by Jamie Dillon
While waiting for Virgo to move up, I started with the bunches of galaxies around the head of Leo. Revisited the brightest Hickson group, around 3190. Then finally picked up the pair of galaxies just SE of Algieba, 3226-7. 3227 turns out to be a Seyfert galaxy, yes showed a very bright core with interesting dark swirls in a compact halo. 3226, a dense oval, is very close, and they are in fact interacting. Off to the West I discovered 3222, a little oval blip.
Moving onto the main act, started with 3941 in UMa (bright core compact round halo) then noticed my guide star in Centaurus had come up nicely above the southern horizon, iota Cen. Pretty soon, up came Menkent as well, theta Cen, which I'm pretty sure is one of the navigators' main southern stars. Starhopping in Centaurus is still exotic to me. There are plenty of galaxies down there, with M83 being the diva. Man, a big bright disk running EW, very bright core, arcing dust lanes throughout. Been way too long since I'd been there. Of the brighter Dickinson samplers in those parts, 5253 stood out, a pretty little boxy galaxy, bright core slight elongation NS, dust lanes.
Having spent a bulk of the night down there, it was past 1 am already, so for dessert I headed for a cluster of galaxies that are charted just NE of the tip of Berenice's Hair. Felix pulled in 8 galaxies within about 4 degrees. The most interesting of this grouping was 4314, very pretty with longish spiral shape, looked to be ca 40% off edge-on, showed dust lanes and a stellar core. Had another discovery here, 4310, a little dim thing . Jim Whippersnapper Everitt could see 4286 in his 15". (Felix is a Celestron 11" f/4.5 Dobs with optics made by Discovery Telescopes, and very clean shiny mirrors they are. Was using a 22 Pan, 16mm UO Koenig, 10mm Radian.)
Spent some time staring at 4631 and neighbors. This is the galaxy Gottlieb and I think looks like a starship. It no way deserves the name Slug. Magnificent galaxy, beggars description. 4627 is its little neighbor, coming right off 4631 at midships. 4656 is another fancy spiral just to the SE that'll show in the same wide field. It has a little neighbor as well, 4657. This is a dim little thing that looked like tight mottling from Bumpass once upon a time on a really fantastic night.
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This was my 6th time out since the New Year. With two skunkings, still have had 4 good nights and one spectacular one on 6 January. Last year had 5 outings in January and February, not so different. Last year started the year out at Palomar and kept busy in the Fornax Cluster. This is the year to comb thru Virgo and Coma. Looking at Mars bracketed by the Lagoon and the Trifid was nontrivial on Saturday, as well as gawking at those two nebulae thru Blanchard's 14.5 with an Ultrablock.
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