Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - 62

DEEP-SKY SUBURBIA

by Rod Mollise

Autumn
in the Suburbs
The right telescope and a little
persistence will help you see
these subtle wonders.

Vega, and M57, the Ring Nebula. Have a look at the Ring if
fter moving from my urban neighborhood to the
you like - I'll wait - but we're after dimmer quarry tonight.
suburbs a few summers ago, I was thrilled to be able
to observe the deep sky from the backyard again. No
M56 (NGC 6779), a magnitude-8.3 globular star cluster
more gathering all the gear and driving 20 miles to a dark
with a 5.0′ diameter sounds as if it should be easy. Its specs
site. I could enjoy star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies without
lead you to believe that while it's no M13, seeing it shouldn't
leaving home.
be difficult with a small telescope. That's what I assumed
It was wonderful viewing prominent summer objects
when I was a young astronomer observing the Messier objects
like M13 and M57 from the comfort of
for the first time from my parents' backyard.
the backyard. When fall began, however,
But M56 is far from easy, as novice me found
But M56 is far
observing became more difficult. Autumn's
out after hunting it fruitlessly all summer
from easy, as nov- long with my 4-inch Newtonian reflecsky has some bright deep-sky wonders, but
most are subdued compared to the glories of
ice me found out tor. Finally, on a cool, clear, and dry early
summer. Fall backyard observing is harder
autumn night, I spotted something in the
after hunting it
and requires a different telescope than the
correct spot, a dim smudge just on the edge
one I'd used in summer.
fruitlessly all sum- of visibility.
In the summertime, my ultra-portable
The problem is M56's central area is
mer long with my loosely packed with stars. It's a Class X (10)
4-inch refractor did amazingly well on
the season's bright objects. Unfortunately,
4-inch Newtonian on the 12-step Shapley-Sawyer scale that
it wasn't up to the challenge of autumn's
organizes globular clusters according to
reflector.
delicate marvels. For them, more power was
their central concentration from "tight"
required in the form of a larger, but still
to "loose." That looseness makes the clusportable, 10-inch Dobsonian reflector. I also found myself
ter tend to melt right into the sky. Use at least 8 inches of
spending more time observing objects in an effort to pick out
aperture and a medium-magnification eyepiece. An eyepiece
faint details. It wasn't unusual for me to spend at least half
yielding 125-150× will darken the sky background but won't
an hour on each.
magnify the cluster so much that its light is spread out and
Let's begin tonight's autumn suburban sky tour in a "sumdimmed.
mer" constellation, little Lyra, the Lyre, which still rides high
With M56 centered in the 10-inch, I see a dim globular
in the west as fall comes in. Lyra is famous for two things: its
just beginning to resolve around its periphery. Many of the
brightest star, the beautiful and luminous zero-magnitude
tiny stars tend to wink in and out of view and are best seen

62

S E P TE M B E R 2 018 * SK Y & TELESCOPE

BACKG ROUND: JASMIN MERDA N / G E T T Y IM AG ES

A



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky and Telescope - September 2018

Contents
Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - Cover1
Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - Cover2
Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - 1
Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - Contents
Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - 3
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