Deep Sky Summer/Autumn Observations September 2017

Conditions | Observation Overview | Observed Objects | Remarks | References

In September 2017, I did simple "deep-sky summer / autumn observations", which might be of interest to other beginners and are therefore described here. They took place in Sumène, Haute Loire, France, and were carried out with my 10 x 25 binoculars and my Sky-Watcher Heritage 100 Dobsonian telescope, that is, with simple means.

List of observed deep sky objects:

I selected the observation objects primarily on the basis of my literature (see references).

 

Conditions

Sky Region and Objects

I confined my observations to the sky area in the south with Hercules, Cygnus, Lyra on the one hand, and to the area between Andromeda, Cassiopeia, and Perseus on the other hand, as well as Pegasus in between, and Ursa Major in the North.

Overview Map

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

Click the map for a larger version - it opens in a new window

And here is the section of the sky in the East with Cassiopeia, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus a.s.o.:

Click the map for a larger version - it opens in a new window

Observation Time

The observations were done in September 2017, mostly after 9 p.m..

Observation Location

The observations took place in Sumène (close to Saint Julien-Chapteuil), Haute Loire (France):

Devices Used

I used my Leica Trinovid 10 x 25 BC binoculars (LT binoculars), which are by no means "night binoculars," and my Sky-Watcher Heritage 100 Dobsonian telescope. With the latter, I used my UWA eyepieces (16 mm, 7 mm, 4 mm) and a 24 mm Televue eyepiece for a maximum overview.

General Conditions

The sky above Sumène, Haute Loire (France) is relatively dark (the Betz observatory used by the Orion43 group is near-by). In part, the observations were done around new moon, later under increasing (and rising) moon. Initially, the milky way could be seen very well. Regrettably, we had only a few days with clear skies, and later the moon reappeared.

 

Observation Overview

Observation Details

Date Observed Objects Further Observations and Remarks Devices Used Eyepieces Used General Remarks
Sep 10 or 11, 2017 GC: M 13 (Hercules Cluster) I was unable to find M 92 in Hercules. 10 x 25 binoculars    
Sep 13, 2017 G: M 31 (Andromeda Galaxy)
GC: M 13
  10 x 25 binoculars   Access to M 31 via three brighter stars in Andromeda (the last and closest one is ny Andromeda)
Sep 18, 2017 G: M 31   10 x 25 binoculars    
Sep 20, 2017 G: M 31
P: CR 399 (Coat Hanger)
  Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P, 10 x 25 binoculars UWA 4, 7, 16 mm, WA 24 mm Access to CR 399 via Cygnus and Albireo (head)
Sep 21, 2017 G: M 81/82 (Bode Galaxies)
OC: NGC 457 (E.T./Owl Cluster), NGC 884/869 (Perseus Double Cluster), Mel 20 (Alpha Persei Cluster)
KS: M 15
DS: Mizar as double star, Double Double
NGC 663 and M 103 not found; Double Double only seen as pair Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P, 10 x 25 binoculars UWA 4, 7, 16 mm, WA 24 mm  
Sep 22, 2017 G: M 31
OC: NGC 457, NGC 884/869, Mel 20
DS: Double Double, Albireo
P: CR399
NGC 663 and M 103 not found; Double Double only seen as pair Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P, 10 x 25 binoculars UWA 4, 7, 16 mm, WA 24 mm  
Sep 29, 2017 G: M 31
OS: NGC 884/869, Mel 20, perhaps NGC 457
SM: CR 399
Half moon, therefore the milky way was hard to see with the naked eyes; for the same reason, M 31 not as large and bright as the nights before 10 x 25 binoculars UWA 4, 7, 16 mm, WA 24 mm  

Bold: First observation during this observation period; G = galaxy, OC = open star cluster, GC = globular star cluster, P = star pattern

Overview of the Observed Sky Objects (Mostly Objects Found)

