Background illustration:
Hot Blue Stars at the Core of Globular Cluster M15 - Hubble Space Telescope
Viewing Log: New Year's Day - East Kennett

Friday 1st January 2010

The weather was clear all New Year's Day so a trip out into the country seemed a great idea, snow had been forecast both in the afternoon and in the evening, but there was a window of about 2-3 hours from about 6pm. So from the Red Lion car park we travelled on to our viewing spot at about 6.45pm.

The sky looked good, and as it was a full moon (a blue moon in fact, being the second full moon of the month) we focused on earth's satellite first of all, bright even with moon filters on.

Then moved on to Orion but too close to the Moon to even see its belt or the nebula within, then moved up high to the darker part of the sky at the zenith to find Cassiopeia and pursue some of the NGC clusters that I had wanted to take a look at.

Focused first on Epsilon Cassiopeia, caught NGC 637 in the corner of the wide-angled Skywatcher Panaview 32mm eyepiece and then on to Ruchbah. However, in-between was the most stunning view of NGC 663 and M103 about 8000 light years from earth. Likened to the 'Seven Sisters' but with 50 easily visible stars, M103 looked like a bunch of jewels in the sky.

M103 (or NGC 581) in Cassiopeia
NGC 663 is probably one of the nicest open clusters in the area and consists of a collection of about 15 visible stars and is by no means dwarfed by its more numerous neighbour, both sat quite comfortably in the Panaview and was therefore great to compare, the mass of both seemingly not greatly different from one another, though NGC 663 was a bit smaller - however, there were a lot of other stars in this dark area of the sky. So, a great night to view, even with a full moon.

We then looked at both Jupiter and Mars, they both looked red! Perhaps it was just the strange light - we didn't know it at the time but it was about to snow. Anyway, we packed up after some hot drinks and then made our way home.
Viewing Log: Sunday 20 December 2009 - East Kennett

M82, which we viewed along with M81 high above The Plough,
not as colourful as this Hubble image but a thrill to see!
Credit: M82 Chandra HST Spitzer
It was a bitterly cold night but often that is the best kind of night to go out stargazing. Four of us met at the Red Lion and then travelled to our viewing spot at East Kennett just a couple of miles away. Hilary and I were pleased to have with us two very experienced amateur astronomers, Peter Chappell and Jonathan Gale (from the Wiltshire Astronomical Society).

It was such a clear sky and the crescent moon shone brightly along with Jupiter and all four moons. Casseopeia looked resplendant and you could easily make out with the naked eye the star clusters and NGC's that impregnate this fascinating constellation. In fact the Milky Way was so clear the whole area was speckled with millions of stars, nebulae and distant galaxies!

Aldebaran in Taurus, Capella in Auriga all nice and bright, along with Vega in Lyra. Altair and Deneb all quickly identified. Also saw Pisces below the square of Pegasus, not always easy to make out! We were also pleased to see Neptune, it's small blue opaque disk in the telescopes of our experienced astronomers, and also found by Hilary in a Meade 90mm refractor, well spotted! We were also pleased to see Mars rise into view around 8pm.

Now, I am not sure what order we saw them in, but we also saw the following objects:
M1 The Crab Nebula, the supernova remnent in TaurusM51 The Whirpool Galaxy, a spiral in Canes Venatici
M33 Triangulam, a spiral galaxyM57 The Ring Nebula - a planetary nebula
M42 The Orion Nebula and parts of M43 in the same areaM81 Bodes Galaxy high above The Plough
M45 The Pleiades, or Seven SistersM82 The Cigar Galaxy accompanying M81 above The Plough
The Hyades Star Cluster 
Viewing Log: Friday 26 February 2010 - East Kennett

Mizar and Alcor in the centre of the handle of Ursa Major
(Photo: Akira Fujii, Firefly Books Ltd, Canada)

All things considered, it was a great, warm night for stargazing and after dodging bad weather and clouds for most of January and February it was also a huge relief to be star gazing again. Phew! Five of us met at our usual meeting place at the Red Lion, and then we set course for the viewing area hidden in the dark Wiltshire countryside.

We had a nearly full, bright, waxing gibbous Moon and so were not able to see the twisting sinews of the Milky Way across our panorama, but the stars and constellations were easy to pick out, and one of first excursions was to the wonders of the Orion Nebula (M42) with its two main bunches of nebulosity as seen with low power eyepeices such as a 32mm or a 24mm.

