A brief observation note from a couple of weeks ago.
At the end of a long stretch of work, and with several clear nights passed by in favor of getting enough sleep to function at work, I managed a brief escape to Eagle’s Ridge with a number of other EAS fellows. It was not the best night in terms of conditions, but any reasonably clear night with no Moon is better than the best night of television or wasting time constantly refreshing the same half-dozen websites to see if anything new has cropped up.
Jerry was already there when I got there, getting the 20″ TriDob set up and collimated; Bill B was putting together his imaging rig. (Bill would camp at Eagle’s Ridge that night.) As I started unloading gear, Frank, Bruce, and Randy arrived, followed shortly by Joe (who had never been to the Ridge before). Quite a contingent for a cirrusy evening with increasing winds.
And the wind certainly made a mess of things, as it became a more-omnipresent force in the hours between twilight and midnight. As night advanced, the gusts blew away the majority of the annoying, transparency-killing cirrus, and nearly blew my star atlases away with it. Sky Atlas 2000.0 got weighed down by an eyepiece case on one side and the first edition-first volume of Uranometria 2000.0 on the other. My copy of the new Jumbo Pocket Sky Atlas (a.k.a. the “Jumbo Shrimp”) sufficed for much of the evening; where it didn’t, I had some printouts from the TriAtlas.
My plans for observing this evening went by the wayside a bit. I had hoped to work on my “Night of 100 Galaxies” program (a play on the Night of 100 Stars network TV extravaganzas of the 70s… get it?), which featured several of the Abell galaxy clusters and a number of other groups visible in the early Spring sky (and included the galaxies in Leo’s hindquarters and several noteworthy isolated galaxies to boot). But the wind kept blowing my scope upward toward the zenith, making it necessary to hold onto it while observing, and this made looking for faint—if not threshold-level—galaxies a chore. I did see several galaxies in Abell 779 (in the southeast corner of Lynx) and in the NGC 3158 Group (in Leo Minor) from my list of groups.
But discrete objects were the order of the evening, for the most part. I observed Wild’s Triplet and Copeland’s Septet again (the latter also through Jerry’s 20″), NGCs 3718 and 3729 and Hickson 56 in Ursa Major, The Antennae (NGCs 4038/9, an interacting galaxy pair in Corvus) and nearby planetary nebula NGC 4361, NGC 3115 (the Spindle Galaxy) in Sextans, and NGCs 5346 and 5746 in Virgo, almost all from memory.
I took notes on only one object, partly due to the wind; it was tough to hold the scope steady and track into the wind while dictating notes… but that’s partly an excuse. The real reason was that I was racing through objects again, impatient to take the time I needed to get real detailed observations. This was unproductive, but had become a habit. A bad one.
4/06/16 EAGLE’S RIDGE MOON: 29 days, did not rise SEEING: 6 TRANSPARENCY: 5 SQM: not taken NELM: about 6.8 WEATHER CONDITIONS: temps in 50s, occasional cirrus blowing through, winds high (tapering off after midnight) OTHERS PRESENT: JO, FS, BB, RB, BH, Joe
All observations: 12.5″f/5 Discovery truss-tube Dobsonian, 14mm ES 82˚ eyepiece (112x, 0.7˚ TFOV) unless otherwise noted
10:40 NGC 2997 (Ant)—down so low in sky I am seeing trees in the FOV—pretty blurry—galaxy 6’ x4’—slightly mottled, even in poor view so low—bright star maybe 10th/11th mag in galaxy’s halo, about 3’ from core on P side—core is about 3/4’ across—maybe stellar nucleus visible in averted, very elusive—galaxy framed in dipper-shaped group of stars of equal mags, bright line/zigzag of 7th/8th/9th mag stars to F side
Several other observations stood out. I spent some time looking in southern Ursa Major for two objects of great astrophysical interest. Markarian 421 is a blazar, a supermassive and super-energetic black hole/quasar at the core of a galaxy some 400,000,000 light-years away; I found it without much trouble at the corner of a diamond-shaped asterism of bright stars near Ursa Major’s back foot. Not much to look at, but a lot to ponder on, and probably the farthest object I had ever observed (until an hour later, anyway).
