Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Observing on the Gulf Islands

In July, I visited one of the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, where my parents have a sea-side cottage. I brought my airline-portable 8" F/4 scope. The usual curiosity from airport security about the eight pound wooden box in my backpack, but no problems (I just need to allot an extra five minutes).

From my parents' front porch, I looked at and showed them M13, M27, M31/32, M51, M57, NGC 457, the Double Cluster and Albireo. The views were excellent. M27 had a very nice brighter squarish middle, with wings sticking out. I think that's tied for my nicest view of M27 (I've had a good view of it through my 13", too). When looking at M31, I couldn't see M110, perhaps because the M31 area was (a) low in the sky, and (b) that was the direction of Vancouver. NGC 457 (Owl/E.T./Airplane) always pleases people. We also saw a meteor and several satellites.

Once my parents went in, I went after the North American Nebula (NGC 7000). I have never had much luck with it. I saw it in my 68mm refractor with an O-III filter in a past year from the same location, but it was a very faint fuzzy with no structure. This time, still with an O-III filter, it was better due to better aperture: the edges were defined, and I could pan around it with the approximately two degree view of the Rini 30mm in the scope. (I should consider putting in a 2" focuser and using an even wider eyepiece in it.) I kind of got an impression of a shape reminiscent of North America, too.

I had heard that one can see the North American Nebula naked-eye with a filter if the sky is dark, and so I stared at the sky through the O-III filter. And I think I did in fact see it. I think I could also see M13 naked-eye with averted vision (no filter of course). It was almost directly overhead, so that helped no doubt.

The next time we went to a peak in the middle of the island, where I did an unofficial star party. We had almost thirty people show up, unofficially invited by email. We started with Saturn at around 10:15 pm. The rings were sharply defined, though I was using a low magnification due to the scope being fast and there being wind. (I also discarded the light shield due to wind.) I thought that it would be dark by 10:15 pm, but I didn't reckon with northern summer. It was closer to 11 pm before it was nice and dark. However, the party went very well. I showed the same objects as I had shown my parents, plus the Lagoon and Swan nebulae.

I always like it when deep sky objects are naked-eye visible. Overall, on the island, I naked-eye bagged North American (if O-III is allowed for naked-eye; but a filter only blocks light!), M8, M13, M31 and the Double Cluster. Only North American and M13 were particularly special to see naked-eye. M8 is naked-eye from my home, and M31 and Double Cluster are naked-eye from my regular observing location. I think sometimes I can see M31 naked-eye from home, too, but it's hard with the streetlights to the north.


  1. Nice report Alex. I can only imagine that the scenery there is beautiful on the island. I am anxious to start seeing some galaxies with my 10" Dob from yellow skies here in East. At a dark sky site, I thought I could naked eye see M31, but it appeared to be a fuzzy glow in the that direction and I've wondered if that could be it.

    Too many cloudy nights here lately, so hopefully that will change and I can get back out with the scope here soon. Though I had a nice evening with the binos the other night.

    Clear skies!

  2. That fuzzy glow is probably M31. To check for sure, there is a star close to it that is going to look quite faint, but pointlike. If you see a pointlike faint star, and near it a somewhat more diffuse glow, you've found it.