So on the afternoon of April 3rd, 2013, I loaded up with what was suppose to be clear skies but in reality were partly cloudy skies learning towards cloudy. All weather reports showed that it would be clear that night. My friends Jeff, Mat, Alan and Jorge were going to be coming out as was a friend of Jeff's named Nate. As I drove out toward the desert locations, the one location we thought we'd go for was overcast and raining. Yes, Five Mile Pass at that point just didn't cut it. So I proceeded to go to see what the area of Pit n Pole was like and if necessary, go to a site south of that site. However there was a large thunderstorm over that area as I got out so I looked south toward the Forest Road area and saw it was sunny, clear with just a hint of cirrius clouds over the Sheeprock Mountains. I talked with Jeff on the phone and decided that for me, I would go to the Forest Road.
As I arrived out at the Forest Land I found a nice green grass area and good skies so I confirmed that for me, I had made the right choice. It was why I had left a little earlier that day so I would have this option. I took pictures that I'll share that wll show the beauty and the sky conditions at the time.
Looking south to south-west:
Looking east to north-east
Looking west at the Sheeprock Mountains.
Looking west again toward the Sheeprock Mountains.
Looking east to south-east.
Zoom of the Sheeprock Mountains to the West.
Looking west again with a zoom of the Sheeprock Mountains.
Observing area looking south. Nice green grass for spring, it will turn brown by June.
I took SQM data at this site twice during the night and I'll share the last reading I took. Time is approximate.
Location FR006 Site 1 Owl Roost
Date: April 4th, 2013.
Time: 1:40a.m. MDT
Conditions: Clear, cold.
Temperature: 41 degrees F
Zenith: 1. 21.69 2. 21.74 3. 21.77
Polaris: 1. 21.51 2.21.55 3. 21.54 (Polaris is impacted by the Tooele Army Weapon Depot LP)
Southern Sky: 1. 21.68 2. 21.70 3. 21.69
The highest reading for that night was 21.77 and using Don Pensak's formula of NELM = [(SQM-8.89)/2] + 0.5 so the NELM reading off the formula would be around 6.94 and I was seeing stars at mag. 7.0to 7.2 so via charts so this was pretty close. One thing it does show is the impact of light pollution on various parts of the sky. The light domes from Salt Lake City and Tooele do have an impact on the amount of light. Conditions this night also made the sky brighter I believe as there was moisture in the air and that moisture enhanced the brightness of the sky. I know I've had darker readings at this site and it will be fun to document it online now.
That night I figured out one thing that I had struggled with with my DobStuff, well a couple of things. First, the glassboard and the teflon pads on the azmuith bearing needed some tweaking. So I made the teflon circles that Dennis had put on smaller, and then applied a coat of Sailkoat spray to the glassboard and that made an ENORMOUS difference! Now instead of sticking when it had been stationary, the asmuith motions are now so buttery smooth that it works wonders. I have also applied the Sailkoat to the altitude bearings and they work even better now.
The other item was the RACI finder. Dennis had taken the dovetail, attached it to a wooden ring to go around strut via a bolt. The issue is the bolt doesn't stop the dovetail from moving. So instead of trying to adjust the finder using the two knobs, I found that if I move the finder, I am close to the object and then can use the tw knobs to align the finder with the eyepiece and Telrad. Then I just have to make sure not to bump the finder during the night but I never lost alignment and it helped me. Now to figure out how to secure the dovetail so it doesn't move and I have an idea for that. More on that later after I try it.
So this night everything was working perfectly and for me, the use of what I still consider a new scope since I have only had it out to a dark site four or five times. This night I spent time on some of the Heschel 400 II, then I went into Virgo using the 30mm ES 82 degree EP and had a light bulb experience. I found as I will soon see that many of the Herschel 400 II are faint galaxies and many, not all, but many lack structure that is observable in a 14 inch Zambuto mirror. Using the 30mm ES 82 in Virgo I had the idea of perhaps not sketching all the H400 II (I have now sketched each object in the H400 and this summer will try to put that together on line). but only those that I see structure in or that I feel make me want to sketch the object. Then to liven it up as I have stated I'll use Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders book or objects that I just want to sketch. Either next week or in May I will return to sketch multiple galaxies in Virgo in the same field of view. So yes, this was for me an excellent night. I got 10 H400 II items, and then revisited 18 other old friends, sketching some of them and enjoyed my night. Here are my sketches, my notes are under the sketch and the DSS image for each object.
1. Here is NGC 4045 a Spiral Galaxy in Virgo; Mag. 11.9; Size: 2.7'x1.9'; Antoniadi II; FR006 Site 1; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto. 10mm Pentax XW; Description: This is a small galaxy, with a lot of diffused adn is elongated W to E. No real structure is evident. The galaxy has a nice stellar core and it sits under an asterism that reminded me a the boot like in Italy so I called this Nathan's Galaxy since my son Nathan is in Italy for the next two years.
