Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Observing report 5.20.06

I meant to post this earlier, but it's been a hectic week. I'm going to Italy for two weeks tomorrow and should have lots to say about the birthplace of Galileo when I get back.

In the meantime, I did manage to get out stargazing on Saturday night. I didn't go all the way out to Virginia, but instead hit my local site near Damascus, MD. Usually, this is not a very dark site because it's located too near the I-270 corridor, which is quite built up with housing and shopping malls. But for some reason Saturday was uncommonly clear with virtually no haze or ambient light at all. One of those nights where, instead of hunting and hunting for objects, you just point your telescope and there they are.

Unfortunately, the steadiness was pretty bad, so planets and doubles were out of the question. But galaxies... that was a different story. I made the limiting magnitude out at 5.5 or 5.6 (based on the Astrocards chart, which I'm not sure is particularly accurate). But still, that was very good for this location.

Anyway, I hit a bunch of the Coma-Virgo group where there were sometimes as many as 4 galaxies in a single field of view -- lovely! And a few old favorites like M81, M51, and M57 (below). I was able to just get a hint of the arm between the two disks of M51 and for the first time saw the little star lying next to the Ring Nebula.


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