March Binocular Observations part one

Not much time to get the big guns out tonight, but I managed to do a quick binocular tour with the 10X50 Opticroms. Lovely clear night with Orion high, and Leo also. Boötes seen for the first time fully this year, (been watching Arcturus hedge-skimming for a while now). Vega low in the east, twinkling, rising. Mars in between the Pleiades and Hyades, lovely colour against the blueish stars of M45.
Auriga high also, found the clusters M36 and M38, couldn’t see the fainter M37 tonight. The Great Cluster, in Gemini (M35) easily seen and bright tonight. In Leo, asteroid Vesta has moved considerably since last sighting two weeks ago. Have comparison photos to work on, also sketched.Called at M103 in Cassiopeia, (V small), the Double Cluster in Perseus bright and surprisingly detailed tonight, and Kemble’s Cascade above in Camelopardalis always a treat.
Cassiopeia is a bit too low to find its other clusters without effort.Under Sirius, the Little Beehive cluster (M41) quite faint but unmistakable. The actual Beehive (M44) high and resplendent!M46 and M47 in Canis Major hunted for, but not seen (re-check maps for these). No galaxies seen tonight, Bodes overhead but out of reach. I finished with a scan of the star-fields along the galactic equator in Monoceros.
Lovely stuff!

None-Messier NGC List

Okay man, it’s got to be done, a list of my observed none=Messier NGC objects culled from my observation notes. I’m going to split my list into two parts. ‘Historic’ observations which go back to March 13th 1991, and modern day observations, which started with my 8″ Skywatcher on February 15th 2015. It’s not a massive list, but it bumps up my galaxy count, so it’s important.
All these objects found by star-hopping and maps.
NGC 5195 – Galaxy (Whirlpool companion)
NGC 7789 – Open cluster Cassiopiea
NGC 457  – Open cluster Cassiopeia
NGC 7217 – Galaxy in Pegasus
NGC 7331 – Galaxy in Pegasus
NGC 1647 – Open cluster Taurus
NGC 1746 – Open Cluster Taurus
NGC 1807 – Open Cluster Taurus
NGC 2129 – Cluster in Gemini (triangle)
NGC 2392 – Planetary nebula in Gemini
NGC 2683 – Galaxy in Lynx, (‘UFO Galaxy’)
NGC 1907 – Cluster Auriga (‘under’ M38)
NGC 1664 – Cluster Auriga
NGC 1023 – Galaxy in Perseus
NGC 205 – Galaxy (dwarf elliptical Andromeda satellite)
NGC 4490 – Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Cocoon)
NGC 4485 – Galaxy in Canes Venatici (related to NGC 4490)
NGC 884 – Perseus double cluster
NGC 869 – Perseus double cluster
Modern Day
NGC 1617 – Open cluster Taurus
NGC 1746 – Open Cluster Taurus
NGC 2262 – Open cluster Taurus (part of ‘poor man’s double’ with 1817)
NGC 2354 – Open Cluster Canis Major
NGC 654 – Open cluster Cassiopeia
NGC 663 – Open Cluster Cassiopeia
NGC 659 – Open cluster Cassiopeia
NGC 6664 – Open cluster Scutum
NGC 475 – Open cluster Cassiopeia (E.T. cluster)
NGC 2169 – the ’37’ cluster in Orion
NGC 3384 – Galaxy in Virgo (near M87)
NGC 129 – Open Cluster Cassiopeia
NGC 7419 – Open cluster Cephus

I’m back here.

You would have expected, with more time on my hands, that I’d have been filling this blog up during lockdown. Quite the opposite’s happened and I’m not sure why. When I logged in here this morning I found WordPress had changed the editor and that was annoying (I liked the old one), till I found out how to install the old editor. Now I’m okay. 
I’ve done plenty of observing over the last six months, but because the observatory’s site, (on private land), has been in a bit of a state of turmoil with the owners, I haven’t used it as much. To say ‘it’s been a strange year’ is a bit of an understatement.
I’ve just updated December and January with a short observation report and a cut and paste of the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction event I organised for the local society. And last night I took some lunar shots, though any deep sky stuff was washed out by the 97% moon. 

