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As spring in the Northern Hemisphere begins to blend into summer, the night sky changes as well: the huge galaxy-rich fields of early spring skies begin to drift down towards the west, and the objects closer to the Milky Way become more prominent. The late spring and early summer sky is full of an interesting type of object: globular clusters, huge balls of stars held together by their own gravity, orbiting the entire Milky Way galaxy.
One of the first globular clusters to appear in spring is M3, third in Charles Messier's famous catalog of deep-sky objects. M3 is in Canes Venatici,the Hunting Dogs that perpetually chase Ursa Major around the sky. Like many of the spring Messier objects, M3 is in a fairly empty part of the sky. It has a magnitude of +6.2, making it just visible without a telescope under a dark sky. Observing details follow...
I have recently updated this site to use a new content management system. This should make it a lot easier to find things, make site updates, and use this site as a record of observations I make. I have kept all the material from the old version of this site, so it should be possible to find old favorites.
Recently, I welcomed Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (a.k.a. Comet 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann) into my back yard. As you may know, this comet has fragmented, rather like Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which hit Jupiter in 1994. There are currently dozens of fragments, in a huge range of sizes. The two largest fragments, "B" and "C", are easily visible for the next few weeks in small telescopes, and one or two of the others are in range of really big amateur scopes.
Last night I saw both of the large fragments in my small refractor (100mm, f/6 -- nice wide field views). Fragment "B" was a little easier to see -- I think it's more condensed, and so has a higher surface brightness. This was especially important with an almost-full Moon not far away! More details below...