Comets, clouds and catalogues.

Date 10/1/15
Seeing 7/10
Time observing 1900 – 0000

It has been in the news recently, and probably all across your social media streams, if your social media streams are anything like mine. So there is a comet crossing the sky right now. For a good while, it was low in the south, a part of the sky I can’t observe, due to the house being in the way, and our back garden not being that long. Once I build Nova Uraniborg in place of the sheds at the very back, I will get more of a view of the south. As that section is also raised, so that will help.

comet Lovejoy

Comet Lovejoy 8/1/15

Once Lovejoy did rise above the house, of course there were clouds. For days. Anxiety over whether I’d ever see the sky again…but on the 8th Jan they broke, after raining all day long. Time to track it down! Which is easy with a properly polar-aligned GOTO mount and the ability to set ra-dec directly. Easier if you use the ever-excellent-and-helpful Live Comet Data. Fire up the engines, and…yes! A lovely little fuzzy patch. Fantastic. Really, really fantastic. Don’t you just love the thrill you get of finding these things? Sure, other people have way better photographs than mine, and better scopes to see it with, but doesn’t matter, the photons from my equipment hit my eye, and that is, for me, the best feeling.

There is a great anticipation when you look in the finder scope, and you can see the comet, and you eagerly move to the main eyepiece. Great stuff.

ngc891

Side-on spiral NGC891

I don’t know what made me try for NGC891, as you can see from the inverted photo above is rather indistinct. A tough target, photographically. And as for visually? Crikey. We are heading down past mag 10 here, and given my location and aperture, that is a challenge. Still, after maybe forty minutes of shunting and squinting, I got it. The training of my eyes continues. I’m thinking of this as limbering up for the Herschel 400, or even a Messier marathon.

Orion nebula

Orion nebula

The winter sky is great, and here is one of the standout pieces. When I tried (visually) for this on the same night as I took the Lovejoy picture above, it was barely visible, an indistinct cloud. But last night, it was fantastic in the eyepiece. The embedded stars were glittering jewels, the nebulosity distinct and a glorious inky blue. I did dash in to grab Κασσάνδρα, but she had already got her pyjamas on, and it was cold out there.

Like Albireo, this is another one of those sights I’ll never, ever get bored of observing.

Lastly, while I was mooching around in Cassiopeia, I stumbled over NGC147. Not sure I’ve ever observed that before. Its companion, NGC185 I certainly have, which makes it odd. Or maybe I just didn’t keep a note of it, but I usually do.

I also made some sketches of some doubles, though I didn’t have an atlas beside me at that point to verify if they were physical or merely optical. The mount can tell me its current coordinates, so I’ll look them up at some point too.

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