Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson, and can honestly say that I enjoyed the book quite a bit...coincidentally, the weather has given us a bit of a break over the new moon and the last two nights have proven to be cloud free after 9 PM.  Even better, the atmosphere has been incredibly stable and transparent at the Lost Pleiad Observatory.  So, with Lisbeth Salander on my mind, I put my Celestron 9.25 inch SCT onto the mount and enjoyed exploring some heavenly bodies, in the constellation Draco (the dragon). Bad joke, I know.

One of the galaxies that I have observed before from dark skies is NGC 5866, and I was curious what this edge on galaxy would look like from the suburbs.  This galaxy is perhaps most well known as it may have been the galaxy that French Comet hunter Charles Messier originally  identified as object number 102 in his catalog.  NGC 5866 resides approximately 38 million light years away, is nearly edge-on and has a visual magnitude of 9.9.  While it was not nearly as bright as I recalled, the nucleus was evident and the galaxy appeared about twice as long as it did wide.  While there was no sign of the dust lane that bisects this galaxy, it did appear to bulge slightly more to the southwestern side than to the northeast.  To the left is a sketch I made at 180X.

I observed a second edge-on galaxy in Draco, NGC 6503.  While not having the history of NGC 5866, this galaxy is an interesting target visually.   It is listed at magnitude 10.2, yet appears to me brighter...perhaps a full magnitude brighter.  It was featureless in my scope showing a uniformly illuminated surface oriented roughly northwest-southeast.  At 17 million light years, it is less than half the distance of NGC 5866 above.  The galaxies are very close in apparent size, which indicates how much larger NGC 5866 must actually be.  To the right is my sketch.

I observed several other objects, including Jupiter which is starting to be reasonably high by midnight.  There has been much discussion of the south equatorial belt and it's recent disappearance, yet last night it looked as if the band may be re-forming.  The red spot was transiting during my observation and preceding it, just to the south of the spot was a thin dark band stretching approximately 1/3 of the way across the face.  I would have sketched it, but I was getting sleepy.  Maybe tonight?


  1. Hi Alan-
    Melinda and I have become quite the Larsson fans over the summer after a viewing of the Swedish movie "TGWTDT". It is the only movie we gave a "10" to in recent memory. We read the book afterwards, and the movie is quite an impressive effort with some subtle variations. A must-see if you enjoyed the book - dont wait for the american version! Nice post!

  2. Thanks for the tip Dean- I'll have to see if I can get the Swedish movie to watch...typically once I've read a book the movie disappoints. I'm almost done with book two...