I then turned to a very nearby patch of sky in Ursa Major for a trickier object: Arp 148, or Mayall’s Object. This pair of galaxies consists of an edge-on spiral galaxy impacting a larger, more diffuse spiral galaxy through the larger galaxy’s core; the result is a ring galaxy, as if someone chucked a rock (the edge-on) into a pond and watched the ripples flow outward (forming the ring galaxy). In photographs, the object looks like the famous Doc Egerton photo of a bullet bursting through an apple–or, more prosaically, Pac-Man engulfing a pizza. (The eagle-eyed California observer Alvin Huey refers to the edge-on galaxy as “The Penetrator,” so make of that what you will.)
Mayall’s Object, Arp 148. What happens when galaxies go flying through each other. Picture courtesy NASA/Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute.
In the eyepiece, though, this interacting pair was eye-bleedingly faint. I spent a good ten minutes staring at the spot, sweeping the field with averted vision and nudging the scope along to track it (as well as holding on so it didn’t blow over in the wind). On several occasions, a threshold-magnitude blur, perhaps 1′ total, flickered out from the spot indicated on Huey’s chart… enough to make me suspect that I’d seen it, but not enough to actually count it as “seen.” Must return to this one and take notes….
Much easier was NGC 3242, the Ghost of Jupiter Nebula (or the CBS Eye Nebula, depending on your source). Randy and I had talked about atlases a bit, as he inquired about my copy of “the Jumbo Shrimp” after seeing it on my table. He noted NGC 3242 on the chart that was open, and I pointed out the guide star (Mu Hydrae) used to find it. Randy found it in his Trackball scope in only a minute or so. I swung my scope over to the spot and spent a few minutes on the nebula myself; it had been one of the first NGC objects I had found in my 8″ scope back in Cincinnati a geological epoch ago.
Jerry had looked at Markarian 421 in my scope back when I was observing it, and had gone looking for 3C 273, the “nearest” (at more than 2.4 billion [!] light-years away) and brightest quasar. Although appearing as a star-like point in the wilds of Virgo, it was still awe-inspiring to know that that tiny point of light was an object with more than 4 trillion times the energy output of our Sun, just over a quarter of the way to the edge of the observable universe. A humbling thought, if any was needed.
It had been a good session, but time to go home. Jerry started packing up; Randy and Bruce had driven up together and had already left, while Frank had left an hour before them. Had conditions been a bit better, we might have stayed most of the night, but with an hour’s drive ahead, and a kid to get to school in the morning, best to not stay out too long. In looking back at this session, it had been much more productive than I’d recalled, with interacting galaxies a prominent part of the night.
April has so far turned out to be far less a cruel month than was March. Two nights after my attempt at the Herschel Sprint, I was back out observing, having taken the previous night off to catch up on the rest I was sorely lacking. This time, I went to the EAS’ closer-by observing site, Eureka Ridge, in the Coastal Range.
I was rather late to arrive, having spent part of the evening at my daughter’s school art gala. I hadn’t been to Eureka Ridge before, and didn’t relish the idea of driving there at night. The road to the site was a bit rough, full of potholes and washboard stretches, but I made it there in one piece–if a bit low on gas. Four others had set up already: Jerry, Randy B, Bill “Dr. Lapser” B, and Cory W. A good group to observe with: three other Dobs (two of the Porta-Ball type) and an imager (Bill).
The site is on a high ridge overlooking a logging site; it slopes downhill to where the loggers have been tearing things up. The effect of this is that the site has excellent horizons to the east, south, and west. The “road,” such as it is, is typical of construction-site roads, but was fine for setting up on. Sunset was already fading as I chose a spot and began to set up.
The skies were average in quality but dark. Smoke had filtered in from some nearby fires and the transparency was already only average. Nonetheless, we made the most of it until the dew began to settle (it wasn’t as bad as in Illinois; I could’ve observed longer but for the clouds that began rolling in).
