You would think that after a few months of putting the telescope in the same place every night, I would have thought to move it to reveal a different part of the sky. Trees generally block my view of the far South, but tonight I switched things up and moved the telescope next to my parents new 2010 Dodge Minivan (this thing is like the space shuttle, it has awesome features).
Finding Pluto…Yeah Right
The initial goal for the evening was to hunt down Pluto, located to the South a little bit above Messier 24, the great Sagittarius Star Cloud. That was until I viewed M24 and realized how dense it was with stars. I might have actually viewed Pluto tonight, but it would be near impossible to know which of the thousands of stars I was looking at was everyone’s favorite dwarf planet. Talk about finding a needle in a hay stack, this picture of the star cloud to the right shows how difficult a task it was.
The Messier Bunch
While planning the night, I noticed that Pluto was near a few Messier objects I had never viewed. This would be a perfect opportunity to check off some more objects for my ultimate messier hunt. Located to the South West of Sagittarius were the Eagle Nebula, Swan Nebula, Sagittarius Star Cloud, Trifid Nebula and the Lagoon Nebula. All were a treat to view, with the exception of the Eagle Nebula, which I had a particularly hard time making out for some reason.
The Lord of the Ring
Nothing tonight compared to the spectacular view received by viewing Messier 57, the Ring Nebula, for the first time. It appeared as a very defined circular cloud of smoke with a gray hue in the center. Viewing at 120X magnification revealed it’s circular definition even further (A good example of what I viewed can be found to the left). Its defining shape comes from a star, very similar to our own sun, that has used up all of its hydrogen and is shooting gasses out into space as it dies and becomes a red giant. While, most nebula’s have the same faint cloud like shape, the Ring Nebula is something truly unique that seems as though it was stamped onto the sky.