Well, I have a LOT of things to post out. First though, after over a month of just plain bad weather, summer hit the last few days. Temperatures in the 90's (over 100 today) and wonderful, mild nights (temps in the low 50's, now lower than 48 degrees in the West Desert). So on Friday I loaded up the 14 inch and headed out to my local spot that is really good and about 45 minutes from home, yep, Pit n Pole or Rush Valley Utah. I had posted an open invitation to anyone left behind who did not attend ALCON at Bryce National Park to go observing with me. I was eager and left early to leave me plenty of time to set up and then enjoy the evening. Well, I got out there around 7:00p.m. and it was just plain hot on Friday. I thought I had packed enough water but I realized I probably hadn't. I set up and collimated and then drank my thermos of cold gatorade to get rid of my thirst. It worked. I then waited.
After awhile fellow SLAS club member and my observing friend Daniel showed up with his binoculars for the evening. After Daniel, came a new club member and astro-photographer named Jorge. Jorge has a six inch Meade I believe and he does astro-photography without a laptop by connecting his camera right to the eyepiece. Jorge got set up and I then was waiting for my friend Shahid to show up. I saw a vehicle come down the road to you take to get to where we set up and it ended up being another club member named Charlie who came with binoculars and to use what he called GoTo: I going the going with my scope to the object, he comes to take a look! It worked great! Next another car came with three people, a young man named Todd (not sure I am recalling) and his wife and another young lady I believe. Shahid and his brother showed up and we were good to go! A small star party took place.
I began by just testing out the scope and noticed that my azimuth motions were just plain horrible because I had not clean the teflon pad or the base after the impromptu rain event on my last outing. I got a few Herschels in and then I had others around me so I decided to do the summer Messier tour. Daniel wanted to see M83, but it was too low to really see much of its spiral structure. I went and looked at M4, M22, the other globulars in Sagitarrius, the Lagoon, the Trifed, the wonderful Sagittarius Star field, M17 the Omega or Swan Nebula, the Ring Nebula and I really tried for the central star in the 14 but seeing conditions were not great so that didn't work this night. I then went and looked at M13, tried for M27 and felt dumb for not remembering the hob, and then went to the Veil Nebula using the 27mm Panoptic. I borrowed Shahid's 2 inch Orion Ultrablock filter for this. The Veil was visible without the filter but the filter popped out detail so much more. I sketched the Veil, well the Western portion and here is that rough sketch.
By this time it was late and everyone but Daniel, Charlie and I had left so I packed up and called it a night. It was a very good time and I enjoyed having everyone there.
Oh, we had one rather bizarre incident though on Friday night. About 12:30p.m. or so, on the other side of the road a car pulled off and started shooting target practice, or they were shooting coyotes or more likely rabbits. Anyway, after a few shots and a ricochet, Daniel and I took our bright flashlights and waved them up in the air and in the shooters direction so they would know we were there and wouldn't shoot in our direction. Now, just so everyone knows, they were shooting in the a non-shoot area, but as typical, that was forgotten since they wanted to shoot and nothing would stand in their way. What is showed to me is the need for common sense in our world. I don't like to comment to much on my personal opinions, and I don't oppose safe gun use, but to shoot in a recreation area that is clearly defined as a non-shooting area is not using common sense. Luckily they must have saw us and quit firing. I got my dark adaptation back and I could actually see their truck across the road and see them standing next to it when a series of flashed and then shoots rang out as they were using a handgun. I never felt the need to get my bear spray out of the Pathfinder though and in all my visits over the last 4 or 5 years to Pit n Pole, I have never had anyone shooting like this. In a way I expected something since it was the 4th of July weekend.
On Saturday though, I had already made the decision to go again because weather conditions had improved. I posted an open invite on Utah Astronomy and Jorge replied he would be going. Most everyone else had had their fix on Friday, and that was fine. Earlier on Saturday I had unloaded everything into my garage since I need to make the Saturday grocery run and do some other errands. Oh, on Saturday morning I ordered the rest of the Pentax XW line that I wanted to own. I had to re-order the Pentax 5mm and the 7mm, as my brother-in-law wanted mine and paid for their replacements; well, I am keeping mine back when his arrive. Complicated but he is out of the country for another week and thus why I ordered. I also ordered the 3.5mm. I also ordered a 35mm Panoptic and a TeleVue Nagler 17mm Type 4.