Next we viewed the Hyades in Taurus right next to Aldebaran, which looked as good as ever. Aldebaran is an old and
extremely bright Red Giant, rivalled only by Betelgeuse (in Orion) in colour and magnitude, and at a distance 65 light years.

We could not visit Taurus without then visiting the Pleiades Cluster (M45), which was absolutely great. We also endeavoured to look for the Crab Nebula (M1) at the opposite end of Taurus and though we were in the right spot, the brightness of the Moon made it near impossible to resolve the Supernova remnant, a mere 6500 light years away!

Anyway, on this bright Moon-lit night the constellations were the stars (sorry, no pun intended) of the evening and we identified the equalateral triangle of Procyon (Canis Minor) sometimes called the 'dogstar', Betelgeuse (Orion) and Sirius (Canis Major) and then went over and looked Cepheus, the father of Andromeda, and Cassiopeia, her mother with its distinctive 'W' shape, both next to each other in the night sky. The high constellations such as Auriga were also prominent on this Moonlit night.

Mars, our cold Winter companion of late was also lovely, warm in colour, and high in the sky above the Moon.

One of the best views of the evening should surely have been of Mizar and its companion Alcor in the handle of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper. Easy to separate with a good telescope; it is more technically noted as the Mizar-Alcor stellar sextuple system, consisting of the quadruplet system Mizar and the binary system Alcor, which basically means that there is more to this 'double' than meets the eye, and maybe it is not a 'double' after all, but only when viewed in isolation.

Just after 8.30pm in the east, and well-spotted by Bernie was the real star (sorry, its that silly pun again!) of the evening, at least for those assembled in our motley band, and that was the rising of Saturn. A great sight to see at any time when it graces our skies. On this night there was much atmospheric aberration and it was a little fuzzy to start with, however, it gradually resolved itself and we were treated to its fine, paper-thin rings, which are almost side-on at the moment.

So a great evening, after which we retired to the Red Lion for some well-earned refreshment!

Viewing Log: Friday 9 Apil 2010 - East Kennett

We had a great and mostly clear night last night and were treated to some great views of the night sky, its galaxies, star clusters and planets.

Starting off in the light, we arrived at the viewing site to find that large mounds of grit and screed had been piled in the wider part of the viewing area and so we had to go up the track a bit to park the cars (there were about six) and view. However, we got set up fairly quickly in the dusky light, with four main scopes pointed towards the heavens.

We started with Venus and its mysterious brightness like a bright ball-bearing in the sky, alive and glowing and so seemingly smooth on the surface. Mars was also prominent but we hardly looked at it on this night as there was so much else to see!

One of the most spectacular views of the night was Saturn and its rings, and also one of its moons - Titan we believe, found first of all by Bernie, and what a view we had! Using an 8mm eyepiece barlowed down to 4mm, there was no better object in the night sky. High in the east it was good to see it well away from the horizon and bask in its sheer beauty and majesty.

The Leo Triplet, with M65 at the upper right, M66 at the lower right,
and NGC 3628 at the upper left. (Credit: Scott Anttila) Spotted by Jonathan Gale at around 10.15pm

Before going on to some deep sky objects, we looked at the Orion nebula which sparkled and glimmered with its gaseous cloud well lit and its central stars, diagonal to each other and giving hint to its central core and Orionis, also known as the Trapezium, the multiple star system, which would have been easily seen with more power, however, there was much to see and we stayed on low power whilst looking for more deep sky objects.

Jonathan came to the rescue here, with objects such as M1, the Crab Nebula, then M51, the Whirpool Galaxy with its fixing triangle of stars for guidance in the region of Ursa Major, but more correctly in Canes Venatici - it also has a small companion, NGC 5195 and being regarded as one of the most famous 'galactic couples' in our part of the universe. M51 apparently still shows signs of a great galactic collision which literally set it on fire.

However, the finest view of any of the galaxies on this night was the Leo Triplet, M65, M66 and NGC 3628, very hard to spot below Chertan but absolutely great in a fine telescope, NGC 3628 being side on. It has been suggested that the Triplet may have intereacted with each other about 800 million years ago.

Thanks to Jonathan again for this spectacular view of deep sky objects!

