Observing May 23, 25 and 26 2003: Lake Sonoma

by Jane Houston Jones

I've been working my way through the Hickson Galaxy clusters, and various other galaxy group catalogues at a leisurely pace, and also documenting observations for the Astronomical League Galaxy Groups and Clusters program. The AL project includes 50 galaxy trios from the Atlas of compact galaxy trios, 99 Hickson compact groups of galaxies, 50 additional galaxy groups (which exclude Hicksons and trios) and 50 of the northern and southern survey of Abell rich clusters of galaxies. Plus a bonus object. :-) Here is info on this program: http://www.astroleague.org/al/obsclubs/galaxygroups/index.html You can complete this program in manual or device-aided mode, and visual or imaging mode. :-)

The AL booklet is a great help to me, with Megastar charts and SkyView DSS images of the objects. I also have been using a new charting and logging program called SkyTools to print out paper charts of each object for the past month or two. http://www.skyhound.com/ The customizable charts I use show naked eye view of the surrounding constellations (with a telrad circle on the object), a finder view (my 80mm Orion short tube 25mm 16x field of view), plus a 9 Nagler chart (222x with my f/4.5 17.5 inch reflector) all on one sheet of paper. I also printed out full size (8.5 x 11) eyepiece charts for the FOV of my 16mm Nagler for 125X, in case I needed a little help with the field of view near the target. This way I stay at my telescope, with a couple pieces of paper on a clipboard while hunting these fainy fuzzies.

This past weekend, we had three good observing nights at Lake Sonoma:

Friday night May 23 from 9:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. May 24. Highlights: Outstanding transparency, temps in th 60's humidity in the 70's. Wind picked up at midnight. ISS pass at 9:46 p.m. Non-supernova - a star obseved but not plotted on our star charts :-) - sketched through 14.5 Litebox in galaxy NGC 4866. 11 new or repeated Hickson Compact Galaxy Groups (HCG). Omega Centauri, NGC 5128.

Sunday night May 25 from 9:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. May 26. Highlights: Excellent transparency at times, temps in the high 50's and 60's, humidity in the 80's at times. High clouds and horizon obscuring muck other times, lots of wind. ISS pass at 9:26 p.m. Jupiter red spot on limb. 8 new or repeated HCGs. 3 new or repeated Abell Galaxy Clusters - not a detailed look. 24 Messiers through 4.5-inch f/4 Orion StarBlast reflector.

Monday night May 26 from 9:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. May 27. Highlights, not as good as Friday night, but close. Temps in the 60's humidity in the 20's nice and dry. No clouds, not quite as dark, more pronounced light dome from Santa Rosa to the south, no fog filled the valleys below as was the case on Friday night. Wind picked up after midnight. Repeated some HCGs for a better view than the previous night, found others for first time, and showed some of them to the other observers. Pluto, Omega Centauri and NGC 5138.

Hickson 36 (repeat) in Cancer 09h 09m 23.7s +15.47.44 - 4 galaxies, HCG 36a and b seen. Below Jupiter tonight, observed on 3/23/03 too. One faint and one large galaxy observed. HCG 36a mag 14.5 IC 528, and 36b is very close to a bright star - mag 9 (SAO 98393) which cuts into the view. 36b is mag 16 PGC 25791. Move the star out of a high power view and the galaxy pops into view. Nearby PGC galaxies (mag 16 and 17 36c and d) were not seen.

Hickson 37 in Cancer 09h 13m 35.6s +30.00 - 5 galaxies, 2 seen. A pretty star hop up from the Beehive Cluster, avoiding Jupiter. I was only able to see two of the galaxies - HCG 37a and b. 37a is mag 13 NGC 2783 oval , 37b is U 5044+M+2-24-13 mag14.5, a faint edge-on. Possibly in between them a smudge of 37c , PGC 26004 at mag 15.6.

Hickson 38 in Leo. 09h27m28.8s +12.16 - 4 galaxies, all 4 seen. Between Regulus and Cancer. HCG 38b is mag 16 Galaxy MGC 2-24-14, UGC 5044 or Arp 237, take your pick of names. It is visible merged with component c. Both 38b and c interacting galaxies are near mag 15. 38d PGC 26830 was visible - mag 16.6.

Hickson 39 in Hydra 09h 29m 28.8s -01.20.40 chain of 4 faint gals - amazingly, I was even able to show this cluster to another observer, who also saw at least two of the galaxies, 4 peas-in-a-pod lined up SW to NE. I suspect the excellent transparency and high power - 6 Radian for 333X to 9 Nagler for 222x brought them out for viewing. Two sources show the magnitudes from 16.6 for the 39a UGC 5057 to mag 17.3 for the 39d PGC 26925. Another galaxy PGC 1120300 is in the same field of view using 9 Nagler for 222x. I tried this Sunday night, suspected it, and went back for a verification Monday night.

