Observing Session March 21st 2012 Pit n Pole

Well, I have been off work for the last week and I had been really hoping to get several observing sessions in during this new moon period. We had a storm move in last weekend and excited on Tuesday after dropping snow on Monday. By Tuesday the snow was all gone. So on Wednesday I and several of my observing friends decided to head out to the Pit. I wanted to go back to Forest Road 006 but after the mud debacle of last month, I was thinking that two days after a storm, it would be muddy, and that even the Pit would be moist. I was wrong! The Pit was totally dry, with no water in or on the upper portion of the soil. There were some very nice and large coyote tracks in the pit though from the storm on Monday. The paws were just under the size of my hand (I have small hands by the way).

When I got to the Pit, I arrived around 4:30p.m. because I wanted to get set up and then to just enjoy the peace and quiet of environment. Set up was easy and I got a very nice collimation job done on the 14 this time. However, it didn't look too inviting for observing as there were plenty of clouds in the way as this picture shows.

However, as I set up, the clouds began to thin just as SkippySky Astronomy and the National Weather Service forecast said it would.

This picture shows Mt. Timpanogas looking east from the Pit. Their is a legend on the shape of Mt. Timpanogas and from Wikipedia it states that the mountain "resembles the profile of a sleeping woman. Various legends are told of an Indian maiden who died of grief after her lover was killed, with one version the basis for a ballet, but there is no evidence that any of these are actual Native American myths. It is possible the romantic story was created in the early 1900s by Eugene Lusk "Timp" Roberts, a professor at Brigham Young University who initiated an annual hike and pageant intended to "sell Timpanogos to the world." The reality is that glaciers formed the shape of the mountains and were present until quite recent in geological terms. The legend that the Native American woman was transformed into the mountain is kinda of cool though.

There is the XX14i set up and cooling at sunset. My chair in the background reminds me that my friend and ATMer extraordinaire Mat is helping me build a new chair (made of red oak) that has the latches in the back and is similar in design to a Catsperch. Hopefully it comes out well and in April I can show you that process on an entry.

Here's the top of the OTA of the 14. That is a Paracorr I on there that I am still figuring out the best way to use. I may drop the finder as I use the 27mm Panoptic as a finder eyepiece, and perhaps a 30mm ES 82 degree that I want to order.

By sunset the clouds were really starting to disperse and by dark, a clear and steady sky above 35 degrees was present. I began this night in Orion looking at several reflection nebula and did one sketch that I'll share here of NGC 2071 and Messier 78. Again, click on a sketch to see them larger and in a row.

Because of the darkness of the site no filter was needed. Also, you will see a change in how I am presenting my sketches. I am simply putting a label of the object on the front and the key information I am now writing on the back. In a way, I can include a lot of my observing information right on the back of the sketch. Doh!! I should have thought of that a LONG time ago.

Here is the information on that object. NGC 2071 with Messier 78; March 21st 2012 9:25 MDT or March 22nd, 2012 03:25 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; 14" Dob with 27mm Panoptic.
Both nebula were easily seen though by sheer size M78 stuck out first. NGC 2071 surrounds a mag. 7.5 star I believe and is also easily seen.

After this I hit NGC 2023 a reflection nebula near the Horsehead or B33. NGC 2023 was not too hard to see with a filter but without the filter it took averted vision and I am not sure I can say for sure I saw it then. I did do a sketch and may insert that here later.

It's funny sometimes how observing goes. Sometimes the adventure is in chasing down the objects on one's list, then other times other things cause "little adventures." The next adventure of the night as I was finishing up in Orion was I had forgotten my observing coat at home and Mat, who due to a family obligation was coming out late, was going to swing by my house and pick up the coat. I was expecting him around 9:00p.m. to 9:15p.m. and then my friend Shahid and Jorge who were at the site observing and imaging, noticed emergency vehicle lights up the road from us at a place called Five Mile Pass. Jorge got out his binoculars out and saw that it was police cars, ambulances and other emergency vehicles. At first we thought the sheriff was doing a speed trap and certainly Mat must have got a ticket. Once Jorge saw that it was other type of emergency vehicles, the concern changed to was there an accident? I tried to call Mat but no answer. Mat had tried to call me about what was going on. At 9:15p.m. with his parking lights on and his son Jeff present, Mat showed up. Five Mile Pass is used by ATVers and motorcycles during the day, and in this case at night. An ATVer had flipped his vehicle on to himself and was injured. Glad Mat was fine but I hope the ATVer is fine also.

