Deep Sky Winter Observations End of December 2019 - End of January 2020

Conditions | Observation Overview | List of Observed Sky Objects | References

From the end of December 2019 up to the end of January 2020, I did simple "deep-sky winter observations," which might be of interest to other beginners and are therefore described here. They took place in Mühlhausen/Kraichgau and were carried out with various telescopes and with my binoculars.



Sky Region and Objects

I observed in various sky areas as shown in the sky maps below.

Overview Maps

The following inverted map shows approximately the sky area that I primarily browsed during my observations (and some of the observed objects):

Click the map for a larger version - it opens in a new window (Image Courtesy of SkySafari Astronomy,

Observation Time

The observations were done from the end of December 2019 to the end of January 2020.

Observation Location

Tthe observations took partly place in Mühlhausen/Kraichgau (Germany):

Devices Used

I used the PS72/432 and the Skymax-127 on the AZ Pronto mount,the Explorer 150PDS on the AZ4 mount, and the C8 on the Star Discovery mount and on the AZ4 mount, as well as my binoculars. I also used various of my own eyepieces.

General Conditions

In Mühlhausen/Kraichgau, the sky was not particularly dark.

Observation of the Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) on January 29, 2020

Close to the Perseus double cluster NGC 884/869 there are stars which visually form an ellipse for me.  

The comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) was on January 29, 2020 close to some brighter stars of the ellipse, so that it was relatively easy to find.

(Images Courtesy of SkySafari Astronomy,


Observation Overview

Observed Objects Details, Remarks Further Observations and Remarks Devices Used Eyepieces Used
Dec 28
GC: M15
OC: M 45, M 35
GN: M42/43


Observed M 15 with C8/AZ4 (40, 28, 16, 10, 7 mm) and SM127/Pronto (24, 16, 10, 7 mm) and saw it quite large; it appeared brighter and "more extended" in the C8; in it I was even able to guess fine stars with a magnification of 200 x and more, and was able to see some structure; in the SM127, I saw some structure, but no stars; overall, it was a "more relaxed observing" with the C8. Then came clouds at M 15 and also fog... Then I turned to...

Observed M 45 (Pleiades) with C8/AZ4 (40 mm) and SM127/Pronto (24 mm); altogether, M 45 was more beautifulin the C8; I was able to see also the "nebulae" around the stars in the C8, which you normally only see on photos; maybe a little bit of nebulae was also visible in the SM127; altogether, M 45 was more beautiful in the C8.

Orion (later, from about 22 o'clock on):
Observed M 42/43 with C8/AZ4 (40 mm) and SM127/Pronto (24 mm); altogether M 42/43 looked more beautiful in the C8; I saw the nebula better in the C8 and especially, according to Astrid, the Trapezium (while she found the nebula almost better in the SM127, I found it the other way round...).

Twins / Gemini (ditto):
M 35 was nice in the C8/AZ4 (40 mm); the SM127 had already dew so that I could see not anything. After that, clouds came up around Orion and the visibility of the nebula became poor (in the SM127 not at all because of the dew...).

Comparison of two telescopes on M 15, M 45, M 42/43 and M 35: C8, and Skymax-127

Venus in the C8 colorful and fuzzy, but maybe half (40, 28 mm)...

C8 on AZ4 mount, Skymax-127 on AZ Pronto mount C8: 40, 28, 16, 10, 7 mm
SM127: 24, 16, 10, 7 mm
Dec 29
GC: M 15

Crescent of the Moon

Crescent of the Moon: The least contrast in the SM127, the most contrast in the C8; Astrid liked the SM127 anyway; I liked the C8 best, then the Explorer 150PDS; later on, details were visible in the ash grey section of the moon, best in the C8, then less clear in the 150PDS, and weakest in the SM127; Astrid probably saw more details there than I did...

M 15 observed in all three telescopes with low magnification first, later also with medium and high (around 200 x) magnification; in the C8 (low magnification), M 15 initially showed a very bright core, but also the sky background was also bright; a bright core in the Explorer 150PDS as well, but maybe the sky background was a bit darker; faintest in SM127, but the background was also darker; Astrid liked M 15 in SM127 as well.
Later, there was dew on the C8 (I forgot the dew cap...), removed it with a hair dryer, then it worked again.
It was hard for me to judge whether the C8 or the 150PDS was better; the SM127 was clearly behind for me, especially regarding brightness; in none of the telescopes I was able to see fine stars (the sky was probably not optimal at times....), also not at about 200 x (SM127: 7 mm = 214 x; 150PDS: 4 mm = 187.5 x; C8: 10 mm = 203 x); at about 200 x, I found the C8 best; altogether I tried many eyepieces, but did not write down any differences...

