M24 (Small Sagittarius Star Cloud) in Sagittarius
The Small Sagittarius Star Cloud
Of all the Messier objects, as viewed from a dark site, my favorite in binoculars
and wide-field telescopes is M24. To me, the view is unmatched even surpassing
the Pleiades (M45) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). I can easily forgive M24
being in-part an illusion. It is a bright section of the Norma Spiral Arm of our Milky
Way Galaxy that is framed by dark dust clouds. It is thus a window to something
that is mostly hidden from our view. Covering an area of nearly four Full Moons it
is a challenging (impossible?) object to draw. In this attempt, I spent 30 minutes or
so with it and then would switch to another less complex object for a rest and then
return to it to continue the drawing. In total I would guess that I spent at least 2
hours on the draft sketch at the telescope on the morning of July 9, 2018. I could
not do it justice.
Imbedded in the Star Cloud are several Open Clusters and even a Planetary
Nebula. Only NGC 6603 could be made out, as a concentrated glow, at the
magnification used for the drawing.
I once viewed M24 with my 6-inch refractor from a truly dark site (Massachusetts
Star Party) back in the late 1990s. It was a moment in time that I will never forget.
M24 is not quite the same from my suburban backyard as it appeared under a dark
sky, and yet it still takes my breath away.