Mat now set up using his red light and we all went back to work. The next object that I had moved off to prior to this excitement was Messier 95 as I wanted to observe SN2012aw. It was easily seen in the eyepiece of the 14 and here is my sketch of it. Both Jorge and I saw the hint of arms that I put into the sketch here. The SN is the middle bright star on the top arm. I also have to say that it took time to see the bar and the arm structure but in time, with averted vision and a couple of other observing skills, the detail came out of Messier 95.

Messier 95 with SN2012aw at Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah. Antoniadi II, 14" dob with 10mm & 7mm & 5mm Pentax XW. Best view for shape was with the 10mm and 7mm eyepieces. Sky conditions were so so for the 5mm, but when the seeing cleared, detail was best in the 5mm.

My next set of objects were more galaxies (it is spring!). NGC 3900 is the next object below.

NGC 3900 a galaxy in Leo. March 22nd, 2012, 12:15a.m. MDT or 06:15 UT; 14" dob 10mm Pentax X, Antoniadi II, Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah.

A small galaxy with a stellar core. No other structure is evident. Quite common for a Herschel 400 galaxy (some will surprise you!).

The next galaxy is just below NGC 3900 and is NGC 3912.

NGC 3912 Galaxy in Leo. 3/22/2012; 12:15a.m. or 6:15 UT; 14" dob with 10mm Pentax XW, Antoniadi II; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah.

This is a smaller galaxy, with no structure, no brightening near the core and no nucleus observed.

From here I went to NGC 3902 another small galaxy in the constellation of Leo.

NGC 3902; SBbc galaxy in Leo; march 22, 2012; 12:25a.m. MDT or 06:25 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 10mm Pentax XW.

A middle of the road galaxy, not large in size but with a brightening near the core with a stellar nucleus.

The next set of galaxies I've actually observed and sketched but I redid the sketches tonight using the Mellish technique. I thought a comparison would be good. In the 27mm Panoptic they are all three visible in a neat row but I decided to capture two together and then to do the third one by itself. The higher magnification used allowed more details to be observed.

NGC 3686 (at the top) NGC 3684 (bottom below NGC 3686) and NGC 3691 (to the left no structure).

I actually sketched digitally and in person these four galaxies (the three above and the next sketch) on April 1st, 2011. Here are my notes from this time first though.

NGC 3686 is a SBbc galaxy in Leo. Observed on 3/22/2012 t 12:45a.m. MDT or 06:45 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.
This is the brightest of the triplet or better yet the quartet of galaxies that are here. It is a little elongated, perhaps stretched is the better term. The core region is very bright. Possible structure at high magnification on the NE side with averted vision.

NGC 3684 Sbc galaxy in Leo. 3/22/2012; 12:45 am MDT or 06:45 UT; see the info on NGC 3686 for conditions and items used and location.
This is a relatively bright galaxy that lays NW to SE. It is not as bright as NGC 3686. Did see with averted vision a strong hint of structure to the SW, possible arm. Included in sketch but not as faint as I need to make it.

NGC 3691 a galaxy in Leo. See NGC 3686 for conditions, equipment and location.
This is a rather faint galaxy, somewhat elongated also. Size is moderate and it has an even surface brightness so no detail is seen.

Here is my digital sketch of these four galaxies from April 1st, 2011.

Here is the original sketch made from the 21mm Stratus which I don't own anymore. I have to admit that the Pentax eyepieces provide a much improved contrast as does the 27mm Panoptic over the 21mm Stratus.

Here is my sketch of NGC 3681.

NGC 3681 SB galaxy in Leo; 3/22/2012; 12:45a.m. MDT or 06:45 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 5mm, 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

NGC 3681 is a pretty bright galaxy that is roundish in shape with a stellar nucleus and a bright inner core region. Hint of a little structure is possible (?) and hinted at in the sketch.

My next object is yet another galaxy (they all will be) and is NGC 3685 in Leo.
NGC 3655 Sc galaxy in Leo; 3/22/2012, 1:05a.m. or 07:05 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14 inch dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

This is a rather bright galaxy that lays SSW to NNE. The core region is really bright and stands out with a really stellar nucleus. Fun Observation.

