I’ve had two wonderful evenings out under the autumn sky this past week. It’s so great to be back outside at night. I really think that the sky is a great outdoor cathedral. I sketched the Cygnus X-1 star, two Messier globular clusters, and two Caldwell open clusters.

Cygnus X-1 is an x-ray source, associated with a binary star system, one of which has probably collapsed as a black hole. The X rays are expelled as matter accretes into the hole. Although you can’t see the black hole, or the X rays visually, you can see the twin star whose material is falling into it. This star has the inspiring name of HDE 226868. It’s easy to spot, and is marked by the arrow in the sketch. As with other significant objects that simply look stellar, the secret’s in the imagination.

I then tracked down two Messier globulars in Ophiuchus. I couldn’t remember having spotted these before, but a look at my sketch gallery tells me I have, a couple of years back. Still, this was like seeing them for the first time.

M12 looked large and rather indistinct. I was quite unsure where it stopped, for there was a bright core, but also an indistinct fuzzy patch in much of the surrounding sky that seemed to merge into the core. I see from my previous sketch that I made no note of such a thing, so I wonder if my eyes fooled me.

M10 I found rather easier as it’s tighter and brighter. I wrote that it was soft and round, bright in the centre with many stars flickering at the edge of vision.

Last night I hunted down some Caldwell objects. Again, my gallery shows some past sketches, but memory fails me. They were both very pleasing, soft distinct objects with mainly faint numerous stars in a roughly circular pattern.

C37, NGC 6885, surrounds one of three close bright stars in Vulpecula. In the sketch, the cluster is upper right.

C16, NGC 7243, is in Lacerta, a constellation devoid of bright stars. Consequently, finding the cluster was a bit of a headache, but after 20 minutes of fruitless scanning, I did land it.

An interesting comparison with my previous sketch is that I drew, and noticed, no nebulocity in the cluster, but in my previous sketch it was quite distinct. I wonder if sky conditions are responsible. Either way, they were all very relaxing objects to enjoy. Most stunning of all was the Milky Way running distinctly through Cygnus and vertically overhead. We’re very fortunate to be able to see it here.