Hickson 43 in Sextans 10h 11m 13.8s -00.01.54 6 galaxies, three observed. Three stars in the eyepiece field. Push them out of the way and three components may be glimpsed. The three I glimpsed were PGC 29657, 665 and 668 (43e). Did not see 43f, PGC 1154802 or 29677. Infuritaingly, these all have different names in the different catalogues and reference material. I went to find out some information about this object by searching Hickson 43 in google. I found an obituary for Michael Hickson, 43 years old. Life is short, enjoy every minute of it!

Hickson 45 in Ursa Major 10h 19m 11.2s +59.06.25 4 galaxies, one, 45a observed with 6mm Radian 333x, after finding the field with the 16mm then 9mm Naglers. Some really bright mag 11 and 12 stars just obliterated the view of the mag 17 and 18 45b, c, and d. Outstanding transparency in Ursa Major Sunday night. Easy to starhop from either Dubhe or Merak in Ursa Major. The bright stars make it easy to find the field, but hard to see the faint galaxies.

Hickson 49 (repeat) in Ursa Major 10h56m36.4s +67.10 Also viewed this one 3/23/03. 4 galaxies, two spotted 49a PGC 32899 is mag 16.2 and 49b is PGC 32895 at mag 16.9. 49 c and d are mag 17's and I didn't see them.

Hickson 50 in Ursa Major 11h 17m 06.1s +54.55.07 5 components, something seen. M97, the Owl nebula is so close to this object, at the edge of the eyepiece field of view at 125x, 20 arc minutes away. I was having such luck in Ursa Major that I went for this one. I was planning to try it this weekend when we volunteer at the FPOA 30-inch. My 125x eyepiece chart made it a snap to get the field of view in the eyepiece. A distinctive trapezoid (like the Hercules keyhole) asterism of stars led the way east of M97. Exactly one asterism furthur east were the pair of mag 13 stars. Directly between these two and a little north should be Hickson 50. I did get confused because the SkyTool map showed an object that I took for a cluster - a circle with a cross in the middle. It's just a second confusing galaxy symbol it turns out. But I did see a smudge of something in the right spot, to me the smudge was more than one object - truly a barely perceptible clump. The only other star in the area is a mag 17 star to the north, and I could see that star as well. For a much more detailed list of these asterisms and stars, read Randy Muller's HCG50 report: http://www.observers.org/reports/2003.02.21.3.html I'll have another look this weekend through the FPOA 30-inch for hopefully more detail. Regardless, these galaxies are in the 18 and 19 magnitude range.

Hickson 52 in Leo 11h 26m 18.7 +21.05 4 galaxies, 2 seen. 52a is mag 15.5 PGC 35183. Also seen was 52c a little wisp of light, PGC 35184. 52b and d not visible. A mag 13 star was in the field - GSC-1439-1303, and another star, bright mag 10 TYC 1439-346-1 was outside the eyepiece view.

Hickson 54 in Leo 11h 29m 15.2s +20.34.43 near Denebola 4 galaxies, 1 seen. 54a is IC 700, a mag 13.9 edge-on. The others were not picked up. This one is fun to starhop to with lots of stars to lead the way. My SkyTools chart showed a goofy triple cluster to the north in the same eyepiece view, all 3 galaxies numbered 3697. I only saw one of them. :-) I guess I have a couple boo boos to report to SkyTools.

Hickson 57 in Leo 11h 37m 50.5s +21.59.06 also known as Copelands Septet 7 galaxies (8 actually) 10 seen. I have observed this one many times - it is a good one to show other observers at dark sky parties. I observed it all three nights. When I started observing this cluster Friday night, with my SkyTools chart showing naked-eye, 80mm finder and 9 Nagler view on a paper, and a second chart just showing just the eyepiece field in my 16mm Nagler for 125x I checked off mag 14 NGC 3753, mag 14.5 NGC 3754, and mag 14.5 NGC 3750 galaxies - a nice grouping with the elongated oval 3753 wedged in-between the two round smudges. South of these three galaxies is the second triple cluster portion of the group: mag 15.4 NGC 3748, mag 15.8 NGC 3745 and 14.3 NGC 3746. These three, along with mag 16.8 PGC 36010 make up the famous septet. All seven were resolvable with steady consistent views. The transparency was so awesome just as I was observing, I spotted other galaxies in the eyepiece field of view. PGC 1661710 and PGC 1661085 were on either side of the 3754, 3753 and 3750 trio. South of them was mag 15.3 NGC 3751. These three are not part of the septet, but framed the famous cluster nicely in the same 9 Nagler view.

Hickson 58 in Leo 11h 42m 11.7 s +10.19 5 galaxies, all five seen. Good one for smaller apertures, right off Denebola - all are in the mag 13-low 14s.