The most notable feature early on was the impossible-to-miss zodiacal light, a triangular glowing wedge stretching from the area the Sun had gone down in to just above the Pleiades. I had never seen it before (at least that I noticed), and was a bit dazzled by how obvious it was here. Consisting of sunlight reflecting off of dust in the plane of the solar system, the visibility of the zodiacal light can be a good indicator of sky darkness.
My goals this evening were to observe a number of the planetary nebulae on the Astronomical League’s Planetary Nebula program before moving into a list of my own making (The Night of 100 Galaxies,” a survey of Hickson and Abell clusters with a few other interesting objects mixed in for variety). As it turned out, after observing the first few planetaries (and only taking notes on the first of these), I lost some interest in tracking down tiny pinpoint planetaries and decided (in another occurrence of Rare Night Syndrome) to work instead on a mix of objects from the 100 Galaxies list and “Forgotten Gems of the Spring Sky,” a presentation I’m giving to the Eugene Astronomical Society later in April.
EUREKA RIDGE (43 52′ 38.88″ N, 123 18′ 33.32″ W) MOON: 25 days (Last Quarter), rose 3:55 AM SEEING: 6 TRANSPARENCY: 6 SQM: 21.4 (midnight) WEATHER CONDITIONS: temps in 40s, moderate dew after midnight, haze/smoke in air, slight breeze—zodiacal light bright and obvious, reaching past the Pleiades by 9:15 OTHERS PRESENT: JO, RB, BB, CW
9:47 IC 2165 (CMa)—tiny planetary—maybe 8”?—responds well in O-III—no central star—with UHC, better view—slightly blue w/o filter (found without)—almost looks as if there’s an outer shell around bright center—if true, maybe 1.0’ diameter—possibly elongated E-W—“central part” really sharply defined—squashed little triangle of stars to F side—“center star” of triangle fairly bright (?)
After IC 2165, I also observed Jonckheere 900 in Gemini and NGC 2346 in Monoceros before turning to galaxies.
I’d bought an extra charging battery for my iPhone, which I use to record my notes and which usually runs out of power in about twenty minutes. Yet for all of the galaxies I observed, I took notes on only two groups–both of which were very deserving.
I ended up observing the NGC 4485/90 pair, NGC 4424, NGCs 4327 and 4361 (The Whale and Cub), NGC 4656/7 (The Hockey Stick), NGC 4565, NGC 5746 in Virgo, the Leo Trio, M53/NGC 5053 (Coma globulars), NGC 5634 (globular in Virgo), NGC 3344 in Leo Minor, M95, M96, and M105 (with its two attendant galaxies–the Trio within a Trio), NGC 3115 in Sextans, and Copeland’s Septet in Leo in addition to these others–most of these will factor into my presentation, as they’re almost all impressive objects. I regret not taking notes on Copeland’s Septet, but will observe it again at next opportunity. Jerry and I spent a fair amount of time trying to discern individual galaxies amid the two glowing patches we observed in the eyepiece.
I also tracked down Wild’s Triplet, a nastily-faint trio in Virgo, also known as Arp 248. I’m quite proud of finding this one in average conditions with “only” a 12.5″ scope. Jerry and I compared notes as we observed it, using his copy of Sky Safari to discern the orientation of the three interacting spirals in the group.
1:17 Arp 248 (PGCs 36733/36723/36742; Wild’s Triplet; Vir)—a bright (8th mag) field star—brightest of 3 galaxies 60% of the way between that star and an 11th-mag star off to F edge, bright star on P edge—two stars separated by 15’—another star to S of dim star by 8’, same mag—galaxy in middle and one just S of that are two brightest—middle one [PGC 36733] has tiny bit of central condesation—about 0.5’ or a bit more—no PA possible—S of that is second brightest [PGC 36723], separated by 3’ or so—more diffuse, no concentration—all really small, need 10mm—third galaxy [PGC 36742] exceedingly difficult, not convinced I’m seeing, certainly can’t hold even averted
The sky was degrading in quality a bit; I spent some time casting about for a new target. Jerry tracked down the Ursa Minor Dwarf Galaxy, a largish threshold-level glow seen mostly by sweeping his scope back and forth over the field. It was most definitely there–a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way, so dim that it had eluded detection until its discovery on a photographic plate in 1955. An A+ find in a 12″ scope!
