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Sagittarius treasure trove
Last weekend Leo and I went into the field just 2 miles down the road to do some deep sky observing. On Friday we just took our binoculars, because our major goal for the night was to see what this site (which we never visited before) had to offer. Although there where some streetlights visible a few miles away, the big plus for the site was that we had a 360 degree horizon. However, there seemed to be a lot of dust particles in the air because it was impossible to see any stars below 30 to 35 degrees towards the horizon.

On Saturday, we gave it another try, and we were in for a few big surprises! We drove up in our car around 22.00hrs local time and the Sun had just disappeared below the northwestern horizon. When we got out of our car what did we see: some distant streetlights, a fully lit church tower in the distance, some 20 to 30 red lights from a wind park and ……. a big campfire at the local “radio-controlled airplane” club. They had their annual summer-barbecue I guess.

However, the biggest surprise was still to come. As it grew darker, we saw that the sky was much clearer, more transparent, than the night before. Around 23.00hrs we detected the outline of the Teapot (Sagittarius), and a good part of Scorpius was also visible. In the northeast, Capella was already above the horizon, which we didn’t see until 00.15hrs the night before! I started to get really excited, and got the 85mm Zeiss with the 20-60 zoom-eyepiece out, and mounted it on the Manfrotto photo-tripod. Leo had his Sky-mirror with the 15x80 Vixen big binocular mounted. And what did we locate in Sagittarius with these small instruments under these “mediocre” light conditions in the middle of July? Well, it was amazing to be honest. Without too much trouble we spotted M28, M22, M25, M24, M18, M17, M16, M8, M20 and M21. (see the map below, click to enlarge). I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even the nebulosity of M8, M16 and M17 was easy to see, without the use of filters!

Image created with SkyTools 2 by CapellaSoft

On Friday night Sagittarius had been completely lost in the haze, and now there they where, a whole bunch of celestial treasures to be seen with 80mm binoculars and an 85mm birding-scope. We only used some red LED's, a German star-atlas and Sue French’s “Celestial Sampler”, to locate the objects. Oh, by the way, we also used the streetlights on the horizon as points of orientation, and the fully lit church tower in the distance also came in handy for reading the time wink

This proved to me that air pollution is much more an issue for amateur astronomers than light pollution. I had seen all the Messier object in Sagittarius on a star party in Austria last year, but I never had seen them all from my own hometown. Incredible! Anyway, what I also liked very much about the site last night was the 360-degree horizon. Around 00.00 hours local time we where in for another wonderful sight. The Moon came up over the horizon, and I mean really over the horizon. It was the first time ever for me to see the moon touching the skyline, no haze, no clouds, just a beautiful yellow-orange Moon, and on top of that, a set of big rotating wind turbines where visible as big moving silhouettes against the Moon.

Around 02.00 hours we ended our observing session with a few of our all time favorites, M 27, the double cluster in Perseus, the Coathanger, M 31 and Albireo. Astronomy in the suburbs can still be very rewarding.
Posted by Math on 07/16 at 06:39 AM
Deepsky log • (1) CommentsPermalink

HI Math.  Yes that is wonderful that you found a site to go to look at the sky with such a great horizon.  I am trying to do the same about 31 miles away from my home.  Me and about 8 other amateurs are trying to make an arrangement with a local group that owns land in that area. 

that part of the sky that you were looking at is one of my favorites and we too have problems with air pollution at the sites near our homes. 

A really nice photo that is annotated will be emailed to you.

Hope all is going well for you.

James T. Morgan

Posted by  on  07/19  at  09:13 PM






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