SSPM8. April New Moon At Wiruna

By Scott Mellish, 1997

April New Moon last year was perhaps the best observing weekend of the whole year. So, in anticipation of another good run of observing, I planned a few days off work and I was not disappointed. Yet again April new moon produced four clear nights, and although the seeing conditions were not ideal a very productive run of observing was had by all those on the observing field. Almost all of my viewing centered on the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and I spent hours fumbling around enjoying many of the wonderful galaxies in this region of the sky. For this article I will cover four of the more noteworthy objects that I found interesting and I thought I would include the quasar 3C-273 out of curiosity as you do not hear much of observing of such objects due to a lack of accurate finder charts.

Sketch 1.
NGC 5247 is an exquisite face on spiral nebulae of a very soft appearance with two lovely outward flowing spiral arms that are quite prominent. The core region is nearly pin point and quite bright. At 210x mag this galaxy kept me interested for some time as it is a classic face on spiral. This elegant object has a visual magnitude of 10.1 with a surface brightness of 13.0. I would say it is around 5' in diameter.
Sketch 2.
NGC 5170 another beautiful galaxy that is almost totally edge on. At 210x mag in the l6inch this galaxy is around 10' in length and is fairly bright in the middle core regions but fades to a soft glow with the ends fanning out ever so slightly, apparently there are numerous faint companions to this galaxy but I did not try to locate any of them. NGC 5170 has a visual magnitude of 11.3 with a surface brightness of 13.5.
Sketch 3.
NGC 4526 A very distinctive semi edge on spiral galaxy with an elongated bright core. Around 7' in length and a visual magnitude of some 9.7. The ends of this galaxy appear to fan out slightly, but overall it is a compressed cigar shape and a nice, bright galaxy in a field strewn with such objects, well worth a visit.
Sketch 4.
NGC 4254 (M-99) my favourite galaxy out of the four. NGC 4254 is a large imposing object in the l6inch with a 9mm Nagler at 210x mag. From the core of this galaxy protrudes a lovely, shapely spiral arm that is a stand out feature with this object. Any other spiral arms appear as fuzz which lends to the objects rather odd rotund shape. The core is bright, but not exactly pin point. To the right of the core appears a bright section which is either a H-2 region or a luminous portion of another spiral arm. Averted vision is the go with this object as subtle details can pop-in and out as the seeing permits. With a visual magnitude of 9.9 this galaxy is a must for the Virgo traveller. NGC 4254 is around 5' in diameter and the imposing spiral arm must be many tens of thousands of light years in length. I will certainly hunt around for a photograph of this galaxy just to get an idea of it's true spiral structure.
Sketch 5.
As a curiosity I thought I would include a sketch of 3C-273 one of many enigmatic quasars that inhabit our universe. The last time I observed this object was with Steve Mencinsky's 12 inch scope at Wiruna during 1991. Visually 3C-273 is no different than any of the stars visible in the same field. However it is many ties more powerful and infinitely more distant. A finder chart for this object is found in Burnham's Celestial Handbook, and it was not all that diff cult to locate using this chart. So if your curious enough, stop in and observe one of the most distant objects visible in amateur telescopes.

I hope you found some interest in the galaxies covered here. I will continue with a few more objects in Virgo in the next post mortem.

Clear skies.