Observing Session at the River Ridge Observatory
Tuesday and Wednesday were two long days separated by one short night so I retired early Wednesday evening with the idea of going to the River Ridge Observatory after midnight to see new Messier objects for my AL observing challenge or sleeping all night. I had mostly exhausted the list available in the earlier hours.
Left house at about 1:40, the Moon was near the horizon. Arrived at the RRO at 2:15. The sky was clear, seeing good, and temperature about 45 F. Pegasus was just starting to set in the west which was good. One of my targets was M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy in Triangulum, which I’ve been trying to find in the east earlier in the evening but it has been lost in the skyglow. Leo was just rising.
M33 was easy to see in binoculars but hard in scope due to its size, it filled the view, but I finally made out some small bits of fluff in the scope.
M77 in Cetus was next. Cetus is a dim constellation but I was able to make out the tail which was all I cared about. One star seemed to be missing and I wondered if it might be Mira, aka Omicron Ceti, a long period variable and sure enough when I checked later the missing star was Mira which must be dim right now.
With those two objects which had defeated me before out of the way, I turned to the new objects that I got up in the middle of the night for – M1, M78, M42, M43, M79, M41, M50, M46, M47, M93, M48, M44, M67, M35, M36, M37, M38, M81, M82, and M97. Some were harder than others but all were seen.
All the while Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky was on the southern horizon, its light twisted from red to green and colors in between by the atmosphere.