Observing Session February 24th, 2012 Pit n Pole

Well the weather predictions held true and Friday was just a knock out gorgeous day. After getting off work I went home, checked the oil and fluids, added some oil to the Pathfinder and then packed up to head out. We had decided on Pit n Pole because a storm had come through this week and based on my experience from the previous week at FR006, we feared the road could still be too muddy for my friends Mat and Jorge to get their cars down. However, I had another friend who headed out that way and he called and told me it wasn't muddy. Then I got pictures on Saturday and the site wasn't muddy, and the road wasn't as muddy but you'd still need a 4wd to get in and out safely. The Vernon site is wonderful, but like the Lakeside Utah site, if it snows or rains, it gets muddy. Vernon needs a solid week of good weather to dry out. So heading to the pit was a good decision.

After I got the Pathfinder loaded, something kept nagging me that I had forgot something. I found a new app for camping (I'll review that later this week) and had made a list of my telescope equipment and went through it one more time. The back of the car looked like I was missing something, but I think I have finally figured out how to load the back to conserve space. So I said good-bye to my son who had to go to work and drove off. About 6 miles into heading to Pit n Pole I saw my oil cap going flying off the spot I put it when I change or add oil and it flew out on the highway where it was instantly lost. Luckily the Pathfinder doesn't blow oil so off I went (and yes, I got a new oil cap for it).

Here are some images I took on the way out for the fun of it and too share. On the way out to the desert, either to Pit n Pole or to Vernon or other sites out there, one drives through several small, and I mean small, farming communities. Most are ranchers now but there is evidence that some have been around for a long time. Here is an old garage/shed that is next to a boarded up house (I'll get the house in March) and I just like the feeling this brings out. These are pretty common sites in the rural towns of Utah and gives Utah some of its character.

I have lived in Utah for about 19 years now, and I love the access to the wild here, but I fear that access is going to go away in time because of the continued growth in the region. I hope I'm wrong and a balance is found. Like any place though, Utah has its good points and its not so good points but the mountains are definitely one of the good points. I love the mountains in Utah and all that they bring in terms of recreation, especially hiking.

More mountains in the distance as I turn and head towards Pit n Pole on the old dirt road. Love the view!

Finally, sunsets at Pit n Pole are my favorite times as I have discussed. So peaceful . . . well, except for this night.

Mat actually beat me out to the Pit and when he arrived, a small boy scout troop was setting up two tents and had a truck and a trailer. Mat talked with them and they were really cool/nice and positioned their trailer to block their fire. He called and we talked and agree to go there. I called Jorge who I had told to go somewhere else so he came back. We set up in an observing area several hundred feet away and then after we got set up, we provided them with a private/public star party. I showed the scouts and their leaders M42, Venus, Jupiter, M65 & 66, Mars, NGC 2362 (my favorite open cluster) and I answered several questions they had. Mat showed them other goodies as well and it was quite fun. They stuck around from about 7:00p.m. to around 8:45p.m.

One of the things I did this last winter was to buy a Thousands Oaks Dew controller and to get some dew strips to stop the dew from ruining my views at the Pit. On the 17th they worked wonders. I took images tonight so I'll share those but these are not the final placement for the controller. I need it higher up to handle when I go to zenith. Fortunetly I never really needed this night as conditions were just terrific. No humidity, no frozen dew at all and the skies were magical, Antoniadi I all the way down low. Even Sirius only blinked about every 3 to 5 seconds and then it was only a very small flutter. Oh, and before showing the scouts stuff, I went to Sirius and nailed the Pup again. It is rather easy right now because it is so far away from Sirius. A dark site helps in the early evening also.

Here are my dew controllers. I went with the Thousands Oaks because of outstanding reviews and the fact I don't have that much dew to worry about in Utah so when I need them, it is usually one setting and I'm set to eliminate the frost. Others I've read get the DewBuster because it comes on when needed but I didn't want to pay the extra money. I have the money but I don't mind the inconvenience of adjusting to save some money.

Oh, before the dew stuff, I also got a new mat from Sam's Club for $15.99 I believe (might be $19.99). It's smaller and more padded then my last one so I really like it. I still would like to get a nice piece of carpet at some time but this pad works nicely. Yes, the area I set up in was dusty this night, but dry!

Here is the Thousand's Oak Controller. I may set it to connect where the Intelliscope goes or on the other side or I may just try to find a place on the upper OTA to place it. I'll wait until I have Carl Zambuto's new 14 inch mirror in since I'll have to do some counter weight adjustments or virtual counter weights since I'm losing six to seven pounds from the mirror. It's attached with a Velcro strap that goes around and laces through and then connects so it wasn't going anywhere.

