Thursday, September 13, 2012

extra night observing (Mew Lake)

7:16 PM, Wed 12 Sep 2012. Had dinner. Open fire steak. So good. Cleaned up camp with the Chows, put the dishes and the food away. No bear adventures wanted this time. Sealed up the tent and closed up the car.

Adam wanted to set up on the beach. Me too. Phil was being wishy-washy. Again. We talked him into it.

This year I had brought my "portable" wagon, the collapsible garden cart. With nice pneumatic tires. To help haul gear to and from the beach. It'd save me driving the loud car, with the loud exhaust, leaky exhaust, in the middle of the night, to and fro. While it consumed a lot of volume in the car, I was anticipating that it'd be very useful given we were a few more spots to the south, compared to last year. After a bit of creative packing, I had everything needed in the astro wagon and was ready to go. I lugged it, along with the the beer cooler battery tank cart, together to the beach. And it proved easier than I thought it would be. It sure helped having the wagon tires pumped up properly.
Intrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
9:16 PM. I was set up on beach. The table with umbrella were up and ready. I powered the Vixen mount. I powered the Kendrick dew heaters. I fired up the 'scope. I polar aligned roughly, quickly. Polaris was fogged with clouds.

The sky was soft. Clouds lingered in different parts of the sky. Not great conditions. And tonight was supposed to be the "good" night. Still, we were optimistic.

Warm! Took off a layer. How odd... 

Pointed out the location of the Coathanger cluster fellow amateur Randy. He was happy to spot it.

We viewed the Swan Nebula, aka M17 or Omega, in Adam's big Obsession Dobsonian with his 20mm eyepiece. First without (which was still impressive) and then with OIII filter (which was wow). With the oxygen filter in place, the diffuse nebula extended beyond the tail. Messier 17 was huge. Complex. Fascinating.

I wanted to know the particulars of Adam's telescope. He said it had an 18" mirror and has an f-ratio of 4.5. He couldn't remember the focal length. Phil and I calculated it to be 81". Adam said that sounded right. That meant the view of the Swan was 103x.

Phil forbade me from viewing double stars. He wanted me to take advantage of the dark skies. Point taken. I planned to filter them out of my observing lists. So, I thought, while the viewing was decent, I'd tackle some Messiers.

10:15. I found, using my Celestron 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain, with some effort, Messier 75. A very small globular. Not surprising, the size, its brightness, at 95 000 light years. The faint blob of M75 had been a little difficult to reach.

I couldn't make the star hop from the initial starting point below. I had spotted the little triangle, between Capricornus and Sagittarius, which was made of the stars 60, 59, and 58 Sagittarii. The star to the north-west, 58, is also known as ω (omega) Sgr or Terebellum. What a great name. When I pointed out my starting area, Randy spotted an additional star, 62 Sgr. He thought the grouping looked like a little kite.

A little irked, I switched, instead, to stars above, in Capricornus. Went from α (alpha) (oops, double star), down to β (beta) (oops, double star), to ρ (rho) and π (pi) (oops, both double stars), then σ (sigma) (oops, double star) to land at the small compact fuzzy.

Noted the bright star nearby, NSV 24979. I could make out some granularity in the glob, a peppering of stars.

10:44. Viewed NGC 129. A small cluster in Cassiopeia. Relatively small... It blended into field stars and they filled the field in the lower power eyepiece. The central area seemed to be dominated by a U-shape of stars. I saw the bright star HR 113 nearby. It was nice, the star cluster, with lots of faint blue stars in the area.

I viewed NGC 7789 in Adam's 'scope with the 31mm Tele Vue Nagler ocular (at 66x). An attractive open cluster in Cas.

11:26. Viewed Uranus. At 55x and 222x in the C8. Showed the gang. Randy and Adam hurried back to their 'scopes to find it. I went moon chasing. SkyTools said Titania would be the brightest at magnitude 13.9...

11:50. I thought I saw something to the left of Uranus. Possibly Titania. But the position did not seem to match the software...

11:52. Viewed NGC 604, a star forming region within M33, with Adam's 'scope with the 31mm. That was kinda wild. Seeing nebula in another galaxy, some 2.9 million light years away. Impressive. Adam really liked doing this. He had a detailed chart some multiple targets within the Messier 33 galaxy.