My own next find was Hickson 68, a stunning small cluster of galaxies in a corner of Canes Venatici:
1:40 NGC 5350/5354/5353/5355/5371 (Hickson 68; CVn)—at center of field is bright star, 7th mag—above by 4’ is 2’ round, very diffuse galaxy (NGC 5350)—slight central condensation—averted brings out possible stellar nucleus—to SF side are two brighter, smaller galaxies—more northern (NGC 5354) is more diffuse—both about 1.5’—almost touching—more northern slightly more diffuse, slightly larger—one farthest south (NGC 5353) smaller but has brighter core—star-like nucleus—forming triangle with these three, farher from star on F side is smaller, almost “edge-on” (NGC 5355)—0.5’—oriented SP-NF—fairly obvious but would need to know where to look—between this last and previous pair is 14th star—when group drifts toward P edge of field, at top of field is much larger diffuse galaxy (NGC 5371)—3.5’—just off to F edge of galaxy is 8th star— maybe 0.5’ core—stellar nucleus visible in averted but not direct—subsumed into core
This one immediately vaulted to the top of my galaxy-group list, and to my computer desktop–an absolutely beautiful little group, wrapped around a bright golden star and followed by a larger, obviously-spiral galaxy.
Not long after, the dew had reached a point where Randy and Jerry decided they’d had enough; they’d been out the night before (Jerry had observed four consecutive nights), and the dew was a sign to them to call it a night. With my gas tank low and not being too familiar with the roads back to civilization, I decided they were right. Bill had already started tearing down his imaging gear, having taken at least a half-dozen sets of shots. Jerry and Randy headed out first; I waited with Bill until he was ready to go (a habit from my AASI days–the President of the club should be the last man out of the observing field). Bill stayed for a few extra minutes; he said he’d follow in case I ran out of gas. I agreed to this for pragmatic reasons.
Although not as productive as my attempt at the Herschel Sprint, Wild’s Triplet, Copeland’s Septet, and especially Hickson 68 had made this session a success. The sketchbook is going to be getting several new entries the next time out.
The dark skies of eastern Oregon have been devoid of clouds and Moon fairly rarely since we pulled up the stakes and moved here in late July. I’ve had (for various reasons) only a half-dozen sessions out with my 12.5″ Discovery since our arrival here in Lichen Central, but they’ve been exceptionally rewarding due to the darkness and (relative) steadiness of the night skies. So the promise of a run of clear skies post-Third-Quarter Moon sent me into a flurry of planning for targets, even above and beyond my usual tweaking of my observing database and combing through my various star atlases.
One promising list of deep-sky targets for spring was already at hand. No, not the Messier Marathon, although that was certainly something we had hoped for in early March. This particular list recreates a single night’s observing by the greatest observer in the history of astronomy, William Herschel (with his tireless sister Caroline as assistant and co-observer). Recreated for “modern times” by Canadian observer and author Mark Bratton, the Herschel Sprint covers a strip of sky some 3˚ by almost 71˚, beginning in northern Leo and finishing in Corona Borealis, the approximate strip of sky explored by the Herschels on the night of April 11, 1785. The Herschels discovered an astounding 74 objects that night, although one of these rather spuriously turned out to be only a faint star, and one of them seems to be an observation of somewhat questionable authenticity.
The idea of doing the Herschel Sprint was appealing for several reasons. First and foremost, these were challenging targets relative to, say, the Messiers, and a good test of my observing skills, the local skies, and my telescope’s optics. Second, many of these faint galaxies were objects on Astronomical League observing programs that I’ve been working on (the two Herschel programs [duh], among others). Third, William Herschel is one of a handful of people I would consider to be my personal heroes, and the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.
