My friend Mat posted that he wanted to go out on Friday night and at first I thought, why? The sun sets at 5:15p.m. or so MST and the wanning gibbous moon rises at 10:42p.m. or just after that because of the mountains here. Then I thought, for winter 4 to 5 hours is about what I get in at a dark site due to the cold so why not? We decided to head out to one of the new sites I had explored, the site that I call Forest Road 006, Site 1 or FR006 Site 1 (the later in my blog will be how I identify it). Lets just say when we got there and got setting up it was dark, but even with both of us using white light at first, the Milky Way was clearly evident as was the Zodiacal light, which formed a beautiful triangle with Venus in it.
After getting set up I went to work. I wanted to get as many Herschel 400 II items in Orion down tonight and I didn't do bad. I got 12 of them down, sketched 6 items and then saw about 10 more old friends. I even did some open cluster work which was fun. Mat got more than me and let me just say that there was no humidity at this site! The site sits at 6092 feet and there is no ancient lake bed nearby! It took an extra 22.1 miles to get there and another half an hour, but it was worth it. The skies on the SQM measured darker than Pit n Pole and Lakeside, with the only site equal to it would be Wolf Creek. There are some lights from Vernon, a very small town to the north but they didn't bother me and my Pathfinder was between me and them. The one negative is that though you are a mile off the main dirt road and a half mile west of the main dirt road leading in and out, if a car or truck is coming up that road, you will see their lights from time to time unless you position your car between them and you.
Again, I guess I am getting lazy, but I figure I don't need to rehash the information on my sketches on the blog here. If you want to know the object and the details, simply click on the sketch. I will list what object they are though so that might be helpful. I hope this is working and since I haven't seen anything to the contrary, here we go.
1. IC 443 Supernova Remnant in Gemini. Hard to see at first and I wondered if I really was, but with patience the object slowly came into view with the 27mm Panoptic and the contrast showed up nicely. I can't wait next year to see this with the Zambuto mirror! I am pretty happy with the sketch as it seems to have captured the brightest portions, though I do believe I saw the harder to see edge as well.
2. NGC 1587 an elliptical galaxy in Taurus. A galaxy in Taurus? Yep, they are there. This was a decent one to check out. Nothing terrific, but okay for a Herschel 400 II galaxy.
3. NGC 1662 Open Cluster in Orion. This has one of those observing stories I am going to share. Mat had taken a break at this point and I had just finished observing this open cluster when I kept hearing this noise that sounded like an animal to me. Mat was talking and I asked him if he was making that noise. I think he thought I was asking about opening up to get to his tomato soup he had brought. He said yes. I then heard the sound again and again and Mat said I heard that. I thought it might be a deer or antelope or perhaps an elk, but we were too low for elk. No, so I asked Mat if I should flash my flash light and he said yes and we scanned around and Mat said that he thought it was a bird so he had me flash in a tree and sure enough, a large owl flew away.
The next day I looked and listened on the internet and it has to be a Great Horn Owl owlet and the owl we saw which was very large was one of its parents. The owlet was in a nest letting their parent know they were hungry. Rather cool! Great Horn Owls are known to nest in January and February and in the mild winter we are having could have nested a little early this year.
I know some way this OC is like a boat with a mast but I saw a line with a fishhook on the bottom of it.
4. NGC 1663 Open Cluster in Orion. Looks like a shrimp to me in the eyepiece.
5. NGC 1762 a spiral galaxy in Orion. This one is faint, small, and I won't be back to it. Did I mention faint also?
6. NGC 1977 Emission Nebula in Orion; "The Running Man" or "Ghost" Nebula. I am not happy with this sketch. It seems here my mind drew in the shape I was use to seeing from images, not what I believe I actually saw. I'll be revisiting and redoing the sketch. Happy with the observation. You have to click on this one and really look as the nebula and the dark portions are faint.
There you go, the six main objects I sketched and then like I said, I did some work on a few more open clusters that night. It was one of the best nights I've had. The only thing I missed was I wanted to try for the Horsehead but old Luna came up much too fast this night! I'm glad I got out as the weather has turned here and we have snow and rain later this week so I don't know how well new moon is going to turn out. Bummer, I wanted another session there.
Edit: I forgot one item. At the end of the night I noticed that Mars was in the sky hanging out by old Luna so I took a look with the 7mm Pentax XW. I'll include that sketch also which is a digital re-creation based on a rough sketch at the eyepiece.