Viewing Log: Saturday 16 October 2010 - East Kennett

Credits: John Spencer (Lowell Observatory) and NASA

It was a clear night with the Moon and Jupiter very prominent in the skies above, what was also fascinating was that one of our number located the shadow of one of Jupiter's Galilean moons on the surface of Jupiter, similar to the Hubble Space Telescope photo opposite, we don't know whether it was Io (as in the photo) or not but it was most interesting to see. The moon's move around so much it is difficult to tell which one we were looking at. All four moons could be seen, that is Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (for more information go to Wikipedia). Hilary also observed Uranus, which was near Jupiter.

With such a clear sky there were many other sights to see, which included Andromeda,a very good view through Mikes binoculars, the favourite Pleiades open cluster in Taurus and good and detailed views of our own Moon, with the terminator assisting with fantastic views of the mountains and craters at the most southern edge of the moon, particularly clear in Scott's new Meade LX200 telescope. As the night moved on a frost began to creep in which is great for clear skies, but we retired to the pub instead for a welcome nightcap and a good chat.

It was great to see so many turn up on what was a most pleasant evening. We were also pleased to welcome two visitors, Mike and Liam, from Perth (Scotland) and also Dawn, from SPOG (Salisbury Plain Observing Group)

Viewing Log: Friday 3 June 2011 - Alton Hill Car Park - near Alton Priors - by Dawn Wilson
organised by the Salisbury Plain Observing Group (SPOG)

Viewing Report - Ad Hoc- SPOG
Friday June 3rd 2011 from 21.00 to 01.40 at Alton Hill Car Park.

Equipment: Skywatcher 150PL 150mm (6") Parabolic Newtonian Reflector with 8mm-24mm Skywatcher Zoom eyepiece.

I arrived at the car park to find one vehicle parked in our usual spot. This turned out to be a European couple who fortunately didn't disrupt our evening with lights. I hope they managed to sleep through our banter during the evening. That said the site is signed as no camping so they were at risk of being moved on anyway if they were spotted.

It was a beautiful evening after what had been a very warm afternoon. I was joined by Jon Gale, Hilary and Robin Wilkey from Swindon Stargazers and Pete Chappell. As the Sun set a very thin crescent moon was visible low on the horizon and was our first target. This was soon followed by a view of Saturn with 2 moons visible believed to be Titan and Rhea, although I am not sure of this as I didn't have my June copy of the moons placements.

As it grew darker we all went after M13 or NGC 6205 known as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. Both Hilary and I were struggling to even make out the keystone of Hercules situated to the right of Vega as it appeared very faint, with the sky in the West still being quite light. It appeared as a fuzzy blob that was refined by zooming in so that a very few stars are faintly visible. We followed this with M92 or NGC 6341 a smaller Globular cluster also in Hercules. I had found this with help the previous week at the same site and was pleased to relocate it fairly easily.

M57 or NGC 6822 - The Ring Nebula
in the constellation of Lyra

My next target was the Ring Nebula M57 or NGC6822 in the constellation of Lyra. For those less technically minded it is below and to the right of Vega midway between two fainter stars. Hilary and Robin were chasing down fuzzies in Virgo with some success. For a while we were all looking through each other's scopes. We also had a view of the Coat hanger asterism through a finder scope. This collection of stars in the shape of a coat hanger is too widely spread to view through a scope.

Jon revisited the Veil Nebula to the delight of Hilary, Robin and Pete. This nebula is so large it has several designations:
The Western Veil (also known as Caldwell 34), consisting of NGC 6960 (the "Witch's Broom") near the foreground star 52 Cygni in Cygnus;

The Eastern Veil (also known as Caldwell 33), whose brightest area is NGC 6992, trailing off farther south into NGC 6995 and IC 1340; and Pickering's Triangle (or Pickering's Triangular Wisp), brightest at the north central edge of the loop, but visible in photographs continuing toward the central area of the loop.

NGC 6974 and NGC 6979 are luminous knots in a fainter patch of nebulosity on the northern rim between NGC 6992 and Pickering's Triangle.

Pete Chappell had set himself a challenge of Caldwell targets. Jon and I also took up the challenge for Caldwell 1 or NGC 188 just below Polaris. Although all three of us arrived at the same area, using a distinctive curve of stars in the shape of a tilted question mark for reference, through 3 different methods, Jon using a hardback star atlas with great detail, Pete with his GOTO and myself using the Pocket Sky Atlas, we were not sure if we had indeed located this open cluster. I have studied an image found on wikepedia of this cluster and I am still not sure, although there does appear to be the grouping of stars like a tilted question mark we were looking at in the image. I will leave Jon and Pete to decide if they agree.