William Herschel was not merely the greatest visual observer of the night sky who has ever lived. He discovered the planet Uranus and four of its moons, pioneered the science of spectrophotography, discovered infrared radiation and the correlation between sunspots and climate, measured the axial tilt of Mars, and discovered the second-known asteroid. He was the first to realize that the Sun was moving through space, and to postulate that the Milky Way was in the shape of a flat disk. He designed and built what were the best telescopes in the world at the time, and demonstrated that coral was an animal rather than a plant. As if this was not enough, Herschel was an exceptionally accomplished organist and composer, with over two hundred compositions published and still played today. He remains one of the greatest figures in the history of science, and embodies the spirit of the Enlightenment more than perhaps any other British figure.
Caroline Herschel was accomplished in her own right, despite being restrained by the limited social roles of women of her day. She worked tirelessly with her brother as his assistant, but made an astonishing number of discoveries on her own, including eight comets, the spectacular spiral galaxy NGC 253, and the impressive star cluster NGC 7789. She was the first woman to win the Gold Medal from the Astronomical Society of London, and the only one until Vera Rubin in 1996, nearly 170 years later. She was also the featured vocalist for her brother’s oratorios.
(William’s son John was one of the greatest men of the 19th Century, but we’ll discuss him another time.)
It was on March 30 that sky and work schedule finally coincided favorably, and though I’d had a lousy night’s sleep the night before and had been up early to deal with the usual morning dog-walk-and-drive-offspring-to-school routine, I was still jazzed to run this list. Bratton had done it as quickly as 2-1/4 hours; since I’d never seen any of the objects before (excepting the two giant ellipticals at the heart of the Coma Galaxy Cluster), I planned on taking twice that long. It turned out to be more difficult than that, with the added disadvantage that I’d (erroneously) determined Moonrise to be at 1:18–I was a day late, and Moonrise wasn’t until 2:24. But the pressure of trying to beat the Moonrise made the Sprint more difficult, and using an undersized but higher-quality telescope also worked against me.
I ran into Jerry along the road to Eagle’s Ridge, as he was sawing up some fallen trees and limbs that made the road slightly more difficult. We also stopped to gather some gravel to cover a few fire pits at the Ridge site, only to discover that some of the local rustics had left a smoldering fire at the gravel site (the one we refer to as Eagle’s Rest). We buried what was left of the fire (I wondered what would happen if any of the shotgun shells and spent casings scattered around the area happened to be not-so-used and ended up in the fire pit), gathered our gravel, and drove up the main forest road and the spur road that led to the Ridge.
It turned out, as night fell on the Ridge, that Jerry and I were the only two who had ventured out this evening; the nights before and after this one were considerably more populated. Jerry had several lists to work from, but had decided on Glenn Chaple’s list of double stars as his plan for the evening, using his 12.5″ home-built Portaball. Below and northwest of us, the city glows of Eugene and Springfield cast their sodium-vapor visual poison into the sky, yet 3/4 of the sky was fortunately free of man-made glow—including the section that I needed to work in.
The Herschel Sprint begins with its most difficult object, one of the most difficult of Herschel’s discoveries. NGC 3196 is a tiny galaxy in northern Leo, one which Bratton doubts was Herschel’s actual accomplishment; Bratton considers 3196 to be an “uncertain” find. Nonetheless, it marked the beginning of Herschel’s extraordinary run that April night so long ago.
My notes on the objects are brief. With so many of the objects amounting to tiny blurs, there simply wasn’t that much to say about them to distinguish them from each other. As the night went on, my notes became less and less detailed. My energy level, combined with the pressure of catching all 74 objects (minus the faint star that was catalogued as NGC 4209, although I should’ve gotten that one for completeness), made this an endurance test rather than a sprint.
