Observing March 20th, 2015; School Star Party March 27th 2015

On the afternoon of March 20th, 2015, I had the opportunity to get out on a decent night to observe in Utah's West Desert.  I got out early, choosing the 17.5" as my scope of choice.  I still haven't had the 17.5 out enough to have it be natural when working with it, so that was the scope for the evening.  I set up easily enough, and took pictures of the setup before having to tear it all down. As I was assembling the scope, I noticed that one of the knobs to hold a truss tube in the Moonlite holder was missing. I searched the car, every where. I searched the ground, every where. Alas, I had no luck so I knew that the scope was not going to hold collimation so I had to tear it down in order to go and purchase a 20 1/4' by 1/2" knob to replace the one that was missing. Thus began my evening of adventure. I was suppose to meet my friend Jeff there at the site, but I decided to take off to get the knob. Cell phone reception I did have but I lost Jeff as I began to travel back to the nearest city. The last I heard was that when Jeff got back to the location, it was now occupied by some party goers who had the beginnings of a roaring campfire and Jeff was moving down the road. In truth, after surveying the site myself when I was there, the amount of garbage left by shooters and others had told me that it may be time to move on from the Pit n Pole location, to a new location I have found out that way for a short incursion out.  I haven't listed it on my Google Maps yet, not sure I will. I do know that the area around 5 Mile Pass and to the west of that location is seeing more and more use and traffic out that way on weekends. So it will mean a further drive to the west to get to locations that are both darker and having less people.

Anyway, I got back to Lehi and got to a Home Depot that had some wing nuts that would work, but there was a Lowe's nearby so I went there was well. At Lowe's they had a knob, the right size but the knob itself is slightly bigger so I picked up in total, 4 wing nuts and 4 knobs to have in case this ever happens again. I should have honestly thought of this myself, and had, I just failed to listen to that inner voice that kept telling me to purchase an extra set of knobs incase this happen. So now I drove back out to the West Desert and with no hope of finding Jeff, I went to my new spot, setting up in the dark, collimating easily with the Howie Glatter laser collimator and Tu-Plug.  The only issue I have had is aligning the Stellarvue F50 finderscope using the R50D rings. I honestly did not work that out, aligning the finderscope to the main scope until after the outreach event coming up. I FINALLY have that down and will be doing a video on that as I have found very little information on that process both in the little flyer that came with the F50, and online. On site only helped me.

So that night I worked in Hyrda and I haven't taken pictures of my sketches for that evening of the galaxies I observed, but I had a rather good night with average seeing and very good transparency. I will post those sketches later. The scope worked fine minus the F50 alignment issue (I removed it and used the Telrad with a wide field eyepiece to act as my finder, a 35mm Panoptic or 24mm ES 82 degree eyepiece, and that system worked wonderful! I may keep that as I have found I don't use the finderscope that much anymore in my observing, though I do like having it sometimes for when I am going after faint items and want a wider view without changing the eyepiece. Here are the images from my initial set up (the missing knob is on the upper ring on the right side if looking at the scope from behind).  The third image is my favorite.

On Friday, March 27th, I had the wonderful opportunity to go back to my school where I work, and host a star party. My son Nathan who has been living in Italy for the last two years and is now returned back home came with me and he ran my 4 inch refractor and my XT10 dob. I took the 17.5 and learned an important lesson. The 17.5 is a great outreach tool for adults, and the kids and adults loved the views from it, but it is hard even with a good step ladder for the kids to get up to the eyepiece and view. The 14" I have is better suited for that. So from now on, I will take the 14" when I do outreach.  In addition to this, Mr. Curtis, a father of several children at the school (his son is in my class and he also helped with the 4" ES AR102 refractor) had his 16" scope there and is familiar as it use to belong to Mat.  We had over 80 people come by to look at the moon, Venus, Jupiter, M42 Orion's Nebula, M45 the Pleiades, Messier 41 and the Winter Alberio.  I actually had father's and their sixth grade daughters staying to look at these objects in different eyepieces and filters in the case of M42 to compare the views, and to actually run the scope as I showed them how to use the Telrad and the eyepiece to accomplish the goal of seeing different objects.  It was a wonderful night of not only showing and telling about objects, but showing and letting people use the scope to discover things on their own. It's that doing and showing that gets people actively involved in the hobby, excited about the hobby and wanting to learn and do more. Showing is fine, and is one level of doing a star party, especially for large groups. However as the group wans showing how to use and letting a small group use a scope turns them on to getting more involved in the hobby. More astronomical groups that do outreach need to consider that as a way to grow in interest at all levels in the hobby in my opinion. Bottom line, after helping a former student and his Dad begin to learn how to use their scope, Nathan and I pulled away at 10:30pm tired, but rather excited about an excellent evening showing and doing with a group of wonderful people.


Observing on February 18th, 2015 with Sketches

I had the opportunity to observe on February 18th, 2015. The night for northern Utah was warm, in the 50's during the day, and 30's in the evening. I still needed layers, and wore my Minus 33 Merino Wool base layer, with two more layers of a long sleeve shirt from Cabelas, with a wool sweater on it followed by a fleece by Columbia on top of that. Then on my legs were a Minus 33 Merino Wool leggings, in heavy weight for both upper and lower body, with a pair of wool pant bottoms, then a pair of sweat pants on top of that. Finally, my hunting bibs went on and a parka on top and I was TOASTY!  The site was dry, no signs of any moisture on the ground and this aided in the air temperature being so mild for February.  The site is off of Forest Road 006 on the Forest Land sound of Vernon and it is now my premium and first choice spot. I love how the Juniper trees block out the couple of stray lights from Vernon to the north. No light is visible except what we bring to this site. Sorry, not going public on this one.

