I packed up the Outback and loaded the 17.5" dob up and drove out to the Forest Land south of Vernon, Utah for a night of observing. I went to Site 1 on Forest Road 006 and set up. While there I figured I was going to be alone on this one, as I am about fifty percent of the time now. I find that I enjoy observing with others, but I also enjoy observing alone. It was in the upper 80's when I got out there around 6:00p.m. and was greeted by these skies:
This is the drive out to Vernon and the Forest Land there. You can see the Sheeprock Mountains in the distance (behind and just to the right of the sign). That is the turn to go out on the Pony Express Trail over Lookout Pass to another good observing site I found up in the mountains there, and from there over towards Simpson Springs and some really really dark skies there.
The picture above I took and it is on the dirt road that your drive down leading to the T junction where you turn left to go to the Vernon Reservoir, or right and then left to Forest Road 006. There were a few clouds over the mountains as they always are at this time of the year but the sky was incredible!
Now as you turn right off the main road above and head west toward Forest Road 006 this wonderful sign was hanging up. The land immediately next to the Forest Land is now for sale for grazing or star gazing. My wife and I have been purchasing and investing over the last year and had a wedding in May, but we are looking into the possibility of trying to get this land for a private observing area, and leasing it out part of it not being used for star gazing for cattle grazing. We'll see, but is enough and the location is perfect that I am hoping to do all I can to hopefully secure it. Like I said, it will depend on timing but this would be the site to do it at!
The picture above and immediately below capture the view south from the observing site. The ground has become really dry now, the grasses and bushes are extremely dry (not like the green I shared a few posts ago in June or May when I was there) but the sky was that blue. A slight breeze blew but it was just gorgeous! John Muir has two quotes that for me are captured here. The first is what I love when I arrive where I am going to observe. This is how I feel: “Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”
This image (below) reminds me with the two above of another favorite quote by John Muir. He said “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.” Indeed, I once thought locations like this were just ugly deserts. No, they are beautiful, wild, rugged for now, the handiwork of creation indeed, and provide me with the release of my cares, inspire me to be active in my chosen hobby, and more importantly in life, and they inspire me to action.
As I enjoyed the views, I did get to work setting up the 17.5" dob and getting it ready for the coming evening. Here the tubes are assembled, the top ring is on, the Telrad and Finderscope are ready to be aligned and I am now ready to collimate. I used my Catseye Collimating tools since I was out so early with more than adequate time before dark. Worked like a charm! You can see in the second picture that to the north, there were clouds. That is often the case and why I enjoy these sites down by Vernon. More often than not if a system lies to the north clouds will impact Tooele north to the Lakeside site. Often this site is clear or clears rapidly after sunset and the heating of the day ends. There are times when a front or the monsoon comes from the south clouds impact this site leaving sites in Skull Valley that I have been using or at Lakeside clear. It is knowing how to use the weather sites, ALL of them to ensure which one to go to. I love Vernon so more often than not, you will find me here.
Okay, I have to share more of what this site is like. I have done that a ton, but I really believe part of observing is connecting not only with the sky, but to the earth and land. Our planet is indeed precious, and we I feel have a stewardship to care for it. I am not saying we don't use the land, but we must be wise in how we use the land. There has to be a balance maintained so that we gain what we need, and so that there are wild places to go and enjoy.
Above is the view to the west with the Sun behind a cloud and the Juniper Trees being cast dark in the camera lens. This is looking west from the observing site.
This is one of my favorite views from this site . The Sheeprock Mountains, nestled to the southwest here and standing tall and firm. This is the entrance as well to site 1 with Forest Road 006 seen in the middle right of the picture.
Standing on Forest Road 006 looking south partially southwest at the Sheeprock Mountains again.
This is Forest Road 006 looking north (a front to the north). It is also the entrance to the observing area, Site 1 and you can see my Outback's tire marks as I turned left into the site (I was heading south).
This is what Observing Site 1 off of Forest Road 006 looks like if you arrive in the day. Yep, that is my Green Outback back there and I am set up behind it. No tent this trip though I could have, as I decided to sleep in the back of the Outback. I have a wonderful large size tent (10 people) and a wonderful Cabela's XL Cot that with a sleeping pad and memory foam on it is incredible to sleep on. More than enough room for others to join me if they can put up with my Sleep Apena machine (I have that set up to run when in the field and I'll share that sometime).
Looking North from the observing site to the Oquirrh Mountains in the far distance to the right and Tooele to the near center. The hills in the middle right are the Vernon Hills.
