Friday, June 6, 2025

Messier Object Tracking

*** Note:  I have this post set to stay at the top of the blog.  All new posts will come after this.

I want to list which Messier objects I've seen so far this year (2014) and will keep this page at the top of the posts so that if you would like to follow along, it will be easier to locate.  How well or easy to see is based upon observations through my 8" reflector using the highest magnification possible.  Your results will vary of course depending on your equipment.

       Messier #    Apparent Mag.            Name or Type                                  How Viewable

  • M3                     6.4                     Globular cluster                               Dim, moderate
  • M5                     5.8                     Globular cluster                               Dim but easy
  • M10                   6.6                     Globular cluster                               Dim, moderate
  • M12                   6.6                     Globular cluster                               Dim, moderate
  • M13                  5.8                      Great Cluster In Hercules                Dim but easy
  • M29                  6.6                      Cooling Tower O.C.                        Dim, moderate 
  • M31                  3.4                      Andromeda Galaxy                         Dim but easy
  • M39                  4.6                      Open Cluster                                   Easy
  • M42                  4.0                      Orion Nebula                                  Naked eye visible
  • M45                  1.6                      Pleiades                                          Naked eye visible
  • M53                  7.7                      Globular cluster                              Dim, fairly hard
  • M57                  8.8                      The Ring Nebula                             Dim but easy
  • M81                  6.9                      Bode's Galaxy                                 Dim, moderate
  • M82                  8.4                      Cigar Galaxy                                   Dim, moderate
  • M92                  6.3                      Globular cluster                               Dim, but easy

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Waning Gibbous Moon

Waning Gibbous Moon - Jay Clyburn

Waning?  Waxing? Which is which?  Read on!

This picture was taken by Jason Clyburn last weekend using a DSLR and tripod.  It is in fact a 'Waning Gibbous' moon, meaning it is going away or disappearing a little more every night until it reaches 'New' moon. 

Confused about the moon phases?  Let's have a brief overview.  'New' moon is when the moon is between the Sun and Earth and the back side (relative to the Earth) is fully illuminated.   During this phase, we don't see the moon at all because the side facing us is not receiving any sunlight at all.  Only the back side.  This is a great time to stargaze because you don't have any sunlight bouncing off the moon and washing out the sky.

After the New moon phase, it starts to 'wax' a little more every night.  A Waxing moon means that we are able to see a little bit more of it every night as more of the moons surface is illuminated (from our perspective.  Half the moon is always fully lit, we just don't always see it).  I like to think of waxing as adding more moon.  When you wax a car, you add wax to it.  Works for me :)  So the moon gets more full every night until it becomes full.

A full moon occurs when the moon is behind the Earth, relative to the Sun.  The whole lit side comes into our view.   This is a time when you will probably experience the worst viewing of the sky because of how bright the moon becomes.

After a full moon occurs, it begins to Wan, or lesson how much of the surface is illuminated.  The moon gets less covered every night until it reaches New moon again, and the cycle starts over.  It takes about 30 days for this cycle to happen.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

M5 - Photographed

M5 Globular Cluster

Messier object #5 in the constellation Serpens.  This picture was taken last night with a DSLR through an 8" reflector.  I believe it is at ISO 200 and exposed at 10 seconds.  The telescopes tripod was only minimally aligned so I didn't want to expose for too long.

Another Messier object, M5.  This globular cluster is pretty easy to find.  Just look a degree or so under Virgo's right foot as she comes up in the East.  I was able to see it through my digital camera's viewfinder, which I was not expecting to happen.  I could not see it naked eye though on a really clear suburban night.  The really nice thing about being able to see it through the camera viewfinder is that I could balance the telescope with the camera on it.   Objects that are too dim to see through the viewfinder have to be found using an eyepiece first.  So there is a balance issue when switching form camera to eyepiece on the telescope.  I won't go into that any further now...

M5 isn't quite as impressive to me as M13 (The Great Cluster In Hercules), but it still very nice to see.  The picture above didn't turn out too bad, considering this was first 'serious' solo shoot.  My gear doesn't do the best job of tracking objects, so I can't do any kind of exposure for more than 10 seconds or so.  Honestly I've just been too busy/lazy to master polar alignment of the mount and/or drift alignment :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

M92 - Messier Object Globular Cluster

M92 - A Globular Cluster (Not my pic :))

While trying to find more Messier objects using Stellarium, I came across this globular cluster that I don't recall seeing before.  It is just to the left of the Great Cluster In Hercules, just to the right of Draco's eyes, and just above the star Vega.  In fact, Draco seems to be staring right as it.  I must have seen it before and just have forgotten about it (isn't that what this blog is for? :p).

M92 is similar to M13 (Great Cluster In Hercules) in ease of viewing.  M92 seems a little more tightly packed together and therefore seems a little brighter at its core than M13 does.  But M13 seems to show more individual star detail.