I was by myself as I have been for my last several trips. I am finding that I enjoy being alone when I observe. I also enjoy having a friend or two but I am just fine observing on my own. I pulled the 17.5 out of the Outback, and set up the base and the mirror box, then the trusses and the upper ring. Everything came together and using my Howie Glatter Laser Collimation tools, collimation came together right away.  I ensured that I was on level ground and had my ground cover pad that the 17.5 was on.  I then set up my two tables, a camping table that folds up and is aluminum and then my regular canvas fold up table. I then pulled out the charts I had printed off to use that night in Orion and Eridanus out of SkyTools 3.  I love SkyTools 3 and how I can easily print off charts to use in the field. I can also take my laptop with its deep red rubylith and use it in the field if I want. I am usually content to use printed off charts. If dew could be an issue I put them in sheet protectors.

This night after getting everything set up, I let the mirror cool for about 45 minutes and simply sat on my observing chair enjoying the change from day to night. Twilight is one of my favorite times as it signifies to me, after I have set up my equipment, the transition from my day to day cycle of the pressures of life, to the sole focus on going after certain targets, observing them, reflecting on them, sketching them and the pure enjoyment that comes from that. I also enjoy see the show boat items I usually take the time to view.  Coyotes howled, welcoming me to their realm for the evening, to the east of my location, with another group answering to the south of the first group. They would go off and on for the next hour or so before they faded away into the night, much like the constellations of fall, then later of winter.

The time came to observe and I started with M42. I love viewing the Orion Nebula as it reminds me of viewing it with my then 10 year old son and letting him view it for the first time. My mind has often been to my son Nathan, who has been living for the last two years in central and southern Italy.  He is returning home this Tuesday and I am more anxious to see him again, then to even observe later this month in March.

M42 was gorgeous and the Trapezium was easily seen as were the stars E and F in the Trapezium.  The nebula without a filter was incredible, one of the best views I have seen of it in a long time. Other wonderful views were NGC 1981 and Iota Orionis.  Next are the sketches I made that night and then some quick shots of the Mars, Venus and Crescent Moon conjunction.

 1.  NGC 1350 a Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus.  February 15th, 2015; 07:50pm MST; Antoniadi II; FROO6 My Site;; SQM-L 21.82; 17.5 dob with Pentax XW 10mm, Type II Paracorr and 27mm Panoptic as finder;
Notes:  Large bright galaxy about 3" x 2" The outer edge seems to bleed into the background, with a brightening near the core, with a higher concentration of light there. Core is thus bright with a stellar nucleus.  Some structure is hinted at in the eyepiece. This is a member of the Fornax I group.

2. NGC 1365 A spiral galaxy in Eridanus.  February 18th, 2015.  07:05pm MST; Antoniadi II; SQM-L 21.82; Antoniadi II; 17.5 dob with 10mm Pentax XW, 8mm TeleVue Delos; Type II Paracorr, FR 006 My Site; Clear, cool 35 degrees F.
Notes: Large spiral galaxy, very bright core region with a bar present and observable. Attached to each bar is a long winding spiral warm that wrap around the inner core region.  Wonderful view in the 17.5!

3. NGC 1385 spiral galaxy in Eridanus.  February 18th 2015, FR006 My Site; 8:05pm MST; Antoniadi II; SQM-L 21.85; Clear, cool 28 degrees F. 17.5 dob, 10mm Pentax XW, 7mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr.
Notes: Rather bright and large galaxy, elongated somewhat North to South.  Bright bar is visible surrounded by an irregular fainter outer region, with some spiral structure evident North to NorthEast and South to Southwest.

4. NGC 1367 Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus; February 18th, 2015; FR006 My Site; 8:35pm MST; Antoniadi II; SQM-L 21.86; Clear, Cool, 28 degrees F. 17.5" Dob.  10mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;
Notes: A large bright galaxy with a very bright inner core region. Bright stellar nucleus with an outer halo that fades into the background with hints of structure.

5. NGC 1398 Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus; February 18th, 2015; FR006 My Site; 08:45pm MST; SQM-L 21.86; Antoniadi II; 17.5 Dob; 10mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;
Notes: This is a large bright galaxy that's shape is between a round and an oval.  Large bright inner core region with a bright stellar nucleus.

6. These are two images I took of the Mars, Venus, Crescent Moon conjunction that occurred on Friday, February 20th, 2015.  Not great, since I didn't use a tripod. A tripod would have given better results.

I did observe the Pup and Sirius that night, using a mask I made for the 17.5.  The curved spider I believe with the aperture made this the easiest split I have had so far. The distance between the PN and Sirius continues to widen so that is helpful also. 

I also got time in in Puppis and I got Thor's Helment. I need to clean up my Sketch of Thor's Helment then I will post it.  It was wonderful to be out and I ended the night around 10:15pm, broke down my equipment, loaded and got home at 11:30pm. I unloaded and was in bed by 12:30pm to get up and have a great day at work the next day.  Hopefully in March I can get out at least twice.