An interacting pair of galaxies in Easter night

Date: 19./20.4.2014
Time: 23:00-02:30
Observing site: Ulvila observatory, Finland
Instrument: C280/2750mm

NELM: 6.0
SQM: 20.80
Darkness of the background sky: 3
Seeing: 3
Transparency: 1
Weather: Clear sky, calm, no Moon, pretty warm

Objects observed: T Cep, R Leo, NGC 5394-5

I travelled to my parent’s place to Ulvila for Easter holiday. Weather was absolutely fantastic during Easter, it was warm and sunny, and during one night I was also able to do some observing in Ulvila observatory! Nights are already quite short, and we don’t get real astronomical darkness here in Southern Finland anymore, but it is still possible to do some observing for couple of weeks before the white nights of summer.

During the night between Holy Saturday and Easter day I went to Ulvila observatory for observing session. First I did some variable star observing: I checked R Leo and T Cep to see, what they are up to! R Leo is near it’s minimum, about 9 magnitudes, whereas T Cep is around it’s maximum, about 5,7 magnitudes. And T Cep is now so bright, that I could see it with naked eye!

After doing the variable star routine observations, I decided to observe an interesting interacting pair of galaxies well visible in springtime in Northern hemisphere. This pair of galaxies was NGC 5395 and 5394 and the duo is located in the constellation of Canes Venatici, The Hunting Dogs!. This pair of galaxies is also known as as Arp 84 in the Arp catalogue of peculiar galaxies. Both of these galaxies are heavily distorted by tidal forces, and I’m sure they offer fascinating views for bigger telescopes!

NGC 5394-5 aka Arp 84. Photo: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona
NGC 5394-5 aka Arp 84. Photo: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

With my instrument, Celestron C11, the brighter of the two, NGC 5395, was visible as an elongated, fuzzy nebula, whose long axis was oriented in NE-SW direction. I could quite easily see the relatively bright core of this galaxy, but unfortunately other detail’s weren’t visible with my instrument. The visual length of the long axis was about 2,7′. NGC 5394 was visible as a roundish, fuzzy spot just about 1′ north of NGC 5395. This galaxy seems to have a relatively bright, almost stellar core.

This observing session might be the last one for me during this observing season. But there is still slight chance for observing during coming two weeks before white nights! So keep yourselves tuned for next blogpost, I’m sure to write something before summer!

NGC 5395-4 observed with 11' Catadioptric.
NGC 5395-4 observed with 11′ Catadioptric.

Upper Sunvex Parry Arc 19.4.2014

Observed phenomena: Halo phenomena
Light source: Sun
Origin: High clouds (cirrostratus)
Observed halo forms:

  • 22° halo
  • Parhelia
  • Sun pillar
  • Upper 22° tangent arc
  • Circumzenithal arc
  • Supralateral arc
  • Upper Sunvex Parry arc

Date: 19.4.2014
Time: 20:05-20:30
Observing place: Ulvila, Finland
Observing method: Photography
Technical information about photographing equipment: Olympus μ 1030 sw

During Holy saturday of 2014 (19th of April) only an ordinary 22° halo was visible in the sky of Ulvila. But later in the evening, I was able to see something spectacular! I observed a bright and well -developed upper 22° tangent arc, and I thought that could there be a possibility, that a Parry arc would appear inside the curved tangent arc? After some gazing, another arc really started to develop inside the bowl of tangent arc! And there it was, my first ever upper sunvex Parry arc! And it was very well developed and bright, and it appeared in high clouds! These guys are really rare sights in high clouds! What a wonderful way to end an otherwise quite booring halo day! Thank you Mother nature!

Observing 29./30.3.2014


Date: 29./30.3.2014
Time: 21:00-02:00
Observing site: Stormälö, Parainen, Finland
Instrument: N250/1200mm

NELM: 6.4
SQM: 21.25
Darkness of the background sky: 1
Seeing: 3
Transparency: 1
Weather: Clear sky, calm to light breeze, no Moon, no snow, humid air, -4 to 0 °C

Obects observed: SS Cyg, R Tri, R Cas, T Cas, NGC 4567-8, NGC 6229

After a wonderful night in Parainen, I went again for observing in Parainen during the following night! During this observing session, observing conditions were nearly as good as they were last night. Only problem during this night was condensation of moisture to all optical surfaces. Otherwise conditions were good: sky was clear, and it was nearly calm all the time. Sky was dark and Moon was absent!

