This past Saturday, May 31st, I helped out again with the Public Outreach / Observing session put on by the Morehead Panetarium. The session was held out at Jordan Lake just west of Apex and south of Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

People showed up well in advanced of the official start time of 9:00pm. But even at 9pm, the skies were still too bright from most DSOs so I wowed them with views of Saturn is its moons (Titan, Dione, Mimas, Enceladus and Rhea). The lines at the many of the scopes were quickly reaching 20+ people long. In total, the Planetarium staff estimated we had 350 to 500 visitors show up.

At about 10pm I switched my sights to galaxies and began to use my Astro Video Systems Astronomy video camera. The first target was the Sombrero Galaxy (otherwise known as M104), followed by views of the Leo Triplet though only one galaxy would fit in my field of view. However the best galaxy view was M51 (NGC 5194), the Whirlpool Galaxy. Below is a brief video capture:

The crowd really loved seeing this pair of interacting galaxies at approx 23 million light years away for M51 (NGC 5194) and approx 25 million light years for NGC 5195. It really knocked their socks off when they found out how far the pair was! We could even start to make out the faint galaxy IC 4278 which is approx 229 million light years away. From what I could find, IC 4278 has ab apparent magnitude of 15.4. Not too bad for SQL skies of around 20.0 (Yellow LP Zone).

This is much better than my previous capture of m51 earlier this year. However this above capture’s color is being washed out; there are several more settings I need to play with on the camera and to become more familiar with in order get this output just right.

Clear and Steady Skies,