I was able to squeeze in about 1.5 hours of viewing this morning just as the moon set and before the sun rose. My main subject was M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, in Ursa Major. Unfortunately there was still a good bit of moon light in the sky so I’ll I definitely want to revisit this one for the best possible view. That said, it was still pretty dark and the view was quite nice, I just know it will be better with darker skies.
Even with the lighter sky I believe I was able to make out a hint of the spiral structure. M51 is not alone though, it has a neighbor galaxy, NGC 5195, with which it has been interacting for hundreds of millions of years. In fact it is believed that it is due to these interactions with NGC 5195 that the the spiral structure of M51 is so pronounced. Quite a pair!
In addition to the Whirlpool Galaxy I also got a look at two other Messiers, M89 and M90. I’ll definitely revisit both of those when skies are darker. A bonus, the above mentioned NGC 5195 is a member of the Herschel 400! That brings me to 92 of 110 Messier objects and 112 of the 400 Herschels. Not to bad for just over two months of viewing!
Three months ago I would have told you that my brand new 8″ Dobsonian telescope would be all I would need. Well, I can tell you, that as much as I enjoy the views that this scope provides, I am excited about someday seeing these objects with a 16″ scope. So much of what is now a hint of structure will be far more obvious with a larger scope. That said, I’m happy to have started with the 8″ and know that many people use such a scope for many years. It’s good to know what is possible with this aperture and, in fact, learning to star hop with it has been a joy, viewing the faint fuzzies with it has required time and effort. I feel like I am earning my way to the next step and will, no doubt, more fully appreciate the better views of the larger scope when the time comes because of my starting point.