DSO
Name Constellation Type Bino* 100P Remarks Sketch+
Details Page
M 13 M 13 Hercules Cluster Hercules GC yes   prime objects yes
epsilon Lyrae epsilon Lyrae Double Double Lyra DS   yes seen as a pair only, not as "double pair"  
CR 399 CR 399 Coat Hanger Vulpecula SP yes yes in binoculars, the shape is better to recognize than in the telescope  
beta Cygni beta Cyg Albireo Cygnus DS   yes nice color difference, leads the way to the Coat Hanger  
M 15 M 15   Pegasus GC   yes smaller than M 13  
M 31 M 31 Andromeda Galaxy Andromeda G yes yes in the North-East; seen as bright and large as never before, particularly with binoculars yes
NGC 884/869 NGC 884/869 Perseus Double Cluster Perseus OC yes yes in the North-East, already visible to the naked eye yes
Mel 20 Mel 20 Alpha Persei Cluster (Mirfak) Perseus OC yes yes beautiful, even with the naked eye  
NGC 457 NGC 457 Owl or E.T. Cluster Cassiopeia OC   yes? relatively small, the eyes stand out

link

M 81/82 M 81/82 Bode Galaxies Ursa Major G   yes in Sumène, both galaxies were easily visible  
zeta UMa zeta UMa Mizar Ursa Major DS   yes the pair was easy to see  

*) 10 x 25 binoculars; +) Sketches by Michael Vlasov, DeepSkyWatch.com; G = galaxy, OC = open star cluster, GC = globular star cluster, DS = double star, SP = star pattern

Searched for, but not found: M 57, M 56, M 92, M 103, NGC 663

 

Observed Objects

Hercules: M 13

The globular star cluster M 13 in the Hercules constellation is probably the largest globular cluster in the northern sky. It is located on the right edge of the Keystone asterism, which is the most prominent part of the constellation Hercules and forms a trapezoid. M 13 is not quite round and, depending on the author, 8 'or 15' in size. Overall, this cluster is an easy-to-find object, even with binoculars, at least once you have found the Keystone asterism.

M 13 is located at the right edge of the Keystone asterism (1/3 from top) und is relatively easy to find, once you have found the Keystone trapezoid.

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed in summer/autumn 2017 (my impression was much fainter and smaller than the sketch):

Sketch of the M 13 globular star cluster by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016) - presented with the author's permission

Observations


Lyra: Double Double

According to Stoyan, Double Double (epsilon Lyrae) is the "celebrated double double system," which is also popular as a test object for small telescopes. The simple pair is also an eye tester because, with a distance of a little more than 3', they are at the resolution limit of the human eye. Above a magnification of 60-80 x one should already be able to see that both stars are double stars themselves. Up to a magnification of 100 x, you can have both couples in the field of view. I was, however, not able to verify this, because while, even at a magnification of 100 x, both stars were in the same field of view, they were not recognizable as double stars.

epsilon Lyrae is in reality a "double double system"

Observations


Vulpecula: CR 399

The asterism CR 399 is located in the constellation Vulpecula/Little Fox. Thanks to its shape, it is called Coat Hanger. While I was not able to find the Coat Hanger in 2016, I succeeded this year using two approaches: (1) Found CR 399 between Altair and Vega, on half the way is a somewhat lighter star slightly above the direct link (apparently, this is Albireo) below is a double star (Anser), and below it finally the Coat Hanger; (2) you can find the Coat Hanger also using Cygnus/Swan (Deneb, Sadr) and Albireo. Meanwhile, I always search for the Coat Hanger using the second way.

Overview map with CR 399

Observations


Cygnus: Albireo

The double star Albireo (beta Cygni) is the "head" star of the constellation Cygnus/Swan, and, according to Stoyan, it is held for the most beautiful double star by many observers. In any case, it is a prime example of this class. Albireo is supposed to be separated into two stars by binoculars (0.5 'apart), but I cannot confirm this. And only with a telescope you can see the difference between the colors of two stars: golden (to reddish) and azur blue.

Albireo is easy to find visually, as well as "manually" with the telescope.

