Saturday, May 07, 2011

didn't expect that (Blue Mountains)

After the hockey game Ian D. and I checked the skies. It was clear! We weren't expecting to do any observing tonight! w00t! The weatherman was wrong. Let's go.
Instrument: Celestron 14-inch SCT
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
We worked together to quickly open the Geoff Brown Observatory. This might have been the first time that I worked, as an equal, on prepping the GBO. Lately, I've been coaching people. Not that I mind training! Quickly and quietly, Ian and I tackled various tasks. It was fast and fun. We discussed the start-up sequence of the computer and mount.

It was around 11:00 PM, Friday 6 May 2011. I grabbed the Sky Quality Meter. The best reading, over head, after a couple of tests, was 21.06.

In Bisque's TheSky6, we randomly chose a target and slewed the Paramount ME. We landed at Messier 61 and briefly viewed it through the Celeston 14" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope. It looked to me to be a spiral galaxy. It was big but faint. But before I could really sink my teeth into it, Ian chose a new target. It was a few moments later that I learned I had never seen this deep sky object before. Hey!

11:18 PM. We enjoyed M104, the Sombrero galaxy. We were using the Tele Vue Panoptic 27mm, yielding around 145 power. It was lovely. I could see the dark foreground lane. The centre was very bright. I could see a faint star above, i.e. north, which was not as bright as GSC 05531-1225, a mag 13.2 star!

11:32. Ian looked at Saturn and reported, "it is not very steady." I took a peak. Whoa. Looked good to me! It was bright. The air seemed fairly steady. I could see three moons to right (east, Tethys, Dione, Rhea) and Titan way off to left. Iapetus was way off to the bottom right.

It took a bit of effort but I spotted Enceladus, close to the rings, inside Tethys! It's been a while...

We referred to an observing list I had prepared in SkyTools3.

11:52. We headed off to the planetary nebula Ghost of Jupiter or NGC 3242 or Caldwell 59. It was pretty low and clouds were coming in. But it is big and bright. There was a bright ring within a round cloud. I spotted what looked like double stars nearby but ST3 doesn't mentioned anything special about them.

I wondered where the name came from. Did that mean it would show strips or bands? I didn't see anything that appeared Jupiter-like...

Clouds continued to move in so we shifted to objects at zenith.

12:01 AM, 7 May 2011. We looked at the Owl Nebula or M97. It presented itself as a big fuzzy lint ball. It was hard to see detail. Ian remarked, "I've seen it better." I agreed. I didn't notice the dual dark regions, the "eyes" of the Owl.

12:10. We took in globulars M12 and M10. They were very nice! But, in short order, they dimmed with passing clouds. We were getting socked in.

We did a quick shutdown and headed back to the house.

That was better than a poke in the eye with a stick!

12:35. I checked the conditions according to the Davis weather station:

8 km wind
6.6°C temp
89% humidity
100.84 pressure, steady.

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