May 12, 2010: Hickson 55

Greg LaFlamme

Challenged by Steve's description of Hickson 55, I decided to go after it myself. I have Alvin Huey's book and it was helpful while working in star-hop mode. Okayso, that group is extremely dim and very small. With cirrus clouds moving in slowly to my West, my sky was slightly brighter than last week. 21.51 to be exact. I had a good angle on Draco and HCG 55 was easily accessible. Starting out at 330x, I was able to find what appeared at first to be a dim edge on galaxy. I soaked in the field for a few minutes. With averted vision, the blob of light would split in two. I magged right up to 660x and studied the group very closely, using the DSS image provided in the book. I was able to see the A, C and B components, even spotted a stellar nucleus in A and C. After some time, I detected a glow North of A, C, and B right where it was supposed to be. I suspect that I was seeing the combined light from the D and E components. I was not able to spit them but I kept trying until cirrus finally moved in. Hydra still looked good so I flipped over to HCG 40. I noticed in the book that M 83 was nearby so I decided to have a look. That dude was amazing! At first, I saw the closest-in arms creating a squat "S" shape but by lowering the magnification to 210x improved the view considerably. I saw two sets of arms fanning out from each end of its serpentine bar. I stared at that thing for 10 minutes before cirrus killed the night completely. Never got to HCG 40...

Next time out, I'll go after HCG 55 some more but I'm not sure if I can do better than I did. I'm not looking forward to HCG 50 ;-)

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