Observing report from Winters for 1/5/2003

by Gregg Blandin

I decided to go out in the wind on Sunday night to get in some observing from home with my 25". The conditions were very dry and windy with limiting magnitude at around 5 overhead. The transparency was 8/10 and the seeing was 4-6/10 depending on the wind speed at the moment. The entire time I struggled to get decent views and some of my observations were very difficult to make. I mad e brief attempt to see Saturn/M1 but I'm really not certain I saw M1 back there and not the glare from Saturn.

I mainly observed two Abell galaxy clusters: Abell 347 and Abell 262

Abell 347

This Andromeda galaxy cluster lies approximately 40 arc minutes SE of NGC891, a beautiful edge on with a well defined dark lane and low surface brightness.

I found that an easy way to navigate around the cluster was to use an east-west line of four Mag9-Mag10 stars which divides the cluster roughly in half.

On the north side of those stars is NGC 906, a large round and diffuse galaxy with a slight brightening toward the center.

Just a few minutes drive (or walk if you don't have go-to) to the south is NGC 909. It's much smaller, compact and has a stellar core which appeared slightly off-center (could have been my scope jumping!)

At the far north/north east edge of the group lies NGC 914, a fairly large, uniformly low surface brightness object. I needed averted vision to see it well.

In the southern section of the cluster is NGC 911. With a Magnitude of 13.78, it's one of the brightest galaxies of the group. Slightly elongated, it had a significantly brighter and non-stellar core.

NGC 910 is fairly round with a concentrated core and lies approximately 10' south of NGC 910.

Almost half way in between NGC 910 and 911 is CGCG539-18. At magnitude 15.54 it was close to my limit for the night. This faint oblong galaxy is oriented roughly parallel to the line between NGC 910 and 911. It had a definite brightening in the core which appeared stellar. UGC 1866 is just 4' northwest of NGC 910. It appeared as if there were two galaxies there or possibly irregular. I looked at it for quite a while. A closer look at the chart revealed a Mag 15 star almost on the galaxy's edge, undetectable as a star with the poor seeing.

Further to the south, NGC 912 is round with a slightly brighter nucleus.

Abell 262

Also in the constellation Andromeda, this compact swarm of seven NGC galaxies is a great view at 240X, if the conditions allow. Additionally, there are 4 other galaxies which will fit in that same field of view. I ran out of patience with the wind and seeing conditions to completely observe the group, but here's a start.

NGC 709 is situated on the northeast edge of the cluster. At Mag 15.21, it was dim but still bright enough to see some details. The oblong shaped galaxy appeared to have a concentrated core which looked slightly off-center.

Just less than 1' southwest of NGC 708 is NGC 704, a round, small galaxy containing a stellar nucleus.

Continuing southwest, NGC 705 is faint and elongated with no other details visible.

CGCG 522-45 takes the prize for the dimmest object of the night. With a magnitude of 15.64 it required averted vision to detect with a star just to the north. I estimated it at Mag 13. The galaxy is roughly round and appeared very slightly brighter toward the center.

The wind was picking up at that point and was I was tired of fighting it. I had gotten some pretty decent views when the wind let up. I left my scope out with a cover on it for three days, hoping that the skies might be favorable. But wouldn't you know it, the minute the wind stopped, the fog moved in! Oh well.