Observing August 30th 2013 UFO's near Five Mile Pass/Camp Floyd ????

What an interesting night! First, here are some photo's I took while driving out to the observing location at Pit n Pole:

Near Cedar Fort. The clouds are not looking promising. . . but I'll play with this picture and it will make a nice view of the mountains with the clouds and desert. 

This is raw and I haven't played with the picture but I love the capture of clouds and light from the sun as I drive out the roads to the west desert.  To me this is simply beautiful.  Well, it would be more beautiful if there were no clouds since I was going star gazing. 

Again, just love the contrast. 

Another raw image and you can see the Pathfinder's shadow and my shadow with the cell phone camera. Love the play of the shadows in the distance. I was going to zoom in but my friend Mat called and I would rather talk at this point that take pictures. Having said that if you look back in my blog at the Pit n Pole location, you'll find that this area is really getting over run by the sage brush and cheet grass.  I wonder in how many more years (it's been 2 or 3 that has really changed the site) before the weeds take over! 

Well last night, Mat, Allan and myself along with Dallin and Greg (not sure on the last name) all met at the Pit n Pole to observe. Yep, I call it observing. We got set up and were ready and those darn clouds you can see in the picture above started coming and going, advancing and retreating.  As we were collimating we suddenly heard a very loud rat a tat tat that repeated in spurts. It sounded to me like a .50 caliber machine gun going off.  Five Mile Pass had a lot, and I mean A LOT of RV's with ATV's and though they are not suppose to, sometimes people bring firearms out and shoot them off (for safety this area is suppose to be a no shoot area so ATVers don't get shot while driving).  I used my 9x50 finderscope as did Mat and we couldn't detect any shooting. We thought for sure we'd see a muzzle flash or a tracer going off. Nothing.

As night fell, I noticed in the eastern sky there were flashes behind the hills you can see in the distance which were east of us. These flashes looked like artillery impacts and the Mat had suggested that the sounds were artillery practice from  Camp Williams, a National Guard camp that does have heavy artillery. Though I agreed with that but struck me as weird was that the flashed were in the vicinity of a very small town and former US army camp called Camp Floyd.  Established in 1858 by Brigadier General Albert Sidney Johnston, who later would become famous for leading the Confederate Army in the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh where he was killed.  General Johnston had been ordered West with 3500 men to put down a Mormon Rebellion by President James Buchanan. Brigham Young and Mormon leaders had agreed to allow Johnston to pass through Salt Lake City and then march out to where the Camp Floyd site is, a good distance away. At the location Johnston ordered a camp to be built. Later this site was used as a stagecoach in by the Pony Express. See this link on more info on Camp Floyd.

Anyway, these flashes over Camp Floyd didn't make sense to me, so at Mat's suggestion, I grabbed my cell phone, tried to take pictures of the flashes, that didn't work so I took two short movies. I have posted the movies to YouTube so you can see.  The first one is lame, it's me trying to be funny on camera which failed, but at around 29 to 35 seconds you can see the flashes that occur. they go fast so you have to watch carefully. Then skip the rest, it's me talking like a news caster trying to say the Taliban is attacking Camp Floyd, the center of U.S. or something silly like that.  The second movie actually captures in the distance a couple of actual fireworks going off.  So mystery solved.  I find there is usually a rational explanation to most mysteries. Dallin and his friend also had arrived and told us by now that they were fireworks being set off and it is Camp Floyd Days this weekend.

Video 1

Video 2

The events of the night did lead me to thinking though how when we see the unexplained we as humans seek to make meaning of that. I did last night. It was important and fun to try and figure it out. So in this case these lights and sounds were a UFO to us in the sense they were lights in the sky making sounds, but we figured out what they were.  It also reminded me that until I do know I need to keep my mouth shut so I don't worry other people about my speculation which often is done in jest or in fun.

The rest of the night I couldn't work on any list or sketching objects due to the clouds.  Mat and I did a comparison of our less glass vs. more glass eyepieces and on M51, M13, the galaxy next to M13 NGC 6207 and I know that in my case my 10mm Baader Classic Ortho had a sharper view, more detail view than the 10mm Pentax XW.  Not by much, but just enough to see the difference. I believe Mat had a similar experience. By 11:00 pm we broke down and loaded up, and of course we then had a sucker hole open back up but it was too late. So off to home and in bed by 12:30a.m. I would have preferred to have observed til 3:00 or 4:00a.m., spent the night and came home. Oh, well. Next up, some outreach for me and then my next observing nights will be the Utah Star Party! I hope the weather rocks which it should and we have three glorious days of observing and visiting.


