Observing report - 17.5" f/5 @ Coorg - 21st Dec 2009

By amar_universe; Published 12 Dec 2011

Adapted from reports by Akarsh and Amar. Since the report was originally prepared by Akarsh and then added by me, my content has been quoted below accordingly:

AKARSH : After the Coorg starparty, four of us (Keerthi, Amar, Pavan and me) decided to stay back for another night at Keemale estates and observe the night sky.

AMAR : The quality of this session coming after years, proved to be quite historic for us. Nature anyway, works with us, be it either in opposition to us, or in accordance with us. The (sympathizing) in-accordance with us is a rarity, on chosen moments, like these. First of all I got a leave from my night-shift office on the Sunday by an inexplicable miracle; I wouldnt have been able to go, and was in a state of depression as on the miraculous 17th October 2009

Skies in the evening seemed very transparent, and better than earlier to those 3 observers (Pavan, Akarsh and Keerthi) who stayed back. I self-glorified as in being the lucky charm for them:-D  However, later on there was some ambient background glow. At best I guesstimate the skies to be just less than 6.5 mag. Milky-Way was faint and spread out. No fog or haze or dew or chill for a place like this in Western Ghats in winter...! But for sometime around 2-3 we had covering, and then a lucky opening for the dawn objects, conditioning skies even better.

AKARSH : Amar, who joined us only for this session travelling all the way from Bangalore, had a huge spell of good luck (office leave etc) that carried on to clear skies (almost) all through the night, starting from 6 PM till 4:30 AM!

AMAR : Currently situated in a night-shift (10pm - 7am) from past 5 months (and having to work the night before and after the observing session), I feel this observing session I've strained myself to the limit like never before.

Traveling by Govt. bus for 250 km after a whole night of work, and observing the following night entirely and then returning back that evening and hitting night shift again (!) it appears I could only get 9 hours of sleep in 65 hours with 550+ km of travel ! The price I had to pay was on my food intake for the day. Honestly, with my kind of rage of passion gushing this time, all this was even then not as physically crushing and demanding on me :-)


AKARSH : Okay, the highlights:

AMAR : It paid off in the sense we got to observe quite interesting details, and this time we advanced to some really off-beat targets with the 17.5". Galaxies showed better details.

We used terms like 'averted imagination', and a self-created-and-patented word on-spot 'intuitive observation'. Whatever was not directly visible, but some part of brain, before eyes could, hinted at the additional features like orientation of the galaxy or its central bar, spiral arms, related field stars (and strikingly it matched the field or image!). Seeing such details 'intuitively', comes ONLY by practice for a trained eye.

 AKARSH : 1. Andromeda Galaxy -- two dust lanes, the knot at the edge clearly visible. Amar saw 4 extragalactic globular clusters in Andromeda Galaxy and showed the rest of us 2 of them -- G 76 and G 1, if my memory is good.

AMAR I am happy I could see the dust knot with dust lanes in the galaxy (like the emission nebula NGC 604 the Triangulum galaxy M33 has). You can see this one in photos.

AKARSH : 2. Triangulum Galaxy -- the galaxy was blown apart at 140x and we could see 3 spiral arms and a lot of knots. NGC 604, the diffuse nebula in Triangulum Galaxy, was very distinct. The sight was really beautiful.

3. Whirlpool Galaxy (M 51) -- Oh my God! This was one of the most divine sights in the eyepiece! The galaxy appeared like a grayscale version of its photograph by Dr. Suresh Mohan stuck in the eyepiece:
The two spiral arms were clear and the connection between the two galaxies could be easily seen. The view at 140x (which is what I've described) was simply breathtaking!
4. M 74 (The Phantom) -- This galaxy in Pisces showed us three spiral arms at 140x. It was really beautiful. (Users of Debian GNU/Linux would have probably come across a blog post about the Debian logo resembling M 74's arms -- and we saw just that!)
5. NGC 1365 -- One of the bright galaxies in Fornax, it showed us _distinct_ barred spiral structure with two spiral arms as seen in the photograph (again at 140x)
AMAR : Good one! Worth commenting as compared to others.

