Solo on the Peak, meeting ngc 6503

by Jamie Dillon

Last Sunday week, the 27th of July, I had the Peak to myself. There was in fact a family camping way at the other end of the hilltop park, but there was no sign of them after 9 pm. Fine night with limiting magnitude at 6.4, seeing 5/5 excellent till a breeze cropped up at 1 am, then good 4/5. For the first time in my life I split Mizar and Alcor naked eye. That was a thrill. The crickets and peepers kept a steady chorus going until late.

Playing with the OIII filter

Soon as it got real dark, and I had gotten to exact star collimation, ready for fun, I went for the Veil. Now the Veil is always showing up in someone else's scope, so I hadn't gone there in my own scope in a long time. Had a fine time exploring along both strands, with and without an OIII. On the eastern strand, near the north end, where those perpendicular tassles hang off the end, the whole end jumped out in the OIII filter with dazzling detail. Turned around then and played with the OIII with the big emission nebulae in Sagittarius. A person just can't get enough of the Lagoon, Trifid, Swan and Eagle. Over years the Swan has become a serious personal favorite among those 4 fantastic objects. Even though I know better, I swear its shape changes over weeks. Amazing structures.

Turley temptations about M101

Then got caught up around M101. There was mention on TAC issef a long time ago about the little galaxies around M101 and how Turley used the set as a lure to distract unsuspecting observers. Interesting set! 5474 is in an actual group with M101, about 18 mly away, about twice as far from here as M81 and M82. It looked close, looking big at 126x, diffuse, no clear core but with a fan shape opening to the SW. Of the other neighbors, all of which are much farther away, like over 90 mly, 5473 was the most intriguing, part of a W-shape of bright stars, with a bright core and compact halo. On study it showed a swirl, esp off to the eastern side. M101 itself, in case you haven't been there lately, is some object. Has that embarrassingly easy hop from Mizar along a string of bright stars. The thing keeps extending past any eyepiece field I have, with arms and dust lanes and bright regions. Luginbuhl and Skiff descbires them as 'associations', meaning clusters of very bright OB stars. This night I saw two, a tight one to the E and a fat one to the SW.


On to my summer project of collecting galaxies in Draco. On the way found out that psi Dra is a pretty double, wide, both bottle green to me. 6395 was a tough little bugger in my 11", SE of a double star, a long dim pennant, needing 210x to really pull it out from background mottling. Then, oh then, next was NGC 6503. Wrote at the time, "more like it! A knockout edge-on at all magnifications. Diffuse nucleus, all kinds of dust and swirls across the whole long structure. Beautiful." An added extra is that 6503 is far enough north to hold still a long time in an unguided scope.


Lots of detail. It hits me again and again that we're looking at surface with Mars, not cloudtops. Someday people will be walking and driving around down there. Terra Meridiana and Noachis Terra were distinct. Really like that sharp dark rim on the south polar cap.

Andromeda's satellites

Coyotes singing at 0130, lots of meteors in Pegasus and Aquarius. M31 was huge naked eye. Was about to start packing up, then got greedy. I'd never seen NGC 147 and 185, M31's more distant satellite galaxies, both about 7 deg from M31's core. Man, they're near here! 185 looks close, a big fat oval with even bigger oval halo. 147 same size, dimmer, more diffuse, with a stellar core. Interesting! They're physically paired with each other. A bonus in the area is 278, some 18 times farther from us at 38 mly. Little, round and dense, pretty. Stellar core, dust in rim esp to the east. Gawked at M31,then finally packed and went home after gawking at the whole night sky.

This is with Felix, a Celestron 11" f/4.5 Dobs with optics made by Discovery Telescopes. Was using a 22 Pan, 16mm UO Koenig, 10mm and 6mm Radians and a Lumicon OIII. Still the telescope of my dreams. Galaxy details are thru the 10mm at 126x.