M 61 (NGC 4303) -- Spiral Galaxy in Virgo
The magnificent face-on spiral galaxy M 61, shows significant detail under a dark sky with
my 18-inch Dobsonian telescope. Unfortunately, when seen with my 6-inch refractor from
the suburban house it is but a faint ghost of such a view. Still it is not without some detail
– but it takes a bit of effort to tease them out under a light-polluted sky.
In addition, this morning’s sky was not at its best. Large swaths of the sky were thinly
covered with clouds allowing stars to shine but rendering the spread-out light of the galaxy
to fade into the background sky. It was only when M 61 was free of the pesky clouds could
I see it well enough to draw.
The central elongated north-to-south running core of the galaxy could be made out. It also
appeared to have a faint star-like center. I could only catch glimpses of the massive H-2
regions residing in the spiral arms north and south of the core. These were fleeting in the
eyepiece at best.
I had planned on going after additional galaxies within the general neighborhood of M 61,
but after struggling with the thin clouds decided to switch my remaining time at the
telescope to observing double-stars that could handle the current sky-conditions far better.