AKARSH : 6. Horsehead Nebula -- Pavan finally managed to see the Horsehead nebula in Keerthi's 8" telescope. I didn't bother staring at it again, so I don't know -- maybe Pavan can update the group.
7. NGC 1300 -- This barred spiral in Eridanus showed the bar very clearly, and some structure at the ends of the bar. One spiral arm was visible, but the other was a bit too faint.
8. NGC 1187 -- Showed hints of spiral structure and bar, although spiral arms were not distinct.
9. NGC 1049 -- This faint, tiny globular belonging to the Fornax Dwarf system was seen as a tiny fuzzy spot.
AMAR : In the Southern sky, we also saw a small easy fuzz which was NGC 1049, the globular cluster of Fornax Dwarf galaxy. I was expectant of spotting it's parent dwarf galaxy too, but a reality check of the image on internet on spot, completely dissipated our confidence. It was 'terrribly' diffuse and with sparse stars.

AKARSH : 10. NGC 27 -- This very faint galaxy was a tiny smudge that was very hard to detect. Thanks to the internet connectivity, we were able to confirm the exact position against DSS images and find this object.
11. NGC 22, NGC 16 -- Two fuzzy patches of light. Nothing more to say. :)
AMAR : Wow, we finally managed to nail the double-digit NGC's with these 3 observations...quite a fantasy pending since long.

AKARSH : 12. NGC 1232 -- This showed hints of lots of spiral arms, although I could not see anything concrete.
13. NGC 891 -- Showed central bulge and a long dust lane, almost like a black-and-white photograph. (Just like the view on the 19th that I tweeted about.)
14. Rosette Nebula -- We were able to visually detect the brightest portion of Rosette Nebula in the eyepiece. It spanned a semi-circle. We could not see the other parts.
15. Amar showed me two comets. He will share the details.
AMAR : I completed a historic landmark of observing my 30th comet! More details here:


Just to share, the comets seen this day are 81/P Wild and C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring.

AKARSH : 16. M 97 -- The owl nebula showed the two "eyes" of the owl without OIII filter at 140x magnification. They were hardly distinguishable from the rest of the nebula. I confirmed the orientation of the eyes using images and it matched.
17. M 100 -- I think I was able to see the beginning parts of the brighter spiral arm of this galaxy. Confirmed the orientation with field stars.
18. M 81 -- We were able to see hints of spiral structure the previous night itself, which Pavan confirmed with a photograph. I'm just mentioning this here because I forgot to mention it earlier. We revisited this object, but didn't spend much time on it.
19. NGC 2683 -- Edge on spiral, showing hints of a dark lane. Pavan, Amar and Keerthi saw the dark lane clearly, but I wasn't able to. The central bulge was clearly there.
20. NGC 4565 -- This edge on spiral was really, really beautiful. It was extremely long, sported a dark lane, and had a nice central bulge. A marvellous sight indeed.
21. Jupiter -- With perfect, fresh collimation, we got a crisp view of Jupiter with structures in the cloud bands etc.
The last three days of observing with the 17.5" scope has been really exciting. We enjoyed these wonderful views, thanks to people on the Cloudy Nights forum, who educated us that 2mm exit pupils are "usually" the best for DSOs. We noticed that a lot of features became evident with the raise in magnification, particularly the spiral arms of M 74 (which were hardly visible otherwise).
Maybe I should blog about these wonderful nights I spent under those Bortle class 3 skies of Coorg -- they were wonderful and the 17.5" really lived up to our expectations (while the 8" exceeded them, like Amar points out!).
AMAR : Yes you should actually blog of your four-five night observing-spree. The last we both were involved was exactly two years back!

My greatful thanks to you and your scope, for making the witnessing of unique distant wonders sitting right on this teensy planet, possible. :-)

Thanking You.