Astro log: March 6th, 2010

Equipment: Orion Skyview 6 Deluxe EQ, using the 32, 25, 15, 10, and 4 mm eyepieces.

New objects observed: M51, M64, M87, M49

Previous objects observed: M81, M82, M53, Saturn, Titan


Pretty good night. Very productive, given the four new galaxies, although the north still showed a lot of washing out from the lights of downtown Tacoma and the Port, which is usually a sign of some transparency issues. I also set up the viewing shelter, though, and wore an eyepatch for a while before hand, so that may have helped.

After finding M81 and M82 fairly quickly to gauge what I was going to be able to see, I briefly and half heartedly took a look for that one open cluster sort of near Polaris, but didn't feel up to searching for it for very long. Still, I should probably get it sometime just for the hell of it. After that, I was able to see M51 for the first time, but had to use averted vision. I've been unable to see it before, though, so either I'm getting better at it, it was a better night that I've had in a while, or the eyepatch and shelter helped a bunch. I was then able to find M64, but again had to use averted vision. Got M53 again while orienting myself to find M64.

When I was done looking at M64, I swung over to Virgo to try my luck with some of the Virgo Cluster galaxies. Amazingly, I was not only able to see M87 (which is so far the most distant object I've directly observed), but also M49. I was also able to see both of them directly, not just with averted vision, and I was able to find them both fairly quickly. I suspect part of the reason they were easier than M51 and M64 is because they're to the west, rather than the north, where there's more light pollution issues. From my back yard, the worst issues are to the north and northwest (from downtown, the Port of Tacoma, and the more distant Seattle & suburbs), and to the south (from McChord).

After the remarkably good night with galaxies, I finished up the night with looking at Saturn and Titan for a bit. At this point my lenses were beginning to fog up, but rather than using the blow dryer on them I decided to take the hint and pack it in, since I had been out for a couple of hours already and still had to take the viewing shelter down. Excellent night for galaxies though.

I noticed the other day, looking at the star charts, that there's a whole grip of Messier open clusters around Sirius, along with M1, that I never got around to looking at with the near constant clouds and all. Hopefully an opportunity will present itself, but the weather's not looking promising for the next week, and it's not certain I'll be able to get them this year.

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