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Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Very cold (low 20s) and a couple of inches of snow on the ground, but the first clear moonless night for months. I missed Comet McNaught as I was unable to get to a good west-facing spot before it set. I did manage to get out a little later, for my first deep-sky session since September.

I was surprised at the effect the snow had on the ambient light. Because it was reflective, it made the light pollution much worse than usual. It almost looked like a moonlit night. On such a cold night, I went out early, and just stayed out for an hour after set-up.

8:40 M42

I used the moon/skyglow filter - the effect of this was quite striking on this object, greatly incresing the amount and detail of nebulosity. The view was especially nice in my 8mm eyepiece (101x) - I could see fuzziness across most of the 0.6 dgree field of view, with some inetersting patterns of light and dark around the Trapezium - notably the dark finger pointing towards these stars, and a narrower, less distinct dark lane on the opposite side of the grouping. No sign of the fifth or sixth Trapezium stars tonight.

9:10 Double Cluster

Spectacular. The seeing was extremely steady, and the faint stars in the clustersí centres were cleanly resolved. On a good night like this, open clusters are fantastic in this scope - at least as good as any photographs. I spent fifteen minutes just taking in the wide-field view with my 24mm Panoptic.

9:30 M34

I was starting to lose signals from my toes at this point, but I spent ten minutes looking at another open cluster in Perseus. A very nice, large (filling most of the 2-degree field of the 24mm) and apparently sparse cluster. A closer look revealed a patch of fainter stars in the centre, which were easy to resolve with averted vision. A pretty cluster, but totally overshadowed by NGCs 869 and 884. Iíve seen a lot of speculation about how Messier managed to miss the Double Cluster, and it seems no-one has a clue.






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