|Another frigid, but almost perfectly clear evening. Within 1/2 hour my scope was literally covered in frozen dew and my telrad required some creative defrosting about every 20 minutes. But as if bundled for the Arctic, I was determined to take advantage of the clear dark sky.
At the beginning of this observation session I was down to 7 Messier objects left in the list. My first year of observation approaching, I'm trying to hit all 110 M objects in my first year. I'm determined to get as many as possible tonight.
Diligence and numb body parts ushers in success. I was able to get 5 of them and a few other new objects as well (all new objects are marked with an asterisk).
*M41 - Little Beehive
Though a small open cluster and quite lost in the low horizon and glow of Portland, this cluster was obvious when I came across it. It appeared to only have a few bright stars in it, and if there's more it'll have to be discovered on another night and quite possibly from another location.
On the contrary to M41, M46 is not as easily discovered. It's companion in the same view M47 is a much easier object. Again, these are pretty low on the horizon and just about directly in the line of Portland for me, but they are there noone the less. This cluster appears to be a small tight group of faint stars. If I didn't have a 12" scope I'd probably missed them altogether, or maybe just see a faint fuzzy patch next to M47.
Many bright stars in this relatively small cluster. A stark contrast from M46. Having them in the same view is particularly interesting. This pair of objects reminds me a great deal of M38 and NGC 1907.
This is a nice rich open cluster. It looked great in the 40mm (37x), but filled the field richly when I Barlowed the 40. Wide field 20mm view of this cluster looks incredible. Many bright stars that all appear to be white. I saw no variety of color in them.
*M93 - Butterfly Cluster
Very nice cluster. I can see why they call it the butterfly. Not all of the clusters that have names like this are quite as distinctly shaped. Though I found this with the 40mm, it needed a tighter FOV to really get the details of the object. The 12.5mm (120x) frames the butterfly very nicely. Tonight, I can barely see this object above the horizon where tons of haze and light pollution is. I can see it, and it is distinct, but there is no color in any of the stars. I'm really looking forward to more views of this object.
In looking at M47 and M46, I noticed that there was yet another open cluster in that view. Right next to M47 is NGC 2423. Smaller, fainter and less obvious than the elusive M46. Again, without the 12" scope, there's no way I would have seen this one.
I just took a stab at this one. Surprisingly enough it was a pretty obvious, though very very, small cluster. Only a few stars in it, but in a distinct shape similar to the Hyades. It looked a great deal like a mini Taurus head. Cool.
I was challenged to find this ladder shaped cluster by my brother. "Ha! I can find anything" is my motto. Sure enough, though the faint stars of Camelopardalis made it a bit on the difficult side to find, with a bit of scanning and the 40mm UO eyepiece, it ended up being a quick find.
*Comet Machholz (C2004 Q2)
Very cool. This has by far been the biggest, brightest comet I've seen yet. With a very large and bright nucleus, I'm excited to see this one for the first time. I've been tracking it in Starry Night Pro for 2 months just waiting for a clear sky to take a look at it. Even though it's sitting just above the majority of the glow of Portland, I can see it naked eye. A nice long tail with binoculars and a huge coma in both instruments.
Overall a very successful evening. I was able to get 5 of the 7 remaining Messier objects and a few other's to boot.
I also observed many objects I've seen before and one in particular helped me realize something significant. Seeing Leo come up from the horizon made me remember that the Beehive cluster is in Cancer. But I could barely make out the constellation. I could vaguely remember where the object was since I had seen it so many other time when I first began observing this past February. Looking at the sky I determined that I wouldn't be able to find it tonight. Then I saw something. With my naked eye. A fuzzy patch between two very faint stars. I pointed my scope at it and sure enough, it was M44. No way! What a cool statement of my development. What I used to hunt for at the beginning of my experience, I can now see naked eye! That really made my evening.
Well, fingers frozen, scope frozen, telrad frozen and the temperature only dropping, I'm calling it a night.