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Observation Report
Alexandra, New Zealand, Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Southern Skies
by: Shneor Sherman


The weather here in Alexandra constantly defies the forecasts, there are often clouda visible at the horizon in all directions, but it's clear here - or ralatively clear, anyway. I got a late start last night as I did a presentation on eyepieces to the Board of the Central Otago Astronomers earlier in the evening. I arrived at the airport at about 11, but did not set up immediately as a rather large cloud hung over a large part of the southern sky, covering the Magellanic Clouds. It moves slowly, and I wanted to be sure it would not drift toward me before setting up. It moved slowly East; I set up and was observing by 11:30 p.m. It was quite cold, probably in the mid-20s, and I had to put on almost all the winter clothing I had brought. The sky was dimmed a magnitude to a magnitude and a half by high cloud. All my observing tonight was with a 30mm Widescan II in a Visual Paracorr, with my 13.1" f/4.6.

I began observing in Corvus, which was hi in the sky. I observed NGC4038/39, a pair of interacting galaxies. Two edge-ons, or edge on to elliptical, seeming to toudh at the north end, a pretty sight. I moved to M68, a nearby globular to the southeast of Corvis. I did a quidk tour of showpiece objects, all of which were less spectacular than usual due to the high cloud. A few parts of the sky were less affected. Still, the sky is magnificent with the Milky Way passing through Crux and Centaurus, Carina and Vela, chock-full of beautiful open clusters, with stars of different colors. (I'm not usually a fan of open clusters, so have not cataloged them; I probably should.)

Alan Thomas has made me some more detailed charts of the LMC and SMC. Both of these nearby galaxies have many nebulae and globulars visible. I spent some time on the LMC, and while 47 Tucanae is spectacular, next to the LMC, NGC 361 is also an impressive globular, small, well-defined, with a bright core. Nearby is NGC406, a galaxy that appeared somewhat irregular, almost like a nebula. In the opposite direction is NGC269, a small globular. Toward the opposite side of the LMC I viewed NGC260, a small globular, very close to it another small globular, NGC265 and a small bright nebula, NGC256. Panning further down I viewed NGC346, another small, bright nebula, NGC330, a small globular, NGC306, a bright nebula, NGC299, a large, iregular, faint nebula and NGC152, another small globular. There are some additional objects in the LMC that I viewed, but I have been unable to identify them positively on the chart.

I moved to the LMC and viewed a number of objects, but have not matched them up with the chart as yet. I returned to view Omega Centauri, and while there is not a bright core, there seems to be an area toward the southeast that appears brighter, as though the concentration of stars is a bit more dense.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I had a quick view of NGC5128, which was almost overhear at this point. This is always an amazing view, with the huge dark lane between what may well be two galaxies colliding. But the view was much dimmer than it should have been, and now I noticed that the sky has washed out quite a bit, so I decided it was time to go and packed up. Frost was forming on my windshield...

I'm here for only 2 more (hopefully) usable nights, and I can't stay up late Friday...(it's Thursday just now).

Clear skies,
Shneor Sherman

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