BC last night

by Gregg Blandin

Here's my observing report:

DateMay 26, 2003
LocationBlue Canyon, CA
Equipment25" f/4.5 homemade Dob
ConditionsTransparency 8/10, Seeing 7/10 before 1:30 A.M., 5/10 after 1:30 A.M. Very dry air, winds 5- 10/gusts to 15 MPH

Just as I finished setting up at around 8:00, Brian arrived with his 30", followed by Mike with his 16". I had been noticing the clouds slowly disappearing on the drive up and when I finally looked up after setting up, the entire sky was completely clear. The slight breeze didn't seem to be affecting the seeing at all, but things would change later on.

I started with a galaxy group in Bootes with IC 983 being the brightest member. A bright triangular asterism of stars approximately 15' to the west helped me to locate the group at 140X. I then viewed the group at 240X.

IC 983 is a round galaxy with and extended halo and a bright, slightly elongated core. A little structure could be seen with averted vision. Just to the SE is a bright white star which I estimated at around Mag 10.

A few minutes southwest is IC982 is similarly shaped, but dimmer galaxy. Its uniform brightness halo surrounds a very stellar core which comes and goes with averted vision. It reminds me a little bit of a planetary with a central star.

On the south side of my field of view is another round, bright galaxy, NGC 5490. Its core is offset from the galaxy's center, significantly brightens toward its middle and has a grainy appearance.

Two other galaxies are close by. Less than 5' NNW lies MCG3-36-64, the higher magnitude of the two, is easier to see at magnitude 16.41. It's quite small and slightly oval with a faint stellar core. NGC 5490C is about twice as far away NE and although it has a 14.69 magnitude, the larger oval shaped galaxy has a very uniform low surface brightness. It was quite difficult to see.

At around 10 arc minutes south of NGC 5490 is CGCG103-94 a Mag 15.51, approximately 3:1 edge-on galaxy with no brightening in the core. My chart indicates another galaxy that I hadn't seen. MCG3-36-67 is very small and only an arc minute east NGC 5490. Maybe that's why I missed it.

Brian showed me an interesting pair of interacting galaxies. In his 30", each of the galaxies cores with their varying brightness was obvious, but in mine they were much harder to separate.

I had quite a list of planetary nebulae to see in Aquila so I turned my attention east, now that the constellation was high enough.

I started with a tough one, Abell 53. It's round, colorless and very dim, having almost no contrast with the rich star field around it. Averted vision required. I can't imagine trying to see this object without an O-III filter. I didn't waste any time trying!

Next was Abell 55. Considerably easier, its pale green round shape was slightly larger and easier to see.

The wind was starting to become a nuisance by then. With pages flapping in the breeze, I kept pushing my scope away from me to look at the charts, then I would feel it nudging me again a minute later. Telling it to stay away from me didn't seem to help.

The next object was PK36-1.1, a large almost rectangular shaped planetary with a dark area that reminded me of a dust lane. Maybe, my averted eyes were playing tricks on me. Although its 14th magnitude central star is dimmer than the M57's, it was fairly easy to see.

I spent a while trying to locate Abell 62 with no luck. The star field was like I-80 on a Friday night and I wasn't up for traffic at 2 A.M. Between the wind and the late hour, I missed a couple other objects (Merrill 1-1 and Minkowski 1-74). The first one shouldn't have been hard, I was probably looking in wrong place and the second is apparently a challenge.

While looking around for Abell 53, I did see a "mystery" planetary by accident. It was large, round, and bright with no label visible. One side of it was noticeably dimmer, giving it a sort of three-dimensional shape. It also had an off-center dark spot similar to the Owl's, but larger and only one. After looking at the charts, descriptions and figuring the wind direction, I pretty sure it was NGC 6781. My last object was the globular NGC 6760 which was faint and I could resolve quite a few stars when things were still for a second. After a quick glance, I gave up at that point.

All in all, it was a good night with excellent transparency and lots of wind.