EAGLE’S RIDGE (spur road)
MOON: 22 days (Last Quarter), rose 2:24 AM
SQM: 21.63 (midnight)
WEATHER CONDITIONS: temps in 40s, moderate dew after midnight, occasional cirrus blowing through, but wind still
Others present: JO
9:13 NGC 3196 (Leo)—no such luck
9:17 NGCs 3245, NGC 3245A (LMi)—still pretty light out—3245: quite a bright core, about 1.5-2.0’—stellar nucleus, halo extended—PA?—11th mag?—couple/line of bright stars across field to S—fairly bright—almost double nucleus? 3245A: indistinct and slender—just on vision threshold—in middle of triangle 10’ of stars, galaxy on long side
9:21 NGC 3265 (LMi)—v. small, less than 1”—fairly indistinct—2 bright stars of equal mag (9) to S—galaxy small—almost double stellar nucleus—to SF, almost as if somehing else there, maybe star in halo—halo tiny, core even tinier
9:25 NGC 3277 (LMi)—not far from previous—1.5’ x 1.0’—core makes up 70% of galaxy—bracketed by 10th/9th mags on F and P sides—galaxy forms triangle with 9th and 10th stars—indistinct notes
9:30 NGC 3274 (Leo)— inside diamond shape/kite—to S is 12th mag double star—galaxy in flatter end, in middle—other three stars 12/13th—not much in central brightening, evenly-illuminated haze—1.5 x 0.75’—no stellar nucleus in direct, maybe in averted
9:44 NGCs 3414, 3418 (LMi)—3414: much the brighter of two—just E of 40 LMi—pair of equal mag stars on opposite side of field from 40, to F side—3414 about halfway between—just under 2.0’—fairly round—12th mag—core makes up inner 40%—slightly irregular brighness across—nucleus substellar —3418: N slightly F of 3414—v. indistinct, maybe 0.75’—to SF side is 13th mag star after 3418—v. little central brightening even in averted, no stellar nucleus
9:47 NGC 3400 (LMi)—N of 3414, 3418—3/4’ round, much more rounded than previous two—due F is 10th/11 star—part of little triangle—SF by 7-8’ is another star of same mag—galaxy forms diamond shape, gemstone shape, just above flat
9:49 NGC 3380 (LMi)—just N of 25-30’ line of 11th/12th stars—a little bigger, maybe 1.5’ —maybe PA 225?—no stellar nucleus even w/averted—SP by 4-5’ is a 13th mag star
10:02 NGC 3451 (LMi)—forgot about, had to backtrack—S of Delphinus-like asterism—a little bigger, maybe just over 2.0 x 1.0 wide, probably inclined spiral—inset in isosceles triangle in long side—each point has a couple extra stars—maybe slightly stellar nucleus w/averted—a lot of core, 70% core, maybe just bright halo?
10:08 NGCs 3504, 3512 (LMi)—3504: nice and bright— 2.5-2.75 long—to NP side couple of 13th/14th stars just on outside of halo—big halo, compact core, stellar nucleus—to SF (SP?) side, a stellaring within the halo— 3512: about 12-13’ due F 3504—in kind of trapezoid of 12th stars—fairly large 1.75’—kind of roundish—core is 80%, not much extended halo—core is off-center to S of halo
10:11 NGC 3510 (LMi)—in field with thre bright (8th?) stars—just S of point connecting two farthest-spread stars—PA maybe 340?—about 2.5’ long, very narrow—obviously edge-on spiral—not much central brightening—dim, almost evenly illuminated—averted does little; just tips of galaxy are dimmer (center brightens slightly)
10:13 NGC 3486 (LMi)—a big one!—3’, maybe 3.25’ x 3’, not quite round—not a condensed core—spread out—maybe face-on spiral—not quite stellar nucleus
10:26 NGC 3527 (UMa)—not at all sure I’m seeing it—maybe an averted, maybe not even there—may be there—very elongated diamond, elongated SP/NF—at SP end a pair of 12th stars, very close—off NF end of diamond, just F that star, an averted vision glow—tougher than Terzan 7—maybe 1.0’—roundish—no concentration at all—toughest catch of Sprint so far