Comparison of three telescopes on the crescent of the Moon and M 15: Skymax-127, Explorer 150PDS, and C8

It was not easy to keep all three telescopes on the moon, and even less so on M 15, but I managed to keep all three there to some extent, even on M 15.

Skymax-127: A comparison of the cheap Celestron zenith mirror with the dielectric Lacerta zenith mirror showed no noticeable differences in the image (brightness, contrast).

C8 on Star Discovery mount (motor-driven, no alignment/manually), Explorer 150PDS on AZ4 mount, Skymax-127 on AZ Pronto mount C8: 40 mm, 10 mm, ???
150PDS: 24, 16, 7, 4 mm, ???
SM127: 24, 16, 7 mm, ???
Dec 30
OC: M 35, M 45,
GN: M 42/43, M 78
M 45 appeared almost better in the 150PDS, because the sky section was larger; otherwise, it was very similar in both telescopes (the Orion nebula was still in clouds)

M 42/43 was nice and showed clear "wings" and a good Trapezium in the 150PDS, but was even brighter and more contrasty in the C8; the Trapezium was also better there.
M 78 was very faint in both telescopes; two stars helped in its identification; there was no noticeable difference between the two telescopes; probably the sky was not optimal after all...

M 35 was very nice in both telescopes, but in the C8 it was much more contrasty than in the 150PDS.

>> All in all, the image in the C8 was more beautiful and more contrasty!

M 45, M 42/43, and M 35 observed with two telescopes: Explorer 150PDS and C8

Set up the telescopes after 5 pm in the beginning dark. Around half past five, fog appeared quickly; in less than half an hour it had covered the sky and stayed there for a long time... After 22 o'clock it cleared up again, but the Orion nebula was still in clouds at first, but later it was uncovered.

C8 on Star Discovery mount (manually), Explorer 150PDS on AZ4 mount C8: 40 (51 x), 35 mm (58 x)
150PDS: 16 mm (47 x)
Jan 5
OC: M 35, M 45, Mel 25
GN: M 42/43
M 45 (Pleiades) looked most beautiful in 40 mm eyepiece (I also used 35, 28 mm)
Mel 25 (Hyades) observed afterwards, not as impressive for me.

M 42/43 looked initially not that good (the moon was more than half), later it was quite well to see, including the "wings" and the Trapez ium (later even visible in the 40 mm eyepiece!).

Searched for M 35 at the end of my observations, hard to find. Very beautiful in 10 mm eyepiece!

Explorer 150PDS set up after 9 p.m. to test the 2" eyepieces primarily on the Orion nebula M 42/43. The moon was more than half, bright, and already quite disturbing. Nevertheless, M 42/43 was quite good to see later.

Eyepiece comparison :

  • Start with 56, 40, 35, and 28 mm (2"), then 24 mm, 16, and 10 mm (1,25").
  • The 56 mm eyepiece did not convince me, exhibited "tunnel vision", and I notices the shadow of the secondary mirror.
  • Initially, I was not able to see the Trapezium in the 40 mm eyepiece; in the 35 mm eyepiece, it looked like a "star with ears"; visible from 28 mm and shorter.
  • 28/24: Section easier to oversee with 28 mm, but the Trapezium seen better with 24 mm (larger angle of view). Overall, we both preferred the 24 mm eyepiece (the 28 mm eyepiece is sold together with the Exporer).
  • Trapezium even better with the 16 mm and 10 mm eyepieces. All in all, most impressive was M 42/43 in the 10 mm eyepiece! Later, Trapezium and "wings" seen best with this eyepiece, but even with the 40 mm eyepiece I was then able to recognize the Trapezium without any problems!

Wandered around in the sky a little bit with the 40 and 35 mm eyepieces ("rich-field"). Saw a beautiful chain of stars above Gemini(?) that reminded me of Kemble's cascade. Then moved over to M 45 and Mel 25 (Hyades); moved back from time to time to the Orion Nebula... In the end, I searched for M 35, and found it with difficulty.

All in all, the Explorer 150PDS convinced me with all eyepieces except for the 56 mm one! Rich-field observation seems possible, even though that was not the right day for this because of the bright moon.

Explorer 150PDS on AZ4 mount 56, 40, 35, 28, 24, 16, 10 mm - up to 28 mm including all are 2" eyepieces
Jan 16
GC: M 15
OC: M 35, M 36, M 37, M 38, M 45, NGC 884/869
GN: M 1, M 42/43, M 78
G: M 31/32, M 33


Venus: C8 observed with 40 mm downto probably 24 mm (with gray filter); PS72 with 24 mm downto probably 10 mm (with gray filter).
All in all, Venus was better to see in the C8, with gray filter it was smaller and fainter (less color fringes). Venus obviously about a little more than half...

