May 3, 2010: D.S.M.

Greg LaFlamme

D.S.M you ask? "deep sky mountain",,, hey why not?,, So what, I borrowed the idea from Kevin Ritschel ;-)

Yesterday I received an email from Marko Johnston regarding an odd looking galaxy. NGC 4731. He thought it and its little MCG companion should go on my list. I checked my logs and dang if I'd never seen it before. Fun! So last night I moseyed on out to the "deep sky observatory" (trailer) pulled out the big dog and got to work. The scope was already cooled and ready to go. In preparation for going outside, I'd been wearing my sunglasses in the house but it still took my eyes another 1/2 hour to dial in. Around 10:00, all systems were go. A couple nights back, I had finally taken care of my local light pollution issues so the sky appeared very dark and super deep. I pulled out the SQM meter and got 4 consecutive readings of 21.62. "Right on!!" I exclaimed aloud. Its actually a good idea to talk out loud while observing alone. We have giant venomous mountain sabre-tooth skunks around here and I want to make sure everybody knows where everybody is. You don't want to surprise one of those suckuz. Before heading to 4731, I wanted to check out some bright stuff. M65/66, 99 and 100 were simply jaw dropping. I mean textures and dark lanes, huge warped halos, the whole bit. The atmosphere above my somewhat remote location in Arizona seems nearly free of aerosols and other polutants. Just fresh mountain air at 6200' altitude. I hopped over to 4731 and was surprised at the turmoil..

NGC 4731 22 f/3.6 @ 330x
Favorite: Long, thin distorted galaxy elongated E-W, 10:1 however the brighter bar (approx 1/4 of the TDL) points NW-SE giving 4731 a serpentine shape. The entire galaxy sits in a large oval halo. The W portion of the galaxy is brighter than the Eastern but there appears to be a bright knot near the far Eastern tip of the halo, near a superimposed star. Detectable mottling and dark rifts inside the bar, S of the concentrated core as well as a hint of spiral structure in the SE halo. There is a chain of 4 or 5 superimposed stars crossing the semi stellar nucleus.

M-1-33-27 (within a 1/4 degree of 4731) Not a faint puff by any means. It had some detail as well including a bright core.

Excited by Marko's find and impressed with the sky, I went after my long time nemesis "The slash". There are two IC galaxies near M51. IC 4278 is just a few minutes East of M 51 and is listed magnitude of 15.4, as usual, it could be held directly. The other one, the slash, is a few minutes North of NGC 5195, The only ID I can find for it is USWOAZ 1350-08288024. I've been after it for years and finally I was able to just detect it!!!! 5% averted vision at best and it appeared quasi-stellar. It was not a "slash" in my eyepiece. I noticed something else,,, a large halo around 5195! I have seen the large whoosh of star light peeling away S from M 51 many times but I've never seen a halo around the smaller companion until last night.- spectacular.. M 101 was just silly.. Swirly and clumpy it was. Over to my jet black Eastern sky, the bright Milkyway pointed the way to Cygnus. Oh, there's Vega :-) I had a look at the ring just before crapping out for the night. I've been building a large deck off my back porch and wasn't prepared sleep wise for a long night. I put away the scope stuff and stared at the sky all "free eye". I noticed a huge bright area in the sky just above the tree tops and wanted to see what it was. Scorpio made it clear to me, it was our galactic bulge!! It was so bright! There oughta be a law;-)


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Adin, CA

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