Thursday, 7 February 2008

Binocular observing 01/02/2008

I actually got off my arse this evening and went outside to do half-an-hour’s observing. I took the tiny scope outside and this provided great views of some lollipops such as M42 in Orion and Mars before breaking on me - the little screw that holds the eyepiece in place became bent and didn’t work. I brought it in and straightened it out before deciding to observe with binoculars alone. Besides, the wind was making life difficult.

Weather: cold (around freezing), clear and very windy. Not scope-using weather due to the wind.
Instrument: 8×42 Leica binoculars
Place: Near Sandown, Isle of Wight, England

Auriga: this is a rich area, providing great binocular views of several open clusters. Collinder 62, near The Kids is pretty unimpressive but M36, M37 and M38 are great. M38 is large, rich and resolvable, showing many stars on a fainter background glow with my 8×42 binoculars and while it is the largest of the Messier clusters here it is fainter than the others. Averted vision brings out many more stars and the cluster has the appearance of having arms leading off from the centre, pointing north. M36 is small and bright and round, not resolvable while M37 is larger than M36 but slightly smaller than M38. M37’s stars are also resolvable but you need to use averted vision more on this one it is much ‘fuzzier’ looking than M38.

Immediately to the south of M38 is NGC 1907 and this shows up well, with averted vision, as a tiny round glow adjacent to that larger cluster. It isn’t resolvable with binocs.
Gemini: M35 is easily visible to the unaided eye and is impressive with the binoculars. It is a triangular glow, with the thin end of the triangle pointing east. It looks like a fuzzy glow for the most part but with many brighter stars imposed on the fuzziness. NGC 2158 is visible as a tiny round brightish patch just south-west of M35. The unimpressive Collinder 89 is nearby - it’s just a few stars.

By this time I was freezing so I packed it in. It was a nice session and one which just goes to prove that you can see a lot more with binoculars than you think possible. I like binocular observing, it’s minimalist (well not quite as minimalist as naked eye astronomy) and very rewarding.