M 15 accessed with C8 on GoTo mount, missed it somewhat, but was able to "catch" M 15. With the PS7, I searched for M 15 according to the finder view in the C8, and found it.
Not surprisingly, M 15 was clearly brighter in the C8 than in the PS72.
C8: 40, 24, 10 mm; the sky was rather bright in the West, even at 200 x, I was not able to resolve M 15 into stars.
PS72: 10, 4 mm; M 15 faint with 108 x, but still visible; M 15 not resolvable into stars...

M 78: Found with C8, identified using two stars, but the nebula could only be guessed. No Horse Head Nebula...
M 42/43: In the C8 with 40/35 mm very nice; in the PS72 with 24, 10 mm also very nice, large FOV with 24 mm, but wings fainter than in the C8. Also very nice with C8R and 24 mm; pin cushion distortions not noticeable (pronounced in daylight)

M 45: Entered M 45 in the app and accessed it; moved too far left, but M 45 was easy to find. Observed only with 40 mm with the C8, was to deep at the bginning (there was a chain of stars). Moved up later to the "main group". The glow around the brighter stars was clearly visible.
Observed with 35 (2") and 24 mm with the PS72. A lot of space around m 45 when using 35 mm, the chain of stars was at the bottom and fairly faint; better fit with 24 mm; I only guessed the glow around the brighter stars...
Observed M 45 with the C8 also with a reducer; here, too, the FOV was too small for seeing the whole cluster...

M 33: Not found with C8 in my first attempt; perhaps after a new alignment using Aldebaran, but only a very faint glow if at all (the sky was probably to bright)...

M 31/32: Found C8 after a lot of searching; very nice; also found M 32 outside of the glow, but noz M 110 (not even in a second attempt...) >> only afterwards, I was able to clarify that it was M 32 (in a quadrangle)!

M 1, M 35, M 37, M 36, M 38: All DSO first observed with C8R and 24 as well as 32 mm eyepieces (1,25") - very nice (M 38 showed a "cross", M 36 distributed, M 37 fine, many stars, M 35 large, M 1 faint).
M1 rather faint, but recognizable; the star clusters all different but nice, M 35 almost a bit too large...
Ditto observed without reducer (2"); very nice again, somewhat larger field of view, that appeared somewhat nicer. M 1 was almost worse to see in 2", perhaps because of the aperture ratio of 1:10...

NGC 884/869 (Perseus Double Cluster): Grand final, but almost too tight in 40 mm >> Stoyan: In a small telescope, both clusters are assemblies of 40-50 stars, in a common field of view of 1,5°. This explains it... (M 76 not found)

C8 with and without f/6,3 reducer/corrector (with = C8R) on Star Discovery with SynScan WLAN and iPhone; 1-star alignment on Venus, later on Aldebaran; PS72 on AZ Pronto

Aligned C8 on Venus with 1-star alignment, then I left it alone. After some time, I returned and set GoTo on M 15. The mount did not hit M 15, but was not completely off; then I corrected the position manually. Tracking worked so so, sometimes nearly well...

After a 1-star alignment using Aldebaran, accessing objects worked better, especially for M 1, M 35-38... All in all, I just worked with quick-and-dirty alignment!

SynScan WLAN: When the iPhone went to sleep, I did not loos the network connection, as I did with the iPad. I do not know the reason for this (I compared the settings). I was able to simply continue after I logged on to the iPhone again. I do, however, not know which impact this had on the tracking...

C8 on Star Discovery mount (SynScan WLAN, iPhone), PS72 on AZ Pronto mount 40, 35, 32, 24, 10, 4 mm
Jan 18
OC: M 35, M 45, NGC 884/869
GN: M 42/43, M 78
G: M 31/32
M 31/32: OK, but M 31 glow not much extended

NGC 884/869 (Perseus Double Cluster) nice

M 45 nice and somewhat "foggy" (section, 40 mm)

M 78 seen faintly
M 42/43 seen nice for several times; with UHC filter even more "nebula" - especially according to Astrid.

M 35 seen nicely, large, star chains (40 mm)

Andromeda: Searched long for M 110, but did not find it.

Perseus: Searched long for comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS), but did not find it.

C8 on AZ4 mount 40 and 35 mm
Jan 20
OC: M 34, M 45, M 103, NGC 457, NGC 663, NGC 752, NGC 884/869, St 2
GN: M 1, M 42/43, M 78
G: M 31/32


NGC 457 (E.T. Cluster, 40 mm) found by accident, seen very nicely
M 103 very nice this time (3 stars at the edge)
NGC 663 found
St 2 (Muscle Man) found, but was "one-armed"...

