Tuesday, January 10 2006 @ 02:30 pm EST
Contributed by: bobmoody
|I congratulate Jon Stone on receipt of his own Regular Messier Club Certificate for locating and logging at least 70 of the 110 objects in the Messier List.|
You went out last night and set up your telescope to observe. As darkness gripped the sky you began with a couple of familiar objects that you know how to find, maybe a globular cluster or a double-star. You chose these because you know where they are, but you've recently been getting pretty good at "star-hopping". That's a method of looking at star charts and identifying and matching groups and patterns of stars with the charts, and then moving your telescope to some particular spot where your celestial target resides. Let's say it's M-104, a bright nearly edge-on galaxy on the border between the constellations of Virgo and Corvus. Your charts helped you find this galaxy and it seemed easy. You're proud of yourself for having accomplished this small personal feat of observing.
As you gaze at this new object you study it closely, and you notice how it's dark dust lane easily contrasts with the brighter glow of the nucleus. But at some point, you've had enough and you want to try finding something else, maybe a new globular cluster in Ophichus. Or, maybe you want to find another southerly "M-object" in Sagittarius or Scorpius, or an open star cluster like NGC-869 and NGC-884 in the northern regions, the famous "Double Cluster" in Perseus.
|M-104 the "Sombrero Galaxy" on the border between Virgo and Corvus (Hubble Space Telescope image)|
The vast majority of amateur astronomers do this same thing; they've learned how to use their telescope along with a star chart to locate dim objects, but neglected the chance to record their observations. It really is that simple. Just choose an object, find it by star-hopping, identify it as the correct object you're seeking, record your observation, and then move on to the next target and log that one the same way.
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