I always look forward to going to Wolf Creek to observe and this was no exception. Well on Friday, September 2nd, 2011, after getting off of work I came home, changed for a cold night and then loaded up the Pathfinder for what I hoped was an excellent night of observing. The drive up took some time as there was a stalled truck on I-80 in the far right (slow) lane and it hadn't been able to move to the shoulder. Then with all the traffic heading out for the weekend it got slow merging off o I-80 to I-40. Once I got on the highway to Kamas it was smooth sailing and I made good time until I ran into this on the way up to the summit:
There was a large herd that crossed the highway here and it took about 10 minutes for me to wait for all them to cross. So I snapped a picture, one I am sure others around the U.S. and the world can relate with at times. It was fun to watch the Hampshires and Suffolks cross the road. The question I guess, is why were they crossing the road? Because the first sheep did and they just follow, and the herder had his portable cabin just up the road so I am sure he was leading them back to that general area.
I got up to the campground, pulled in and took the road up. There was a family of 3 with 2 dogs, one being a cocker spaniel that was muddy that I had to let pass by. I sped up and saw dust just ahead of me and I thought it must be my friend Mat. As I got up to the ridge, sure enough, Mat was just pulling in. We picked our spot out, after commenting how high the grass is this year form all the moisture. After setting up I collimated and then waited. The moon was up so I decided to look at it and try using the used Paracorr 1 I got from a friend (hi Jeff). I messed around with it for about 40 minutes and gave up on it. I then put it away and will take it out I hope some night this week to play with it in the backyard. I observed the moon for about 20 minutes, and then climbed into the back of the Pathfinder and laid down to rest as I was tired. Mat and I met a new friend, Mike Taylor who came up from Heber with only a 30 minute ride or so! Lucky him!!! If I lived only 30 to 35 minutes form Wolf Creek I am not sure if my family would find me around two moon. Then again, there is that thing this year called the weather, which has just stunk.
Here is dusk at Wolf Creek. My 14 inch is pointing at about a 45 degree angle with Mat's 16 inch vertical.
As I was resting, Mat got to work and went observing. I heard him showing Mat some of the brighter Messier so I climbed out and started looking at the Lagoon, Trifed, Swan, Eagle, M22, some off the way globs in Sagitarrius from the Herschel list and then went up top for the Veil Nebula. I realized this night that with the Panoptic 27mm I need to get a 2 inch narrowband filter for it. The Veil, both parts showed wonderful this night. I then looked at several objects in Mat's scope including M27 which looked good, but in the 5mm Radian it moved just too fast for me through the FOV. I think the better view was at slightly lower power.
I went back to the Pathfinder to rest as the moon was still too bright and I had made a major mistake in my planning for this night, a huge rookie mistake. I had plan for a night in Aquilla chasing Planetary Nebula and to go after a few others in the general area. I had also mapped out a night chasing Herschel II objects in Sagitarrius. My problem is that these objects were not met to be this night. The moon stayed up until 10:30p.m. and by then I went chasing other PN's on the list first, thinking I had time. We all went to M101 to view the SN which I sketched, and it ended up being the only sketch I made that night. Here it is and west is up. I tried to capture onl the major stars in the field. Overall I was pretty content with this sketch.
I didn't mark the SN in my sketch but if you look near the core to the SE is a bright field star. Go directly across and you will see a very bright star that is the middle star in a slight off field of 3 stars. The middle one is the SN. Here is an image to assist:
One item I see mentioned whenever a SN is found that is rather bright as 2011fe or 2011dh is the notion that in the Milky Way we are long overdue for a supernova of our own. They state correctly that the last three visual SN in the Milky Way that were visible were in 1054 which Messier 1 or the Crab Nebula is the remnant; in 1572 Tycho's Star and 1604 which is called Kepler's Star. We know about 1680 Cassiopeia A went off though we haven't had verifiable recorded observation of that explosion unless John Flamsteed's observation of 3 Cass. was it. Some estimate that the star that formed Cassiopeia A SNR was so huge it bled off much of its material before exploding and that material in form of a nebula and other dust covered the explosion.
