December 29, 2016 – Morning
I woke up before 5 AM and was outside, setting my astronomy chair in place when my phone alarm went off. I am not sure how that happened, but I am glad it did. The sky was great and the temperature was around 33 deg F. By 5:05, I was warming up with Jupiter. I managed to pick out part of the Northern Temperate Belt as well as mottling in the two equatorial belts. For the Infinity 80 and my artificial eye lenses, that is doing pretty good! I had made a 70mm orifice mask to try out on Jupiter and had it hanging on the azimuth control knob’s cable, but forgot to try it. That, or an 82A filter might help some more.
With that done, I thought it was time to start on Messier Objects. Since it had been 20 days from my last Messier session, I was not sure if I would have much success, if any, or if this would simply be a warm-up session to get me ready for the next time.
73-M98: This one is located about six degrees east of Beta Leonis, or Denebola. I went for my longest focal length Plossl, which gives me over 3.5 degrees of true field, and centered my red dot finder on Denebola. This star is just about at zenith at this time of the morning now, and was readily apparent. This area is, fortunately, far enough North that it missing a rather high light pollution area to my South, so the conditions were pretty good. Moving the scope eastward, I was able to locate 6 Coma Berenices. This is the right end star of several that form what looks like a Tee that was in an accident and bent the bottom line a little. M98 is supposed to be straight west of that star about a degree.
At that point, I started moving down the line of eyepieces, trying to find the one that would work the best for me, but thinking it would end up being my 5000 series 5 element 9mm Plossl, but was surprised to find that a 12.5mm four element Possl did better this time. What I found that worked best for me this session was to use a 25mm eyepiece to locate the right stars near a galaxy, then switch to the 12.5 and wait for the object to show up.
This ended up being the case for M98. Just a little wait, I could see a definite grey patch, which is what I saw with all of these objects. I did not see anything definite, like a brighter center or anything like that, just a general lightening of the field in the area where my finder chart said they should be, based on the surrounding stars. I was using one chart from the Uranometria, that I had scanned and circled the Messier objects on it.
74-M99: From M98, I moved over to the middle star in the bent stem of the tee. Sure enough, there was a brightening of the background just to the right of that star. Again, there were no details to be seen, just a general area that was a little brighter grey than the background around it. With this one, I did not put the longer focal length lens in the telescope, I just stayed with the 12.5 mm Plossl.
75-M100: Next, I moved back up to the top “bar” of the tee and moved to the left end (eastern) and kept going along that line for another half degree or so. Again, there was a grey area that was lighter than the background where M100 was supposed to be. I studied it for a little bit to see if any details would show up, but they did not.
76-M88: At this point, I put the 25mm eyepiece back in the scope and compared what I saw with my finder chart. At that point, there was another object just above M100 that I should have gone for, but it was off this particular chart and I will have to go back to it. Instead, I decided to make a counter-clockwise sweep in the area and head toward the southeast. On the finder chart, M88 is roughly three degrees SE of M100, about a half degree from what looked to be a seventh magnitude star on the chart. Sure enough, I found the star and the spot M88 was supposed to be. Switching back to the 12.5mm eyepiece, I made out the grey area, exactly where it was supposed to be.
77-M91: This galaxy is supposed to be about a degree and a quarter to the east of M88. Using just the 12.5mm eyepiece, I moved the scope east and a grey spot came into view. I looked back and forth between M88 and M91 to verify a line of three Mag 9 stars running just above the galaxies and found them for verification that I was looking at the correct objects. The star pattern matched the chart.
78-M87: After M91, and looking at my chart, I put the 25mm eyepiece back in the scope and centered on M88. I then dropped Southward about two degrees to a Mag 7 star. This star is on the left end of a somewhat curved line of four Mag 7 stars. When I looked at the pattern, what stood out to me was a couple pair of equally matched stars that were lined up vertically, and the line of four stars was not quite as noticeable, even though I could see the line well. M87 showed on my chart to be about a half degree to the NW or that first star that is the east end of the four making up the curved line. I switched to the 12.5 mm eyepiece and waited a little while. M87 became apparent, again, as a dim grey area.
79-M89 is located to the east of M87 about a degree and a half, between two Mag 9 stars, with a third one to the North, making a triangle. M87 is basically on the southern line of that triangle. I just moved the scope to the area, with the 12.5 mm eyepiece in place and saw M89’s grey patch.
From that point, I decided to head to the general area of M84 and M85, which are about two degrees NW of M87. I actually made the move to the area, consulting my chart and looking in the scope with the 25mm eyepiece. I moved to the 12.5 eyepiece and was trying to verify small stars when the batteries in my red flashlight went out.
At that point, I had found seven objects, was going to have to go back into the house to get more batteries, and realized I was fairly tired and cold. That is good enough for one session!
Reviewing charts when I came inside, I realized there were several more in the area, enough to catch another six or seven another time. By the way, when I came inside and looked at the clock, it showed 6:30.
73-M98: Located about 6 deg east of Beta Leonis, the tail star in the Lion, and maybe a degree west of 6 Coma Berenices. Saw dim grey area at 32X 12/29/2016 05:30AM CST
74-M99: Located about a degree SE of 6 Coma Berenices, near M98. Saw dim grey area at 32X. 12/29/2016 05:35AM CST
75-M100: Located about two degrees NE of 6 Coma Berenices, near M98 and 99. Saw a dim grey area at 32X 12/29/2016 05:40AM CST
76-M88: Located about 3 degrees SE of M100. Saw a dim grey area at 32X 12/29/2016 05:50AM CST
77-M91: Located about a degree east of M88. Saw a dim grey area at 32X. 12/29/2016 05:55AM CST
78-M87: Located about two degrees South of M88 and a touch west. Saw a dim grey area at 32X 12/29/2016 06:05AM CST
79-M89: Located maybe a degree and a quarter east of M87. Saw a dim grey area at 32X. 12/29/2016 06:10AM CST