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


  1. Anonymous8/05/2013

    Hey Jay,
    Shame that the night didn't work out for you. I've also very glad your mate is OK. You've got deer, we have kangaroos and wombats to deal with at night. Driving at night is dangerous here on rural roads. Hit either roo or wombat and both of you loose, :(
    I for one will bunker down for the night than risk driving when out bush. My car doesn't have bull bars, so the risk is just too great.
    Alex M.

  2. Anonymous8/06/2013

    Yep, I was left with a sick feeling that night. We have only had that van for about 6 weeks! Oh well, that's why we have insurance, but I would really rather have not have had that happen.


  3. Really too bad, both for Mat and the doe. I came within inches -- maybe less than an inch -- of creaming a huge buck that bounced onto a road late at night. Luckily I somehow managed to swerve around him. Good luck to two great astronomers -- Joe