Here are the dew straps for the Telrad, the finderscope and the eyepiece. Funny, the eyepiece works on both the 1 1/4 and my 2 inch pieces. I'm to the point I may drop the finder 9x50 since I use the 27mm Panoptic for finding a lot but sometimes on some objects, I just like see the big view through the finder scope.

This night I actually got quite a bit of work done. I need a bunch of Herschel items in Puppis to finish the 400 (just some spring galaxies now) and I got over 18 objects in Puppis. I am not going to share all as I haven't processed all the sketches but just the ones that I liked and that are done. I found that I was rather rusty at sketching open clusters so it took a while to get back into shape. These are the originals on the only thing I did was in GIMP to adjust the contrast to hid some pastel dust that got on the paper.

The first object was NGC 2467, an emission nebula and open cluster in Puppis, I have seen this one before and sketched it before but when I viewed it with the 27mm Panoptic, I wanted a wide field experience in the sketch. So here is the result. Click on it to make it larger. I loved the sketch when I was done, but unfortunately some pastel dust got on the black so that is showing up. There is meant to be nebulosity around the three stars in the center as I observed that and had it confirmed.

Here is NGC 2482 (these aren't necessarily in the order of observation. I got sick on Saturday and am still recovering and wanting to get this post up). Wide open cluster, loose and spread out. I'm getting into seeing what my eye makes of the shapes and I can see Yogi Bear or Snoopy with their noses facing to the left in this sketch.

The next object is NGC 2483. Another loose and spread out open cluster with about 20 or more members viewable of different magnitudes. This cluster I am calling the Cat Cluster because I definetly see a cat with its tail raided on the left side, its body stretched out in the center, and the head near the top with the two eyes and the nose. Anyway, some fun I guess.

This is NGC 2527 another loose and medium rich open cluster is Puppis. Please see my comments on the sketch by clicking on it to see all of them larger. I am calling this, after I sketched it and looked at it today, the Fireworks Cluster. The reason is that this cluster as sketched reminds me of the type of fireworks listed below. Now I need to research the type/name of this firework so can call it by that name officially.

Here is an image of the fireworks I mean. I see a resemblance, do you?

NGC 2571 an Open Cluster in Puppis.

After getting tired of open clusters and finishing off my hit list of them in Puppis, I knew I needed some galaxies in Ursa Major and by now The Great Bear was hanging high in the sky. So I turned the dob over their and went to work. Unfortunetly I thought I needed on of these pair, but in reality, I had already observed them. Man will I be glad when May 5 comes and I am done with classes for at least a year! I need to update my entries in my logs. Oh well, it was fun hopping and finding all of them. I even paid an old friend a visit this night and I am pretty happy with that sketch.

NGC 3756 and NGC 3738, spiral galaxies in Ursa Major. NGC 3756 is not edge on, its actually titled towards us but my view really showed it diffused. NGC 3718 was moderately large, had some structure to it and a brighter core region.

NGC 3733 was the next victim, and this is another spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. I used my 10mm Pentax XW on this and thought it brought out some rather good detail this night. Again, conditions were some of the best I have seen at the Pit of Dew (Pit n Pole) since last summer when I was there with Daniel Turner. The galaxy is a little brighter than I wanted it to be as it is actually a little fainter. I've been working with my layers and guess by the late time I was tried and not watching how much pastel I was putting on the paper. Brightening near the core, and overall I like this sketch.

This is probably my third favorite sketch of the night. The first one is coming next and the second was the emission nebula above. This is NGC 3718 and NGC 3729 both spiral galaxies in Ursa Major. NGC 3718 was roundish but showed just the hint of a tip especially at the southern end. Core region was bright and uneven. NGC 3728 was elongated and showed some brightening in the core region. A pretty pair to observe if you have a chance this spring.

NGC 3992 or Messier 109, a large Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major. This is my favorite sketch of the night as I know I captured the detail I was observing in the eyepiece this night. Bright stellar nucleus, brighter core region and the hint of structure because of the variance in light observed. Just a terrific observation and this is making me think I need to re-sketch the Messier again (but after I get done with the five projects I have going.

I have others and I'll try to add some this week but in reality it will be next weekend as I have a lot to do this week. Hope you enjoyed sharing some of my observations and sketches. Look up at whatever turns your fancy!