Asteroid Vesta is at opposition on the 5th March. It’s about fifth magnitude now and quite easy to find. I took this last night, I’ll take another tonight and hopefully there’ll be some detectable movement. Two clear nights on the run, amamzing!


The 22 missing Messier objects

And I don’t mean things like the Double Cluster in Perseus, which by rights should have a Messier number. I mean the objects I’ve personally never seen. Which may not be strictly true, as I’ve seen deep-sky stuff just taking an un-navigated tour, but these are the objects that I haven’t entered in my observation notes.
Which means I cannot say I’ve seen them. That’s how it works, see?
M4. An open cluster in Scorpius.
M6 Open cluster in Scorpius
M7 Open cluster in Scorpius
No secret why I haven’t seen these. Scorpius is below the horizon here. I don’t know how far south I’d have to travel to see these.
M30 Globular Cluster Capricorn.
Again, a low summer constellation, but see-able.
M48 Galactic cluster, Hydra
Another very low constellation. And a dim one at that, barely visible from here.
M50 Open cluster, Monoceros.
No excuse for not seeing this one. Just to the left of Canis Minor, visible in the winter.
M55 Globular cluster Sagittarius 
Out there to the left and on its own, quite low. One for the summer hit-list.
M62 Globular Cluster Ophiuchus 
Again, a summer target.
M68 Globular cluster Hydra
M69 Globular cluster Saggitarius
M70 Globular Cluster Sagittarius 

M68 is too low, but M69 and M70 do-able with a low horizon.
M72 Globular cluster Aquarius
M73 Asterism, Aquarius
Again, Summer targets
M74 Galaxy in Pisces
Interesting! Easily viewable, I’ve just never looked. But the Pisces is a bit rubbish.
M75 Globular in Sagittarius
Again, this summer..
M77 Galaxy in Cetus
A winter target this time, in that big boring part of the winter sky
M79 Globular cluster in Lepus
Low in winter, under Canis Major. Hmmm..
M80 Globular cluster in Scorpius
Too low
M83 Galaxy in Hydra.
Do-able, about now, as it happens.
M97 Planetary nebula in Ursa Major
11th mag. I suppose I’ve just never had dark enough skies.
M101 Galaxy in Ursa Major
To my embarrassment, I’ve never seen it.
M107 Globular cluster in Ophiuchus
And we end with another summer target.

Quick obs report…

Nice clear night but very cold! Did some lunar observations in Wolves through the 4-inch table-top dob then headed out away from town for some deep sky stuff. The Moon was so bright, I really had a job seeing some DSOs through the Opticrom 10X50 bins. Best findings of the evening were M47, an open cluster in Puppis (found star-hopping from Sirius in Canis Major), not seen this often, quite low in UK. Couldn’t see companion cluster M46 (Puppis), or Caroline’s Cluster (Canis Major) through bins, (and too cold at -1 to set scope up in a field, I wished at this point I’d I’d gone to the observatory). M41 seen for the first time this year, (Little Beehive), very bright despite low elevation. Lovely winter cluster in Canis Major. Again, quite low, best seen in rural skies I blog1reckon.
Praesepe (M44 – the Beehive/Manger) superb in bins, and naked eye brighness after a while, despite the (estimated) 70% lit Moon just to the right of Taurus. And I spent at least ten minutes trying to see M67, a 6.9 mag open cluster in Cancer. Located eventually using averted vision. Look just under Praesepe, in a line of stars in a ‘smile’ shape. Nice, need to check if I’ve seen this in a scope under a dark sky. I’ve just looked it up and it’s an ancient cluster, five billion years old. Wow.
What else? The usual suspects, M45, The Hyades, open clusters M35, 36, 37, 38, Perseus Double Cluster, Mars and Uranus (got some photos of those), Vega and Lyra just dipping in the West with Cygnus following, Leo rising in the East, Regulus resplendent!
Reminder for next clear sky – Between Procyon and Sirius is a large cluster in Monoceros, M50. I bet I could have seen that tonight.
So no nebula tonight (except M42) and no galaxies, but a fun binocular tour and didn’t Orion look amazing!
Moon photo through the 4″ newt with my Canon 750 DSLR and a 2X barlow.

