Friday, March 12, 2004

Wednesday night was my first pleasant night outdoors this year, in Ontario at least. Temperatures were around freezing in southern Ontario, and the sky was the clearest since Christmas, so I drove to my club's darksky site in the country. It was worth the 35-minute drive, as opposed to my backyard in St. Catharines.

Equipment: 8" Orion Dob, 21mm Pentax XL, 14mm Radian, and 7mm orthoscopic, which revealed it's time to collimate.

Here's what I saw, roughly in order, with a few comments: M41, M42, M43, NGC 1973 nebulosity just north of there, Sigma Orionis, M78, maybe the Flame Nebula, Saturn, M1, M45, M79 (1st time ever, nice compact glob), M93, M46, M47, M50, M48 (another 1st, individual stars were quite bright), Jupiter (great banding and the GRS), to Gemini for Struve 1124, NGC 2420, NGC 2392 (Eskimo Nebula), to the Northeast for a bunch of galaxies (many first time views) including M51 and NGC 5195, M101 (big), M63 with some definite mottling, NGC 5005 and 5033 with 5005 being brighter, Cor Caroli, M94 (woo that's a bright one), NGC 4485 and 4490 make a nice pair, NGC 4449 which is obviously irregular (my notes says "angry smudge"), possibly its nearby faint companion 4460, M106, then maybe some of its companions including 4346 and 4282, then over to Leo for M65, M66 and NGC 3628 (perfectly framed with the 21mm), and finally the surprise of the night came while I was hunting for M106, got lost on my guide star and randomly found NGC 3893, a magnitude 10.9 mottled splotch near Chi Ursae Majoris. It took a lot of next-day research to figure out what it was. This is the field, and the galaxy looked a lot like this.

I also did some scouting for a potential Canadian trip to see Omega Centauri from the north shore of Lake Erie. With my finder I could definitely see stars to -41 degrees. The cluster is at -47, so it could happen....

The moon cleared the trees after 11:15, and my right hand fingers were frozen, so I went home.