So this myth occurs that there are no other SN in the Milky Way since 1680 because we haven't seen them. I would point out that in 2008 the Chandra Xray Observatory and the Very Large Array confirmed a SNR, G1.9+0.3, which is only 140 years old (see this NASA article), much younger than Cassiopeia A SNR. The explosion was not visible because the progenitor star was near the central region of the Milky Way and the amount of dust hide the explosion. Based on the rate of SN that means that we should have had 10 other supernova go off since Cassiopeia A with G1.9+0.3 being one of them. I wonder how many of those eight to ten supernova were hidden by dust or nebula? We talked about this on our observing evening and I put forth the notion that the next visual supernova in the Milky Way probably won't be Betelgeuse or a known and expected star, but a star we are not looking for or a white dwarf that explodes as a Type Ia. This has made me speculate and wonder if any professional astronomers have attempted to do a survey of white dwarfs that have white dwarf companions and/or red giant companions in the Milky Way in an attempt to not only identify possible Type Ia candidates for the Milky Way that could be visible from Earth, but to also help understand the process by which Type Ia's SN occur. Still much to learn there from what I can gather. I'd love to participate in a survey like that.
Here you can see SNR G1.0+0.3 as a supernova remnant and its location. Notice all the dust around it. This is taken from this NASA article.
Back to the observing now. By now the Sagittarius items were getting to low to chase for me. I spent over an hour on PK 38-25.1 and I got the right star field down, but found I did not have a detailed enough printed chart to get there. One positive is that Mat let me use his 14mm Explore Scientific 100 degree EP and that was an eye opener. I took my glasses off, letting them dangle from their sunglass straps and put my eye right into the eyepiece. I know why they call this a space walk feeling. I had to shift my head to take in the field. I need a few more views with some decent and faint objects to take in the effect though.
As I was finished with PK 28-25.1 the wind started to come up. The pines started moving and we went from Antoniadi I up top and Antoniadi II as you came down to Antoniadi III up top and IV to V as you came into the muck (below 35 degrees). I tried for a few more items, but the scope was started to vibrate in the wind. It was now about 1:20a.m. so we decided to pack it up. By 2:00 Mike had left, Mat and I were packed and laying in the back of either my Pathfinder for me, or his van for Mat.
I pulled a few items that I'll share here. One, I forgot to turn off a dome light in the Pathfinder so at one point I opened the door and the light came on. Mat had gone to Bryce and at Bryce people were having that issue and finally were told if they couldn't operate their cars to stay away from them by the ranger in charge. So anytime we now do something causing white light to appear, we call it "Pulling a Bryce."
Then in the middle of the night, I awoke and had to take care of some quick business. I forgot my car was lock and if it is locked and the door opens the alarm goes off. Yep, 3:30a.m. and the car alarm goes off. I got it off quickly but boy was I embarrassed. I slept until 6:00a.m. when I usually get up and couldn't sleep so got out, loaded the rest of my gear up, ate breakfast, took some snapshots I'll share here, and then left. I hope I didn't offend Mat. He was still asleep I think when I left but I felt I needed to get home as my daughter needed me that afternoon. Here are the pictures I took of the summit area at Wolf Creek.
Dawn at Wolf Creek looking east to southeast from the observing site. The GPS put it at 9912 feet above sea level.
Wolf Creek looking south across a canyon:
Wolf Creek from the observing site looking southwest.
Duchene Ridge looking west from the observing site.
So the night was an okay night. I have no Herschel 400 to go after until Spring now so that list is done. I am starting on the H400 II and did get in the Veil Nebula, both parts, the portion of the Lagoon Nebula in the list, and the Crescent. I was going to sketch the Crescent but it was just to windy. Next time I hope.
Lessons learned: One, when I am close to a change of seasons I need a current list for the evening, and a list that includes items from constellations that will be up later that night to maximize my observing time. Dumb mistake on my part. I'm rusty from not observing four to eight times a month! Two, no more "Pull a Bryce" mistakes. Three, make sure the finder charts I print have enough detail to star hop from. Another dumb mistake I made. I had the opportunity to go on Saturday again but was too tired and to be quite honest, my health isn't well and things are rather stressed on the home front. I'm getting over bronchitis and then today, my problem tooth as I was flossing came flying off and so did the buildup underneath it. I can see the gutcha (?) or gum like cement material they used to seal up the root canal I had done on it. That has to wait to get fixed until Tuesday at 8:00a.m. but he recommended no dirty area. Tomorrow night I am going to do some double star and lunar observing in the backyard and hopefully try sketching one crater tomorrow.
I don't know if anyone out there has ever felt a let down as you finished (well almost except for my April and May targets) a list like the H400 and I am doing the H400 II by constellation so I can simply observe the evening in just two or three constellations. I hope that opens up some pleasant discoveries. That and I am going to do the planetary nebula program without the AL book because I love PN's (it is ridiculous in this day and age of computers and the internet to make someone pay for a book. List the items on a PDF or Excel format and then let people go for it). I hope the weather is good for the new moon phase later this month!