At this point I will stop to explain that star hopping using the pocket atlas is an art. My own method is to locate a constellation nearby that I know, find the correct page and rotate the book to the same alignment. Find the object you are searching for and "hop" via stars to the correct area. The trick is to figure out or transpose the distance on the page to the night sky above you. Sometimes I find I need two points of known reference to help me with the scale. I have on many occasions been miles away with the distances or mistaken one star for another.

Using the method above I found my next object which was M4 or NGC6121 in Scorpio not far from Antares. This globular cluster is one of two, the other being NGC 6397 in Ara, located approximately 7,200 light years away. These two are the closest to Earth though not the largest in size to view.

Flushed with my success I turned back to the pocket atlas and picked a target off the page, M80 or NGC6093 also in Scorpio. This is another globular cluster but smaller in appearance. I followed this with NGC6144 but this is so close to Antares that I couldn't see it with my scope.

At this point Robin and Hilary left us and headed back to Swindon. I will thank Hilary for the tea which was most welcome as it did get decidedly chilly as the night wore on.

Jon had been muttering to himself and Pete for some time by now about the wind mucking up his viewing. He was looking for a supernova reported in the Whirlpool Galaxy or M51a or NGC 5194 in Canes Venatici. This galaxy has a companion galaxy it is interacting with NGC 5195 which is slowly being siphoned into M51 forming a bridge of nebulosity. The supernova can just be seen (mag 13) as a faint white dot upper left of the two interacting galaxies in the eyepiece using averted vision.

A brief visit to M3 or NGC 5272 in Canes Venatici which is one I either get first time or miss by a mile. Needless to say I missed it by a mile. Jon to the rescue with his laser pointer. This is yet another globular cluster. Have you noticed the theme? As a beginner hunting for faint objects, these are less faint and a girl has to start somewhere. Some of these distant galaxies and nebula could be in the middle of my eyepiece and I wouldn't know it. They need to have been seen to be recognised. However with Globs I know what I am looking for and they are much easier to spot!

Just to contradict that last statement I finished the evening with a challenge to Pete and Jon of the Sunflower Galaxy M63 or NGC 5055 in Canes Venatici. Again I plucked this one from the page. No one was more surprised than I was when I found it without help. It appeared as a faint grey mistiness in the eyepiece at 24mm and zooming in half way made it a little clearer. Sometimes it must be noted increasing the magnification means you lose the better view of some fuzzy objects. A last view of the "teapot" rising in the south but alas the wind was biting and we decided to call it a night.

This ends the report and I hope gives heart to others who struggle but persist in viewing the wonders of the universe. I have only been viewing since September last year and I have to thank Jon for suggesting an evening with Robin and Hilary way back then when they were very hospitable. They finally got to see the scope I bought shortly after that evening with Jupiter and the Pleiades.

Dawn Wilson.

Viewing at Lacock Friday September 30th 2011 by Dawn Wilson

Equipment: Skywatcher 150PL 150mm (6") Parabolic Newtonian Reflector with 10mm and 25mm Skywatcher eyepieces

I arrived at the Red Lion just after 8pm to find half a dozen members already there and set up. On the way over I had narrowly missed someone observing the thin crescent moon whilst balanced precariously on a bank! It was a lovely sight but if you do plan to look closer with binoculars, or as this chap had with a tripod and spotting scope, it would be wise to choose a more secure location! His car was parked off the road in an old drove with his female companion leaning on the car looking at it from a safe location. Why he thought a bank and hedge was a good location with flat ground right by his car I do not know, unless he was looking at a bird in the hedge in the half-light?

Anyway I digress. I set up my telescope and met up with some new observers whilst doing so helping to point them in the direction of the field and pointing out the low bollard which will trip the unwary. I then had a good look around whilst trying to decide what to observe first, my partner having helped carry things retired to the pub. I picked out the constellation of Hercules and decided to go for M13 also known as NGC6205 or the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules. First discovered by Edward Halley in 1714 it resides at 25.100 light years from Earth. A satisfying start with a fuzzy blob in the 25mm eyepiece. I switched to the 10mm once people had a look. There were several knowledgeable people keen to view and they asked some technical questions about my telescope fondly known as Sidney. Sorry guys the focal length and all that stuff doesn’t really grab me I use it and it works for me. I only know that “aperture” is King! Now I feel like a dumb chick, but who cares. For info look at the head of the report that is all I know. If I need to know more I find an expert, the Society has plenty willing to help.

