Observations on Sunday morning Feb.9, 2003

by Gregg Blandin

After much agonizing about whether or not it was worth doing, I set off for Blue Canyon after being assured by Brian that the road in was passable.

I arrived at 11:45 or so with still over an hour to go before the moon set. The temp was right around freezing. It stayed there the entire evening along with dry air and an occasional slight breeze. The air was quite transparent, I would give it 8 out of 10, but the seeing was more like 6-7 out of 10 depending on when you looked. I had no trouble whatsoever seeing the Ring Nebula's central star at 450X even when it was at less than 45 degrees above the horizon. We spent a considerable amount of time observing M51 which started out good and got better as it rose to straight over head. I noticed a granularity in the core that I had never seen before, almost appeared as individual stars on the very edge of averted vision for an instant of time. I noticed how stellar the core looks, maybe it's just that I've always been looking so much at the spiral arms, but at 450X you can't really help but focusing in the core and the stars around it were still fairly sharp at that power.

Brian had a list of galaxies with supernovae (is that the plural?). The first one we observed was quite obvious, located in a beautiful, bright edge on galaxy with lots of detail. Brian will have to give me the NGC number, I thought I could memorize it! Ha ha! The next one we attempted to observe was located in IC522 and there was no way to find it. The galaxy itself is round and diffuse with no central brightening and very low surface brightness. It's listed as 14, but it seemed dimmer. I 'm not surprised that we missed the supernova after finding out it was Mag 17.4

I went on to observe Hickson 44 in Leo which is quite a nice group with two galaxies parallel to each other and lined up almost perfectly (well nothing is ever quite perfect) NGC 3187 and NGC 3190. NGC 3187 is a fairly faint barred spiral, with the arms barely visible with averted vision. 3190 is much brighter and had an intensely brighter core with some interesting detail. NGC 3183 was a round uniformly bright blob and NGC 3185, at the other end of the cluster was slightly oblong with a compact and bright core. I spent about a half an hour more searching for the anonymous MAC galaxies in the area, it took my eyes that long to collect enough photons to observe two of them. I checked back three times to verify each one. I figured out that MAC 1017+2146 wasn't possible pretty quickly. Judging by it's size on my chart, I figured it was way the heck out there although I tried anyway. Who knows what Magnitude it is but it's not even my range of averted imagination. I never bothered looking for MAC 1017+2135 either. The two I did see were MAC 1017+2147 and MAC 1018+2142. Sorry I can't describe them other than faint and barely visible. I'm really curious to know what magnitude they are, but I can't find that information anywhere so far.

We also observed the double quasar in Ursa Major. It was more difficult than my last observation, but I could split it for an instant of time and verify the direction of orientation with the chart.

We stayed up until the sun came up and all in all it was well worth the drive and all that agonizing.