Next is NGC 4179. By this time I knew I was done in Leo so I took advantage of the position of Virgo and went to work there.

NGC 4179 SO galaxy in Virgo. 3/22/2012, Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II, 14" dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

This galaxy has a bright inner core, and is edge on. Rather bright overall and is a nice one to grab if your in the area.

I was feeling on a row so staying in the general area I now went to find NGC 4030.

NGC 4030 Sbc galaxy in Virgo; March 22nd, 2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

This is a rather large oval that sits NW to SW and is rather bright. It has a 10.5 mag star and a 2.2mag star to the SSW. These stars bracket the galaxy. Two arms are visually seen and included in the sketch below.

My next objects were two galaxies that are rather close to each other so I sketched them as I saw them in the eye piece. I have to admit that with NGC 4123 I am very happy with the sketch (only one sketch that is coming up is better in my opinion), to the point I am pleased that it captures the essence of what I saw. Time was around 1:40a.m. MDT or 07:40 UT I believe.

NGC 4123 SBb galaxy in Virgo. March 22, 2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; Orion XX14i dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW. This is the top galaxy in the sketch.

NGC 4123 is a pretty bright galaxy and also rather large. Sits NW to SE slightly and has a small but very bright inner core region that also has a stellar nucleus. Excellent view of this galaxy and hint of structure here as sketched.

NGC 4116 SBc galaxy in Virgo; March 22nd, 2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; 14" dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

This is a somewhat bright galaxy though not as bright nor as large as NGC 4123, but it is still relatively large. Lays NNW to SSE and the core appears brighter and this brightness extends down the axis of the galaxy.

Now I hopped over to NGC 4536 and NGC 4523, both galaxies in Virgo.

NGC 4536 SBbc galaxy in Virgo; March 22nd, 2012, Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

Very bright and really large galaxy. Lays NW to SE. NGC 4536 has a bright core region and a stellar nucleus that is easily seen. Spiral structure is visible with both averted and direct vision, though averted popped out the detail more at first until I adjusted to the view. Time helped also on this one. Pretty galaxy reminding me of NGC 7479 in terms of the S pattern seen here.

NGC 4533 Scd galaxy in Virgo. March 22nd 2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14" dob with 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

This is a rather faint galaxy and I had to use averted vision to pick up the surface brightness and get it to fully pop out. Lays N-NW to S-SE and NGC 4533 appears as a faint streak of light with no other structure evident and there was no brightening near the core.

My last sketch for this night was NGC 4535, and to be honest, it is my favorite sketch that I have done using the Mellish method. If there was time I would send this Australia for the Scott Mellish competition that is going to occur in April. I am not sure if the version I post here will do it justice. After this Virgo was up in Dob's Hole and I was tired and didn't want to fight moving the scope around to get the objects I needed so after this observation, I stopped. The sketch took a lot out of me both visually, physically and emotionally.

NGC 4535 SBc galaxy (barred spiral) in Virgo. March 22nd, 2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah; Antoniadi II; 14 inch dob with 5mm, 7mm and 10mm Pentax XW.

This is a very large and rather bright galaxy. The core is bright and a stellar nucleus is easily seen. The spiral arms are detectable with averted vision and patience, though they are faint. Being dark adapted helps to secure them. Confirmed though by my friend Shahid. Some 13th to 14th magnitude stars were evident here. NGC 4526 is to the SSW of this wonderful galaxy that needs aperture and dark skies to really have it reveal its beauties.

Well, I started to pack up after this and realized that I wasn't that tired. I was relaxed and very at peace with myself and the world around me. It was a terrific night and one thing my friend Shahid reminded me of this night, was the importance of taking time to not look through a scope and just look and enjoy the sky when your at a dark site. It is just tremendous to think of all the billions upon billions of stars and galaxies that lay up there with all their wonderful objects. It reminds one that our life is fleeting and we need to treasure each day we have. Well, lets see, now that I have weeded, spread new mulch in the flower beds and garden, cut back the rose bushes and cleaned up the yard for spring, I think its time to call it day. It has been too bad that the skies have been cloudy since Wednesday. I really wanted a multiple day observing time. Perhaps in April. New moon is on my birthday, April 20th so I am hoping to get out for the 19th and the 20th. Clear skies to you and may the wonders of the universe capture your soul.