Friday, December 3, 2010



On 17th night the members of the Kutch Amateur Astronomer’s Club decided to go for the Leonids Meteor Shower observation. Our venue was Makanpar-Dhosa, our regular place for observing Meteor Showers. Me, Mr. Narendra Gor and Kartik Pomal travelled through Kartik’s car. Two members joined us later. This year’s meteor shower was less fertile and we saw only 12 meteors from the Leonids and two meteors from Delta Monocerotids. We spent the night on the terrace of a Shiv Temple in the village. We all woke-up at 3:30am and started to count meteors till dawn. I carried my 25x100 binos without stand. As the meteor shower wasn’t showing a good number of Shooting Stars I decided to observe few known galaxies and other deep-sky objects through the binoculars holding by hands. Here is the list of objects I observed,

*NGC 2841
*NGC 2903•
* M35
*NGC 3077
*NGC 5195
*Saturn & Venus

I first pointed the binos to NGC 2841. This is a bright and easy object even from my city. The galaxy is located 1 degree 50’ S-SW from Theta Ursa Majoris star. This is a 10th magnitude galaxy with Angular Size of 7.7 Arc Min and Axis Size of 3.6 Arc Min. It appeared as a faint, rather elongated smudge in the Binoculars.

The next galaxy was NGC 2903, a very easy and bright galaxy in Leo. This galaxy lies within 4 degrees SW of Epsilon Leonis. This is a 9.6th magnitude galaxy with an Axis Size of 5.6’. The galaxy appeared beautiful with two 7.6th and 7th magnitude stars in a 3 degree FOV. Also a 4.3rd magnitude orange star Lambda Leonis appeared in the N-NW edge of the FOV. I missed my stand this time!

The third object was a Planetary Nebula M97 in the Big Dipper. I saw both the nebula and a galaxy, M108 in the same FOV. The nebula was very easy to identify even at first glance. This object is hard to observe from my suburban skies even through my 8-inch Newtonian Telescope. M108, the galaxy was also an easy object through my binos. M108 appeared as elongated fuzz next to two 8.5th and 9th magnitude stars. M108 is just 1.5 degrees NE of Merak or Beta Ursa Majoris.

Now at this time at around 4:10am The Beehive Cluster or M44 was high in the sky appearing through naked-eye as small fuzz. Through the 25x100 Binos it was a breath taking object, Indeed beehive! It filled the entire Field of View. The brightest star in the cluster is Epsilon Cancri shining at magnitudes 6.28. It wasn’t comfortable observing this beautiful cluster through my bulky 4-inch binos weighting 5kg holding on hands! Thus I couldn’t make the view study for longer time and counted 14 stars. There is a miniature of The Constellation Corvus in this cluster if you look carefully. The star Epsilon Cancri is the brightest star in this miniature version of Corvus making a 9’X7’ sized square of stars.In Cancer, there is another beautiful Open Cluster M67. The cluster is located within 2 degrees West of Alpha Cancri. M67 is also known as “King Cobra” and is one of the most ancient open clusters known making it to be 5 billion year old! It is a bright open cluster containing more than 500 stars, many of which were resolvable through my binos. In the FOV it shared view with 60 Cancri and 50 Cancri stars.

Now, even higher in the sky was constellation Gemini. I pointed toward even more rich Open Cluster M35. This cluster gathering of several hundred stars was a glorious sight in my 25x100s. The star, 5 Geminorum shining at magnitude 5.8 was 30’ from the cluster. After this observation, at around 4:25am I pointed the binos toward a beautiful pair of galaxies, M81 & M82 in Ursa Major. The pair is located roughly 10.5 degrees North-West of Dubhe, Alpha Ursa Majoris. M81 is a bright galaxy shining at magnitude 6.94. Its nearby, M82 is another bright galaxy with a apparent magnitude 8.41. Messier 81 and Messier 82 both can be viewed easily using binoculars. Through my binoculars in a 3 degree FOV, I observed another faint fuzzy galaxy, NGC 3077. This galaxy is a smaller member of the M81 group. The galaxy shines at magnitudes 10.6 and was rather tough to make it out through hand-held binoculars. However, after spending little time I could make it out as a very diffuse glow.

In the North-Eastern sky at around 5:15am, the galaxy M51 was well up and I aimed the binos toward its direction. Located nearly 5.5 degrees N-NW of Alkaid (Eta Ursa Majoris), M51 is a bright galaxy and can be easily observed in Binoculars. The galaxy is approximately 23 million light-years away. In my binos I think I had a glimpse of its companion galaxy NGC 5195.

At 5:30am, Saturn and Venus were well up in the eastern sky. I saw Saturn and it appeared as an oval disc. These days Saturn displays the disc of just 16 arc seconds. Venus was nearly 6 degrees above horizon and was within 4 degrees East of Spica. Mr. Narendra Gor somehow fixed the binos steady on the corner of the terrace and pointed toward Venus. It clearly showed the phase of Venus. All members could easily see the phase of Venus. I found from the planetary software that its disc illumination was 12%. I wanted to see the newly discovered comet C/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami but due to haziness in the horizon I couldn’t find it.

Rahul Zota Bhuj