10:45 NGC 3550 (or 3552) (UMa)—in Abell 1185—not much to see in cluster—this is brightest—SF a 10th star by 10’—between two 12th mag stars—another galaxy by 10’ SF of this one (NGC 3561?)—these are two brightest—3550: 1.0’ round—no stellar nuc—fairly even gradient—not much halo. probably 80% core
10:55 NGCs 3713, 3714 (Leo)—both tiny, less than 1.0’ each—more southerly 3713 a little brighter, not by much—separated by 10’ maybe—when centered in field, NP side is 8th star—3713 nice core—averted gets a tiny nucleus—3714: just very indisticnt—needs more mag—tiny stellar nucleus—more elongated than 3713
11:18 NGC 4017 (Com)—1.5’—just off side of large triangle of 8th/9th stars—has a slightly brighter core—looks to be PA 290?—averted makes core seem lengthened P-F—maybe barred spiral?—would be ridiculous to see bar in galaxy that small
11:20 NGC 4016 (Com)—just N of 4017
11:21 NGCs 4004, 4008 (Leo)—4004: little triangle with extra star in (10th/11th stars) preceding galaxy—pretty faint, maybe 12.5 mag—13th/14th star just touching edge of halo—maybe 1.0’—no stellar nucleus—decent-sized core—4008: considerably brighter, N by about 20’ and slightly F 4004—elongated 3:2—PA 220?—big enough to tell PA—halo almost 2.5’ m.a.—core is 30-40% of size—inclined spiral?—sub-stellar nucleus
11:28 NGC 4104 (Com)—1.5’ or less—forms diamond with 8th and two 10th stars—1.5’ by 1.0’—can’t tell PA—core about 40% of halo—with averted, a not-quite stellar nucleus—not much to say about this one
11:33 NGC 4080 (Com)—much tougher than previous few—PA 135—elongated 3:2, maybe 2:1–1.0 x 0.6’—no real central brightening—tough one—forms very squat isosceles triangle with two 10th mag stars
11:43 NGCs 4131, 4132, 4134 (Com)—very different from each other—4134: S most—largest of three—about 2.0’ x 1.0’—almost looks like double core—just N is faintest of three, NGC 4132: faint, tough—edge-on?—v. indistinct—maybe 1.0’ long—v. diificult—big one (4134) has funky core—almost as bright is 4131: elongated almost PA 90—tiny tiny faint stellar nucleus, more obvious w/averted
11:55 Hickson 61; NGCs 4174, 4169, 4175, 4173 (Com)—picking up three brightest—longest occasionally popping into view—group positioned between two 8th stars—looks more triangle than Box—21.63 SQM—one super tiny but elongated galaxy (4174)—middle in brightness—0.5’ long?—one N from that (4169) is brightest and largest of three—maybe 1.0’, maybe not quite—distinct core, stellar nucleus—one on opposite corner (4175) is diffuse—maybe 1.0’ long, very thin—almost N-S oriented—other one (4173) (?) briefly appears with averted—whole group 3’ x 4.5’ (??)—much harder than expected
12:04 NGCs 4185, 4196 (Com)—4185: large, 3.0’—round—no central brightening—in middle of facet diamond shape—very faint, very diffuse—4196: 1.5’—on following edge, SF previous by 15’—on F edge of diamond—nice bright small core—possible stellar nucleus [size estimates way off?]
12:07 NGC 4251 (Com)—considerably brighter than most—11th mag—v. bright stars (7th) on F side of field, 20’ from galaxy—PA 135—13th star 5’ F galaxy—2.0-2.5’—much nicer galaxy—irregular brightness in halo—bright core, 30% of size—hard to tell if nucleus present; maybe diffuse nucleus masquerading as core
12:10 NGC 4275 (Com)—tiny—maybe 1.0’ round—some central brightening—diffuse core, not much of a stellar nucleus—tiny 13th star 1’ F galaxy—bright star SP galaxy
12:12 NGCs 4278, 4274, 4283 (Com): 4274 not part of Sprint— 78 and 74 two brightest— 4278: 2.0’ across, v. bright core—4283: 1.0’—also bright core—inside triangle formed by 78 and two faint stars—N of that is 4274: v. bright spiral—PA 145?—halo extends 3.5-4.0’—bright bright core—stellar nucleus in averted—impressive galaxy!
