M48 in the bag!

It’s not very often these days I get to tick a new Messier object off the list. The older you get, and the more you observe, the less bright objects are left to see for the first time. Tonight I made my first recorded viewing of M48, a bright open cluster in Hydra. It’s quite dense with stars; certainly uncountable, even through the 4″ mirror. And there’s a distinct line of stars in the middle – almost like a tiny coat hanger – and with the usual Plossl 9mm eyepiece I like to use with that scope, it looked bloody lovely, (I only had about 50 minutes of clear sky tonight, but with the little dob’s ten second set-up time, I was observing right from the start). O’Meara puts it at 2,400 light years away.
Mars is still heading north-east. It’s like it’s hanging on, wanting to stay in the sky as all the winter background stars head westward for the summer. It was right next to a pretty cluster of stars tonight which may have a designation somewhere, I need to research. But it would have made a great photographic subject. The disc of Mars is still obvious even in the small 4″ mirror, and the disc is seen easier the dimmer it gets.
Pleiades and Hyades open clusters, all still lovely in the 10X50 Opticrom bins, and I took in the usual run of the four open clusters along Auriga and ending with M35 in Gemini. It’d be rude not to, before they disappear*
Over in Cancer, I spent quite a while with The Beehive (M44) and M67. Both open clusters but quite different telescopic objects. In fact, it was quite easy navigating from M48, to M67 and M44. Note to self – use the V shape ‘smile’ of stars in Cancer to find M67 just above. Cancer is a bit rubbish for recognisable bright stars, but away from the city lights I managed some decent navigation.
And the double star above M44, wow! glorious! Like a smaller Albereo, striking colours of blue and gold with a large seperation of 30″, according to my Webb Deep Sky Society atlas. This double surely has a better name than iota Cancri?
I spent a bit of time also in that ‘westward’ area of Canis Major – soon to disappear. I wanted to see Caroline’s Cluster, but I was having trouble navigating this area tonight. The Little Beehive (M41) is always easy, and a delight, even at low altitude. But the area around M47, in a small scope of bins, looks like a bright open cluster in itself. Yet it houses M47. It’s a nice part of the sky, and I made definite observations of both M47 and M48 last year through the society’s Celestron 8″ S/C.
What else? Ah yes, I remember being amazed that I could see the fourth star of the Trapezium in the Orion Nebula in the 4″ from Chapel Ash, well tonight the Trapezium was crisp and clear as anything. Once again, the optics of the little Skywatcher impressed me (as long as you keep the image in the middle). And the nebula itself was nice and bright and well defined despite the low elevation.
Leo didn’t hit the ‘sweet spot’ of dark sky before the clouds rolled over, so no Leo galaxies tonight. In fact, no galaxies at all, thinking about it. And I’d taken my camera to try and catch the nova in Cassiopeia, but the clouds rolled in before I could do that, or try out my new binocular mounts with the 15X70 Helios bins. Next time, then. You can’t have everything.
* Capella, I only realised two years ago, never sets in the Midlands UK. So Capella is circumpolar? Wow.