Observing November 6th and 7th, 2012 with 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto

Well, I had met to get this report up this last weekend but due to the car accident, I had to put it off.  So here we go.  I had decided on this night to go out to Forest Land in Vernon because of the length of the trip. Since it was a work night I opted as did my observing friends to go to the Pit n Pole location. This met a quick drive out for my friend Mat and I and Jorge, while allowing for four or five hours of observing prior to packing up and driving home so we can all go to work the next day.

I arrived a lot latter than I wanted. Originally the plan was to get out there by 5:00pm to set up but that failed as I had to do some commitments at school.  So I came home, packed up the Pathfinder with the new Dobstuff 14" and my other materials I needed for the night. This time the packing was easy, and what a difference the new Baltic Birch base and mirror box made on lifting the items into the Pathfinder. I do need to remove the alt bearings on each side though to make it safe to load.  Since this night I have received my transport struts (they were a little harder to mount a the screw in part is uneven on a couple but they work now. It's just a matter of finding which travel strut works on which strut alignment) and it is now more than easier to transport the scope.

I arrived at the Pit n Pole after dark.  Mat was already there as was our friend Daniel.  I came in and Mat was using white light to finish his set up. So I came in, and using white light in about 10 minutes I was completely set up. I used the Catseye Collimation tools to collimate and found it hard to collimate in the dark even with the red light that clips on to the spider vane. The red light caused too much light and I just had a hard time seeing the reflections of the Catseye triangle. I got it aligned and with Mat's help as he did the collimation screws on the back of the mirror box, I was able to get a decent collimation. From this experience I learned that I really need to practice with my Catseye Collimation during the day so I am prepared to do it at night. In addition, I just paid today for a Howie Glatter 650n 2 inch barlow laser with a 2 inch tuBlug and a hologrpahic tool to help center the secondary at night.  I believe with these two I can get the collimation I want to nail so I can maximize the Zambuto.

Because of the darkness I was not able to make my movie of the setup, the azmuith and altitude motions and the breakdown and loading of the scope. I'll be doing this next observing trip as my friend Jorge has strong lights that will allow us to film all of these.

After collimating I went after some eye candy just to see how things were working.  Motions were fantastic this night, though as the cold set in they did offer an initial stiction. However Mat pointed out that his 16 inch dob that he made with outstanding motions does the same thing in the cold.  Anyway, first target was M31 and using the Telrad I nailed it. All three Messier galaxies here stood out nice and bright in the 30mm ES 82 degree and in the 20mm ES 68 degree eyepiece. The dark lanes exploded out and the contrast and detail on M31 was marvelous with the Zambuto mirror.

Next, I went to Cassiopeia and took in NGC 457 the Owl Cluster and Messier 103. In Messier 103 we saw color again (actually it was later as it rose higher) with the blue, yellow/orange and even some teal or green stuck out.  After viewing this I did M57 the Ring, and then Alberio.  After that it was time to get to work and this night, it meant work for me. Oh the fun of getting to know a new scope and breaking oneself in to it (notice, I didn't say breaking the scope in, I need to be broken in to the scope and I think that is true for most of us as we get new equipment).  Anyway, I had put on the 9x50 RACI finder and tried to use t and found that it was way off in alignment. This took me 40 minutes to figure out how to align the finderscope to the Telrad and eyepiece but I finally did it. Once done, it stayed on target all night.  Basically it meant realigning the finderscope a lot in order for the screws to work on moving the crosshairs to the target.

I had decided this night to go after the Herschel 400 II fall objects as I haven't been too faithful in recording my observations of them and keeping track of what I have done and what I haven't done. So this night I got started.  My first target was NGC 1169 and let me tell you, I had the most difficult time finding this object. I believe with the old XX14i I would have had it in a few minutes but not this night. Distraction of a possible medical condition (came back negative) and some fatigue played its part in me not being the usual star hopper I am. Using the Sky Pocket Atlas as an initial guide and then a much more detailed computerized chart, I tried over and over again to find the object. Finally, victory! I had Mat confirm it as I wasn't feelign confident this night. But sure enough I got it and here is the sketch I did the next night when I returned to do things totally on my own.

Here is my favorite sketch of the two nights. It is of NGC 1169, a galaxy in Perseus.  11/7/2012, 09:14pm MST; Antoniadi II; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT; V Mag. 11.6; Surface Brightness: 14.1; Size: 4.2' x 2.9'; 14" DobStuff with 10mm Pentax XW w Type I Paracorr.

Galaxy is pretty, rather bright and small though. Using averted vision helped to shows a faint halo with it. Core is rather bright also.  There is a 13 to 13.5 mag star imposed on the SW side of the core.

After this I then tried to star hop over to NGC 1161. Again, fatigue and worry I believe clouded my abilities and after a good 35 minutes I got this galaxy.  Also, I have to state observing on the right side after 11 years on the left is an adjutment also.

NGC 1161 Galaxy in Perseus.  11/7/2012; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT; Antoniadi II; V. Mag. 11.1; Surface Brightness 12.9; Size: 2.8'x2.0'; 14" DobStuff; 10mm Pentax XW Type 1 Paracorr; 

This is a pretty bright and small galaxy in an oval shape.  Bright inner core with a stellar nucleus. Two bright stars are just off to the west and NGC 1160 is nearby. 

Next came a hop over to NGC 1175, another small galaxy in Perseus.  This time things went a little better and I was able to get on this one a little faster. It also dawned on me as I am typing this that it had been 2 months since I had seriously observed. My skills were a little rusty this night, combined with the fatigue, the worry and a new scope.  

NGC 1175 Galaxy in Perseus; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley UT; v. Mag 12.3; Surface Brightness 12.4; Size: 1.9'x0.6'; Antoniadi II; 09:55pm MDT; 14" DobStuff with Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW and 20mm ES 68 degree with Type I Paracorr. 

Fairly faint galaxy with some fainter extensions. Elongated NNW to SSW.  Rather faint and viewed as a elongated shiver of light with an uneven surface brightness. 

M next hop was a just a tad hard until I got my bearings and then it was like old times.  I went over to NGC 1050 a galaxy in Perseus. 

NGC 1050 Galaxy in Perseus; November 7th, 2012; 10:35pm mST: Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr; 

Roundish galaxy, irregular in on the northern edge, hint of structure there, possible arm? Brighter near the core. 

My last object was NGC 1003 a galaxy in Perseus. 

NGC 1003 galaxy in Perseus; 11/7/2012; 10:55pm MST; Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW with Type I Paracorr; 

Galaxy is faint at mag 12.3 with a 13th mag star on its SE side.  There is some brightening on the northern side with some possible knotting there. Brighter in the core region.   

So, that was the work of two nights, along with a section of Sue French's book that I'll post latter with a few sketches.  How did the scope work? Great, but I need to make sure I put the finderscope not on the strut opposite of where the finder is, but nearer the finder. I want to be able to use the finderscope and the Telrad together.  Balance was taken care of with the ankle weights and I had no problem on either night with balance. The scope works brilliantly as designed but now it comes down to me as I adjust to using the scope. That means I need more time observing but the snow and cloud curse has hit! I really was hoping for some time out either Friday or Saturday but now the forecast has changed, and clouds and more clouds coming in. We'll see. I'll still try to get out.  Then again, with a new scope, new eyepieces, new collimation tools etc., I guess I should be lucky if I have clear skies at a new moon come March! I hope not. I hope the pattern breaks and come December I can view back at a dark site if not sooner.