So my eyepiece kit will look like this:
3.5mm ( probably shouldn't have as one shouldn't order an eyepiece lower than the F ratio of their scope but I figure I'll be safe since the option could be going away, and yes, I know it will be rare when I use this, but its my money, I earned it, and this is money that is discretionary for me).
14mm (I stopped here because of the field curvature issues in the 20mm, 30mm and 40mm. I also feel my other eyepieces cover this range a little better. The Paracorr I I have resolves the issue on the 14mm so I'll keep it).
TeleVue Nagler 17mm Type 4. Use it, loved it, like the option it gives me from stepping down from the 27mm Panoptic to the 17mm to the 10mm Pentax.
TeleVue Panoptic 27mm (My finder eyepiece and workhorse).
TeleVue Panoptic 35mm (for those nice large objects that need a good FOV).
I'm done! No more. In the field I usually take the 14mm, 10mm and 7mm Pentax XW, the 2x TeleVue Powermate and the 27mm Panoptic. I'm sure the 17mm Type 4 will fit in that case also. That will be the eyepiece case I use and carry with me the most.
After running my Saturday errands, I came home and cleaned up the XX14i's base and boy, I needed to clean it. The teflon was very dirty from the sand and dirt grinding up but no damage so that was good. Applied a coat of SailKote as I like using it. Put everything back together and loaded the car back up later that evening to head out.
I arrived at the Pit and set up and collimated. I got out there around 8:00p.m. and it was me and me alone. After getting done, I took my camera out and took some pictures as that "magic time" settled in. There is a wonderful time and I know I've spoken of it, when after setting up, when the sun sets and twilight arrives and there is a transition in nature. We go from the daytime world to the nocturnal world. If you observe you can see this happening, and for me, it gets me as excited as I got waiting for Christmas to arrive.
I still need to work on the animation but I put together a quick movie. Nevermind the movie. It seems that it won't upload today to my blog for some reason. Needless to say, I should have shot a movie of this on the camera as it was the first time I actually could see a dark line with twilight advancing behind it. Cool.
Here are the images. I am looking east and that mountain in the distance with a flat line is called Mt. Timpanogas, a beautiful place. By the last image you can really see the Belt of Venus coming out (it is in the third picture also, perhaps the second also) :
So before I get into my sketches, I just wanted to show a comparison of the vegetation growth that has occurred at this site due to the abundance moisture that has been around this winter and spring, killing observing here. I will be using a late spring 2010 image where I was using my XT10 at the site and then compare it with some images from last Saturday, July 2nd, 2011. At Pit n Pole there were two observing spots in the past. One right off the main dirt road that comes in next to the pole and near the pit where ATV drive on it. This set up area was to the right as you drove in heading west. To the left, or south, was a quick two tire paths that lead to a very open area off the road by a good 50 feet or so and provided good even ground and a nice observing site. That site is now overgrown with vegetation. You can see how clear this site was with the XT10 set up in this picture, and the pole is in the background sticking straight up.
Another image looking south that shows a much similar position to the next picture in terms of location:
Here is an image from Saturday of the same area just over a year later:
If you've been to the Pit in the past here is what is left of that road that most took to get to the clearing. The vegetation is between 2 feet to 3 feet high. Lots of fire tinder here, I hope everyone who uses the area is careful when this dries out.
Here is the XX14i set up and collimated ready to go.
Last, I have to include my favorite time of the evening, twilight/sunset as the world transitions from light to dark, and I anticipate the evening at the scope! On Friday I was able to easily catch Mercury in that little bowl where the sun is going down right after sunset in the 14.
Here is my poor man's attempt at Mercury. As the digital sketch says, if I could animate it I would show a gibbous stage with the red and pink and white flaring on the bottom right and darker to the upper left. West is located to the lower left in the sketch.
So on to the observing and sketches. Here are the Herschel Objects I took the time to hunt down and sketch. They are not necessarily listed in the order I observed.
1. Object: NGC 4251 Barred Lenticular Galaxy in Como Berenices; July 1st, 2011; Time: 11:51p.m. MDT/7/2/11 05:51 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah; Clear, Cool, Antoniadi III; Mag. 10.7; Size 3.7'x2.1'; XX14i; 10mm Pentax XW and 27mm Panoptic as finder.
