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Observation Report
Fiddletown, Monday, March 26, 2001

by: Jim Ster

I arrived at the Fiddletown site around 7:10 pm and met up with fellow TAC-SAC and SVAS member Matt Tarlach. The skies were almost clear with the exception of some high thin clouds and moisture, which plagued us on and off the entire evening. Temperatures were in the high 40's and remained there the entire evening. There was no breeze to speak of. Around midnight, a little dew was forming, but nothing serious.

Matt already had his 80mm Orion Short Tube Refractor set up and I joined him with my TV-85 and 12" LX200. While I was setting up, Matt began his search for Messier and other goodies. One of his first objects was the Rosette Nebula, which surrounds the open cluster NGC 2237. I took a quick peek at it through Matt's 80 mm., which was very nice indeed. This energized me and I quickly finished setting up my 85 mm. and I assembled an OIII filter with a 31 mm. Nagler, to view it through. The OIII really made the nebula stand out in the 31's 4-degree field of view in the TV-85. What an awesome beginning to the evening.

While VB (my LX200) was reaching thermal equilibrium, I used AL (my TV-85) to take a quick spin through some of the objects quickly setting to the west. The first was Jupiter, which showed some banding, but due to the moisture, the seeing suffered and the details were lost. I didn't even bother with Saturn. A quick view of M45, the Pleiades, was quite spectacular through the 31 mm. From there it was on to M42 & M43, (NGC 1976 & 1982) the Great Orion Nebula. Once again the poor seeing only allowed for 4 stars in the Trapezium. But, the greenish hues of the main body and the brownish-red hues in the wings made the view worthwhile.

By this time VB was rapidly reaching equilibrium and it was time to bring the "big iron" to bear on the skies. Using Sirius and then Alkaid as my alignment stars, I proceeded directly to M81 & M82 that were both near zenith at the time. Although the seeing wasn't the best, the dust lanes on M82 were still quite striking. A quick adjustment placed them both in the field of view in the 31 mm. Nagler. This was an excellent starting point for VB. I swung over to M42 again, but as with similar results with AL, too much moisture for anything more than 4 stars in the Trapesium.

At Matt's suggestion, I ran over to M65 & M66 for a quick peek. Beautiful. I could make out dust lanes in both of them. Nearby was NGC 3628, and it was huge! How Messier ever missed 3286 is beyond me. It filled the field of view by itself in my 17 mm. Nagler.

I then decided to go back to my Herschel 400's and find some of the amazing things that I had seen at lasts months gathering. I decided to begin with the spring objects and specifically started on the 46 listed galaxies in Virgo. I then proceeded backwards through the list and actually viewed a total of 137 of them this evening, in addition to a few Messier's along the way.

Early on, M104, the Sombrero Galaxy provided a nice view, albeit low on the horizon. Next, NGC 4435 and 4438 showed us no less than 7 galaxies in the 31 Nagler's field of view. A quick pan all around would show at least another 5 or 6 nearby galaxies as well. The view of M61 (NGC 4303), was great. Both spiral arms could easily be made out. NGC 5754 was another great looking sight. NGC 4762 is one of the most beautiful needle like edge on galaxies I've seen to date. I first viewed this razor thin galaxy last month. Along with NGC 4754, they make for a view that rivals M81 & 82 IMHO. It is just these sorts of views that make Virgo one of my favorite areas to peruse.

Next on the Herschel 400's were the 44 galaxies in the area of Ursa Major. Like Shneor said the other day, "There's certainly a rich soup of galaxies in the bowl!" He wasn't kidding. While it doesn't have the density of galaxies that Virgo can offer in single fields of view, it makes up for with sheer quantity. M109 (NGC 3992) was an excellent example of many fine sights to be had there. M108 (NGC 3556), showed its dust lane quite nicely. NGC 3034, aka M82 was now much better as the seeing had improved. Its disturbed appearance was really standing out as well as the appearance of its huge neighbor M81, NGC 3031.

As the evening was approaching 11:00 pm, I entered Leo to begin my adventures there. First, I ran into NGC 3607 & 3608, a nice pair of 9.6 and 11.1 mag galaxies to view simultaneously in the 17 mm. Nagler. Next, M105 (NGC 3379), had brought with it, 2 other bright galaxies, NGC 3377 & 3384 into the field of view. NGC 2903, a beautiful bright fuzzy with a very pronounced dust lane. What a treat. This is just another excellent area to get lost in. I visited at least 23 faint fuzzyies in this area alone.

As time was winding down, I finished off my Herschel 400's with a few objects in Hydra. The open cluster M48 (NCG 2548), was not too good as the seeing was once again deteriorating rapidly. I moved over to NGC 3242, a fantastic planetary nebula, which was large and had a beautiful greenish blue hue to it.

I'd like to thank Matt for taking the time to show me several nice objects in his 80 mm. refractor and his 9 x 50 bino's, including M5 (NGC 5904), M81 & 82, the Beehive Cluster and M51. It's too bad the southern skies were so poor. We made several attempts to find Omega Centauri, but to no avail. For a brief instant, Matt was able to pick out that celestial Hamburger in his bino's though. He did get to catch a glimpse of Mars just before we bailed for the evening.

After that, we finished up with some quick views of M13 (NGC 6205) in AL and VB. VB's aperture really makes those little diamonds jump out at you. Not to take anything away from AL, it just goes to show you that there is no substitute for aperture.

I can't wait for next month.

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