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22 December 2003: M45 with 15x80 and Sky Window

On December 18th I observed some open clusters using 15x80 Vixen binoculars and the Sky Window. I started the session at 19.30 UT and ended at 22.15 UT. The seeing was bad (3 to 4 out of 10). There was a lot of moisture in the air, which enhanced the sky glow. This night I concentrated on M45, the Pleiades, in Taurus. I made a sketch of the cluster.

Sketch M45

Sketch of M45 using 15x80 binoculars and Sky Window

This was the first time ever, I observed M45 as a whole, oriented this way, and with a limiting magnitude of almost 10. I only had seen it through handheld 7 x 50 binoculars until now. My telescope only shows smaller parts of this beautiful binocular object. On the sketch south is up and east is to the left. At first sight M 45 remembered me of King Theoden (The Two Towers) saying "where is the horse and the rider?". Well here they were! To me the Pleiades oriented this way (and with a limiting magnitude of 10) looked like a horse carrying a rider. To the south-east I see the head of th horse formed by three fainter stars. Atlas and Pleione form the "neck" of the horse while Alcyone, Merope, Electra and Maya form the "body". The hind and front legs are formed by fainter stars in the north- eastern direction. The arcing string of stars going south from Alcyone in a curved line represent "the rider". When I got home I checked with my desktop Star Atlas, and I got the same result. It's amazing that every instrument (or combination of instruments) can show the same object so differently. I really never saw M 45 this way.

The field of view is 3.5 degrees. The faintest star is of magnitude 9.82 and could only be seen using averted vision. I could not detect any nebulosity. The most striking component of the cluster was the multiple star Alcyone, the bright A component accompanied by three fainter companions. When I will visit a real dark location in the next few months, I will try to verify the sketch and add more stars if possible. I will keep you updated.

To end with, here are some images of the setup I used for observing the Pleiades.


Bincoluar mounted on Sky Window

Manfrotto Tripod

The Manfrotto tripod head used for mounting the Sky Window and the 15x80 binoculars on the Manfrotto Tripod

(maximum weight for this head is 8 kilograms)

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