Observing Log for

Session Details


54.33, -1.445



Conditions: A strange night - very clear skies down to NELM of around 5 but with low level haze and eventual build up of high cloud. Moon Phase: Bright Waxing Crescent Moon low in the West



My first stop on this, my first recorded outing with my telescope in 2006, was the constellation Leo and its brightest star, Regulus. This is a double but I wanted simply to check focussing before heading out for some galaxy hunting.

M65, M66 and NGC3628

These three galaxies are discussed in my latest observing article for the Durham Astronomical Society. Together they are known as the Leo Triplett Group. This group of galaxies is located around 35 million light years away. They took some finding in the telescope but the sight was well worth waiting for (see the image from the DSS Image Collection) - all three members clearly visible and arranged in an isoceles triangle in the 25mm eyepiece. The best direction finding stars were a small chain of 5 dim stars, the Group being located close to these.

All three galaxies are spiral galaxies and M66 was clearly brighter (mag 9.0) than the other two. M65 was comparable (mag 9.3), also being face on, but the NGC galaxy was distinctly fainter (mag 9.5) and had the elongated shape of a side on galaxy. Both 65 and 66 had bright central cores.

NGC3384, M105, M96 and M95

A second group of galaxies in the constellation Leo, this time known as the Leo I Group. It has 10 known members and lies 38 million light years from the Local Group. The main members were catalogued by Messier. Of these M96 appeared the brightest, although at mag 9.2 it was dimmer than the bright galazy in the previous group. All of the galaxies observed in this area were compact fuzzy blobs their bright central cores could easily have been confused with stars if it weren't for their distinctive arrangement in the sky. It was brilliant to be able to sweep amongst this group and compare each of the visible members.

After 96, 105 (mag 9.3), a compact elliptical galaxy followed in brightness by 95 (mag 9.7) a dimmer, compact spiral galaxy, which was much fainter than its close companion, M96. 3384, also a member of this group, was also observed as this lies very close to M105 and aided me in finding this particular grouping of galaxies.

Gamma Leonis

This bright white double was split only at x200, however the problem seemed to be more a focusing issue as it was difficult to focus both stars at once - I therefore suspect my collimation needs checking before I next go out.

M67 - The Wizard Cluster

This compact, but fairly bright open cluster in Cancer was an easy find after the dim galaxies I had been searching for previously. Composed mainly of blue stars this was a beautiful little cluster with many stars visible and hints of stars dimming out into the background. The main stars to my eyes formed a wizard like figure with his arms aloft, a wand in one arm, and a flowing cloak - I have therefore named this the Wizard Cluster. At approximately 4 billion years old, this is one of the oldest open clusters known to exist in our galaxy. It is comprised of hot blue main sequence stars as well as a red-giant branch (the raised arm of the Wizard) and in total there are estimated to be around 500 stars.


Before packing up, under rapidly clouding skies, I pointed my scope into the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. Immediately I was rewarded with a rich field of view, in the centre of which was a bright star and close beside it a compact galaxy which appeared to be around mag 9.5. Based on my sky chart I believe this was 99, a mag 9.8 spiral galaxy. I hope to return to this area with a detailed star chart in the coming days as the area is rich in Messier Galaxies.


I took a look at Saturn as it was sinking into the west. The image was crisp and bright down to x100 but at x200 the glare on the lens ruined the image. Despite this it was still possible to make out cloud bands on the planets surface.


The view of Jupiter, now rising in the East was one of the best I've had in this telescope notwithstanding the problems associated with it still being close to the horizon. The four moons shone brightly, and the planet itself, though its edges swirled in the turbulence, the two prominent cloud bands were easily visible, their orangey red colours vivid in the eyepiece.