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M31 Galaxy Observing

Posted: 4 October 2013

Due to the long previous session (>10 hours) and due to the early morning HughesNet satellite Internet access installation on Wednesday, 2 October 2013, I skipped opening the observatory Tuesday night. And after the new satellite modem installation on Wednesday, my home network was totally messed up, so had to work that. No observing Wednesday night. The observatory was opened again on Thursday, 3 October 2013, at 1811 MST, 85°F. The sky was clear but breezes were blowing. Sunset occurred just before the observatory was opened.

At 1817 MST, viewed Saturn, 83X and 222X, then Venus, 222X. Both planets were low in the sky. Venus showed a half phase. Returned to Saturn and switched to 133X, which provided a better view. Due to the low altitude, Cassini Division was not visible. Saturn's moon Titan became visible at 1833 MST. Switched to 83X at 1845 MST as Saturn got lower in the western sky. The moon Dione became visible at 1848 MST, but by 1857 MST, with Saturn very low in the sky, it was getting difficult to keep Dione in sight.

Beginning at 1905 MST, I did some terrestrial nightscope viewing. No animals seen.

At 1915 MST, slewed to NGC7293 (Helix Nebula). It was faintly visible at 83X to the southeast a few minutes before the end of astronomical twilight. It was visible in the 7x50 finderscope. At 1931 MST, the Helix Nebula was faintly visible in 7x50 binoculars. It was a difficult object in binoculars. I then used the 2X nightscope; the Helix Nebula was faintly visible.

At 1937 MST, I began an extended period of M31 (Great Galaxy in Andromeda) observing. First, I used 7x50 binoculars. The companion galaxies M32 and M110 were seen in the binoculars. While observing M31 with the binoculars, within a period of about a minute, three polar orbiting satellites went past M31 in the binoculars field-of-view, moving southward.

At 2010 MST, using my 8" LX200-ACF at 83X, I began searching for some objects in the M31 galaxy, as discussed in an article in the November 2013 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine (page 59). The first was the stellar association NGC206, which was easily seen with averted vision. The next object in M31 that was seen was a surprise: the Magnitude +14.2 globular cluster G76 was visible with averted vision. The open cluster C107 was easily visible. After about an hour of star hopping using the chart in S&T, I finally located the globular cluster G1 (Magnitude +13.7). It was faint but definitely fuzzy at 83X. Using 222X, G1 was seen as a definite globular cluster, small and faint. Using 133X, the view of G1 was good, but the best view was at 222X.

I was excited to be able to visually observe these faint objects in the M31 galaxy. Thanks Sky & Telescope!

The observatory was closed at 2146 MST, 66°F.

So, how did the HughesNet installation go on Wednesday? This photo shows the dish install in progress:


Once I solved the home network router being confused by the change from the DSL modem to the satellite modem, all went pretty well. This is the speed I would see with Centurylink DSL:


CenturyLink DSL is the only terrestrial Internet service available here, and I had the fastest speed available. Unfortunately, I would frequently see this when CenturyLink dropped the speed automatically due to errors on their line:


With HughesNet I now see this:


Yep, a 10X increase in download speed. Nice! Now we just have to manage the data usage from all our computers and devices to stay within the monthly caps (20 GB anytime and 20 GB 0200-0800 MST).

Comments are welcome; use the Comments section below, or you can Email Me. Thanks.

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