First Light with the Old Dob

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I had a good clear Friday and and almost as good clear Saturday night with the Dark Star 10″ reflector (on a dobsonian mount, I should add). And it was a good session, so I’ll paraphrase my notes from my observation book here.
May 29th & 30th.
Excellent ‘fist light’ with the old dob. I did seem to have a slight ‘aberration’ with the brightest stars, but only near 1st mag. It could even have been my eyes, because this effect vanished on the second night.
Although there was no Moon, it didn’t get truly dark, so a ‘greatest hits’ of deep sky objects was a good idea I thought. There was Virgo, in the south. Would it be fair to start looking for really faint fuzzies now?
To start with, I could remember where M94 was, and found it. Thing is, I couldn’t remember what M94 was on the first night! And I described it in my notes as a fuzzy globular cluster. I later found out it was a galaxy, (some call it the ‘Crock’s Eye’ galaxy). But I also read William Hershell described it as looking like a globular cluster, so at least I’m in good company. It’s above – but in between the hunting dogs of Canis Major.
Star-hopping from the Crock’s Eye galaxy, I found M63, still in Canes Venatici. This was very pretty, and at 27 Million light years away, I was very much looking back in time. This galaxy is estimated to be around the same size as our own. I wonder what our looks like, from there?
Galaxy M63 looked more ‘edge on’ than it appears in photographs.
I looked for M108, (another galaxy in Ursa Major), and noted a round, undefined patchy object on the first night. I was unconvinced it was a galaxy and the following night I was able to confirm I was looking at the
All the objects looked so pleasingly bright in the 10″ mirror. The Great Cluster in Hercules (M13) was simply dazzling. I didn’t see M92 (the other Hercules cluster) and later found I miss-remembered where it was exactly. I was looking a couple of finger-widths too low.
I used a 32mm eyepiece to look at Bode’s galaxy and the ‘cigar’ galaxy, (M81 and M82), and was very pleased to see, despite the reflector’s long focal length, I could still get them in the same field of view. They were pleasingly bright, despite not having astronomical darkness. I studied them further by centering each galaxy in the eyepiece.
On the second night I returned to Ursa Major to re-check my observations of (what I thought was) M108, and found that I’d almost mistaken the Owl Nebula for M108. Using the 32mm eyepiece I was very pleased to see I could catch both in the same field of view. It was a lovely sight, and I wondered why so much is made of the Leo Triplet, and the two galaxies in Ursa Major (M81 & M82), when here we have a galaxy and planetary nebula in the same field of view. Why is this not talked of more?
Staying on a galaxy tour of Ursa Major, I found M109, which I’ve described as quite small in the eyepiece with the 32mm. An lovely ghostly edge on spiral.
What else? Well the first night observing I had vague recollections of a colorful double in Cygnus, which wasn’t Albereo. I looked at where my memory was hinting and there was a lovely pairing of a blue and gold star, and ‘lover’ in the eyepiece, a silver/white (unrelated) star. This was a treat and a surprise, to see three star colours in one eyepiece. Further studies needed on this one, my notes suggest this might be O2 Cyngi.
Staying in Cygnus, I found the small ‘anvil’ shaped cluster M29. I like this quite unspectacular but recongisable cluster.
On the second night I spent far too long looking for NGC7023 – a reflection nebula in Cephus. I think I saw this, through the Helios buns at the observatory, but need a definite re-visit to confirm. But I couldn’t find it, despite it being only 7.7 mag in the O’Meara Caldwell book. So why couldn’t I see it? (M109 is 9.8 mag in by the same author, yet I had a lovely sighting of that).
M71, the large globular (or small open cluster, you choose!) in Sagitta. So easy to find these days, I can’t believe I’d spent so long looking for this without reward!
M51 and NGC 5195 are among my least-visited ‘Hollywood’ deep sky objects. Desipte the large mirror, I cannot profess to have seen well defined spiral arms of the larger galaxy this weekend. But a definite ‘mottling’ using averted vision.
I stopped at M103 in Cassiopeia for a while, I love this open cluster’s Xmas tree shape. It’s so easy to find too.
I decided to list the Messier objects I’d observed over these two nights with magnitudes (which differ slightly book by book), just as a reference for what I’d seen without proper astro darkness.

M13 5.8
M29 6.6
M51 8.4
M57 8.8
M63 8.6
M71 8.4
M81 6.9
M82 8.4
M94 8.2
M97 9.8
M101 7.9
M103 7.4
M109 9.8

Around 2.30am on the second night, I found I was getting very poor contrast with any deep sky objects. I suspected a misty mirror till I realised it was a subtle skyglow from the early dawn.
Time for bed!