A brief break to observe a Comet that Andy had in his larger aperture Dobsonian, I believe it was Comet Garadd which will be passing Hercules right up to February if the reports I have read are accurate. Meanwhile Comet Elenin which has been eagerly awaited as it passed close to Earth appears to be disintegrating as it passes the Sun according to the latest reports from NASA. If it does survive it should be visible in the morning twilight at the end of the first week in October.

Next I went after M92 or NGC 6341 another globular cluster near Hercules. This one was discovered by Johann Elert Bode in 1777 and lies 26,700 light years from Earth. Sadly I couldn’t find it and so gave in and turned to observe Jupiter that had risen above the trees. A glorious sight with, we thought, 5 moons visible and unusually one appearing very close in a hairs breadth away from the Planet. I say we as I had been joined by two members of the society who I had met several times. I had the bright idea of getting them both to align the telescope with Jupiter so they could get a feel for EQ mount. I duly showed them where the alignment locks were and how the scope moved on the mount and walked them through the process of using the telrad to find the target, lining up, locking off and refining the object in the eyepiece. I then went off for a drink and to look in a magazine and see if 5 moons were possible, leaving them to practice. It’s alright looking through a telescope when all the work has been done but to get a feel you really need to experience the execution of the find. I think they did very well. If they turn up again I will challenge them to find a harder target! Various people were keen to view Jupiter and compare the different telescopes including another member I had found earlier in the car park. We viewed it with the 25mm and 10mm eyepieces.

So back to the quest for M92 and damn but still no luck even after a quick study of the Star Atlas. Admitting I needed help I asked Andy, which he kindly did and we had M92 in view another faint fuzzy. A quick hunt for M39 or NGC 7092 and open cluster in the constellation Cygnus, I think successfully. More people arrived and more discussions on telescopes and mounts and back to Jupiter for others to view. It was pleasing to see some younger people out and I apologise to the young man who was very local and knowledgeable for failing to find the Ring Nebula even with his excellent directions. I have found it previously and so will add it to my list for future viewings.

It was by now just after 11pm and the pub was emptying. My partner had been out periodically to view Jupiter and M92 and now helped me to pack up. We drove home both satisfied we’d had a pleasant evening.
I am writing this on Saturday whilst the Sun beats down again. I have plans to view from the garden this evening but hope to be out with friends again soon.

Dawn Wilson

Viewing at East Kennet Saturday October 15th 2011 by Dawn Wilson

Equipment: Skywatcher 150PL 150mm (6") Parabolic Newtonian Reflector with 10mm and 25mm Skywatcher eyepieces

I arrived at the Gravel pit near East Kennet just after 8-30pm to find a dozen members already there and set up. On the way over I had noticed the moon slowly rising which would make deep sky objects a challenge to see as it cast quite a glow in the sky.

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of vehicles out and having parked on the end set up my telescope further up by some old friends. Both Jon and Pete were observing the transit of Io across Jupiter which is always a pleasure to observe. After some discussion we thought we had Io as a black dot on the highest band, although for a while I thought I had it on the second band, tricky to spot but it was clear in Jon’s 8 inch Dobsonian with averted vision. For my own first target I picked out my old favourite in the constellation of Hercules. M13 also known as NGC6205 or the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules is 25 100 light years from Earth. A satisfying start with a faint fuzzy blob in the 25mm eyepiece. These globular clusters are much fainter when the moon is up.
Next I went after M92 or NGC 6341 another globular cluster near Hercules. This one lies 26 700 light years from Earth. I switched to the 10mm eyepiece to try and bring it clearer for others to view.

Next a new target that someone had found, M15 or NGC7078 in Pegasus. Discovered by Jean-Dominique Maraldi in 1746. At an estimated 13.2 billion years old, it is one of the oldest known globular clusters and is 33 600 light years from Earth. Again it was very faint but visible in the 25mm eyepiece.

