Omega Centauri
January 27, 2022

For my annual sighting of the great globular cluster Omega Centauri (ω Cen, NGC 5139) from New Jersey, I went to East Point along the north shore of the Delaware Bay on January 27, 2022, despite a 29% illuminated, waning crescent moon near the head of Scorpius. The weather was clear and cold, 18F on the water's edge at East Point, but as low as 8F in the forest north of Cumberland Pond on the way home. I initially spotted Omega with 15x56 binoculars at 4:18 am EST, then examined it with a 115 mm apo spotting scope at 30 to 70x. At the low altitude, no stars were resolved, even at 70x. It was not visible to unaided eyes. I went back to East Point on February 6, 2022, and with a very clear sky along the southern horizon and no moon, I was able to see all of my finder stars shown in the picture below with unaided eyes, but not Omega itself. However, it was easy in 15x56 binoculars, and with my 115 mm spotting scope at 70x, Omega looked granular rather than the usual plain haze.

This image was captured on January 27 at 5:03 am EST, one minute after meridian transit when Omega was at 3.5 apparent altitude and 180.3 azimuth, using a Canon EOS RP DSLM camera and a Canon 200 mm f/2.8L telephoto lens on a fixed tripod. It was exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 3200 and 3600K white balance. Virtually no processing was applied (a slight increase in contrast) and it's uncropped for a field 10.3 wide x 6.9 high. The darker band at the bottom is the Delaware Bay, the glow at the right edge of the sea horizon is from Lewes on the coast of Delaware. Mouseover for labels.

While there, I also did a little casual observing with the 15x56s, spotting galaxies M51, M81+82, M65+66, M104, planetary nebula M57, and globular cluster M4 (weaker than ω Cen despite its greater altitude, about 13, but closer to the moon). With the 115 mm  spotting scope, I detected comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) in Gemini, by then, low in the northwest. As I neared home around 7 am, I was looking out the car window for Venus above the treetops, but didn't spot it until I stopped at Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was much higher than I expected, 17 at 7 am. Once I was looking in the right direction, Venus was bright and obvious in morning twilight, now 11% illuminated and brilliant at magnitude -4.6.


This is a separate image captured at 4:58 am EST on January 27, 2022, three minutes before meridian transit when Omega Centauri was at 3.5 apparent altitude and 179.4 azimuth, but this time, raising the view slightly to include the peculiar galaxy, Centaurus A (NGC 5128), about 4.5 north of (above) ω Cen. It was taken with the same equipment as the previous picture, but exposed 4 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 4000 and 3600K white balance. Virtually no processing was applied (a slight increase in contrast and a little vignette brightening). The primary image is uncropped for a field 10.3 wide x 6.9 high, but on mouseover, the swap image has been cropped to 38% of the original linear dimensions for a field 4.0 wide x 2.6 high, providing a slightly better view of Centaurus A. The blue arrowed lines show the path I follow to find Omega. Starting at the triangle of magnitude 3.x Phi, Nu and Mu Centauri, I slide down to Upsilon 1 & 2 Centauri (nominally magnitude 4), then down to Zeta Centauri, and finally, right to Omega. At magnitude 2.5, Zeta is the brightest of the group, but atmospheric extinction at the very low altitude belies its brightness.



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