Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Sombrero for Cinco de Mayo

Feliz Cinco de Mayo en todos! It’s only fitting that with a clear sky last night I tried for something I had never seen before, M104. Yep, the Sombrero Galaxy. It was a nice way to wrap up a short session that started at sunset with planet Venus. Although I was out for two hours, I didn’t spend much time at the telescopes. Part of the reason is that the twilight hangs around long after sundown, and wasn’t sufficiently dark until 9 o’clock. The other reason was that I was waiting for a five minute International Space Station pass at 8:43.






Feliz Cinco de Mayo en todos! It’s only fitting that with a clear sky last night I tried for something I had never seen before, M104. Yep, the Sombrero Galaxy. It was a nice way to wrap up a short session that started at sunset with planet Venus. Although I was out for two hours, I didn’t spend much time at the telescopes. Part of the reason is that the twilight hangs around long after sundown, and wasn’t sufficiently dark until 9 o’clock. The other reason was that I was waiting for a five minute International Space Station pass at 8:43.

I was tempted earlier in the day to drive to Chicago for some astronomy with Joe Guzman and friends by the Adler Planetarium, but a number of factors contributed to my decision to stay home instead. One of them was that I had wanted to take advantage of the late rising Moon to hunt down some galaxies. Not likely to accomplish that in the city. But first I had to wait for the sky to get dark enough for galaxy hunting, so I did what is becoming my routine and took pictures of Venus shining in the western sky. But that wasn’t enough, so I tried getting a picture with my Vivicam to the eyepiece of my Dob. Once Saturn appeared I let the go-to track it, although a strong breeze was keeping the image very unsteady. I snapped a few pics of Saturn as well, then got ready for ISS. By the time Station flew out of sight it was time to find a galaxy or two.

I had M101, M51, the Leo Trio, M104, and the Virgo Cluster on my mind, so I looked through my Peterson’s Field Guide to the Night Sky to see what might be the best target. The Sombrero Galaxy, M104 seemed like an easier star hop than some of the others. It was also one I had never seen, which put it on top of my list. I studied my Peterson star atlas, then compared it to what I saw in my finder scope and quickly tracked it down. Of course it isn’t as impressive as I’ve seen in images, but I liked the background star field in my 25mm eyepiece. I followed it for awhile, wanting to savor my newest Messier checkmark, but finally gave in and tried viewing in a 10mm eyepiece. It didn’t take the increased magnification well at all, so I went back to the 25mm. I took another look, and then realized that I was looking at the Sombrero Galaxy in the eve of Cinco de Mayo and thought it appropriate. All I needed was a cold Corona to kick off the Mexican holiday in style, but alas, it was time to go to work.

My skygazing wasn’t quite over for the night, though. On my way to work I saw ISS again, drifting left to right in front of me as I drove north. Just before they went out of sight I came to a stop sign. There was no other traffic, so I waited there, and waved just before Station disappeared. I turned left thinking about what a cool night I’d had.

1 comment:

  1. Glad your checking off your Messiers. Keep going!!!!

    ReplyDelete