Checking SkyTools more closely, I saw that its Interactive Atlas chart showed at least a half-dozen objects within the canted disk.

Remembering that some said the Triangulum Galaxy was visible to the naked eye in good skies, I tried to spot it. The lads directed me to the correct region. Initially, I was looking too far north-east; they said it was over the α star. I stared. And stared. Others said they could see it but I couldn't. Nope. I just couldn't pick off the Pinwheel. Maybe not fully dark adapted. Vision blurred? Eyes watering from allergies. No, no luck, for me.

What I kept noticing was the blob over β Trianguli. It turned out it was NGC 752 (aka Caldwell 28). Ah. Cool. A naked eye open cluster.

Lora and Phil left the beach.

Noting the time, that it was around midnight, I started half-listening for vehicles along the Highway 60. And then I heard a big V8, eastbound, slow down near the park entrance... Could it be?

12:18 AM, Thu 13 Sep 2012. Adam was packing up. Randy too. Wyngko was imaging.

12:19 AM. My back was sore. I was tired. The allergies were bad. My right eye was watering constantly.

I had forgotten to get my portable weather station out. I felt the wind picking up. The temperature was dropping. It had been surprisingly warm! The amazing part was the lack of moisture. The humidity was very low. While I had run my dew heaters, others had not bothered. Weird.

I thought about other things I had forgotten. My lip balm. The hand warmers. Although, tonight, I had never felt the need. Batteries. The AA and AAA batteries were back at camp. Never used my own laser pointer. Did not start the voice recorder. Forget the tarp and bungees for covering the 'scope...

Katrina arrived the beach. Hello! Welcome! She had made it. We chatted briefly. She answered my questions about the bus. Not having wifi. She wanted to know if I was going to observe more. Yes. I was tired but willing to stay, particularly if she was going to set up. She headed to her site. And was gone a long time...

I tried to locate Neptune. Was pretty sure I landed at it after a long star hop with faint stars. But when I removed the dew shield, so to reduce vibration from the wind, I lost the planet. And my motivation.

1:10. Katrina returned to the beach. Empty handed...She had changed her mind. Was too tired to do a full setup. Instead of coming down to the beach, she was going to observe at her site. No worries. It meant I was off the hook.

Still, I wanted to view a couple more Messiers...

1:15. Viewed Messier 74. Finally. I found it! I hopped via Aries and η (eta) Piscium. I found a very faint, elongated object. I could just make out a sprinkling of stars within M74.

(This galaxy was on my life list but I had marked it to view again.)

1:24. Viewed M77! A small compact object. 70 million light years... At first I thought Messier 77 looked like a glob. When I learned the DSO near the head of the sea monster was a galaxy, I looked for structure. Then I wondered if I was maybe seeing tight spiral arms in the small fuzzy. Near an arcing band of stars leading into it. Triples. SAO 130081 and SAO 130073.

(This object was on my life list but I had marked it to view again.)

I noticed a faint fuzzy patch at the edge of the field. When I centred on it, I could just barely see NGC 1055. That was kinda near. Nearby M77, an oval shape, another DSO, a fringe benefit object.

Jupiter was rising above the silhouette of black coniferous.

OK. I was the only one left standing... Interesting. I packed up, quickly.


Saw two meteors, a fraction of a second apart, boom boom, earlier in the evening. That was neat.


Tonight was like a "free" night. Originally, I had not planned to be at the park. So this was like an extra night. But it also had a feeling of fortune, luck, advantage, whatever you want to call it. The weather predictions were looking gloomy for the weekend. That it was to get worse. So, getting some clear skies tonight was a bonus.


Briefly discussed SkyTools with Adam and Randy. Randy was impressed with the 3-panel telescope "fast" star hopping view.


I struggled a bit with SkyTools in the evening. I was not really satisfied with the telescope view. In particularly, the naked eye panel did not seem to show nearly enough stars. Played with a couple of settings. Tried the + key to add more stars or change the sky brightness but that key didn't seem to do anything. Did not change the observer pupil size or the chart star size. The later would have helped...


Katrina had her SynScan Dob running at her camp site. She was viewing objects overhead. And waiting for bright sparkling Jupiter to clear the trees.

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