Backyard planetary & deep sky observing 26th-27th April

by Jason Hatton

Although yesterday evening started out largely overcast the sky started to clear around 21:30 local time, so I got my 9.25" SCT out in the backyard for some observing. The sky still had a lot of cloud, but it was largely clear to the south & west.

Jupiter was high up in the south west & I initially started visually observing around 21:50 local, using x230 & x313 magnification. The seeing was reasonably good The Great Red Spot had evidently just moved off the disk since the turbulent region in the South Equatorial Belt that follows the GRS was quite obvious. A lot of other fine detail was obvious. Since the conditions were fairly good, I decided to do some imaging using a Toucam webcam. Unfortunately, by the time I was set up around 22:30 the seeing had deteriorated significantly.... However, I still managed to get a couple of decent images.

By 23:20 the sky cleared completely, so I decided to do some deep sky observations. Leo was high up in the southwest, & the sky was now much darker (limiting mag at zenith ~+5) so I went galaxy hunting. NGC-2903 (mag+9, 12'x5.6') was observed at x73 & x106. It appeared much like a minature version of M31, a bright oval nucleus surrounded by the fainter main body of the galaxy of the same shape. Definitely one of more impressive spring time galaxies. Moving back into the sickle of Leo, NGC-3226/3227 were a short hop from gamma-Leonis. Both galaxies appeared side by side as faint patches of light, one more elongated than the other. Each had a starlike nucleus. North of gamma-Leonis there is small group of several galaxies. However, under these sky conditions only NGC-3190 (Mag+11.2) & NGC-3193 (mag+10.9) were readily visible, both appearing as faint smudges of light.

As I finally decided to pack up for the evening, a little after midnight, I noticed that Hercules was now clear of the roof tops in the east. I swung the scope over to take a quick look at M-13. At x106 this appeared as beautiful glittering ball of stars resolved across its face. Pushing the magnification to x248 gave better resolution of the individual bright stars. Having observed this object many times over the years, it never ceases to amaze me how pretty & impressive this object is in a decent sized telescope under good seeing conditions.