)

Note: I only have the author's permission to link to the sketch.

 

NGC 2237-39/46/NGC 2244 (Rosette Nebula)

I also looked out for the Rosette Nebula NGC 2237-39/46 (galactic emission nebula) on March 2, using the Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount. I was not able to see the nebula, only the open cluster NGC 2244 inside the nebula, which was also not very impressive. Perhaps the narrow crescent of the moon already played a role in this...

I assume that I saw the open star cluster (rather "nebulous") already when I "roamed" the respective area with binoculars (which is difficult to verify...). According to Karkoschka, this should be possible...

Galactic emission nebula 2237-39/46 (Rosette Nebula) and cluster NGC 2244 inside the nebula; on top of it NGC 2264, the Christmas Tree cluster

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed (my impression was much fainter than the sketch): Sketch of the Rosette Nebula by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016)

Note: I have only the author's permission to link to this sketch.

 

NGC 2264 (Christmas Tree Cluster)

I visited the Christmas Tree cluster NGC 2264 on March 2 with the Heritage P130 on the GoTo mount. It was not very impressive and I did not have the impression of a Christmas tree. Perhaps the narrow crescent moon already played a role in this...

NGC 2264, the Christmas Tree cluster; below it, the galactic emission nebula 2237-39/46 (Rosette Nebula) and cluster NGC 2244 inside the nebula

 

Remarks

Preparation

When looking for deep sky objects, a good preparation is mandatory - you can read this, and I can confirm it. "Good preparation" basically means that you compile a list of the objects that you would like to observe, and to find out where and how the objects can be found. If you, as I did this time, observe the same objects three days in a row, this introduces a certain routine, and searching for the objects is faster and safer. At some point in time, boredom may set in, but this is much more the case if you are not prepared and only observe your "prime objects"...

Is it it or not?

If you point your telescope with the help of the red dot finder approximately to the desired sky object, look into the eyepiece and see nothing or only "nebulous clouds," but not something that resembles the object in question, the question arises: Is the sky too light-polluted that I can recognize the object or does the telescope point in the wring direction? Admittedly, I was - even after repeated attempts - not able to clarify this question for some of the objects that I tried to observe on the first day.

That is why I repeated the observations of the first day on the following days in two different ways: On the one hand, with my 8 "-Dobsonian telescope (GSO GSD 680) and, on the other hand, with my Sky-Watcher Synscan AZ GoTo mount and the Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P telescope. In the first case, one or the other object that was not visible with the 100P should become visible because of the higher light gathering power of the 8 "telescope provided that the object was correctly accessed. In the second case, the sky objects ought to be accessed correctly thanks to the GoTo control (this does not always work, however...). If I should nevertheless recognize nothing at all in the eyepiece, this telescope is, under the given conditions, not able to show the object.

The results above show that especially in the case of M 35, M 36, M 37, and M 38 some clarity could be brought into these questions. Similarly, M 78 and M 1 remained unobservable in all cases (as I thought...), suggesting that the light conditions were not good enough for these objects. However, on the last day, I was able to spot M 1 with my largest telescope.

Contortionists Asked for!

Some sky objects (M 35, M 36-38) were so high up in the sky that I had trouble finding them in the LED finder. I had to "crawl" under the telescope, so to speak, to see the red dot in the finder. A slightly higher table might have helped, but this also has its limitations - and if it is too high, you have problems with looking into the eyepiece. An angle finder is therefore required! I searched the Internet to find out, whether there is an angle finder on the market at all, which does not magnify and just uses a red dot. Apparently there is only one for the Telrad finder available - or one for almost 300 EUR from TeleVue, but for the latter neither the base nor the price fit. The Telrad angle finder with dew cap arrived in the meantime, and I tried it on February 18 for the first time. Admittedly, I'm not really enthusiastic ...

Luckily, I do not have these problems when using the GoTo control - I may only have difficulties when aligning the telescope to the two adjustment stars, but there are several stars to choose from ... Using it, I was able to access all of the wanted objects without problems, including the Perseus double cluster on the third day.

GoTo: Hit Rate?

With the Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount, I made already very different experiences with regard to the hit rate. This depends on the accuracy with which the tripod is set up, the accuracy of time and location information, and also the accuracy with which the telescope is aligned with the alignment stars (the object should appear "centered" in the eyepiece; the double-reticle eyepiece that I bought for this purpose enlarges too strong for my taste, so that I use "normal" eyepieces with long focal lengths, instead). It may also be possible that the position of the alignment stars in the sky, including to each other, plays a role.

So far I've taken all these things with more or less liberty and therefore had very different experiences: On some days, it worked out fine, on other days there was only frustration. I think that the telescope used, that is, the magnification used, plays an important role, as well as the location of the objects in the sky that you are pointing to, that is, whether they are relatively close to each other or diametrically opposite in the sky.

I do not want to dig deeper into this topic here, but only want to communicate that I did not have big problems this time, even though I had to move the objects in the eyepiece a bit "down". You can improve the alignment a little if you control the telescope via the astronomy app SkySafari for the iPad with the SkyWire device. But since I knew the names of the objects all by heart, I have not used the SkyWire device to connect the GoTo control to the iPad. It was OK using the hand control...

 

References

All the star maps were created with SkySafari Plus/Pro for Apple Macintosh.

Books

Websites

On this Website

 

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14.05.2017