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Observation Report
Alexandra, New Zealand, Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Southern Skies Observations

by: Shneor Sherman

The weather forecasts here are pretty unreliable. Yesterday's forecast was for possible snow, storms and high winds. Instead, at 7 p.m. the skies were clear with the usual thin high clouds that have been here for the past few days. Alpha Centauri shone brightly at the zenith and the Milky Way and LMC were visible from my motel, so I headed up to the airport. I'd been warned that if there was a frost, the airport road could be icy, but it was still reasonably warm. I set up my 13.1", and this time I was able to collimate it well ehough to use my 13mm Nagler. The showpiece objects of the South are so spectacular that I spent most of my time looking at them. Omega Centauri was almost at the zenith when I viewed it early in the evening, resolved at 115x. This huge globular is unlike most globulars in that it does not have a central core. It's quite large and the stars within seem to be fairly evenly distributed. Just a few degrees north is NGC5128, the Hamburger Galaxy, aka Centaurus A. Two bright hemispheres divided by two dark lanes, very bright.

I moved the telescope to 47 Tucanae, next to the SMC. What a beautiful globular! A bright, large central core surrounded by stars going off into filaments, dark lanes. I'd estimate it at 5 arcminutes in diameter. Staying with globulars for the moment, I moved to NGC2808, a large, bright classic globular cluster with a bright central core, in Carina. Since I was in the neighborhood I wanted to look at Eta Carinae. This is a magnificent object, I would say better than anything visible in the Northern hemishpere. Eta is surrounded by a nebula (supposed to be orange-red, but I could not see color) and there is nebulosity surrounding the entire area that must be at least a couple of degrees on any side. Often the nebular areas are star-studded, and the views are nothing short of spectacular. I need to view this with filters.

I then turned back to the SMC. I viewed more than a dozen nebulae and globulars. Sky Atlas 2000 does no justice whatsoever to the Magellanic Clouds. I'm going to ask Alan to print out some charts with DSOs to 15th magnitude, so I can identify the objects. But I did identify NGC460, a round, diffuse nebula, fairly bright, NGC466, a globular appearing very small, with a bright center, and NGC371, an irregular and rather dim nebula.

I turned next to the LMC, where the Tarantula Negula is another awesome object. I may have to resort to trying to draw it, because I can't really describe it. It's a long nebula, very bright and roundish at one end, at the other is a dark area mored or less shaped like a keyhole. Near it are other nebulae. But again, panning through the LMC reveals many objects clearly visible almost none of which are charted in Sky Atlas 2000.

As by this time, Corvus was near the zenith, I have a nice view of the Sombrero, the dark lane showing clearly, and NGC4361, a planetary in Corvus.

I also viewed several beautiful open clusters during the evening, will try to identify them later.

During the evening there had been considerable lightning to the North and West; there were clouds to the North, West and South. Now my car's windshield was frosted over and I was tired since I had gone to sleep at 4:30 am and only slept about 4 and one-half hours, so I decided to be prudent and packed it in.

Clear skies,
Shneor Sherman

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