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A Little Cloud of Pirates and the Jolly Roger


Despite the odd storm or three February has been a surprisingly good month for astronomy. I managed a total of ten sessions, one up on last year. Two were dedicated lunar sessions with my 102mm SkyMax, the remaining ones being with my regularly deployed Sky-Watcher 72ED DS Pro. 




The first outing was an early evening start with the 72ED at 17:30 on Friday 4th. In the twilight I could easily make out the Petavius Rille on a setting Moon. Jupiter was a bit low to see any real detail although all four Galilean moons were visible. Three of them on one side of the gas giant strung out in a row like tiny pearls. As the Moon got steadily lower I switched to rich field observing where I observed M35 among other objects.




On the 6th I had a slightly later session with the 72ED and had some nice views of both ‘Beehives’ (M44, M41). The red giant HD 49091, roughly in the middle of the M41 ‘Little Beehive’ cluster, is a whopping 63.5x the Sun’s diameter. It was easily discerned at 48x and 63x. I had an outstanding view of The Little Cloud of Pirates (Melotte 20). The serpentine string of hot, young, blue stars thirty three light years wide were a sight to behold. Notwithstanding the orange supergiant Mirphak. The session culminated with a view of 145G Canis Majoris (the Winter Albireo). 




On the 14th I looked at the Moon first and was lucky enough to get a fairly nice view of Schroter’s Valley with the 72ED. Although the lunar surface was 96.5% illuminated I could perceive quite some detail in the walls of the crater Aristarchus. After my night vision returned I switched to deep sky and found HD 35586, a nice tight 8th magnitude binary in Taurus, 547 light years away. I also found one of my new favourites, the asterism sometimes known as the ‘Klingon Battle-cruiser’ aka NGC 1662/Collinder 55. 




There were two dedicated lunar sessions. The Montes Apenninus and Rupes Recta were nicely displayed on the 10th. I also spent a long time observing detail up to 217x in the Eratosthenes crater on the plain of the Sinus Aestuum. Between 23:00 and midnight on the 18th I had a nice view of Messier A, the Montes Pyrenaeus and Proclus until finally the cold got to me and I packed up.




Between Tuesday the 22nd and Sunday the 27th I had a run of rich field sessions except for the Wednesday when rain literally stopped play. The Tuesday night conditions were well above average. I spent a lot of time in Orion, Auriga and Taurus observing the bejewelled triangle of M37, and the Pinwheel and Starfish Clusters. 




The milder conditions on Friday allowed me to stay out longer. I could see Leo rising and even got a slightly hazy glimpse of Coma Berenices. A sure sign Spring is just around the corner. I finished the last session on Sunday night in and around Perseus and Andromeda, stopping off in Camelopardalis to visit the Jolly Roger (NGC 1502) and Kemble’s Cascade. 



Images by courtesy of Stellarium 0.21.3 running on Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS.

Edited by Nightspore
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