Double star Albireo (beta Cygni) in the constellation Cygnus/Swan

Observations


Pegasus: M15

M 15 (NGC 7078) is a globular star cluster that is located in the constellation Pegasus. Together with M 13, M 5, and M 3, it is counted among the "fantastic four" of the globular clusters in the northern hemisphere (Stoyan). Supposedly, it is the best globular cluster in autumn.

M 15 in the constellation Pegasus

Observations


Andromeda: M 31 (Andromeda Galaxy)

The Andromeda galaxy M 31 in constellation Andromeda (but it rather is located between the constellation of Andromeda and Cassiopeia), is our neighboring galaxy and about 2.5 million light years away from us. Because it can be seen with the naked eye under good conditions (in which I have never succeeded yet), it is the most remote sky object that we can see with the naked eye. It can be seen in binoculars and in small telescopes as a diffuse shimmering elongated oval with a brighter nucleus.

Andromeda Galaxy M 31 and Perseus Double Cluster NGC 884/869

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

Observations


Perseus: NGC 884/869

The open double star cluster NGC 884/869 in Perseus is considered to be a first-rate deep sky object. Therefore, it has received a 5-star rating from Stoyan. Supposedly the double cluster should be seen with the naked eye, but I can confirm this only for a dark sky as we had it in France. In small binoculars, however, it can already be seen well - particularly, as a double cluster.

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

Observations


Perseus: Mel 20 (Alpha Persei Cluster)

The open star cluster Mel 20 around the star Mirfak (Alpha Persei) in the constellation Perseus is regarded as a "star association" rather than a cluster. It is, however, not an arbitrary star pattern, because most of the stars of the association move in the same direction. The star cluster is quite large (3° according to Stoyan), visible to the naked eye, very nice in binoculars, and already too big for a telescope.

The open star cluster Mel 20 is located around Mirfak (Alpha Persei, lowest red dot) in constellation Perseus

Observations


Cassiopeia: NGC 457

The open star cluster NGC 457 in the constellation Cassiopeia got its name Owl Cluster due to its characteristic shape; it is also called ET Cluster. This object is fairly small und I need a telescope to see it. Using binoculars, I see only the brightest star, that is, one of the eyes, and perhaps a faint glow...

NGC 457 (Owl Cluster, ET Cluster), for orientation purposed, the Andromeda galaxy M 31 is included in the map, as well as the Perseus double cluster NGC 884/869 and further DSOs

The sketch by Michael Vlasov (DeepSkyWatch.com) provides a rough impression of what I observed in autumn 2017: Sketch of the NGC 457 Nebula by Michael Vlasov (Copyright © Michael Vlasov 2016)

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

Observations


Ursa Major: M 81/82 (Bode Galaxies)

The Bode galaxies M 81 and M 82 are located in the constellation Ursa Major/Big Bear (Big Dipper). M 81 is the main galaxy of a galaxy group, which also includes the M 82 galaxy. Only in a small telescope, the two can be observed together, because the viewing angle should, according to Stoyan, be at least 1.5°. M 81 is a spiral galaxy, which is seen from above, whereas M 82 is an irregular galaxy, which is seen in edge position.

M 81 and M 82, the Bode galaxies in Ursa Major, in September more or less in the North...

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.

Observations

This time, I found the galaxies without a GoTo mount!


Ursa Major: Mizar & Alcor

According to Stoyan, the distant pair of Mizar (zeta Ursae Majoris) and Alcor ("Little Rider") is one of the famous double stars (12') for the naked eye. Sometimes, this combination is also referred to as an eye examiner, but it is actually too easy to recognize for being one. With the telescope, Mizar itself can be separated into two white, almost equally large stars (at 14.4 "distance). In the spectrogram they both turn out to be double stars themselves (optically indistinguishable).

According to Stoyan, this pair is one of the simplest and most beautiful objects for beginners, and I can confirm this.

Alcor and Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major)

Observations

 

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 wrong direction? Admittedly, I am often - even after repeated attempts - not able to clarify this question for some of the objects that I try to observe "manually."

 

References

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

Books

Websites

On this Website

 

 

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24.11.2017