Sagittarius A* as seen by Chandra

Universe Today has a good article on Sagittarius A*, the super massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It talks about what a horrible feeder it is and shows an image of the black hole, while the regions around it by Chandra in X-Ray.  Here is the image and the link.


Utah Star Party, Vernon and Silver Sage Cafe and Store

The Utah Star Party first annual event is going to take place come Thursday, October 3rd through Saturday, October 5th, 2013.  Next year we may keep the same location or we may move it to southern Utah so more people from there can attend and I am hoping to secure a National Park or Monument to hold it in. If that happens then we'd do one night of public outreach and 3 nights of observing.

So one question I have gotten is what services are available in Vernon? Not much really but there is a small cafe and store called the Silver Sage that is open there.  Here are a couple of pictures of the shop and cafe. Notice that the pictures are two years old but look at the prices for breakfast and lunch/dinner! The person who posted these pictures says that he and his family always stop there for a wonderful mean for a great price that leaves you filled but wanting more, it is that good. Now with my Celiac disease I can't eat there so perhaps some will give them a try.  They are about 7 miles or so from the observing area.

Click on the images to see larger versions.  Also you can get drinks there and lots of stuff.  It is right on the main highway, State Road or SR 36 as you leave Vernon and SR36 wraps and turns east right before the Benmore/Vernon Reservoir turnout you turn right on to get out to the observing area.  So you can get grub out there.

In terms of toilets there will be the ones at the Vernon Reservoir and then a couple of portable toliets with the double bag on them that you close up in case you really have to go. The toilets will be protected by my old light panels and no, you cannot see through those. We'll have a shower available but you have to supply the 5 gallons of water if you want to use it (yes, you step in and now one can see you, its private).  Food and water and drink is on your own, please no alcohol. I am really excited and hoping the weather is really good that weekend and lots of images and observing is done! Feel free to come out even if you can only stay for one night, it will be a really good time. I am looking forward to spending time with my friends Mat, Jorge, Jeff and others who will be out there on the Forest Land. Bring something to boil water and make something hot to drink, it will get cold out there at night!

Here is a link to a cute story on the Silver Sage done by the Salt Lake Tribune in 2005.  I can say that I have never seen a . . .  no never mind. Here are some more images.

Here is what the Silver Sage looks like, even today. Yep, that's Ice and a gas pump. 

Serving up a Chili Verde Burito. Yep, good food, good prices. Note, I haven't been in the cafe so I am going off what other have reported here. 


David vs. Goliath in Eyepieces/10mm Baader Classic Ortho vs Pentax XW vs Delos/ 20mm Pentax XW vs 17.3 Delos TeleVue

Pentax 10mm XW vs Baader Ortho Classic 10mm

If you look at the 10mm Baader Classic Ortho on the left, and the 10mm Pentax XW on the right, you can understand the title of my post. Recently, well about a month ago I purchased some more eyepieces since it seems the clouds at new moon are never going to end.  Above you can see the Baader Classic Ortho 10mm and my favorite eyepiece, the 10mm Pentax XW.  The 10mm Pentax XW is my work horse and is found most often in my focuser.  However, after reading Alvin Huey's site and a couple of conversations with some well respected observers, I was convinced that I needed to give the idea of less is more in terms of glass a chance. The premise is that you actually can eek out some fainter stars and some fainter details on DSO's by using the less amount of glass elements in the Ortho's. I ordered the 6mm and the 10mm Baader Classic Ortho and recently under a dark sky got to put them to the test. I am not going to do a full review as an outstanding review of them was done by Hernando in April at his blog (link).

