deep sky observations

As fun as looking at the planets is, I’ve started looking more at deep sky objects recently, ignoring the fact that my light polluted skies limit what I’ll be able to see and just diving in regardless. I’m starting, as most amateurs do, with the Messier objects, one of the earliest catalogues of deep sky objects, dating back to the late 1700s. Messier had no interest in these deep sky objects — the telescopes of the day could barely make them out anyway, so no-one had any idea what they were — but he had a keen interest in comets, so his catalogue was primarily meant as a list of faint, fuzzy things that were known not to be comets. The beauty of the Messier catalogue is that it’s all within reach of a decent amateur telescope, since even a telescope like mine is larger and far better made than anything Messier had access to.

I’ve spotted quite a few star clusters — open clusters like M6 and M7, and globular clusters like M4 — but the most impressive thing I’ve seen so far, is M8, the Lagoon Nebula. With my skies it doesn’t look anything like the photos of course, but the brightest areas are definitely visible.

To help with the nebulas, I’m heading to Bintel tomorrow to pick up a UHC filter. These filters block all incoming light, save for a few narrow bands around specific emission lines for things like hydrogen and oxygen, so instead of getting a faint nebula image drowned in background glow, you get a faint nebula image jumping out of an inky-black background. Can’t wait to see how it’ll go!

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