Wow. It has been 6 weeks or more since the sky was clear and any viewing at all could be done. You gotta love the great Northwest.
Tonight was exceptional. 2 key reasons:
1) The first clear night of the year. It's like first light practically when months go by without so much as a hole to peep through, then the first clear night comes and you get to observe a few hours which wets the appetite and starts the anticipation of the warmer, drier, clear nights to follow in the coming months.
2) My brother showed up which always make the observation experience more enjoyable. We share a nearly identical enthusiasm observing the heavens.
Tonight, we revisited many familiar friends: M81, M82, M65, M66, M95, M96, M105, M1, M35, M42, M78, M34, M67, the Perseus Double Cluster and the Pleiades.
Still, there were some new objects we added to the list as well:
OCL 457 - Open Cluster
Large body and volume of relatively faint stars. At least a full degree across. About 3 degrees Northwest of Aldebaran and the giant Hyades cluster. It's very similar to M44, just with fainter stars. I'm surprised Messier didn't catalog this one.
OCL 470 - Open Cluster
Small, tight, bright. Triangular or cone shaped made of just a handful of bright stars. From pictures I've seen, there are more stars in the cluster, but with Orion floating over the light bubble of Portland, I was not able to make out much more than the brightest stars in this cluster.
IC 2574 - Coddington's Nebula - Galaxy
Scanning the sky for M81/M82 I came across this rather large but faint galaxy. About the size of M81, the face on spiral this galaxy looked more like an irregular (or a nebula as Coddington thought it was). Unlike Orion, Ursa Major is in a much darker part of the sky so deeing fainter objects is feasible looking North rather than South. Very cool to see a 10.8 mag galaxy so well in my own back yard.
It's always amazing to look into the sky and see such beautiful objects. We're already talking about the local star parties we'll be attending this year in Antelope and Prineville Oregon.