Here is the DSS image:
2. NGC 3162 Spiral Galaxy in Leo. FR006 Site 1: Antoniadi II; Mag. 13.0; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto and 10mm Pentax XW. Notes: Sits above 2 bright stars and at first is very diffused and like other Herschel 400 II just a faint fuzz ball. Then I kept looking and my observing eye noticed contrast on the object (Thank You Carl!) and in that contrast I detected what I thought was an arm, and yes, it was an arm! I looks to me that it started in the western portion and wrapped around to the south then south east. I also felt I could detect where on the east side an arm wrapped around to the north. By far this observation and sketch and then follow up confirmed to me that despite the weather not being friendly for the last six months, I hadn't lost my observing skill.
3. NGC 4073 Galaxy in Virgo. Ma. 11.2; FR006 Site 1: Antonaidi II; 14" Dobstuff with Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW; Notes: Yet another real gaint galaxy that has a hint of a stellar core. No structure. I did not detect but I did not look for the other galaxies in the DSS image.
4. NGC 3177 Spiral Galaxy in Leo; FR 006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; Size: 1.4' x 1.2'; Mag. 12.3; 14" Dobstuuf with Zambuto; Notes: Smal galaxy, bright stellar core, diffused around small bright core. No structure evident.
6. Messier 101 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major; Mag. 7.5; Size: 28.8' x 26.9'; 14" Dobstuff Dob; 10mm & 14mm Pentax XW (Paracorr); 20mm ES 68 degree; Notes: Very bright core easily seen, faint, spread out with low surface brightness but with patience and time was able to detect the spiral arms and several of the brighter NGC regions. Overall a nice view.
7. Messier 51 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major; Mag 8.5; Size 11' x 7.8'; 4/4/2013; FR 006 Site 1; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW & 14mm Pentax XW (Paracorr); Notes: Very bright inner core, arm structure easily seen with two distinct arms with darkness between them. On arm bends around and reaches out to NGC 5195.
8. Messier 82 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major; Mag. 8.9; Size: 11' x 4.6'; April 4th, 2013; FR 006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto mirror; 7mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Notes: Very bright core, irregular in shape, dark dust lane cut through the axis at different angles. Mottling evident. Wonderful view.
9. Messier 64 The Black Eye Galaxy a spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices; Mag. 8.4; Size: 10' x 5.4''; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW; FR006 Site 1; Very bright very large oval galaxy. Small bright care and a nucleus that is stellar. Dark eye patch is easily seen and NE of the core.
10. MEssier 104 Sombrero Galaxy; Mag. 7.9; Size: 8.7' x 3.5'; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; 14" Dobstuff w/Zambuto; 10mm Pentax XW; 4/3/2012; Notes; Very bright, very long and the galaxy is divided by a dark dust lane. Core is bright. Decent sketch of this object. I'll have to compare it to the one I did a year ago. Still not perfect.
So one other thing I wanted to review is how to get ready and then to hold an observing session. Here are some hints that might help.
1. Plan what you are going to observed. Make a list of 20 to 30 items, less if you sketch that you want to really observe. An alternative is to pick a constellation in the sky that is up and work the Deep Sky Ojbects in that constellation. Review where they are on a computer program or atlas so you know kinda of where you hopping to. My friend Jeff had a wonderful idea to use tabs in the Sky Atlas (or you can do the same in the Sky Atlas 2000) so you know which constellation your working or which ones for that night. You could mark each constellation as well.
2. Always try to use a red light that is dim. A variable light helps as well. There is a wonderful post that I took from CloudyNights over on the Astronomy in Utah forums under equipment or ATMing that shows how to modify a head lamp to make the light really dim.
3. Wear sunglasses the day you are going to observe and minimize exposure to bright sunlight. The bright sunlight can make it harder to dark adapt and make your eyes tired at night leading to fatigue.
4. When observing deep sky objects use high magnification after finding it. Study the object at various powers reveals details that are often overlooked by someone using the same power all the time. You discover new details at different magnification and bringing power to an object helps you to discern this. It's one of the ways that really experience observers maximize what details they detect over more casual observers. Don't rush your list, take your time to see the object and I advise sketching the object. Use a digital recorder to record your observations and then put them into a log. I'll be posting an Excel Log this week that can be used to enter your observations from your recorder into the Excel sheet.
5. Be comfortable. Use a chair to observe with if at all possible or take a break after 45 minutes. Drink water, lots of water to keep yourself hydrated even in the cool or cold of the night. The body needs the hydration to keep your body and your eyes functioning properly. A snack later in the night can help also, something that is light but will provide a boost to you without falling off from eating something high in sugar. Fruit I have found is good.
6. Keep an equipment log. If something doesn't work right, keep a log so on a cloudy day or at an ATM session you have something to work on. Perhaps you notice an eyepiece or filter needs to be cleaned or the primary does. I keep noticing I need to put on my new secondary and watch the motions on my new dob to get them where I want them.
So I hope this helps.