Now I have to say, I have the 12mm Delos and the 17.3 Delos and I had the 10mm Delos (sold it) to compare. I did not use the 17.3 Delos per below.  The 12mm I did a little comparing to but I did compare all 3 10mm eyepieces.  I was shocked to a degree in what I found. Now remember, these are my eyes, my scope and the skies I use are dark, so your mileage as they say, may varying.  In examining faint objects I found that the 10mm Pentax XW was just a little sharper, and the contrast was just a tad better to my eye than the 10mm TeleVue Delos. I openly admit to my bias for the Pentax XW's, I love them and enjoy them. However the Delos was so close that if something were to happen to my beloved Pentax XW 10mm, and I couldn't replace it, the Delos 10mm would serve as an equal replacement.

Now what blew me away was the clarify of the 10mm Baader Classic Ortho with its less glass. Yes, with a 50 degree field of view it doesn't equate to the 70 or 72 degrees that the Pentax XW or Delos give, but it did pop a couple to several more field stars and in the case of NGC 5533 it was the BCO (Baader Classic Ortho) that popped the spiral structure, not the Pentax or Delos. Once seen though, I was able to discern the structure and arms in the Pentax XW fist, then in the Delos.

So my take on this notion of less is more is very true. My friend Jorge agreed with me in the field and the Baader did show more than the heavy weight hitters. Now that doesn't mean I'm selling the Pentax 10mm XW, and it is still my first choice, but on those nights when I suspect there is more detail, the BCO 10mm is going in! I can wait to use the BCO in my refractor also.  If you want a comparison of the 6mm BCO to the 6mm Delos go over to Hernando's review and take a read.  If your really into maximizing detail in the DSO's that you observe, I do recommend the BCO's, especially the 6mm and the 10mm at $74 to $79 each (depending on where you purchase them from).

Pentax 20mm XW vs 17.3 TeleVue Delos

I decided to get the 17.3 Delos not because I really needed, the Paracorr I have cleans up the 20mm and 14mm Pentax XW for me and thus I have an excellent pair of eyepieces there.  I just like the 17mm range and its nice on some nights when the upper winds and atmosphere are cooperating fully to have that range of eyepiece.

I used the 20mm Pentax XW on several objects and the 17.3mm Delos and found that I much prefered the contrast and color of the Pentax XW 20mm over the 17.3 Delos.  I found that I was able to see fainter objects easier in the 20mm Pentax XW and I found that in the 17.3 Delos faint objects, were fainter. It doesn't mean that I didn't like the 17.3 Delos, I did, but the 20mm Pentax XW stays in the finder more often I think. Part of this may be my adaptation to viewing and observing through the Pentax XW's over the last several years and thus my eye sees more with them. I'll keep both the 12mm and the 17.3mm Delos as they fit a niche and I really do LOVE the 12mm, the 17.3 was just a little off but I'm glad I have it.


Observing Report for August 9th and 11th, Forest Road 006

Well, this is the fifth time I have tried to post this so I'll try one more time.  On the night of August 9th I went to the Forest Road 006 site on the National Forest Land south of Vernon, Utah.  There my friend Mat and I observed til late, broke down and went to bed.  Here are some pictures from the next morning. You'll notice just the Pathfinder and both Mat and I came out in the Pathfinder as his van is still in the shop from the last time we observed together.

Mat's Tent and Dob, my base and Pathfinder. I slept in the back on my 2 inch memory foam with my CPAP machine working and I slept great! 

Here you can see where the scopes were set up on the field (this is the field we'll use for the Utah Star Party) and looking toward the West. 

Looking more north-west to the field and the camp.  

This is the view looking south form the observing field. 

On Sunday night, August 11th,  when I went to the same area to observe with my friend Jorge, there was a fire to the north about 30 miles away called the Patch Springs Fire. You can see the picture I took here. Luckily the smoke did not impact our observing that night. 

Well on Friday night I had an outstanding night of observing, probably the best skies since last June. Sunday night was good, but not quite as good. Here are some of the objects I observed with their STSci Images.

 1. NGC 6772 Planetary Nebula in Aquila; August 12, 2013, 01:00a.m. MDT or 07:00UT; FR006 Site 2, Cougar Paws; Antoniadi II; 14" dob., 10mm Pentax XW w Narrowband and OIII filters;

This is a round diffused ball.  It appears to be teal or a taint of green to it but mainly it is a diffused ball.  The central star is not visible at this magnification or with these filters.  It is a fun PN to observe because the NB filter shows its shape and brightness, yet the OIII filter shows the PN as smaller with more mottling and edges of brightness forming an outer ring.  Use the NB filter to pop it, then observe it with the PN.

