Sunday, January 17, 2010
New Moon in Portal, Arizona
Friday night was a very clear night, with the milky way burning bright right down to the southern horizon. While the seeing was above average, the transparency was close to perfect. In practical terms what this means is that the atmosphere was slightly unsteady, making stars twinkle and critical detail in planetary observation a little tricky. At the same time, the perfect transparency allowed for very faint objects such as nebula and galaxies to be obseved.
I have been working on observing the Caldwell objects for some time, and Caldwell 51 has been very difficult. Despite several tries I have never seen this object, until tonight! Caldwell 51, which is IC 1613 is a dwarf irregular galaxy in Cetus. It is an extremely difficult visual object and is only visible as a subtle brightening. Despite being listed as Magnitude 9.2, this ranks among the most difficult of visual observations I have made. In fact, once I had the correct star field, it took several minutes and slowly panning around to detect the brightening.
In addition, to these galaxies, I observed several others in Fornax.
NGC 749 - a faint magnitude 12.7 galaxy, slightly oval, with a bright core
NGC 823 - another magnitude 12.7 galaxy, elongated east-west with a star attached to the east end of the galaxy. (At first we thought this could be a supernova but a check of the DSS image revealed a star)
NGC 986 - An oval shaped galaxy with a bright nucleus extending about 2/3 of the length of the magnitude 10.9 galaxy
NGC 1097 - A very attractive elongated galaxy, with a bright nucleus and an oval halo. Just north of the 9.2 magnitude galaxy, its companion NGC 1097a is visible as a fuzzy spot.
Mars was blazing high in the east by about 11:30, so after viewing a few more galaxies (such as NGC 2292/2293 and NGC 2295 in Canis Major), I decided it was time to sketch Mars.