Friday, March 31, 2017

A Clear Night...Finally

It has been a very cloudy month in the Pacific Northwest.  However, the night of March 30/31 was a cold, clear night.  A friend of mine uses Megrez to determine how well the seeing is and for me, the 3.3 magnitude star stood out fairly easily in my urban sky.

I decided I would tackle a couple of galaxies...M101 and M51...and took out the ETX80. 

After aligning the scope, I punched M51 into the Audiostar Handbox and watched the scope slew towards the area of M51.  When the scope finished slewing, I looked into the eyepiece and at first saw only a couple of stars.  I was using a 32mm Plossl and after a few moments, noticed a little fuzzball about midway between west side of the view and center.  I had to move the scope a little to center the galaxy in the view of the eyepiece.  I don't think I will ever hit the correct manual slew button on the first attempt...hehe.

I was pleased the GOTO found the galaxy as I wasn't exactly perfect in aligning the scope.  Through the 32mm, M51 looked a lot like a fuzzy comet.  It being rather small in the view, so I swapped out the 32 for the 13mm. 

Again M51 was to the west of center and a slight adjustment (still didn't hit the correct directional button right away) put it more or less centralized.  With the 13mm, I could see an oval shape to the fuzzball, but no other detail.  I was rather disappointed in that.  I thought The Whirlpool Galaxy would show some arms.  I switched out the 13mm for the 6mm, but I lost the contrast with the 6mm and went back to the 13mm.  

With the 6mm, there was a star of about 8 mag to the east of M51.  With the 13mm, I could see one other star north-northeast of M51.  It also appeared at about 8 mag.  All attempts at using averted vision to see some detail didn't bring out much, although I thought for a moment or two I was seeing some banding of arms.  It would come for a split second, then disappear.

Being the "Old Fart" that I am, my fingers were beginning to go numb in the 28 degree temperature, so I decided M101 could wait for another day.  After seeing what I saw of M51, I wonder what M101 will show.

Maybe I'll use the ETX 125 on it.

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