I went back for a look at Jupiter with Io now clear of the planet’s surface with the 10mm eyepiece. Meanwhile Jon had targeted the Witches Broom part of the Veil Nebula, NGC 6960 in Cygnus. This was a very faint object with the moon up and some time at the eyepiece was needed.

M92 or NGC 6341 - globular cluster near Hercules

There were several people viewing various objects through telescopes that I hadn’t seen out before so I hope they enjoyed their evening. We certainly love to share observing with anyone interested. All you need to bring is yourself, warmly dressed, and a red light torch if you need to pick your way around. Observers take time to gain night sight and white light is not appreciated, car lights can ruin your night vision for quite a while, so try to arrive early or dim your car lights when pulling in.

A visit by the local police who had a report of lots of cars in the layby by a concerned member of the public was a break to the evening. Having realised what we were doing as they pulled in they asked to view the Moon and Jupiter before leaving us to our observing.

My next target was M57 or NGC 6720 known as the Ring Nebula, in the constellation of Lyra, just south of Vega. This nebula does live up to its name looking like a foggy doughnut and is 2 300 light years from Earth. It is midway between the 2 stars to the south and left of Vega.

By now some people were starting to leave as it was becoming cold and damp. Congratulations to Hilary who found M71 or NGC 6838 a globular cluster in Sagitta around 12 000 light years from Earth. I will have to try for that one next time.

I concluded my evening with a quick view of the moon before packing up and going home at 10.45pm.

Dawn Wilson

Viewing log: Friday 23rd December 2011 at East Kennet by Dawn Wilson

Hello again my friends. It has been too long since I have managed to go out observing so I was delighted to manage to make the best of this opportunity. Normally I would have gone out with my own telescope but events conspired to make it a choice between arriving in time or packing the Car with the scope and other paraphernalia, so I opted to go only with binoculars that were already available. My hope that others would have been more organised was well founded. Mike of Swindon Stargazers had emailed this short notice viewing just the day before and at 6pm I was sure we would be scuppered as the rain was torrential. The skies cleared however and his prediction that it would clear proved correct.

I arrived last at the site to find 4 other there and already setting up, sorry about the car lights guys. There was Mike and Hilary already viewing, Pete Chappell was setting up and another gent called Tom I think (apologies if I have this wrong) set up with a large dobsonian. I grabbed my trusty binoculars and wrapped up against the cold.

It was a beautifully clear night with no moon, just perfect and I did spend a few minutes cursing not having my own telescope. However for those of you new to this mad idea of viewing the night sky in the middle of winter, let me just say that a pair of binoculars can afford a pleasant evening of night sky wonders. I started off focussing on Jupiter, not ideal as I can never get a clear view in binoculars of this planet. Pete had lined up on Neptune so we all had a look at this distant object. I then turned my attention to an old favourite M45 the Pleiades which are spectacular through binoculars and clearly visible with the naked eye. Hilary and Pete were chasing down Uranus at this point. Hilary is nearly obsessed by this planet and has been chasing it across the night sky for over a year, so she was delighted to successfully locate it again and get a closer look with Pete's Goto telescope, as we all were.

My next target was Orion and the M42 Nebula with M43, again visible with the naked eye but beautiful through the binoculars. Don't forget that Betelgeuse makes for a fine object with its luscious red colouring as does the crystal blue Rigel diagonally opposite.

We also had an opportunity that night to see M78 through Pete's Goto scope. It was faint but visible with the 2 stars within it and a diffuse nebula also visible as a foggy patch. M78 is the brightest diffuse reflection nebula of a group of nebulae that include NGC 2064, NGC 2067 and NGC 2071.

The constellation of Orion

I next sought out the Hyades also known as Melotte 25 or Collinder 50 or Caldwell 41, an open cluster that is the nearest to our solar system. This object can be found in Taurus near the red giant Aldebaran.

I next turned my attention to the constellation of Auriga and the open clusters within it which could be seen with the naked eye as foggy patches. These are M36, M37 and M38. Again Pete Chappell was accommodating and chased them down for a closer look and followed this with a view of M1 the Crab nebula or NGC 1952 in Taurus through Pete's Goto scope.

Meanwhile our friend, Tom, with the dobsonian had located M81 also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's Galaxy and M82 also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy near the Plough. Both were visible in the same view.

I was left to go looking for M44 also known as Praesepe (Latin for "manger") NGC 2632, Cr 189 or the beehive cluster in Cancer, whilst Pete went after even more obscure objects.

