Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oh My ..., What a GALAXY!!!

I really didn't have a plan for Saturday night (05.20.2006,) but the sky was remaining clear. This year has been mostly cloudy and on the days that weren't cloudy, I usually had to work the next day. Since I have to be to work at 6:15am and work a 12 hour shift, I usually can't observe on a "School Night." So I packed my gear, because Saturday was NOT a school night:

Telescope case, which includes the LX-90 telescope.
The wedge
My eye piece cases
Observing chair
a laptop pc

I left my tripod at home, since there are piers at Ashton Observatory (My dark sky site.)

I am currently working on my Herschel 400 list. I have written an app that keeps track of what objects I have found (and haven't) and then sorts them by how many hours they will be up when the sun isn't . I printed off the first three pages of the "Not Found Herschel 400 List" and added it to my gear.

After arriving at Ashton Observatory, I set my Wedge up on one of the piers which was badly out of alignment. It took me a half hour to get that corrected and to finish setting my telescope up. Then I went in and listened to the evening's scheduled program.

After the program, I came out but it was still dusk. But as soon as I could see Polaris, I did a quick polar alignment. The LX-90 (20cm) is a goto telescope, which means you also need to do a two-star alignment. I could now see Arcturus so I went for it.

I then looked at Jupiter, while waiting for it to get dark enough to start my list. Jupiter is always fun to look at.

22:10 ngc 5466, saw a soft glow. Checked it off.
22:10 ngc 5248, could easily see a galaxy. Nothing special, checked it off.
22:12 ngc 4203, a tight little galaxy, checked it off.
22:14 ngc 4565. OH MY ..., what a GALAXY!!!

What I was looking at was a thin sliver of light running almost the entire diameter of my eye piece. I had in my usual 32mm, giving me 64x magnification and about .6 degrees field of view. The galaxy was definitly an edge on galaxy and what a beauty at that.

I now know that I was looking at the "Needle Galaxy," NGC 4565 or Caldwell 38. According to Stephen O'Meara in "The Caldwell Objects," "It Is the largest and most famous edge on galaxy in the night sky." And I might add, it is one of the few galaxies that look similar through the eye piece as in the famous images. When I changed eye pieces to the 15 mm (mid powered eye piece - 135x) I could even make out the core.

NGC 4565: Needle Galaxy
Credit and Copyright: William McLaughlin (ARGO Cooperative Observatory)

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