2. NGC 5490. On accident I actually did a sketch of this galaxy on each night. So I'll include both.

STSci Image

NGC 5490 Galaxy in Bootes; August 9th, 2013; 10:20pm MDT or 04:20UT; Antoniadi II; FR 006 Site 2 Cougar's Paws; 14" Dob., 14mm Pentax XW, 10mm Pentax XW & 10mm Baader Classic Ortho; Paracorr Type I.

Small bright galaxy, round in shape, then elongates just a little with averted vision.  Outer diffusion with bright inner core, and a stellar nucleus.  The Baader Classic Ortho showed slightly more detail in terms of a few fainter stars and some minor detail in the shape of the galaxy then the Pentax 10mm XW. The Pentax did extremely well but there is something about less glass here that works and on other objects. The Pentax XW will be my primary eyepieces, but the Baader Classic Ortho I'll use to bring out just that tad more detail. I really saw this with M13.

NGC 5490 Galaxy Galaxy in Bootes, August 11th, 2013; 10:30pm MDT/04:30UT; Antoniadi II; FR 006 Site 2 Cougar's Paw; 14" dob; 20mm, 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type I;

Fairly bright galalxy with the out structure diffused, bright inner core and stellar nucleus. Sits inside a quadrilateral of stars.

3. NGC 5523 Spiral Galaxy in Bootes;  August 9th, 2013; 11:15pm MDT or 05:15 UT: FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi II; 14" Dob, 20mm Pentax XW and 17.3 TeleVue Delos; Paracorr Type I;

Very faint object that shows better with averted vision.  Averted vision shows brightening in the core region. No stellar nucleus is evident. The Pentax 20mm XW showed the galaxy much brighter and with more detail than the 17.3mm Delos.  The contrast for me was better in the Pentax XW 20mm than the 17.3mm Delos. I openly admit that may be because my eye is trained so well with the Pentax line so it knows what to expect but I really preferred the 20mm Pentax XW in this observation.

STSci Image

My Sketch

4. NGC 5529 Galaxy in Bootes; August 10th, 2013, 11:55p.m. MDT or 05:55 UT; FR 006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi II; 14" Dob; 14mm Pentax XW; 10mm Baader Classic Ortho; Type I Paracorr;

This is a faint but very elongated galaxy. Averted image shows a brightening near the core but no stellar nucleus. In the image you can see a wonderful dust lane since we are viewing it edge on but the dust lane was not evident in the observation. The 10mm Baader Classic Ortho once again showed slightly more detail then the 14mm Pentax XW.

STSci Image

My Sketch

5. NGC 5533 Galaxy in Bootes; August 11th, 2013; 12:25a.m. MDT or 06:25 UT; FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost; Antoniadi II; 14" dob, 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW, 10mm Baader Classic Ortho;

Bright galaxy with a bright core and a stellar nucleus. The outer structure shows hint of structure in the observation with the 10mm Pentax XW and the 10mm Baader Classic Ortho.  On a side not I got a SQM-L reading of 21.88 while observing this object.

STSci Image

My Sketch

6. NGC 6751 Planetary Nebula in Aquila; August 12th 2013; 12:30a.m. MDT or 06:30 UT; Antoniadi II; FR 006 Site 2 Cougar's Paws; 10mm Pentax XW, Type I Paracorr; OIII and NB Filters;

Small roundish/ball shape PN in the NB filter.  Central star was visible at all magnifications and with both filters.  OIII filter shows a ring shape to the PN and provides the best view for details of the PN.  With the OIII the ring shows an uneven brightness.

STSci Image

My Sketch

NGC 6751 as this photograph of the sketch is a little brighter so I'll include it.

7. Sharpless 2-91, Supernova Remanent (SNR) in Cygnus;  This sketch is done over 2 nights; July 29th, 2013, Wolf Creek Pass; 11:36pm MDT or 05:36 UT at 8500 feet, Antoniadi II;  8/10/2013 FR006 Site 1 Owl's Roost @ 01:10 am MDT or 07:10 UT, Antoniadi II; 14" Dob with 27mm TeleVue Panoptic & OIII filter. 