I am a big fan of globular clusters.  They are a collection of possibly thousands of stars gravitationally bound together.  In my 8" reflector, they appear as a faint ball light.  Higher magnification shows a little of the individual stars(specks),  and not to sound stupid, but they kind of remind me of something looking back at me.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

M81 Bode's Nebula(Galaxy) and M82 the Cigar Galaxy

M81 Bode on left and M82 Cigar on the right

I just finished looking at these two objects from the backyard, and they are not easy to see in my 8" reflector.  Stellarium calls M81 Bode's Nebula even though it is a galaxy.  So that's what I am going to call it also.  Bode is listed as a 6.9 mag object and the Cigar as a 8.4 mag.  These are both Messier objects and will be counted against my goal of viewing all of them this summer.  Note: That is not my picture shown here...

Both of these objects could be same in the same view using my Televue Panoptics 24" eyepiece with a 68 degree AFOV.   Bode was the brighter of the two objects.

I first zoomed in on Bode's Nebula (M81) by switching to a Televue Nagler 5mm eyepiece and then adding a Televue 2x barlow.  More than a smudge was visible, but not too bright and pretty much no detail to be seen.  It was like a disappointing view of The Great Cluster In Hercules, with none of the detail.

The Cigar Galaxy (M82) was just a thin strip of faint light.  It was rather pointy like shown in the picture above, but much fainter.  No amount of power gave me anything other than a thin smudge.

Both objects are located in Ursa Major and are rather easy to find, because with a lower power eyepiece you may see them both at the same time.  I took some pictures but they are pretty bad.  I wasn't able to achieve focus and I need to get to bed.  I may post one just for a good laugh...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Illusive Comet ISON

I've waited almost a full year to see Comet ISON, and it looks like it may not happen this year.   It is pretty much lost to the sun now, but I may get a chance to see it if it makes it around without breaking apart.   The picture you see here on the left is taken from

I just assumed that I would be able to go out at night, sometime during the night, and see the great comet ISON.  I couldn't be more wrong.  The only time it was visible in my area (Vandalia, Ohio, Eastern USA) was right before dawn.  I went out twice right before the sun would wash out the sky, and could not find the illusive iceball. My visible sky starts about 30 degrees up, which is where trees and houses stop.  I had to get to work and get the kids off to school, so I could only scan for ten minutes or so.

  With any luck I might get a glimpse if ISON makes it way back around the sun.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Early Winter Sky

This post is from November 9th, 2013 (last weekend).

It wasn't a perfect sky, but I was able to see many objects, a few of them new.

The first target was the planet Uranus.  It was almost at the meridian and the first quarter moon sliver was deep in the west.  My friend Doug was along and he had never seen the blue-green planet before.

I first found it in my 8" reflector.  A light blue color and pretty small and a little fuzzy.  This was my third viewing of the planet and it looked about the same as the two times before.  It's slightly bigger than a star would be and has a distinct look to it.

Next we located it in Doug's 10 Dobsonian using a 11mm Explorer Scientific eyepiece.  There wasn't much of a difference between the 8" and the 12".

I had no idea the constellation Auriga held some many open clusters.  I always just admired the star Capella that makes up part of the constellation and shines so brightly.  Check out the many clusters peppering Auriga the "Charioteer".  Just have a look inside the 'helmet' with a 20mm eyepiece of more and you are bound to see one.

I must mention Jupiter also.  Jupiter was coming up with the constellation Auriga and it was glowing brightly as usual.  Viewing Jupe in my friend's 10" dob using the ES eyepiece was truly amazing.  We had to deal with atmospherics, but when it 'cleared' for a brief moment, the view was amazing! It the first time I've seen The Great Red Spot definitively.  And swirls could be seen in the belts.  Can't wait to try again with that equipment with better skies.

Just a brief description of other objects viewed this night:

M1 - The Crab Nebula  -  Even in the 10" dob, it was merely a black smudge.

The Spiral Cluster - Looks kind of like a spiral :).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 18th, 2013 "Penumbral" lunar eclipse

First off, I have to say that this image is from Facebook user "astronomy".  They get full credit and I get none :)
I had plans to take this picture myself, but it happened so early where I am located that I missed it.  This is what user "astronomy" had to say:

"This evening (Oct. 18), the moon will undergo a partial eclipse, known as a "penumbral" lunar eclipse."

Basically the Earth blocked a super small part of the light coming from the Sun, heading towards the moon, and we (Earth) got in the way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Setting up a newtonian reflector and EQ5 mount

This video was just for fun and was not intended to be a thorough tutorial on setting up a reflector and mount.  But if you are a complete newbie then you might get something out of it.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Uranus - Take two

I set out a few nights ago to see the planet Uranus for the second time.  It's been a few years since my first viewing, I have failed at least 4 times since the first.
What helped me this time was using Pegasus as a guide.  I waited until Pegasus got to the meridian, and then used the "trailing' two stars of the box as a pointer.  Usually Uranus just seems to be out there with nothing for me to judge its position.
Uranus is somewhat tricky to find.  All the other planets inward from Uranus (except Pluto and Earth) are really easy to find with the naked eyeball.  It appears bigger than most stars you see through a telescope, but not by much.  The best giveaway is the color:  blue.  I always imagined it would have a greenish tint, but in my 8" reflector, it just appears blue.
Uranus does not 'flicker' like normal stars do.  It stays steady as a pale blue dot.  Though there is virtually no detail when using my equipment, I still find it fascinating to look at.
Uranus is just past opposition as of a couple weeks ago I believe, so it should still be one of the better times to view it.