Friday, September 26, 2014

beautiful skies (Blue Mountains)

Arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory around 8:55 PM, Thursday 25 September 2014. I was on duty this weekend. Came up early to celebrate. Repair Ian D's 'scope. Deliver gear. And to try to take advantage for the clear skies...


Rolled up the dark driveway with the running lights only. Spotted Ian's trailer on the left; Wayne's 5-door on the right. But they were not to be found. Outside, in the cool air, I noticed light from Wayne's POD. Ian's big Dob was on the east end of the Observing Pad.

I unpacked clothing to the house and astronomy gear to the Geoff Brown Observatory. Left the two servers, reel of CAT cable, track lighting, etc. in the car, to be moved in daylight. Claimed the big room for the night. I put on some long clothes and opened up the GBO.

Heard some voices. Hello! There they are.

While chatting with the lads on the Pad, facing south, I spotted a fast but bright meteor. Left of Capricornus, right of Fomalhaut. Headed straight down. Varied in intensity as it fell then brightened at the end. And turned green. Nice. All I could get out was a "whoa" and it was gone by the time they turned around.

When asked what I was planning to do, I shared I had no plan. Yet. I had been so busy in the week that I had not had a chance to consider what I was going to do. Visual? Photographic? Doubles? Deep sky? Comets? So much to choose from. The skies looked really good. It was going to be a great night... But, I was worried about how long I could go...

Fired up SkyTools 3 Professional. Checked my observing list from the Algonquin Radio Observatory. Many interesting targets for dark skies, along with some old favourites. I made a new list for the weekend, copying these entries. Then I saved a new chart profile, so to show nebulae with an outline only, no solid fill. I find the fill pattern too bright. Connected ST3P to the Paramount.

9:58 PM. I tried the Toronto Centre's Oxygen-III filter on the Pelican Nebula, in Cygnus. No joy. But I wondered if the Celestron 14" SCT was too much.

10:01. Switched the 55mm 2" Plössl ocular from the C14 to the Tele Vue 101 refractor (taking the filter with it). The North Amercian nebula was obvious. Deneb was off to the right. Everything was green.

10:05. Woo hoo. Tried my new/used O-III Lumicon filter, from Starfest. It worked! The view presented by the CAO's filter and mine was the same. I was very happy. What a deal. This will prove really useful for some fuzzies.

10:24. Viewed NGC 7640 in Andromeda. It looked like an edge-on galaxy. I found averted vision really helped. Was there a dark edge, like the Sombrero? Every time I looked off to the side, I thought I saw a dark mottled line through the thin oval.

10:33. Tried the 18mm eyepiece. It was too much.

10:43. Headed to the pad. Ian was not around. Probably in his observatory. Explored around Deneb in Ian's 'scope. I found an inky black spot. Two actually. I wondered what they were. Very three-dimensional.

11:16. Viewed NGC 7250 in Lacerta. 18mm in the C14. Tiny. It had a a little notch out of it. Noticed two "doubles" near the galaxy, to the north-west. ST3P did not state they were official double stars.

11:38. Made some hot chocolate.

Took in whole sky. Aquila, Delphinus, the Water Jar, the Circlet below the Great Square. Fomalhaut. And Capricornus. And the double star of alpha.

Viewed the Helix planetary nebula in Ian's Dob with the 31mm. And then the 21mm. With and without his UHC filter. It was a bit better. Big! [ed: Caldwell 63; NGC 7293.]

11:48. We tried my O-III filter. Very different. Impressive. Lots of stuff in the area. Swirly bits.

12:00 AM, Friday 26 September 2014. Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009, Caldwell 55). Small. Used the 16mm with the UHC. It was very neat with averted. Clearly saw lobes. There was a strong sense of when Saturn is tilted. It was a bright aquamarine.

12:20 AM. Viewed the North American (Caldwell 20) and Pelican in Ian's.

Viewed Stephan's Quintet with Ian. I could see 4 or 5 members. A couple of overlapping oval galaxies. Small! Small grouping. Wow. [ed: The group is made up of NGC 7320, 7319, 7317, and 7318 A and B.]

Ian suggested the nearby gaggle of galaxies, with NGC 7331 (also called Caldwell 30) as the main attraction. There was a peppering of small faint galaxies to the east. I could easily see 7335, 7337, and 7340. Not 100% sure about 7336.

Could not see NGC 7325 to the north-west; could see 7326. Weird. ST3P showed the later was smaller and fainter. Ian said 7325 did not show in a photo. Huh.

Ian didn't think the sky was that dark...

12:55. Pooped. In bed. I so wanted to take advantage of the nice skies but the week took its toll.

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