Observing Session June 5th, 2011

Well, this weekend was suppose to be a great weekend to observe. Clear on Friday, clear on Saturday. Well, yet another low pressure was off the California coast and it didn't bring rain or snow, or any form of precipitation this weekend, just wonderful 90% or better clouds. I tried going out to a dark site on Friday with my friend Mat, but the sky didn't cooperate. I didn't take the 14 as I felt this would happen, and I needed to adjust the XT10 after doing some work on it and the mirror test etc. I actually cleaned the XT10's stock mirror since it was 3 plus years with lots of observing. From that experience I learned to let my mirrors go even longer before cleaning. It really wasn't that dirty.

So Sunday night came and I had to work today but the sky was just great, compared to the last 8 months. So I hooked up the 14 and went observing. I didn't go for, just stayed local, but the site was dark enough to let me observe. I began the night by looking at the crescent moon and making a determination that IF the weather cooperates (it isn't) to really get into lunar sketching using the new sketching method I'm learning from Alex. Next, I went to Saturn and the Cassinis division was easily seen with four of the moons. Next I just plopped down, and decided to wait another half hour for the main target, SN2011dh in Messier 51. As I waited I tested the NELM using several constellations but since Bootes was near zenith at the time, I used Bootes and got a 5.8 NELM for the night. Not bad for being under a light dome. Finally, I felt it was dark enough so I went to Messier 51 by star hopping (I never set up the Intelliscope tonight) and boom, there it was. M51 stood right out as did NGC 5195. Hints of arms were strongly there as was the supernova, both using averted vision at first. With some effort I was able to keep the supernova in focus with direct vision, after my eye had first captured it with averted vision. Pretty site it was and here is my rude sketch of it.

After playing with Messier 51 I decided to see if I could get a few Herschel objects in. My son had strict instructions to bring me home by 12:30a.m. so I could get plenty of sleep. I am still having a rough time with my health, my Celiac disease impacts my autoimmune and I am finding I am still tiring easily, though it is improving. Pneumonia is a nasty illness I've decided.

My next object was NGC 4958, and using the Panoptic 27mm I easily went from my Telrad to Spica to its location and it stood out rather easily. I then brought magnification to this galaxy using my 10mm Pentax XW with the XX14i. It has a long shape that is masked in light pollution unless you use averted vision on it; the shape then popped into view for me. The core is stellar bright, and the galaxy is widest at the core region. A 14th magnitude star (estimating) is to the west of the galaxy and rather close. Overall, an easy target to hunt down. West is toward the upper left corner I believe on this one.

I got NGC 4995 in also and it was also an easy hop from NGC 4958. The 27mm Panoptic again showed it easily and the 10mm Pentax XW brought it right into view. With the 10mm Pentax XW it took me a minute to ensure I was actually seeing the galaxy, but with patience I was able to take in the entire galaxy. It has a very, very faint core but what I saw from this location was mainly a very light fuzzy of a galaxy that was oval in shape. Probably much better from a dark site.

My son now told me it was time, so I quickly went to M84 and M86 and a few NGC galaxies in Virgo, and also the Sombrero Galaxy as I am afraid by the end of the month, they may be fading quickly into the western horizon. Sad, I hate when spring is robbed by clouds but that seems to be the way it works often in northern Utah. I ended with M13 which was looking really nice, beckoning me to sketch it using the new method so I will next time I have a dark session. It was good to get out, even if only for a few hours and I was in bed asleep by 1:00a.m. so that is good for my ongoing recovery. I hope you have clear dark skies wherever you go. I know when the sky is dark next, most of my observing friends will be at AlCON while I am still stuck here. See that is the last week of school and I am not allowed to take personal time off during the first or last week of school. I'm fine with that, as I truly care about my students and enjoy being with them. I will miss though the public outreach and guess I need to make plans to really get out to Great Basin.

A side note on that. Mat is from California as I am and in California is a great park called Big Basin State Park. A park near where I grew up and I spent many weekends hiking and camping there. Close to the ocean for surfing also. So often I catch myself writing or calling Great Basin, Big Basin. So if I or another observer from California do that, please excuse our slip up.