Deep Sky Update – February 2023

February has been a strange month up here in Orkney – we went from 80 mph winds to windless conditions, and not had much rain for a couple of weeks now. We had an aurora on the night of the 15/16th February, but blanket cloud covered us for the two nights where everyone down south had fun with the major auroral event – we can only guess what it might have been like to see it from up here. I managed a short session with the 12-inch Dob – dew/fog came in which curtailed observing. I was hunting down M97 in Ursa Major, which is a PNe that evaded me with small scopes in the past, but was surprisingly easy with the 12 – maybe the benefit of dark skies!

Section Meeting

If you have not booked the meeting yet, I would encourage you do so soon, and before 2pm on March 13th when bookings will close, as we need to provide numbers for catering then. You can book on-line on the web by following links at:
Or call the BAA Office if you prefer.

I have updated the event on the website with the programme, but for reference here it is.

10:00 Doors open

10:35 Welcome
10:40 Alan Snook – Renovating a 14-inch reflector
11:30 Martina McGovern – Orion and beyond: First Steps in Astrophotography.

12:20 Break for lunch

14:00 Nick Hewitt – Variable Nebulae Update
14:40 Mazin Younis – In Search for Dark Skies

15:30 Break for tea

16:00 Prof. Michael Merrifield – Update on the Extremely Large Telescope

17:00 Close

I am sorry and disappointed to be missing the meeting – but I am sure that all attending will have a great day.

Sky & Telescope Index

Three years of Mr. G. – Mike Harlow

I mentioned last time about the passing of Akira Fuji. I was remembering an article about someone using a motorised lens to achieve a similar effect, but with many volumes of Sky & Telescope in the library, it would have been a pretty impossible task to search. However, on researching S&T’s website I found a download provided which is an index to all volumes of S&T since volume 1. With this spreadsheet I was quickly able to find the relevant article. If this is of interest to you, you can download the index at:

Gyulbudaghian’s Nebula

Mike Harlow has made a fascinating mosaic of three years of observation of Gyulbudaghian’s Nebula – if you click on the image you can download the full size version (4.4MB).

February Object of Interest – Abell Galaxy Group 1314

Abell 1314 by Richard Sargent

Many thanks to all who had a go at this one, well done. Although not the most attractive of galaxy clusters, perhaps, it is remarkable how many were being picked up in images. Also much thanks to Robin Leadbeater who managed to take spectra of the cluster members and measure redshifts – Robin has written this up in his Members Album, so please have a read:

I was also pleased to get a visual observation from Jim Latham in north Wales, who observed the cluster with a 14-inch. Jim writes:
“I had a good view with the 14″ Newtonian on 12 February c. 23:00, when we had good transparent skies. The four IC galaxies (708, 709. 711, 712) were well seen,and best at high magnification (x340 and x460). In addition there were glimpses of other fainter objects with averted vision throughout the FOV that I found really hard to pin down or identify. Two I did manage to get to grips with were PGC 35774 and PGC 3099304, which are conveniently close to IC 711 and 712 respectively. The Stellarium phone app was immensely helpful for identifying these. ”

March Object of Interest – The Cosmic Horseshoe

This month’s target is probably one of the most challenging and will probably be just for imagers (though big scope visual observers might like to give it a go).

SDSS image of the Cosmic Horseshoe

The Cosmic Horseshoe is an Einstein Ring around a galaxy in eastern Leo – it was actually discovered on examination of the field in a Sloan Digital Sky Survey image, and so goes by the rather less memorable name SDSS J114833.14+193003.2
The foreground galaxy is LRG 3-757.
Location is: RA. 11 48 33.136 Dec. +19 30 02.96

Paul Leyland suggested it, and has imaged it, which can be found in his members album at

If anyone has suggestions for future Objects of Interest, please let me know.

Cover photo

This months ‘teaser’ is Alnitak, the Flame Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula by Iain Cartwright. Not only is this a fine astro-image, but I thought it would be fitting to mark 100 years since the passing of E.E. Barnard on 6th February 1923 with an image of Barnard 33. You can see it in full below.

And Finally

The days are getting noticeably longer now, and the equinox will be soon upon us. I am looking forward to the ‘midnight sun’ at least for this year, but it does mean that there are just two months of dark skies before the summer lull. I hope we all get good weather.

Clear skies,


Image by Iain Cartwright

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