Saturday, 6 March 2010

Binocular quickie, 4th March 2010

Opportunities to get out and observe have been few and far between just recently, as much to do with not being able to get out as bad weather, and even on Thursday evening, which was beautifully clear, I only had an hour. So it was out with the 8x42s to knock some of the last eight or nine remaining items off my AL Deep Sky Binocular List.

Conditions: Clear, quite cold, around zero. No wind and no moon (not yet risen)
Naked eye visual magnitude: 6.1
Seeing. Ant II
Instrument: 8x42 Leica binoculars

The last few items on the list that were accessible this evening were open clusters and all, except NGC 2343 in Monoceros and NGC 2360 in Canis Major, were in Puppis, very low in the south. Here at 50 North our theoretical cut off is -40 South although, in practice, you're looking through more atmosphere so things are rendered fainter by haze and murk although, when it has been clear recently, the sky has been very clean, probably due to the biblical amounts of rain we had the week before last. I have been able to see deep into Puppis and even into Columba, the Dove - more on Columba a bit later.

I knocked five objects off the list:

NGC 2360, open cluster in Canis Major:
Fairly largish clump. Can see some stars with the good old averted vision. Elongated east to west.

NGC 2343, open cluster in Monoceros:
Small, round, clump of stars. None resolved. Quite bright.

NGC 2527, open cluster in Puppis:
This is where things get a little awkward, as this bugger is low down. Faintly seen as roundish patch.

NGC 2539, open cluster in Puppis:
Faint round patch south of M48. Looks granular when you look at it with averted vision.

NGC 2571, open cluster in Puppis:
Very crappily placed for us unfortunate northerners. Dim, know when you're really struggling to say something about an object? This is one of those times.

Having bagged those five objects and with the rest not accessible, I decided, with the help of charts, to find out how far south I could actually see. My southern horizon is not too bad, despite a low hill in the way, but the constellations were placed well enough that the one I was after, Columba the Dove, was unobstructed - well the northernmost part is. I still had to get a garden chair to stand on, just to get slightly more elevation to peer over the hedge as this stuff is even lower than the clusters I was looking at in Puppis. I managed to see Sigma Columbae, plus one or two others in that constellation, and I'm hoping to do this again next week at the IW Star Party - weather permitting - as, with nothing but sea all the way from here to the Cherbourg Peninsula, I might be able to see a bit more.
It's nice to see Leo rising in the east, spring galaxies await!

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