This is a very faint object but when identified, is relatively easy in terms of viewing as a thin ribbon. The image I posted is not what I saw. I saw a faint and thin ribbon that brightened in certain areas. The ribbon was brightest around and above star HD185735 as it runs above that star and then through some 11th and 12th magnitude USNO stars.  OIII allowed me to follow it to star TYC2150-1413-1 where it flares and fades out.  Very excited to have observed and captured it.  I recommend that if you go after this that you are use to viewing faint DSO's or spending time finding as much detail out of the fainter DSO's you search.  This is where having gone after many of the fainter Herschel 2500 really helped out. 

I have a second sketch I did to confirm and I made it brighter as you will have to play with the sketch below to see it. The second sketch is brighter and I'll add it tomorrow after I photograph it.  


 My Sketch

Now for a different highlight. That Sunday night and Monday morning Jorge and I put out stuff up as it got very windy and watched the Perseids as they were bright and wonderful. Jorge made a nice video of the Perseids at this link on YouTube. We went to bed around 3:00a.m. in our SUV's and had a pretty good night of observing and talking.

Here is the other sketch from the morning of August 12th, 2013 after 1:00a.m. or so.


I have become frustrated with the blog over the last 3 weeks. I have attempted to load 7 different entries and I only get part saved and then it doesn't post the entries. As such I am going to have to decide whether I want to continue with this site or move the blog. If you suggestions on a blogging site that is free please let me know.  I'll try to post these again and see what happens.



Supernova and Kilonova.

Lifecycle of the Sun

I love supernova, whether they are Type I or Type II.  I find it fascinating that a star greater than 8 times the mass of the Sun will live a very short life (in astronomical terms) and end their life by blowing up, leaving either a neutron star or a stellar black hole.  A star like our Sun, with a binary companion, after going through its red giant stage, will shed its outer layers and then the core will become a hot object, called a white dwarf, about the size of the earth. This white dwarf will cool over time. If it is like our Sun, it will be a planetary nebula for a thousand or so years until its outer layers drift off, no longer illuminated by hot white dwarf leaving only the white dwarf. The white dwarf is no longer having thermonuclear reactions, all reactions have stopped. The white dwarf is not generating heat, it it simply hot, usually having a carbon oxygen core that is very hot and takes billions of years to cool. Now if that white dwarf is a companion to another star, is close enough in orbit to steal mass from its companion, as that companion star nears the end of its life it will swell into a red giant star and the white dwarf, if it is close enough, will begin to pull mass off the red giant.  You can see this in this image and read about the process in depth from this link.

To provide an example of how big a star like our Sun is when it becomes a red giant is best seen in this image. 

Now as the white dwarf continues to steal mass from the red giant companion star, the mass of the white dwarf begins to increase.  When the white dwarf accretes and reaches a limit known as the Chandrasekhar Mass limit (1.44 solar masses which means 1.44 times the mass of the current Sun; though this is listed as 1.4 solar masses in some sources) the white dwarf begins to undergo nuclear fusion and in a matter of seconds, the remaining mass, carbon/oxygen or if the  original star is larger than our Sun, the white dwarf will be comprised of a oxygen-neon–magnesium core, collapses and the white dwarf explodes into a Type I Supernova. This link shows on PBS NOVA how this process works. 

Just to clarify, in some cases both stars in a binary system will become white dwarfs without the first one exploding as a Type I Supernova. In this case the gravity of the two white dwarfs can be drawn to each other in a dance of death, until when they merge, their mass exceeds that 1.44 solar mass limit and they explode as a Type One Supernova.  

When the white dwarf explodes, the explosion is massive. If it had a companion star, that star has some of its outer atmosphere blown off and the remaining star is sent hurtling faster than the other stars in the area of space around it, fleeing from the explosion.  There is nothing left of the white dwarf that explodes. Unlike a Type II Supernova where a massive star explodes, leaving a neutron star/pulsar or a stellar black hole. These massive stars that cause a Type II Supernova, are so large, some have an orbit out between Mars and Jupiter 
(as shown in this picture). This image shows how big Betelgeuse is compared to our Sun, the red dot in the middle and the star Deneb. Both Betelgeuse and Deneb are large enough stars that they will end their lives as supernova. 

