Friday March 1st, 2013; A Humid Experience

How often I read of people back east wishing for the dryness of the west! Well let me tell you, that dryness isn't always here. On Friday, my friend Mat and I took our 16" (Mat's) and 14" (mine) dobs out to the West Desert by Five Mile Pass for what we hoped would be three to four hours of good observing. The skies were clear, some clouds but there was still plenty of snow on the ground. That snow on the ground would prove to be our undoing this time.

We were not going to the Pit n Pole this time. Instead we went south of the Five Mile Pass. If you look on My Google Astronomy Map you can find Five Mile Pass Site 1 South and see where we were. The site was somewhat muddy from the snow melt but we set up where it was dry.  During set up Mat saw a Sun pillar and I was able to capture several shots of it. Here they are. The white line up against the mountains in the west is a ground fog that is already starting to form.

 Well, set up went real well and after I collimated I realized that I hadn't put the strings on so I attached the strings, re-collimated and was ready to align and go for a good night of observing. I had deployed all of my dew strips because the dew was starting to form.  However, this night my 9x50 RACI finder was not aligning.  I took it on and off several times trying to adjust it and then Mat looked and noticed that the dovetail wasn't aligned. That helped but I still was a degree or two off and it was very frustrating.  I finally decided to accept this and if needed to use the Telrad and the eyepiece as my finder.  My first object was an item that I put down about a year ago as NGC 1587 which I can say now isn't. My sketch below reflects NGC 1587 and NGC 1588 which was a pretty easy star hop this night. It showed up in my ES 20mm 68 degree eyepiece and magnified in my 10mm Pentax XW.  Here are my sketches of these two galaxies in Taurus.  NGC 1587 is a bright compact galaxy that at first looked round by was elongated SW to NE.  The galaxy has a very bright core.  Above it in this sketch is NGC 1588. Antoniadi III, Mag. 12.1; Size: 1.7' x 1.5'; 14" Dob, 20mm ES 68 as finder; 10mm Pentax XW as sketching eyepiece.

My next object was also a rather easy star hop.  NGC 1514 a PN in Taurus. Mag. 10.9; Size: 2.3' x 2.0'; 8:40pm MDT/02:40 UT; 14" Dob; 20mm ES 68 degree finder EP; 10mm Pentax XW sketching EP; OIII Filter, Orion Ultrablock; Antoniadi III.

After this we took a break to eat and I found out I had brought my hot chocolate but had left my meal at home. Then as conditions continued to degrade we both decided to go after eye candy. Looking up Leo was up so I went after the Leo Triplet. I switched out eyepieces at this time as I had left the Panoptic 27mm in without the dew strap to it and it was frosted over. So I took it out and put in the 24mm Explore Scientific 82 degree, putting the dew strip around it. The 24mm showed the M65, M64 and NGC 3628 in a wonderful field of view.  Structure was evident somewhat and it was nice to see this old friends again. From here I went over and observed NGC 3593 which was quite bright and showed a nice elongated core and a sharp nucleus.  I then went over to M105, NGC 3384 and NGC 3412.

M105 showed its bright core and was slightly elongated.  NGC 3384 is bright with a stellar nucleus and elongated NW to SE.  NGC 3412 was bright, elongated with a very bright core that holds a bright stellar core.

Next I went to M95 and M96 which showed their roundish shapes with bright cores.  A nice view but I have seen them better.  After this I visited M42 again (had seen it earlier that night) and then went over to Jupiter. After this I began packing up as everything was dewy and frosted over.

So from this trip I learned that I really need the snow to melt and the ground to dry a little in order to reduce the humidity in the desert under the dark skies that the desert offers.  Any night is better than no night but I just want a really decent night to observe. A storm is coming in on Thursday and not leaving til Saturday night so I doubt there will be a good night to observe under new moon again this month.  That is the other thing I wish. I did some checking and confirmed that when new moon is more in the mid to mid/late part of the month the weather is better.  Oh well, it is what it is. Good luck in observing. I'll be posting on Wednesday a copy of my observing tracker for my observations.