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Observing report Saturday 30th March 2012


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As a relative newbie to EMS I had never been to the Wymeswold dark sky site so I had to take advantage of the clear sky forecast.

I think I was about the last to arrive and there were plenty of scopes already set up. I chose a clear spot in the middle and set up my dobsonian under darkening skies. My first target was Comet Panstarrs, as the weather had so far defeated my attempts to see it. It was also first light for my new 9x63 binoculars. Having checked before leaving home the location of the comet I scanned south from Beta Andromeda and found it relatively easily after a few minutes. I was able to point its location to a couple of others before locating it in my dob, quite a bright star-like nucleus with a short tapering tail.

I then had a scan round with the binos as the sky darkened seeing M42, M45, M35, M36, M37, M38, M44, M67, M31 and the Double Cluster, one of my favourites. 

As the sky was pretty dark by now I turned to the dob, only to find I had not got my finder charts with me. So I had to rely on the star charts on my phone which proved to be an adequate substitute. 

I swung to have a quick look at M67 in Cancer before swinging over to pick out M103 in Cassiopeia, an object I missed at my last dark session at Belper four weeks ago. I then had a quick look at few favourites before turning to Leo to hunt for galaxies. I started with the Leo Triplet near to the star Chertan. I used my 31mm Nagler for most of the evening to give the widest field of view. I don't have a finder on my dob yet only a Telrad so after getting to the general spot I sometimes have to scan around a bit to find what I'm looking for.

I dropped straight onto The Leo Triplet, M65, M66 and NGC 3628showing their distinctive shapes and orientations in my scope. I then headed over to ring M95 and M96, not so easy without a finder due to the lack of easy naked eye guide stars. After a but of scanning I dropped onto two reasonably bright smudges that I at first thought were my targets but I then thought they were too close together. I scanned a bit further and saw to other smudges more widely spaced. When I checked I realised the first two had been M105 and NGC3371, and the second two were M95 and M96 and was able to get all four in the same field of view.

At this point my toes were frozen so I headed for the warm room for a coffee and a bit of socialising. Warmed through I headed out to my scope to find my eyepiece was frozen over. So I took it inside and held it in front of the fan heater for about 5 minutes to thaw and dry it off.

Back outside I had the coma cluster Mel111 pointed out and then someone said M13 was up so I had to try the dob on that. I tried a couple of higher power eyepieces including my Meade series 5000 6.7mm and a borrowed 13mm Ethos (thanks John). A fantastic sight in a big scope I got a bit of a queue at the eyepiece :-) I then swung over to M3 globular in Coma Berenices, again a globular that resolved stars right across the disk. I then swung up to the Plough to check out spiral galaxy M51 and its companion NGC5195. Under the bowl there was edge on galaxy M108 and planetary nebula M97, again in the same field of view. I then swung down to the Virgo cluster and straight away saw galaxies that I couldn't identify from my phone, So I decided to memorise one field of view to check out later and leave the rest for a better planned session of exploration. The ones I saw turned out to be M84, M86 and 'The Eyes" - NGC4435 and NGC 4438. By this time the were only about four of us left, the Moon was rising and starting to wash out the fainter objects and it was beyond midnight as the clocks went forward so I headed for home having bagged nine new Messier objects. So thanks to EMS organisers and the Wymeswold dark sky site for a freezing but enjoyable stargazing evening.


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Sounds like a good bash Angus, wished I could have been there but I cant make more than 2 hours at the mo in this cold. Which 9x63s have you got, I love my Inpro Dawn till Dusks, easy to use and great for terrestrial as well as astro?

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