Betelgeause from above has created and burned through most of these layers. A massive star will burn through these layers in this amount of time per layer: 

Star burns through a succession of nuclear fusion fuels:
Hydrogen burning: 10 Myr
Helium burning: 1 Myr
Carbon burning: 1000 years
Neon burning: ~10 years
Oxygen burning: ~1 year
Silicon burning: ~1 day

Then it forms Iron, and in milliseconds of the core exceeding 1.4 masses of Iron, BOOM, the Supernova explodes. A star like our Sun will burn for about 10 to 12 billion years and the Sun per above, has been burning for just over 5 billion years. 

As massive giant stars age, they produce "onion layers" (see above) of heavier and heavier elements in their interiors. However, stars will not fuse elements heavier than iron. Fusing iron doesn't release energy. It uses up energy. Thus a core of iron builds up in the centers of massive supergiants.

Eventually, the iron core reaches something called the Chandrasekhar Mass , which is about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. When something is this massive, not even electron degeneracy pressure can hold it up.

At this point, the core collapses and two important things happen:

1. Protons and electrons are pushed together to form neutrons and neutrinos in the core.
2. Even though neutrinos don't interact easily with matter, at densities as high as they are here, they exert a tremendous outward pressure.

The outer layers fall inward when the iron core collapses. When the core stops collapsing (this happens when the neutrons start getting packed too tightly -- neutron degeneracy), the outer layers crash into the core and rebound, sending shock waves outward.
These two effects -- neutrino outburst and rebound shock wave -- cause the entire star outside the core to be blow apart in a huge explosion: a type II supernova!
Supernovae are really bright -- about 10 billion times as luminous as the Sun. Supernovae rival entire galaxies in brightness for weeks. They tend to fade over months or years.

During the supernova, a tremendous amount of energy is released. Some of that energy is used to fuse elements even heavier than iron! This is where such heavy elements like zinc and uranium come from!

The material that gets ejected into space as a result of the supernova becomes part of the interstellar medium. New stars and planets form from this interstellar medium. Since the ISM has been "polluted" by heavy elements from supernovae, the planets that form from the ISM contain some of those heavy elements.

The collapsed core is also left behind by a type II supernova explosion. If the mass of the core is less than 2 or 3 solar masses, it becomes a neutron star. If more than 2 or 3 solar masses remains, not even neutron degeneracy pressure can hold the object up, and it collapses into a black hole.

Now this is a massive explosion in either case, a Type Ia or a Type IIa.  10 billion times as luminous as the Sun means these Supernova outshine initially, for several months, the brightness of the galaxy they explode in.  If a star is really massive, like this star, VV Cephi:

when they go supernova they often have a burst of energy, released from their two poles, called a gamma ray burst. For massive stars like VV Cephi, these gamma ray bursts are long.  However there are short gamma ray bursts that occur and astronomers think they know why.

For stars that leave a neutron star, when a neutron star, which is VERY dense merges with another neutron star or with a black hole, that explosion that occurs Astronomers have long suspected that an item called a Kilonova happens. This is when a neutron star, left from a massive star after the star has gone through the supernova stage, falls into a black hole or merges with another neutron star. As shown in this NASA image:

Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Field (STScI)

In 1 you have two neturon stars orbiting and falling into each other. In 2 they merge cause a super heated explosion with a lot of radiation. This explosion results in 3. a short gamma ray burst until the new object, probably a black hole begins to devour the remains of the two neutron stars while heating up the remaining gas that surrounds the black hole.  Eventually, the stellar black hole will not have the material around it as it devours it or spits it back out into space and it will remain unseen at that point. That is what a Kilonova is. Hard to observe as they are very short. If you want to learn more and have a better picture in your head here are some links: and they have a good video of the images put together showing the Kilonova. 

NASA/Hubbe Site on Kilonova discovery. 

It was the Best of Nights, It was the Worst of Nights . . .

I got out before anyone to the observing site, Pit n Pole, and took pictures of the clouds. Then I noticed something. 

If you look carefully, you can see a shadow that is being cast from a cloud from the Sun. Cool! 

Here you can see the shadow a little better. 

Here is a closeup of the shadow. 

 My 14" cooling and notice Mat's new van in the background. Especially the right side that is showing here. 

