Last updated: 17 April 2006
Subject: Seen 'M all with the ETX-70 Sent: Monday, April 17, 2006 10:54:49 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com) User observation report: It may interest the readers of the mighty ETX site that it is indeed possible to view all the objects of the Messier catalog in the smallest member of the family, the tiny 60/70/80 refractor. I just finished the catalogue with the ETX70 all 110 Messier objects. As for the disputed M102 I looked at M101 twice as Messier probably did, and at NGC 5866, which may be Messier's #102. Well, this is perhaps no big feat considering that most of the M-objects can be found with binoculars, and many people make a sport of doing just that. However, they do look more interesting in a telescope, even in a small one. And I guess that most ETX-owners are "collecting" M-numbers (Amateur astronomers have much in common with bird watchers, who also tick off lists after viewing hard-to-see objects). My M-hunt began when I got an ETX70 as a birthday present a couple of years ago. I started the scope up and went to M81/82. It was first time I viewed another galaxy in a telescope. I ticked them off on a list and decided to find out how many I could see of these M-objects. The goal was to see them all within a year. Alas, it soon turned out that a lot of the really interesting ones were too far south to be seen from my latitude (55 dg N). But thanks to the portability of the ETX I could bring it along during an August vacation in the Algarve, Portugal (37 dg N). Wow, the things in Sagittarius and Aquarius were really cool! Got 28 more ticked off in a few nights! But M68 and M83 in Hydra had to wait for a spring trip I got them on April 01 this year at 1.30 UTC. You do not need any extra gadgets for Messier-hunting The ETX70 is ready right out of the box. A Rigel Quikfinder or other red dot finder is very handy for the alignment, and a "Flexicord" or similar extender for the focusing knob is a great convenience. You can gain some extra contrast and a larger field of view with a more expensive 9 or 10 mm eyepiece, but it is not a necessity. Some objects can take more magnification, obtainable with a Barlow or a shorter eyepiece or both. A broad-band filter like Astronomik CLS may improve contrast under certain circumstances See "Accessory Reviews" for more information on optional gadgets. Some of the M's are very easy and look great in the wide field of the ETX70. This is particularly true for some of the open clusters like M45 and M44, but also for the galaxies M31 and M33 on really dark and transparent nights. Most of the M-globulars are quite easily spotted and may show some structure, although individual stars will not be resolved. M68 may be the most difficult of them. The four planetary nebulas are not too difficult either. The bright nebulas are fairly easy too. M42 (Orion nebula) looks really impressive in the 9 mm eyepiece, M1 (the Crab) is easily found on a dark night, but rather dull. The really troublesome objects are the galaxies; most of them are just very faint and small wisps of gray, often only visible with averted vision. Darkness is the most important factor. I guess that the M-catalog is fairly easy from a dark mountain in the middle of a desert. I have seen most of the M-objects from a suburban garden 15 m from the center of Copenhagen, a city with 1.2 million inhabitants. The Milky Way can be faintly seen 2-3 nights each year, and the visual limit of star magnitude is usually between 3 or 4 in Ursa minor. Many objects are of course difficult under these conditions, and some are definitely impossible. I do not expect ever to see M101 within 50 km from any city, but it looks great (and is BIG) from a truly dark site. M98 and M91 are strictly countryside objects too. M74 is very difficult even from a dark site I have seen it once from a completely dark site on the Monchique Mountain in the Algarve. Observing experience and patience are the next important factors. M97, the Owl planetary, was among my first 10 M's. After having verified this one I believed they could not get any more difficult but now I consider this an object of medium difficulty (you will see a faint gray circular blot, do not expect to see the "eyes" in the ETX70). A few hints: plan what you will be looking for in each session and look the object up in a planetarium program like Cartes du Ciel, aka Skyatlas (download from www.stargazing.net/astropc/). Be sure to install the optional Messier catalog and theTycho-2 star catalog showing stars down to mag. 12. The ETX70 will easily show stars down to mag 10.5. Take a good look at environment and star patterns surrounding your target you may make a print showing what is inside the field of view of the 9 mm eyepiece. Let the ETX70 cool down an hour before you start observing, and let your eyes adapt to darkness at least 20 minutes before trying difficult objects. GoTo a nice recognizable star nearby your target and do a "synch" on it. Then do a GoTo your target. It may not be visible at once in the 9 mm eyepiece. Check the star pattern with your notes or the map and verify that you are at exactly the right spot. Used averted version and be patient. Try slewing a little to and fro or tap the OTA, slight movements may bring forth the target. Breathe forcefully for 3 minutes and relax. If you still do not see the target, try to look at something you know already. Is M81 difficult tonight? If it is, you have no chance of seeing, e.g., M108. Try another night with better transparency. You can get more information about the Messier objects from http://www.seds.org/Messier (many links here, including the 12 month Messier tour www.seds.org/messier/xtra/12months/12months.html) or from Dr. Clay's excellent constellation guides available on the mighty ETX site. I have spent very many hours observing with the ETX70 and enjoyed it much, but I am now the owner of two 8" scopes and will probably use the ETX less in the future. I may sometime compile a commented list of M- and other objects from my ETX-observation notes and publish it somewhere on the net. Clear skies to all ETX Messier hunters, and very many thanks to Mike Weasner, Clay Sherrod and Dick Seymour for their inspiration and encouragement to beginner amateur astronomers in general and ETX-owners in particular. Finn Rasmussen, Copenhagen.
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