The last couple of nights were mostly cloudless, moonless, but with curiously poor transparency (including lots of sky glow). Nonetheless I made the best of conditions to look up some galaxies and of course, the red planet.

Mars was looking fine, with some noticeably darker geographic areas and a tiny north polar cap.

The central dark area is Mare Acidalium, whilst the northern one is Mare Erythraeum. In between is Chryse, whilst Tharsis is to the right, and Eden to the left.

The above albedo sketch doesn’t do justice to the thrilling experience of viewing the surface of another terrestrial planet through a telescope, but I hope the sketch below gives an impression:

Of course it’s not as sharp as that: the Earth’s atmosphere is always in motion, making the view appear to wobble and move in and out of focus. You have to stare and memorize the few brief still moments.

As well as Mars, I toured some familar and some new (for me) galaxies. All wonderful.

M51, the whirlpool, is always worth a few minutes.    

I always feel very privelaged to soak up photons that have been travelling in a straight line for 23 million years before hitting my retina.

From a face-on spiral to an edge-on spiral: NGC 4244 (Caldwell 26) “the Silver Needle”.

I just loved teasing this streak out of the darkness.

Then I headed for NGC 3953, Secret Deep object 48, a barred spiral in Ursa Major.

This was my first sighting, and I found it easily, glowing obviously close to a nice patch of foreground stars. It had a non-circular shape and a core that faded only gradually into the disk.

Messier 94, the crocodile eye, is one of my favourite bright galaxies. It has a teasing core and disk, and is famous for its surrounding ring of expelled material, which I occasionally have thought I spotted visually.

This time I noted that it resembled a globular clsuter because of its bright core and circular shape.

Finally, I caught up with another edge-on spiral, NGC 4565, Caldwell 38.  

Another teaser that took me  a while to detect, and then only at low power. Anyway, I felt thoroughly fulfilled and satisfied after all those, after what’s been a frustrating few weeks of cloudy skies or no energy.