I started this night by observing zodiacal light, which was well visible in the NW sky. Observing zodiacal light is a popular pursuit nowadays in Finland, because now everyone know what to expect and how to observe this phenomena! So now we know for sure, that zodiacal light can be observed at latitude 62, or even higher! My observing site is located little bit north of latitude 60.

Zodiacal light observed 29./30.3.2014 from Parainen, Finland
Zodiacal light observed 29./30.3.2014 from Parainen, Finland

After observing zodiacal light, I went on observing some further-away targets, meaning variable stars and deep sky! First, I tried to observe Leo I, a dwarf galaxy in Leo, near Regulus. I gazed at the right spot, I sweeped around it and tried to catch it with averted vision. Nevertheless, this time I have to make a negative observation of this target. I just couldn’t see it. Sometimes I could see glimpses of something, but I’m not sure that I really saw the dwarf galaxy. I also tried to observe NGC 3115 in Crater, but I decided to give up on it because it was just at too low altitude.

After two not so lucky observing attempt, I decided to observe something I could surely be able to catch! I observed an interacting pair of galaxies, NGC 4567-8 in constellation of Virgo. This pair of galaxies is easy to find, it is located very close to Messier 58 and 59. The galaxies appeared as small, fuzzy elongated patches. This pair of galaxies were connected at their northern edges. The opening angle of the galaxies was about 60 degrees southwards. It was quite easy to separate the galaxies visually. The apparent visual diamater of the galaxy system is about 5′. This one is a really interesting target!

NGC 4567-8 observed with 10'' Newton
NGC 4567-8 observed with 10” Newton

After this pair of galaxies, I aimed my telescope towards constellation of Hercules. In the northern part of this constellation, lies a small globular cluster, NGC 6229. For some reason, I had never observed this target before! At my ocular, this object appeared as a small, round, fuzzy spot. The cluster was not resolved. There isn’t much to see of this object with instrument of this size.

NGC 6229 observed with 10'' Newton
NGC 6229 observed with 10” Newton

After doing some wandering in the realms of deep space, I returned to our own Milky way to do some variable star observations. I observed dwarf nova SS Cyg also this night, and it’s brightness seemed to be same than last night, 8,6 magnitudes. I observed also R Tri, R Cas and T Cas. All of these stars are now close to their minimum brightness, and it would have been impossible for me to observe these stars with my small refractor. R Cyg was so faint, that it wasn’t visible at all with my instrument!

After observing these stars, I decided to go home and get some sleep. I think I just had one of my best observing experiences during this season! Observing conditions were only inch away from being perfect and I could observe many interesting targets! I could also enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of nights of early spring here in Southwestern Finland!

Now it’s April and nights are getting quickly shorter, and phase of the Moon is also getting bigger. It means, that is observing season is soon over. But there are still some observing opportunities in late April and early May!


Observing 28./29.3.2014

Date: 28./29.3.2014
Time: 00:00-02:00
Observing site: Stormälö, Parainen, Finland
Instrument: L 102/1000mm

NELM: 6.4
SQM: 21.21
Darkness of the background sky: 1
Seeing: 2
Transparency: 1
Weather: Clear sky, calm, no Moon, no snow, dry air, -3 °C

Objects observed: SS Cyg, Messier 5

In the end of March I finally had a chance to do some deep sky -observing again! In the night between 28th and 29th of March I headed to my observing site in Parainen. Observing conditions during that night were perfect: the sky was absolutely clear, the Moon was absent and it was calm and the air was dry, so there was no condensation problem as usually is the case! It was also pleasently warm, temperature was only 3 degrees below zero! During this winter we haven’t had much winter at all, and that has been the case also during March 2014. During mid March, there was snow on the ground for couple of days, but in late March all snow had melted away!

During this wonderful night I observed dwarf nova SS Cyg and globular cluster Messier 5 in Serpens. This time I noticed SS Cyg to be in outburst, and it’s brightness was about 8,6 magnitudes.

Messier 5 is a famous globular cluster in the constellation of Serpens, and more precisely Serpens Cauda, the Head of the Snake. I observed this cluster with my 4” refractor. With my instrument, the cluster appeared as a bright, concentrated cluster, which gets brighter towards the core. The cluster is resolved nearly to the core. There is a relatively bright star in the western edge of the cluster. The apparent visual diameter of the cluster is roughly 10′. This is a great target for visual observations, also with smaller telescopes!

Messier 5 observed with 4'' refractor
Messier 5 observed with 4” refractor