A Quick Six Messiers

by Joe Fragola

Observing Report - 3 August 2003

LocationHome Driveway, San Jose, CA
Date/Time3 August 2003 21:26 - 22:45 PDT (4 August 2003 04:26 - 05:45 UT)
Sky ConditionsClear, limiting visual magnitude approx. 4.0; 20% waxing Moon in SW
EquipmentOrion XT10 Dobsonian

For the second weekend in a row, I had to settle for the less-than-ideal viewing conditions from my front driveway in order to continue my Messier survey. There were only a handful of objects on my planned observing list. As it turned out, most of the targets I observed appeared rather faint. Sky conditions were clear, but there was a fat, waxing crescent Moon hanging in the southwestern sky. I also have a streetlight across the cul-du-sac to contend with. Most of the light pollution, both natural and manmade, was blocked thanks to a large tree in the front of my house. Also, most of my targets were in the opposite direction from the sources of light pollution to the West.

All objects were viewed with a 25mm Plossl (50x) and a 12.5mm Plossl (100x) (Note: FOV = field-of-view)

M56 (globular cluster); Lyra - a very faint, magnitude 8.3 globular cluster located about halfway between Gamma Lyrae (Sulafat) and Beta Cygni (Albireo); only the bright core of this globular was obvious; I was unable to resolve any stars toward the periphery with the 25mm Plossl (50x magnification) or the 12.5mm Plossl (100x magnification) eyepieces.

M29 (open star cluster); Cygnus - fairly easy to locate near the center of the “Northern Cross”, one and three quarter degrees southwest of Gamma Cygni (Sadr); an interesting shaped open cluster; at 50x the cluster has a box-shaped appearance with a couple of stars coming out of the two northern corners of the box; at 100x a few more fainter stars are resolved inside the box; the cluster is concentrated toward the center of the FOV.

M54 (globular cluster); Sagittarius - as we pass the midway point of the Summer, it’s apparent that two dominant seasonal constellations, Scorpius and Sagittarius, are starting to pushed from their prominent southerly location by the constellations of Autumn. I had been skunked looking for this globular back on July 5 from the darker skies of Coyote Lake Park, now I could understand the reason; there was not much more to see than a fuzzy star; at both 50x and 100x I was unable to resolve any stars in the globular cluster; its general appearance was a bright star-like core surrounded by a fuzzy halo; if not careful, or if fatigued, an observed could miss this globular.

M71 (globular cluster); Sagitta - an extremely faint globular cluster with very little compact concentration of stars; appeared loose enough to resemble more of an open star cluster; more stars were resolved at 100x; there was a skewed “T” shaped asterism to the NW.

M15 (globular cluster); Pegasus - this was the best object of the night; a relatively bright globular cluster compared to the other three globulars already viewed tonight; this glob. was framed by 7.3 and 7.6 magnitude stars; with the 12.5mm at 100x I was able to resolve some stars away from the core of the globular.

M27 (Dumbbell Nebula; planetary nebula); Vulpecula - the faint nature of this object resulted in it taking a little extra time to find; it appeared as a pale, gray splotch; I could make out the irregular “dumbbell” shape with averted vision at 100x magnification; magnitude 5.6 14 Vulpeculae was visible in the lower right (NE) in the FOV.

With these 6 “new” Messier objects observed I was able to bring my Messier list total to 46 - 42% complete now.