It’s been a cloudy winter. And cold. I was aching to get out under the stars with my scope, on a clear night with no moon. Sunday, March 15 2020 turned out to be the night. I took the chance and brought the scope out onto the balcony. My daughter, being home with me, was sleeping in her bed, and so I couldn’t head out to darker skies.
I started in Cassiopeia and checked out NGC 663 again, the Lawonmower Cluster. For some time I gazed at it, gradually seeing more and more stars. The more I looked at it the more I realized I wanted to sketch it. Truly a beautiful open cluster. Next I went west onto the Double Cluster in Perseus. NGC 884 and NGC 869 (my favorite of the two). NGC 869 amazes me with its richness of faint stars. Also many colourful stars between the two, orange and blue stars. I would find myself coming back to the Double Cluster a number of times during the night, and comparing it with the Lawnmower Cluster. Next, I followed the chain of stars from NGC 869 to Stock 2, a less concentrated open cluster in Cassiopeia. I also paid visits to M103, NGC 659 (Ying Yang Cluster) and also the Fuzzy Butterfly Cluster, NGC 654. Also dropped by NGC 457, the Dragonfly Cluster (also Owl Cluster or E.T. Cluster ???)
Had a quick look at the Andromeda Galaxy and its companion, Le Gentil, M32. I didn’t spend much time on these as they were getting low in the west and couldn’t get good views. Tried but failed to really see M110, even though I was looking at precisely the right spot. Bortle 6 light pollution.
Did have a decent view of other galaxies though, M81 and M82. The Garland Galaxy, NGC 3077, was also easy to observe. I was getting cold, and after pondering these three distant island universes, I decided to pack it in.
I should also mention that earlier on in my session I observed brilliant Venus in the west. at 127X, I could quite clearly make out its gibbous phase. Finally, a gratifying night of (balcony) astronomy!