12:15 NGC 4310 (Com)—just N of tiny pair of 13th stars—elongated N-S—2.5-2.25’—central brightening about 70% of halo—no stellar nucleus [size way off again]
12:19 NGC 4375 (Com)—diificult, to put it mildly—elongated SP-NF—12th/13th star 1’ from halo—1.5’-2.0—slight central brightening—possible sub-stellar nucleus
12:22 NGC 4448 (Com)—nice big galaxy—arc of three 11th stars above it—PA 110—3.0’ long, about 1.5’ wide—brightish core—no stellar nucleus—nice break from fainter targets—maybe 3.5’ major axis?
12:32 NGC 4393 (Com)—no sighting
12:37 NGC 4475 (Com)—brutally faint, one of toughest so far—almost completely averted object—comes and goes—maybe 1.0’ round—no central concentration—coming and going
12:41 NGC 4559 (Com)—big big big!—5.0’ across—PA 150?—v. bright—diffuse—has a triangle of stars on S end—wider on S end, narrower on NP side—nice to come across after so many eye-bleedingly faint ones
12:48 NGC 4556 (Com)—S of 4559—in middle of group(?)—exceedingly diffuse—small, maybe 0.75’—roundish—threshold star on SP edge of halo—a little central brightening—v. faint nucleus—N is much skinnier edge-on (N4558) maybe 1.0’ tops, pops more w/averted, PA 140, also has star on tip
12:54 NGC 4692 (Com)—outskirts of Coma Cluster—bracketed on N-S by 8th stars—galaxy 1.0’—roundish—brighter core—pretty dim—not much nucleus—to SSP side by 2’ is very dim threshold star
At this point, with time working against me, I actually skipped the Coma Galaxy Cluster, Abell 1186. Although I had a good chart with me (a copy from the Second Edition of Uranometria 2000.0), I figured that the time needed to navigate among the tiny fuzzy glows of the cluster to identify those which were part of the Sprint would be time better spent seeking out the remainder. I planned to come back to Abell 1156 with whatever time remained before Moonrise.
1:01 NGC 4961 (Com)—skipping ahead now—1.0’ across—almost looks double-lobed, like core is double—1.0’ across—overwhelming glare from 41 Com doesn’t help—surrounded by thin isosceles triangle of 7th-9th stars
1:07 NGC 4963 (4983?) (CVn)—almost completely indisticnt—averted object—small, 0.5’—just a blur
1:14 NGC 5000 (Com)—another very diffuse one—maybe just over 1.0’—to S, an 8th star—galaxy bracketed on NP and SF sides by 11th stars—not much central brightening—edges distinct (?)—light quite uniform
1:17 NGC 5032 (Com)—little N-S elongation—maybe slight angle, PA 30?—just over 1.0’—not much central brightening—14th star 1’ to NF side and one (also 14th) to SP side by 2’
1:30 NGC 5263 (CVn)—really faint—just outside M3—faint, little, about 1.0’ long—angled about 30 PA—9th star just to S by 4’—not much central brightening—no visible nucleus—definitely an edge-on spiral
1:35 NGC 5251 (Boo)—v. v. faint—maybe 1.0’—best with averted—no real central brightening—to SF side by 15-20’ is 8th star—a typical dim NGC galaxy
1:53 NGC 5116 (Com)—negative sighting
2:02 NGC 6001 (CrB)—v. indistinct, tiny, 0.5’ round—no central condensation—no stellar nucleus—very interesting asterism to P side and slightly S
Having discovered my error in Moon-rise time by this point, I went back to Abell 1156, sweeping through the western half of the cluster. Doing so netted me NGCs 4816, 4798, 4841, 4841B, 4874, 4889, 4827, 4839, 4840, and 4869, and IC 4051. I didn’t bother taking notes on these; I was so tired by this point that it was all I could manage to match the eyepiece view with what was labeled on the chart. Moonrise was almost a blessing, as it meant I had to stop.
In all, I’d found 64 of the 74 objects in the Herschel Sprint, and taken notes on about 50 of these. More time and a larger scope might be necessary to complete the entire thing. I was proud of how I did, though. With several clear days upcoming in the present forecast, I may try it again, careful to avoid the mistakes of this first run.