Hickson 59 in Leo 11h 48m 25.6s +12.43 5 galaxies, 2 seen. 59a is IC 737 and 59b is IC 736. West to east in decreasing magnitude, mag 15 IC 737, mag 14 IC 736, and mag 13.5 star GSC -0870-0526.

Hickson 60 in Ursa Major 12h 03m 05.0s +51.41.354 galaxies, one seen. 60a is PGC 38065 mag 15.7. 60b PGC 38053 maybe.

Hickson 61 in Coma Berenices (The Box) 12h 12m 23.9s +29.10.40. Hickson 61 is known as "The Box" because the four galaxies form a rectangular shape all in the same field of view. The largest and faintest of the group is a foreground object, actually. I wrote about it last year. /reports/2002.05.31.3.html

Hickson 62 in Virgo 12h 53m 08.1 -09.13.27 An easy one. 4 galaxies, 4 seen. 62c NGC 4761 little edge-on mag 15.6 - Chandra took a picture of 62c NGC 4761 which is the APOD for March 9, 2001. The APOD links to Ray Cash's Hickson website! 62c is a little east of the interacting pair of galaxies mag 13.4 62a NGC 4778 and mag 13.8 62b NGC 4776. 62d is way south of the other three galaxies - about 3 degrees south. Tyc 5535-881-1 (or SAO 139019) is in-between 62d and the other three galaxies.

Hickson 63 in Centaurus 13h02m 09.9s -32.46.05 4 galaxies 2 seen. Viewed this one before. A nice dark horizon is needed for this one. Mag 14 63b is surrounded by a group of 4 mag 15 stars and one mag 14. Edge-on mag 15 63a PGC 44984 seen south and east of b. Between them is mag 15 63 c. Nice sets of stars frame the cluster. I didn't see "C" this time.

Hickson 64 in Virgo 13h 25m 43.3s -03.51.28 4 galaxies 2 seen - 64 a and b PGC 36975 is mag 14.7 and PGC 46972 is mag 15.8. Maybe I only saw 64a - both are edge-ons. 64C is actually quite a bit north - is identified with a "?" in the AL Hickson booklet, but shown as PGC 46977 in SkyTools and also in Sky Map Pro v9. It is located right next to a star almost the same mag.

Hickson 65 in Hydra 12h 29m 53.9s -29.29.58 65 5 galaxies, 1 seen: 65a, PGC 47397. I saw the star separating 65a and 65b but not the galaxy. One eyepiece field away from triple NGC 5152, 5193 and 5150.

Hickson 66 in Ursa Major 13h 38m 33.5s +57.18.16 5 galaxies, 1 seen. 66a mag 15.8 PGC 48226. Starhopped from Alcor/Mizar using the excellent finder chart, to several mag 10 stars and mag 6 CQ Ursae Majoris, in the same 16 Nagler field of view as HGC 66.

Hickson 68 in Canes Venatici 13h 53m 40.9 s +40.19.41 5 galaxies, all seen. 10 degrees from the Whirlpool galaxy M51, also a nice star hop from Cor Coroli. Excellent transparency in this area of the sky. A good one to end the list with - an easy target in smaller telescopes. 68a NGC 5353 oval and 68b 5354 round interacting pair of mag 12 galaxies. 68c is NGC 5350 is also mag 12. 68d NGC 5355 is mag 14 and and 68e NGC 14.6 were visible too. Nearby less than an eyepiece fild away was mag 10 NGC 5371. Big and bright.

Abell galaxy cluster 1060 in Hydra 10h 36m 54.0 s -27.31.00 a quick glimpse of the cluster field

Abell galaxy cluster 754 in Hydra 09h 08m 48.0s -09.38.00 a quick glimpse of the cluster field

Abell galaxy cluster 3537 in Centaurus 13h 01m 00,0s -32.26.00 a quick glimpse of the cluster field

DateMay 23/25/26, 2003
LocationLone Rock Flat, Lake Sonoma, California 38 42' 90" N , 123 02'43.7" Altitude 900 ft.
Instruments17.5-inch f/4.5 Litebox reflector, Orion 80mm reflector used as a finderscope, Orion 4.5-inch f/4 StarBlast
Oculars6mm (333x), 9mm (222x) and 16mm (125x)in Litebox 17.5 inch, 25mm (16x)in 80mm finder, 17mm and 6mm (25x and 75x) in the StarBlast.
Seeingaverage, transparency varied from outstanding to poor.
TransparencyMay 23 LM 6.4 using LM Area 16
TransparencyMay 25 LM 6.2 at 11:00 p.m. and 6.0 at midnight using LM Area 16
TransparencyMay 26 LM 6.2 at 11:00 p.m. using LM Area 16