Observing Pit n Pole, Friday, September 30th, 2011

Well, I made it out to the Pit last night for a night of observing. The forecast called for either partly cloudy or clear conditions and when I got out there, it was pretty cloudy with a very large sucker hold over the Pit location (see above). When I arrived my friend Jorge was already there as was a fellow friend and club member Mark. The RV that had been there had left a mess, which is a shame. I spent a few minutes picking up trash and stuff. I wish people would pack out what they pack in. Parts of the BLM land is just turning into what looks like a dump and that is a shame. Anyway, I began setting up when a white pickup truck came out and there was a man named Allen and two of his friends, Wendy and Summer. Allen had a XX12i and he set up next to me. I got set up and collimated with the help of Jorge as it was getting dark. Seems we are meeting new people whenever we head out and that is always a good thing.

While I was setting up my friend Mat and another person I met for the first time named Josh, who has a love and good knowledge of astronomy came out with Mat and borrowed Mat's 8 inch scope. With what sounded like a few pointers from Mat, Josh was out star hopping in now time and bringing in objects!

My first target goal was to align the Intelliscope. I am getting warps of 1.4 every time on my initial alignment and it is because of the eyepiece I am using. By using the align, enter, enter, I usually get it down to a warp of .4 or .5 which is workable. To be quite honest, I think the Intelliscope at times is more of a nuisance if you know how to star hop really well like I do. It does save time and can put you in the general location when its working and thus would allow someone not wanting to use a Telrad or a Rigel to star hop from a star to the object. I just prefer my faithful Telrad and finder.

I did something that I haven't done in almost 5 years now. I had a night where I did not sketch an item! Nor do I work on actual observing list which was rare for me. I had intended to do some work on the Herschel 400 (a few fall items I needed) and to do some work on about 10 Herschel II 400 and then just pick a constellation, Pegasus, and go to work on looking at objects there, mainly galaxies by starting at the upper portion of the constellation, and working my way down the atlas. Alas, I never got that opportunity. The south and south-western sky was really impacted by clouds but the Big Dipper was up so I went out and found M101. SN2011fe was still visible, but it is definitely fading. M101 showed a bright core, no hint of structure since the seeing was an Antoniadi III overall last night. The location of M101 meant I would rate the sky there an Antoniadi III to IV. I showed this object to Allen, Wendy and Summer and then showed M51 and its companion. After this I moved to M13 to take a view which showed the propellers tonight.

Wendy was interested in Sagittarius, which was her astrological sign, so I went there as the clouds had cleared and showed her and Jorge and Mark the Lagoon, the Trifed, and the Swan Nebula. On these objects I was using the 10mm Pentax XW with the Ultrablock Filter.

In Messier 8, the Lagoon Nebula, the open cluster NGC 6530 was brightly visible as always. Two areas of nebulosity were visible, a bright region NGC 6526 and a lighter region NGC 6523. The dark lane or the Hourglass Nebula as called by John Herschel was clearly evident.

Messier 20, the Trifid Nebula was also evident this night. B85, the dark lanes stuck out against a very light nebulosity that was lighter than normal even with a filter. The NW lane was wider than the other two. One thing I learned about the Trifid tonight is that most people see the double star near the center at magnitude 7.6 and 10.4 at 6", but they fail to capture the second pair at magnitude 8.7 and 10.4 at 2.3". I'll have to look for that second pair next time I head out. In January, 2005, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope discovered 30 embryonic stars and 120 newborn stars not seen in visible observing or images.

Messier 17, the Swan Nebula showed off its stuff also, but not as good as last Saturday night at the Pit. I did not spend a ton of time here and after here Wendy, Allen and Summer stayed by their scope for the most part and I began to have some fun.

On a local message board, my friend Mat discussed how he spit the Epsilon Lyra or the Double Double in Lyra at about 91x last Monday at our Lakeside observing site using his home built 16 inch truss dob. So I decided to see what the XX14i could do. Putting in the 14mm Pentax XW, the split occurred but it was not an easy split. At basically 118x I was expecting to split Epsilon Lyra but for some reason it took some work. Confirmed by Jorge and Mat, I then tried Mat's 22 Panoptic at 75x magnification. This took some work, as one star would split, then fade out and then the other found split and fade out. It took some time but when the seeing cooperated the split occurred. Jorge and Mat both had the same experience. I next put in my 27mm Panoptic and at 61x I was able to work a split as was Jorge. Matt couldn't get a line to separate the stars when he tried. This was a fun experience and I enjoyed the challenge.

After Epsilon Lyra I went to the Helix Nebula to show it off, and everyone came and took a look. By this time Allen, Summer and Wendy packed up and left and I started to get ready to go to work. I decided to head up to Dobson's Hole and take a look at Cepheus and take a gander at NGC 6946 and the Open Cluster NGC 6935. I used the 27mm Panoptic (and while observing Epsilon Lyra I lost one of my eyepiece caps for the Panoptic so I need to track a replacement down) and took in both objects in the same field of view. I then put in the 10mm Pentax XW and really studied the galaxy. The core was easily seen next to two stars that were close to each other. I was able to view the arms, all three. There is one on the north, the brightest that is connected to the core and fades to the east. This arm splits and a branch turns south past the core. The third arm comes off to the western portion of the core, and juts up to the north. Very wonderful galaxy as always to view.

NGC 6935 the open cluster is extremely rich, tight open cluster with over 125 stars. Most stars are in the 12th to 14th magnitude range. It is an open cluster but it did remind several who looked at it last night of a open globular cluster. If you haven't seen these two objects, please take the time this fall to go and see them.

Next, I went and hunted down Comet Garrard. Was easy to do so with the finderchart from Sky and Telescope (you can download the chart in the link). The comet had a bright inner core, a diffused outer shell and a distinct but short tail. I was going to sketch the object but then the clouds moved in. I waited for about 40 minutes to see if they would clear but at 12:40a.m. MDT, I started packing up. When I was done about 1:00a.m. of course the sky cleared out again. Overall it was a good night and an enjoyable one. I enjoyed everyone who came out and it was nice to have a good time observing. Now I'll move into some lunar observing next week as the weather is going to get rough for observing for the next five to seven days.

Here's my blurry picture of my setup.