Tuesday, February 26, 2008

M81 & M82 in binoculars from Central Park

Session name: 20080225.2000

I completed this short session observing the sky to the south. My light observing kit was packed up and the tripod collapsed. A turn towards the north revealed the Great Bear climbing vertically up a darker sky. I thought it novel when I glanced at the middle star of the bear's tail (the handle of the Big Dipper). Mizar and Alcor was an easy split.

How sly. Teasing. I'm going now.
Ahhh......why not? It'll only take a second.

All of Ursa Major - from nose out to the Three Leaps of the Gazelle - was seen naked eye. I looked north of 29- & 23 UMa to see sigma UMa and 24 UMa.

Uh oh!

The Takahashi 22x60 bins were unpacked and mounted on the tripod in less than a minute. Sighting on 24 UMa, in the bins, I found my orientation on the right triangle shown in the picture on the left. From there I looked in the direction of M81.

Initially, it took some effort to see M81, but after keeping my eyes to the eye cups and scanning the field M81 stood up to direct vision as a football-shaped fuzzy blob next to two other stars. M82 was much more trickier and required averted vision the whole time. That was at the very edge of my visual confidence that I noted in my log book its location relative to the nearby field stars with a question mark as a dim strand of extended light, distinct from a faint star.

Not a spectacular sight where the galaxy shows volume and detail, only the ~10 ~20 arc seconds brightest part of its nucleus was observed. I think that's quite an achievement for 22x60 binoculars from Central Park.

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