Monday, December 22, 2014

M1, Crab Nebula

Another achievement from my new sky in China

When I started to sketch objects in the sky I did not follow any DSO’s list and because I was also learning how to use the telescope several nights I just looked around through the 20mm eyepiece and sketched what I thought it was a deep sky object.  Then I had to look on Stellarium to find out what it was. Most of the time I had sketched either a Messier object or a NGC Object and I felt that in that way I was training my brain to see objects, even dim objects, in light polluted skies.

By the middle of 2013, I had sketched enough objects to make my own DSO’s list, but I decided that it was time to try and see the whole Messier list. Then I started looking for the objects I hadn’t seen, filling in the list in ascending order. M1 was the first on the list and it seemed like it was at the edge of apparent magnitude that could be seen from my sky (I had seen stars of 10 magnitude with the telescope), I tried to find it several times from my city, but I just couldn’t see anything, even if the constellation was at the zenith avoiding a large volume of light pollution. Finally, I gave up with M1; I may never see it from Bogotá.

Then this November 23rd after I had finished the M81/M82 sketch, I gave a quick look at Taurus to see if M1 was visible there. According Stellarium, M1 would be close to the star ζ Tau which was very visible from my Bortle 5 sky. Therefore, I went straight to ζ Tau with the binos and in the same FOV there was a dim and fuzzy spot. Unfortunately, my hands were frozen and I could just hold the binos so I decided I would leave the sketch for another time.

4 days later on November 27th, I got the sketch! The sky was clear, as it usually has been since we moved here and the seeing was good.  Even though the temperature was just 3 degrees Celsius, this time I was prepared to endure the whole sketching time. As easy as the last time, I went straight to the star ζ Tau which seemed to be a white dark orange color. At the northwest of ζ Tau there was M1, just like a shy spot hanged in middle of the night. I did not recognize a familiar shape in it, but one thing I could be sure about: the nebula had an irregular shape.

I was sketching from an open social area in my apartment complex so there were a couple of street lights at one side of my observation site. I could not adapt my night vision as I would wish to do, so I started drawing the stars first and when I had finished drawing them I covered my head to avoid as much light I could and put all my eyes skills on M1. I could get a better view of M1, but I still could not find any shape to it. I felt that averted vision would give me more detail of it, but I perceived almost the same as with direct vision.

In my humble opinion I think that M1 is one of the objects that seem better at first look.  I mean, if I set my eyes on it for the first 5 seconds I would get several details and then it would seem as if it mixed with the background sky.

A fun fact about M1: It was observed for the first time in 1054 by Chinese astronomers and the first time I got to see it was from China (almost one millennium later). I just can’t imagine how bright it was at the time of its discovery because it could be seen in the day.

After about 2 years I can finally say: I have M1 in my messier list as well as M33, which I’m going to tell you about in my next entry. And it seems that more objects are coming, hopefully.

Merry christmas and a happy new year!!!


Edited by Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief)


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