Tuesday, 28 February 2017

On the border of intergalactic space

Yes, I know... Here I am again with a sketch on which you can't see a bl**dy thing unless in total darkness and after staring at the computer screen for three hours with averted vision. But Berkeley 19 (Be 19) is a very interesting open cluster, meaning that it's extremely old (perhaps even older than our galaxy itself) and that it lies at a distance of 25.000 lightyears. In other words... this cluster lies BEYOND the outer arm of our galaxy! If you go any further, you'll find yourself in the absolute void of intergalactic space! 

To give you an idea what it would be like to live there... Imagine a world where half of the year the only thing you see is the Milky Way splitting the sky in two, with perhaps here and there some stray stars, and the other half the sky looks completely empty and black to the naked eye. If you're lucky, you might spot a few faint, hazy patches of nearby galaxies such as Andromeda or M33, but that's it. For the rest the sky would appear as total emptiness. Well, it would have its compensations because for sure the astrologists would be out of business. :-)

But let's return to Earth. When I found out about this distant cluster I was immediately fascinated by it because of its extreme location. I had already tried a few times to spot it but since my telescope's database doesn't know it, I had to look for it visually (without a finderscope) and it turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined, even though it lies at only a small step from bright star Elnath. When I had eventually found the right place according to the map and with a magnification of 104x... I didn't see anything. Neither at 190x. At 285x I thought to have seen something (maybe) and only at 504x I've seen some of the cluster's stars. Centrally I noted a sort of a pentagon and there were two detached lobes, one above and one below. 

I could of course render extremely difficult objects like these a bit brighter on the sketch, making them more easily visible for you. But that wouldn't be right in my opinion because it might give you the impression that it was just as (clearly) visible through my telescope, whereas it wasn't. Sketchers like me thread on a very difficult line between realism and artistic expression. Sometimes I've not rendered an object bright enough, sometimes I've overdone it a bit. It's so difficult to tell how bright an object really was at the eyepiece, especially since I'm doing the processing on the pc sometimes days after the observation itself. In the end I try my best to give you the same experience as I had. Perhaps it's also more rewarding for you this way... 

"I've seen it!!!" :-)   

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