Object at first appeared as a dull, faint fuzzy and really stood out though in the 27mm Panoptic and so when I went to the 10mm Pentax XW I expected a little more than what I got. Surrounded by 12th and 13th mag. stars that form an equilateral triangle. With patience there is a touch of brightening around the core, and the core becomes brighter with averted vision. Somewhat irregular in shape. The galaxy looks to laying SW to NE.
2. NGC 4448 Spiral Galaxy in Canes Ventici. July 1st, 2011; Time: 11:10p.m. MDT/05:10 UT on 7/2/2011; Magnitude: 11.1; Size: 3.7' x 1.4'; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT; Conditions: Clear, cool, Antoniadi III;
Notes: The galaxy has a bright inner core that is very stellar, and is surrounded by a brightening around the core with a diffused halo that is around that slightly less bright halo that is around the core. Averted vision helps to see some hints of structure.
3. Object: NGC 4274 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices; Date: July 2, 2011; Time: 11:21p.m. or 05:21 UT on 7/3/2011; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild; Antoniadi II; Magnitude: 10.4; Size: 6.7' x 3.5'; Instrument: XX14i, 10mm Pentax XW, 27mm Panoptic as finder EP;
Notes: Very bright stellar core, star like and surrounded by a diffused halo. Some structure is hinted at, wanted to say I saw a bar but can't confirm it. Core is surrounded by a brighter region than diffusion into the blackness. Diffusion makes it hard to discern structure.
I did something different and would like to see if anyone prefers one or the other. Since I sketch white/gray on black I inverted the second image in GIMP for run. Let me know what you think, I'll try to get a poll up perhaps.
Here is the inverted image:
4. Object: NGC 4278 Elliptical Galaxy in Coma Berenices: Date: July 2nd, 2011; Time: 11:37p.m. MDT/05:37 UT on 7/3/11; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild, Antoniadi II; Magnitude: 10.2; Size: 3.5' x 2.5'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece(s); 27mm Panoptic as finder, 10mm Pentax XW
I almost used the Panoptic to do a wide field sketch but was said to do the higher magnification to try and show more detail so that is what I have done with these. This galaxy has a very bright stellar core, surrounded by a small halo that is very diffused. More round in shape than elliptical to me. No other structure evident.
5. Object: NGC 4314 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices: Date: July 2nd, 2011; Time: 11:49p.m. MDT or 05:49 UT; Conditions: Clear, mild, Antoniadi II-I; Magnitude: 10.6; Size: 4.2' x 4.1'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece: 10mm Pentax XW.
Notes: Seems to have an off center core that is bright and round, core seems to be more on the southern side, and the galaxy is elongated north to south, slightly to the NNW to the SSE. A very bright stellar core is evident and then I realized that since I showed the last object to Jorge, I hadn't re-adusted the focuser, doh! After re-adjusting the focuser the core came into sharp focus and is centered and is oval in nature. No bar was visible, though with averted vision I may have convinced myself I saw it. I did detect the outer shell of the diffused part of the galaxy.
6. Object: NGC 6287 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 3rd, 2011; Time: 12:27a.m. MDT or 06:27 UT on 7/3/2011; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild; Antoniadi II-I; Magnitude: 9.3; Size: 4.8'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece: 10mm Pentax XW;
Notes: Somewhat bright core, some individual stars are evident, more wanting to peep out with both direct and averted vision. Hints of stars all over. Two tendrils going east and north are evident.
A 1994 article published and link by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and published by Peter Stetson and Michael West found at this link, argue that this may be the oldest object in our galaxy and the oldest globular cluster in the Milky Way. Head over for a read if you want.
7. Object: NGC 6235 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 3rd, 2011; Time: 01:00a.m. MDT; 07:00 UT on 7/3/2011; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild, Antoniadi I; Magnitude: 8.9; Size: 5.0; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepieces: 10mm Pentax XW;
Notes: Uneven globular cluster with a bright off center core to the west, and what appears to be an inner equilateral triangle surrounding the core, with a larger equilateral triangle surrounding the globular itself. A faint diffusion surrounds the globular cluster.
That's it for sketching and Herschel's. If the weather cooperates I have about 6 more globular clusters to get in Ophiuchus but my summer and fall Herschel 400 are done. Weatherman today said we went from spring right to our monsoon season, sigh. Hopefully its gone by next new moon. I have another post on a new lighting source I found that I am going to post right after this. Anyway, I hope to get out soon and get some more observing in. Hopefully the weather pattern changes.