I had a different but good experience last Friday night. It was clear all day, then clouded up but my friend Mat and I headed out anyway. Good enough. We got out to our site and the clouds had parted so we began to set up. As we did we had 3 people in a car pull up and I saw a box in the car, a scope.

We introduced ourselves and then went about setting up. They had a 10" Apertura Dob with a RACI 9x50 and a Telrad. I showed Dave, the guy with the 10" how to use the Howie Glatter collimation tools that I had (he had just ordered them) and then I went back to my 14" to use the Catseye to collimate and then check using the Howie Glatter system I have.

By now we were in twilight and both my friend Mat and I aligned. As soon as we aligned, we pulled out our 10x50's bino's and started looking around for fun, to see what we could see and challenge our eyes to see. I'm really getting into including objects on my list hat challenge me, to push my eyes.  Matt gave up before me and went and got on Saturn. After showing Saturn, Mat offered to Jeremy, Dave's nephew to use his 8 inch homemade dob that he has (it's for sale!).  He thanked Mat but was hesitant. As it was dark I check out a few objects and I have some nice faint objects down in Cygnus and that was covered in clouds. In addition to be just honest, it was horrible conditions, Antoniadi IV I'd give it. However Sagittarius was up and the summer Milky Way looked good.

I then had Dave and Jeremy join me and showed them how to use a basic atlas, in this case the Sky Pocket Atlas and showed them how to hunt down objects like M22, M8, the Trifed. Mat showed them how to hunt down M51 also which was easily view able. Mat also showed Jeremy how to use the Rigel on his scope as he has that instead of a Telrad. No biggie.

From here Dave using his 10 and Jeremy using Mat's homemade 8 inch dob, went to work finding objects on their own and doing quite well. Dave suggested I show his niece who was 15 how to star hop so I did. She did really well, only needing help initially and then on one object later. We showed them the star hop to M11, and everyone nailed it and then Mat shared his nickname for it; not the Wild-Duck but the Borg Cube.

At the end of the night, Cygnus had cleared but conditions were horrible for me to go hunting so I had Dave's niece find Alberio and then I did show them the Veil and how to go to 52 Cygni to find it. They left early because Dave had to get his niece home by a reasonable hour. For the next hour both Mat and I tried observing but to no avail, conditions just wouldn't bring in the fainter objects we both needed. However, it wasn't a waste. We met three wonderful individuals and got them started we hope in the hobby. I tested 2 new eyepieces, the Baader Ortho Classic 6mm and 10mm for use with a minimal glass type of observing and to pull just a hint more of detail out of faint objects. More on that in my next post. This is what Dave posted on our local forum:

"Hi Jay, it was great to meet both you and Mat as well.
I can't tell you how much fun we all had, Jeremy told me on the way home that he HAD to have a scope of his own now but he couldn't decide whether to buy one or make one like Mat's.
Emily is a little bit shy and I was a little surprised that you got her to do some star hopping with your scope, but she loved it and was talking about it all the way home.
We will definitely try to come out again soon. My thanks to both of you"

So though I didn't have the equipment set up issues, I did have horrible skies and something horrible happen on the way home. Mule deer are quite common in Utah and a doe can weigh in on average around 150lbs. Well this night on a new highway near where we live called the Mountain View Corridor, it saves us about 20 minutes of travel time, I was in the the lead and Mat was driving behind me. I noticed Mat was way behind me and in truth had pulled over. I pulled over and just about when I was going to circle back, Mat pulled back out unto the Highway.  We turned left at a light and I noticed his front right turn signal was out so I pulled over after the turn to tell him. As I got out Mat I told him his light was out and with a sickly look on his face, Mat said "Yeah, I know."  He then showed me how a doe had nailed the right front fender, then was thrown and impacted his entire right side of his van with dents, and damage all the way down. In addition ALL the right side passenger bags deployed ripping up his upholstery and the upper lining of his van. It was just horrible.

So this observing session was not good in terms of finding personal objects, or in finding the Herschel 400 II I had down or the faint objects that I had on my list.  It was great in the sense of helping Dave, Jeremy and Emily out though.   Dickens would cover it, It was the Best of Nights, It was the Worst of Nights. I'm sure for Mat, it was the "Worst of Nights."

"It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." Carl Sagan