Saturn/Jupiter Conjunction

I wrote this for our society’s on-line newsletter..

On the 20th December, WolvAS practical observers once again gathered at Halfpenny Green Vineyard for an observing session. Our previous visit to the vineyard was in November 2019, where we successfully viewed the transit of Mercury (covered in Lyra, December 2019).

This time, it was the close conjunction of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn that we were hoping to observe. The greatest conjunction would be on Monday the 21st, with the planets appearing a mere 0.1 degree apart, but with 100% cloud cover forecast for that day, society members tactfully took advantage of the clear skies forecast the day before. Luckily, we were rewarded with a fine view of the two planets in the south/south-west, just after sunset.

Equipment set up ready to view the conjunction
Equipment set up ready to view the conjunction

And what a fine array of telescopes there were! From my notes I see there were a couple of Skywatcher 6” reflectors, one of them on a fantastic home-made mount with a magnetic encoder, made from reclaimed materials. I took my my 8” inch reflector on a new Vixen EQ mount (on loan from Steve). There was a pair of really nice newly acquired Opticrom 20X80 binoculars, a Maksutov-Cassegrain ED 80, an EDF 60 reflector, an eight inch Meade LX90, an Orion LX 200 and a 127 Maksutov. I also took a small table-top dobsonian, and there was a small refractor set up too.

The Moon (Richard Harvey: 8" Skywatcher, Canon 750)
The Moon (Richard Harvey: 8″ Skywatcher, Canon 750)

Before the planets came into view, I tried some basic single-shot lunar imaging with my Canon 750 through my 8” reflector, the distinct ‘chain’ of craters Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina were lit quite dramatically near the terminator.

And when twilight came, what a lovely view of the two planets we all had! They looked stunning through the eyepiece, and Steve Morall captured a lovely single half-second shot that mirrored perfectly what we saw through our eyepieces. Adam Foster also got some great images from video with his Canon 600 through his Skywatcher reflector. He later aligned the video in PIPP, stacked in AutoStakkert!3 and edited in RegiStax 6 and Photoshop CC. Adam’s done some very successful astro-photography this year, his blog is well worth visiting at

Jupiter / Saturn Conjunction (Steve Morall)
Jupiter / Saturn Conjunction (Steve Morall)
Jupiter / Saturn Conjunction (Adam Foster)
Jupiter / Saturn Conjunction (Adam Foster)

The planets remained in view till around 7pm, and some of us stayed behind for a deep sky session. Despite the cold we managed to make observations of some of the brighter deep sky objects visible at this time of year. These included M31 (the great Andromeda Galaxy), M32 (another galaxy in Andromeda), M27, the Dumbell Nebula in Vulpecula. M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra. M15, a bright globular cluster in Andromeda, M2, another globular cluster in Aquarius, and M36 and M38, two open clusters in Auriga. Binocular views of M45, an open cluster in Taurus (the famous Pleiades, of course!) were stunning, and just rising, M42 (the great Orion Nebula) was even visible at low altitude through the Wolverhampton haze in the distance.

It was a very successful Sunday afternoon, and our first official physical society gathering (albeit socially distanced), since March. Once again, we are extremely grateful to the staff and management of Halfpenny Green Vineyard for letting us use the site, it was perfect!

A night at the observatory

A very pleasant evening on the meteor-watch, with a couple of astro-buddies. We saw about 17 meteors in total, and I did some ‘greatest hits’ astronomy with a mount that needs replacing, basically. When I arrived, Saturn and Jupiter were just turning in for the night.

Mars at opposition

Mars is at opposition, I tried to get an image and I was pleased to get some surface details. Filmed and centered with Pipp, stacked and tweaked. Lots of friends have been photographing and filming and getting the same view.