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1/16/2012

Observing Session, Friday, January 13th, 2012 Forest Rd 006 Site 1 west of Vernon Reservoir

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.

Directions to South of Vernon, Forest Road 006 Site 1

I will be posting some of my sketches and report from last Friday, the 13th from this site, but let me just say this is the best site I have been to in the area, except for Wolf Creek. Its closer in terms of mileage but takes an hour and a half because of the roads. I would assume if your coming from Salt Lake City and take option two below, you'd find it easier to get there than coming from the south end of the Salt Lake Valley or from Utah County.

From South End of the Salt Lake Valley or Utah Valley.

From I-15 get off at the Lehi exit by the Lehi Roller Mills. That is exit #279 or the UT-73 exit. Go west through Lehi on State Road 73.

Continue west on SR 73 across the Jordan River, straight through the intersection of Redwood Road (1700 W.) by Smith's, up the hill past Eagle Mountain and out to Cedar Fort.

The road will turn south for 5 miles to Fairfield. When you get to Fairfield note the turn off to Camp Floyd but don’t get on it. From the Camp Floyd turn off check your mileage and follow the highway around the bend and go 4.7 miles from the Camp Floyd turn off up the hill. If it is dark when you are following these directions, you may not notice it is a long gentle hill.

At the top of the hill is the ATV/motorcycle rec area called 5 Mile-Pass. During the day you should see motorcycles and 4-wheelers having a good time (if it's light, in the dark you won’t see anything) As you top the hill at 5-mile pass you will see the a sign marking the county line between Utah County and Tooele county. You'll also see a large pole/Mesonet Weather Station on the left (solar panels, anemometer on it, etc). The road then slopes down and curves to the North (right). From the County line go 3/10ths of a mile and turn left onto a paved road. This road is called The Pony Express Road and as you drive down it you'll see dark wooden posts that have PR7, PR5 etc. on them. Drive to the very end of this road (it is a long way). You'll have a patch of road that is very rough, the paint dividers disappear in this area, and the road itself can be rough in general. You'll eventually come to a stop sign, go over 3 sets of railroad tracks, and please watch as there is no lighted warning here and then proceed to the end of the road in Faust where you can only turn right or left onto SR 36.

Now turn left to SR 36 and head south through Vernon. As you leave the small town of Vernon the road winds to the left. Continue until you see this sign:


















Turn right here onto the dirt road and proceed to drive down the dirt graded road, over 5 cattle guards for 5.0 miles. At the end of the road you'll come to this sign.


















And a close-up of the sign:


















Turn right here toward Bennion Creek and Harker Creek and drive for 0.5 or 1/2 mile to Forest Road 006. It will be on your left and when you turn, you'll see this (yes, turn left at Forest Road 006).


















The marker just says 006 with FR on the bottom. You will now drive 0.9 or nine tenths of a mile down Forest Road 006 and on the left you'll spot a turn out with a bunch of juniper trees there. To the east just beyond the trees is a very old cattle trough and that area is wide open. There are no cow paddies there, not even dried ones so it hasn't been used for awhile. There was a next of a Great Horn Owl there and the owlet was screeching for food and the parent came and delivered it and then flew off (cool).


















This is what the southern view looks like and if you look carefully you can see the grass area on the ground.


FROM SALT LAKE CITY TO THE SITE:

Get on Interstate 80 or I-80 and go west to the Tooele Exit for SR 36 which is Exit 99 and head south.

Follow SR 36 through Stansbury Park, Tooele and Stockton. At the split with SR 73 stay to the right on SR 36.

Continue to follow SR 36 to Vernon and then follow the directions above from the sign to turn right to the Vernon Reservoir and Benmore. The directions are the same from there.