The 55 mm Fluorite: a Few More Messier Objects

1998 Apr 19

I hauled my 55 mm Vixen fluorite into my yard in Palo Alto just after dusk on the evening of 19 April, 1998, to see if I could catch a few more Messier objects before the sun engulfed them until autumn. Observing to the west and northwest from my location is difficult because of light domes from cities further up the San Francisco Peninsula, but nevertheless, with a 12 mm Brandon eyepiece (37x) I bagged M1, M35, M36, M37, M38, and M45.

The Pleiades were easy, even though very low. The only problem was figuring out which tree they were hiding behind, so I would know where to put the telescope. They were of course well resolved. M35 was pretty well resolved, in part because it was fairly high up, and M36, lower and in a brighter area of the sky, was less so. M37 and M38 showed only as patches of haze.

The Crab Nebula, M1, was a ghost, just occasionally popping into sight with averted vision. I wouldn't have had a chance if I hadn't known exactly where it was. The Crab is easier when it is higher up and farther from the light domes; I have seen it with a 10x50 binocular from my yard in such conditions.

I was going to look at M3 again, with higher magnifications, to see if I could resolve it as something more than "grainy", but I forgot.

That makes 56 Messier objects observed so far with the Vixen 55 mm, all from my suburban yard. Unless I am up really late and am really ambitious and wide-awake, to boot, I probably won't try any more for a while. I will probably repaint the telescope soon, too. I have promised its former owner that he will not recognize the instrument the next time he sees it, and I intend to keep my word.

Jay Reynolds Freeman; 1998 Apr 20