Observing report with 25x100s - Junga (Himachal Pradesh) - 27th May 09

By amar_universe; Published 22 Jun 2009

I was observing from Junga (25 km from Shimla), with the city and a not-very-spreading light pollution dome visible in the North. Since I was observing from 30* latitude, I was faced with a bothersome and indeed new issue this time; it only became dark as late as post 8 pm, and day light poured in by 4:30 am. This is compared to 6:30 pm and 6:30 am in Bangalore, which means I clearly lost 4 hours of observing time! My plans of getting at 5 am and doing observing with some early-hour comet hunting went for a toss, since I was ready for it, and had painstakingly carried my bulky p-mount and 25x100 binocs (totally ~25 kilos!) a sheer 2500km away!

However only a couple times, I tried to stay awake until 4 am and did some observing post midnight - one successful session was on 26th night. At evening, looking at the blue tint of the twilight sky, I could rate the transparency at 8/10. At night, Milky Way was one of the BEST views EVER till now, atleast after 2 years! I preserved dark adaptation for a long time by using a red torch and switching off lights in the campus (was indeed errie staying alone in pitch dark location, so had to use music on earphones to distract). I had the 25x100 which was still not free from flaws (they both always seem to be complimentary) but it was better using it than before.

Whoa! The Milky-Way was HIGHLY structured everywhere. In Sagi-Scor it was very bright - the bottom arm continued for an entire stretch, whereas the above arm broke up and continued again. Very wavy patterns like a painting were seen in this region. In the Cygnus region, it appeared more white and mottled, or more 'milky', showing the difference in the 2 MW regions in South (Sagi-Scor) and North (Cygnus). When it rose higher, MW continued even below Cygnus. It was a star-studded sight with atleast a 140* Milky-Way I could go on reveling.

Skies background on average appeared very dark and very transparent. NELM easily exceeded 6, and should be 6.4 (if the star used in Draco with extreme averted vision was right). The observation log of the objects with my 25x100 Oberwerk I remember is as follows:

First target, I randomly remembered the elusive NGC 6822 Barnard's galaxy (Akarsh and Me had been discussing about this ever since). It was a large diffuse circular spot with no discernible boundary. A rhombus of 10-11 mag stars seen touching it, as confirmed later in the software.

NGC 6946 (Fireworks Galaxy) and NGC 6939 (open cluster) in (Cepheus) - These were rivaling for brightness, even though the galaxy is supposed to be elusive and needs dark skies! I could not identify which of the bright smudges was the open and the galaxy, but both were right there.

M54 (Globular in Sagi) - bright and condensed

M69 (Globular in Sagi) appeared condensed and felt it was away from the estimated position. Also found NGC 6652 below it, without referring to the chart.

M22 (Globular in Sagi) - very bright and large, probably resolved at the edges

M13 (Globular in Hercules) - very bright and condensed, unresolved, whitish more than even M22.

M108 (Galaxy in UMa) and M97 (Owl Nebula) - visible even at lower elevation above Shimla lights. Comparatively the Nebula appeared brighter than the galaxy. I used this to continue to nearby NGC 3631 galaxy at same elevation, mostly saw it (10.4 mag !) but only didn't confirm with the star field.

M109 (Galaxy in UMa) - bright

M51 & NGC 5195 Galaxies in CVn) - bright and distinct and two separate objects

M101 (Galaxy in UMa) - pretty bright, large, diffuse and circular

NGC 5907 (Galaxy in Draco) - thin and edge on (!)

M27 (Planetary in Vulpecula)- bright and circular showing some details

NGC 7331 (Galaxy in Pegasus) - faint and appeared there

M57 (Ring nebula)- small and fuzzy, not detailed as before

M28, NGC6638 (Globular in Sagi)- Former was bright and condensed. Latter was condensed, small and stubby.

NGC 6624 (Globular below Delta Sagi) - fuzzy and small

NGC 7662 (Blue Snowball planetary) - Saw this as a distinct blue colored star, which disappeared when stared directly at. It matched the star field in software. I attempted for the nearby NGC 7640 very thin edge-on galaxy, but in sheer vain.

M20 & M8 (Nebulae in Sagi), M11 & M26 & M24 - wispy and diffuse, beautiful. AMAZING star fields here and everywhere! Cannot explain how beautiful wide fields serve here.

NGC 7000 (North America Nebula) - Did not get this even though the skies were prospective in that region, and the binocs served a wide field. Maybe it was due to my aversion with visually observing diffuse nebulae.

COMETS - Hah! Would I leave them even now? I called up Shashank, my old observing partner (back at home-city) and updated myself with the recent ones. Sadly I lost many of them due to different visibility times. However there was one C/2006 W3 (Christensen) which was within range with the large binocs, and near NGC 7331. I don't know why this particular comet is getting bright now, since I had attempted partly successful for it in my Mumbai observing trips way back in Oct 2008! Anyway I referred to the star field in Cartes software and at night spent some time on the region. I saw a spot which registered in my eyes, but I don't remember how far it was from the predicted position. I have lost confirming it until I try once again.

You know what my summary of the overall experience would be? I purchased these 25x100's out of *strong* intuitive power for DSO and comet hunting. Traversing the Milky-Way star fields through their eyepieces, is a fervor I can carry on for my entire life, and fulfill the desire of being a good binocular observer. The multitude of crisp stars NEVER ends when you just scan them, and imagine the stimulating excitement when the starry field is criss-crossed by a new fuzzy interloper - the Holy Grail of comet hunting! A good p-mount is a requisite, which I wish to still work on rectifying. And I am confident to proclaim that I am anyway a good deep-sky observer, and can only pray to get better with the large astro-binoculars soon.

Wonder when such a fruitful session would next repeat, reminding of my nostalgic observing days.