M 31/32 (40 mm) found by accident and lost again, when I searched for M 110... Tried again later and found it; M 110 again not found despite a lot of attempts.
Found an access to M 31 via Mirach and µ And (to the right of it, about the same distance as between these two stars, perhaps a little more...)!
NGC 752 very large

NGC 884/869 (Perseus Double Cluster) found and searched for the comet for a long time, but did not find it.
M 34 looked "distributed"...

M 45 nice and somewhat foggy (section, 40 mm)

M 78 recognizable
M 42/43 (16, 24, 40 mm) nice; later very bright and nice
M 1 faint, but recognizable

Observed Venus briefly after telescope setup; fuzzy, not round...

Not found: M 33, M 110, M 76, C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS)

C8 on Star Discovery mount (manual) 40, 35, 24, and 16 mm
Jan 24
OC: M 45, Mel 25
GN: M 42/43
Found (40, 35 mm): M 45, Mel 25 (PS72)

M 42/43: Trapezium and wings visible, but no match to the days before (C8)

Searched for but not found : M 52, NGC 7510 (searched long for it, first with long focal length eyepiece, then with 10 mm, nothing found...), M 103, NGC 663

Despite new moon it was too foggy; saw fine stars in the PS72, but much too bright background; nevertheless, it was not clear why NGC 7510 was not visible...

C8 on Star Discovery mount (manual) (not used except for for observing M 42 at the end), PS72 on AZ Pronto mount

C8: 35 mm?
PS72: 40, 35, 24, 16, 10, 7, 4 (mostly with 40 mm = Rich-Field attempts)
Jan 29
OC: M 29, M 35, M 39
GN: M 42/43
C: C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS)
M 39 nice to see (26, 40 mm); M 29 are 6 fine stars (26, 40 mm; better witk 26)

M 45 section only (26 mm)

M 42/43 very nice (26 mm)

After supper: C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) (see maps above)

Finally M 42/43, M 45, M 35 once more, all very nice

First observations done before supper; slowly, clouds appeared (7 p.m.)

After supper, another attempt at the comet. On this day, it seemed to me to be well findable in theory... We suspected a faint glimmer, this was probably a sighting (with the new 26 mm)!

After that: M 42/43, M 45, M 35, all very nice

C8 on AZ4 mount C8: 26, 40 mm

Bold: First observation during this observation period; all observations done in Mühlhausen/Kraichgau (MH) and Erkerode (Erk); G = galaxy, OC = open star cluster, GC = globular star cluster, GN = galactic nebula, PN = planetary nebula, P = star pattern, DS = double star


List of Observed Sky Objects

Object details can be obtained via the links to the relevant deep sky objects.

Name Constellation Type Bino* PS72 SM127 C8 C8R 150
C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) --- C       yes     Very faint...
M 1 Crab Nebula Taurus GN       yes yes   Seen only faintly
M 15   Pegasus GC   yes yes yes   yes Observed with various telescopes, best with C8
M 29   Cygnus OC       yes     6 fine stars
M 31/32 Andromeda Galaxy Andromeda G       yes     Seen nicely, incuding M 32; M 110 not found
M 33 Triangulum Galaxy Triangulum G       yes     Seen only very faintly
M 34   Perseus OC       yes     Distributed
M 35   Gemini OC     --- yes yes yes Observed with various telescopes, seen nicely, large
M 36   Auriga OC       yes yes   Seen very nice, "distributed"
M 37   Auriga OC       yes yes   Seen very nice, fine, many stars
M 38   Auriga OC       yes yes   Seen very nice, showed a "cross"
M 39   Cygnus OC       yes     Nice to see
M 42/43 Orion Nebula Orion GN   yes yes yes   yes Observed with various telescopes, very nice, but best with C8 (and UHC filter)
M 45 Pleiades/Seven Sisters Taurus OC   yes yes yes yes yes Observed with various telescopes, seen nicely, too large for the C8
M 78   Orion GN       yes     Very faint in both telescopes; two stars helped in its identification
M 103   Cassiopeia OC       yes     Very nice this time, 3 stars at the edge
Mel 25 Hyades Taurus OC   yes   yes   yes Observed with various telescopes, seen nicely, far too large for the C8
NGC 457 Owl Cluster , E.T. Cluster Cassiopeia OC       yes     Seen very well
NGC 663   Cassiopeia OC       yes     Seen well
NGC 752   Andromeda OC       yes     Very large
NGC 884/869 Perseus Double Cluster           yes     Seen nicely, but nearly too large seeing both in parallel with the C8
St 2 Muscle Man Cassiopeia OC       yes     Found, but had only one arm...

*) LT = 10 x 25 binoculars, TS = 10 x 60 binoculars; G = galaxy, OC = open star cluster, GC = globular star cluster, DS = double star, P = star pattern, GN = galactic nebula, PN = planetary nebula, MW = Milky Way, C = comet




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