A view of M79 or NGC 1904 a globular cluster in the Lepus constellation through Pete's scope was followed up with The Owl nebula or NGC 3587 a planetary nebula in the Plough, faint but visible; the Little Dumbbell nebula, also known as Messier 76, NGC 650/651, the Barbell nebula, or the Cork nebula, a planetary nebula in the constellation Perseus, was clearer; NGC 631 a faint Lenticular galaxy; M29 or NGC 6913 an open cluster in the Cygnus constellation; NGC 1535 (Cleopatra's Eye) a planetary nebula in the constellation of Eridanus. Finally Sirius had risen enough to go after M46 or NGC 2437 an open cluster in the constellation of Puppis.

We ended the night with a fine view of Jupiter and its four moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

My thanks to Pete Chappell for sharing his telescope to view these deep sky objects and to all the others who were there for a very pleasant evenings viewing.

I hope this will inspire some of you to join us at a public event at Lacock during the BBC's Astronomy Live broadcasts on January 18th 2012. The Wiltshire Societies are attending and there will hopefully be an opportunity to view deep sky objects through some larger telescopes in the evening.. Solar viewing commences in the afternoon as well as speakers giving presentations.

Dawn Wilson

Images courtesy of Wikipedia

The constellation of Auriga

Viewing log: Tuesday 18 September 2012 at Uffcott

On an exceptionally clear night we arrived at our viewing spot near Uffcott village, a secluded layby with perfect views of the night sky in most directions, organised by our secretary Mike Partridge as the Short Notice Observing Group (SNOG), we found Pete Chappell the first to arrive already set up and ready to view, followed by Robin and Hilary. Mike arrived shortly after.

One of our early targets was the magnificent Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and we all located it quite easily. This iconic galaxy is the first target of many a budding astronomer, and through our telescopes looked like a fuzzy glow in the night sky and almost discernable with the naked eye.

The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years (2.4×1019 km) from Earth in the Andromeda constellation. Also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, it is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest spiral galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy, but not the closest galaxy overall.

M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy

It gets its name from the area of the sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda, which was named after the mythological princess Andromeda. The Andromeda Galaxy is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which also contains the Milky Way, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 30 other smaller galaxies.

So this was the beginning of a great nights' viewing with temperatures at a balmy 9º and with a clear view of the Milky Way. With Pete's help we went on to the Ring Nebula (M57), M13, the great globular cluster also designated NGC 6205 and sometimes called the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, the galaxies M81 and M82 high above Ursa Major and at the end of the evening we were treated to a magnificent view of the The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, M45 in the Messier catalogue. Other targets included the Dumbell Nebula (M27), the double star Albireo in Cygnus and Brocchi's Cluster also known as The Coathanger, a favourite asterism of many a viewer.

Viewing log: Saturday 29 September 2012 at Uffcott
What is amazing about going out stargazing any night is that you never know what you are going to see or find, or not find as is the case sometimes, for example,I was looking for a number of things in Casseopeia such as particular star clusters such as M52 and perhaps even the Bubble Nebula (NGC 76350), but alas, the nearly full Moon washed out everything, so deep sky was well out of the question. It was a good night for some common double stars and Alberio was found once again in Cygnus, a lovely colourful pair of topaz orange and pale blue. We also looked at Mizar and Alcor, a lovely pair in the crook of the handle of Ursa Major. Mike also found M13, the great Hercules globular cluster again following Pete's excursion to this very fine object a few nights before. Mike was using his new SE6 GoTo scope and testing it's accuracy, which proved most successful, especially when we found and viewed Neptune, a very feint blue disc right out there on the edge of the Solar System. So it was great to see this most distant of planets. Perhaps one of the most exciting views of the evening was the rising of Jupiter and it's accompanying moons around 10pm. What was so amazing was the position of it's Galilean moons, instead of being in line and on the same plane as the planet three of the moons were actually bunched up together to one side. Thanks to Hilary for a great view of this wonderful planet. See illustration below for the positioning of the moons.

Jupiter and it's Galilean moons 29 September, 2012, illustration courtesy of Stellarium
Note grouping of Io, Ganymede and Europa

Viewing Logs for Swindon Stargazers









































Ad-Hoc Viewing Sessions

Orion's Belt, with the Flame and Horsehead Nebula