Deep Sky Update – March 2024

Speakers at the 2024 DSS meeting (L-R): David Boyd, Martina McGovern, Paul Downing, Nick Hewitt and Bryan Lawrence

It would seem like observing weather in March has been poor for most. That was certainly the case up here. Also persistent coughs and colds have been energy sapping. Now that summer time and the equinox have passed we can hope for some better weather before the light nights will put pay to dark skies!

Section Meeting 2024

Many thanks to all that managed to attend the section meeting on March 16th. I was due to attend, but on arrival at the airport for my flight to Lonodn I found it had been cancelled due to a technical problem with the aircraft – it had only got as far as Dundee, which must have been disappointing for everyone not wanting to go to Dundee. I was offered rearranged flights and overnight accommodation, but would not have got to Northampton until the afternoon. Message to self for next year – travel a day earlier!

However with Nick Hewitt’s excellent support the meeting went ahead as planned (though without my contributions). Much thanks goes to the speakers: Paul Downing, Martina McGovern, David Boyd, Nick Hewitt and Bryan Lawrence. And thanks goes to James Dawson who kept me updated with photos throughout the day. Below is a gallery of a few.

My thoughts have been turning to our 2025 section meeting. It is a bit difficult to schedule now with it being unclear when the Practical Astronomy Show will take place in March, and Winchester weekend. April may be a possibility with Easter from the 18th to 21st April.
If anyone would like to help organise the section meeting in 2025 please let me know – all venues will be considered!

Abell 31 by Simon Davis

March Object of Interest

Abell 31 was the object of interest for March. Perhaps poor weather was the main reason for few observations. Alan Thomas made a short (2 minute) exposure in OIII using the COAST telescope which caught glimpses of the nebula. Simon Davis made a longer exposure of 3.5 hours in Ha and OIII and got a good result.

Jim Latham in North Wales managed a visual observation on the 29th of March. He writes:
“I’ve seen Abell 31 previously and noted that it needed low magnification and OIII filter to be detected, and such was the case again. In the 14″ at x53 with OIII filter, I could make out a large, but very faint glow with averted vision. It was broadly circular, but the edges were hard to determine and I couldn’t make out any detail or structure. I couldn’t detect it at all without the OIII filter, and any increase in magnification killed it — it was barely visible at x80.”

OOI for April

As April is galaxy season my pick is the nice edge-on spiral galaxy “with a diamond” NGC 4517. The diamond being the 11th magnitude star TYC 289-1220-1. This is in Virgo but a little south of the ‘main drag’ of the Virgo cluster. There is a nice face on spiral companion NGC 4517A that you might catch in the same field depending on your setup. It’s interesting when you start digging into a fairly innocuous pair of galaxies. NGC 4517 is the same as NGC 4437 which seems to be the preferred designation in Simbad. NGC 4517A is not referenced at all in Simbad, but the galaxy can be found as UGC 7685 or by name as Reinmuth 80. I have dug a little into astronomer Karl Wilhelm Reinmuth, a prolific discoverer of minor planets (395), but have not happened upon his catalogue of deep sky objects, though he does appear to have written a book on The Herschel nebulas. There are no images of NGC 4517/4437 in the BAA image library, so would be great to see a few added.

Picture of the Month

There have been many excellent images posted in March, so some people have certainly got some imaging in. My pick for March is this image of NGC 4631 and 4627, the Whale and the ‘Pup’, by Peter Tickner.

Peter Tickner – The Whale and ‘The Pup’

And Finally

Although I missed out on the section meeting, I am booked to go to the BAA Spring Meeting in Greenock, so if you do manage to make that meeting, I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Clear, dark skies,

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