The picture above and below actually reflect what the Sheeprock Mountains look like from the observing area. I have to admit that for a LONG time I missed California. I grew up there and I use to bicycle LONG before it was really popular with friends to areas 100 miles or so away from home, sometimes by myself. We would go hiking, fishing, and backpacking in the Sierra's. Then there was always the ocean to go to so we could surf, body surf, swim and relax. This year in February I believe we went back to California and I found that nostalgia really wasn't that great. The freeways and roads were in horrible condition. Roads and Freeways and locations were far more crowded then when I left there 22 years ago. Dark skies, well, they do not have the dark skies in northern California that I have such easy access too here in Utah. I have to say, though like with anywhere, there are things about Utah I do not like, there is a LOT to like. I love our wilderness, our availability of dark skies for now, and the great variety we have here. Winter I am not a huge fan but I operate and observe in it. Could be worse. I could live in Minnesota where my mother's family is and REALLY freeze there! I am very lucky to live where I do.
Sheeprocks at Sunset with some clouds that built up over them and then went away after sunset.
If you have never seen the belt of Venus here it is. Below you can see the pinkish glow of the Belt of Venus. The Belt of Venus is a rosy pinkish arch visible long after sunset or long before sunrise by back scattering of refracted sunlight due to fine dust particles high up in the atmosphere. It extends roughly 10°–20° above the horizon. If you look even more carefully, you can see a dark ray of sunlight caused by the sun's light going through a mountain pass.
As I confirmed by collimation by using Howie Glatter's laser and TuBlug, I noticed in the eastern sky a ray of light that extended from a point on the horizon and up into the sky. Soon it was joined by several others as you can see in the pictures below. I had internet access and was posting some of these images to the Salt Lake Astronomical Club's Facebook page (LINK) and asked what they were as I had never seen them in 20 years of observing. I learned that hey are anti crepuscular rays. Anti crepuscular rays are near-parallel, but appear to converge at the anti solar point because of linear perspective.They come from either clouds and the light coming through the clouds, or light coming through mountains as is the case here. Although anti crepuscular rays appear to converge onto a point opposite the sun, the convergence is actually an illusion. The rays are in fact (almost) parallel, and their apparent convergence is to the vanishing point at infinity. I felt they were cool and chalked them up to a good omen in you believe in that.
Now it was time to observe and the 17.5 was ready for an awesome evening and so was I! How lucky I was to have had the experience I have had so far.
My goal tonight was open clusters in Cygnus, a few nebula in Cygnus, maybe a look at the "other supernova remnant in Cygnus down by Alberio, Sharpless 2-091 (Sky & Telescope LINK), galaxies in Serpens C., Planetary Nebula in Delphinus, and Aquila etc. Ambitious and I knew I would have to take what the sky would give me. I want to get some more galaxies in Hercules but Hercules is at zenith and I really dislike observing at zenith. So I'll wait for another month to hit those.
I will state up front as I finished my official count, I ended up with 24 objects this night, and sketched 10. That is a great night for me, I am use to getting about 12 to 15 on a great night but it just worked out well for me tonight. I am not going to post my open clusters tonight or in this blog, but will in another entry in the next few days. Here are the sketches I am sharing and observations. Order is mixed up as usual in regards to time.
Above is Hickson 74 with NGC 5910 being the target. In truth though this sketch isn't perhaps the most impressive, it is my favorite because of what it shows. July 16th, 2015, 11:00pm MDT/05:00 UT July 17th, 2015; Antoniadi III; mild wind, warm; 17.5" Dob; 10mm Pentax XW, Type 2 Paracorr.
NGC 5910 is part of Hickson 74. At 248x the galaxies appeared as smudges of fuzziness, and seemed to be part of one uneven group of fuzziness. Averted vision with direct vision and breathing resolved these into three separate galaxies/components of Hickson 74 into individual knots. HGC 74A, the largest one had some mottling in evidence. HGC 74B was faint and in the SSW but discernible and I could hold it. NGC 74D was also observed, though it came and went using averted vision. There are 5 components and I was able to get 3 of them.
July 17th 2015: 12:15am MDT/06:16 UT. FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi III slight breeze mild temperature; 17.5" Dob, 7mm Pentax XW SQM-L reading at 12:17a.m. 21.77 to south and zenith. Surface Brightness 12.8: Type 2 Paracorr.
Rather small face on sprial galaxy that is very round in appearance. Also rather bright with a stellar nucleus that is evident. Bright inner core region then the outer halo is diffused. Some possible structure is hinted at with averted vision. Fun galaxy to tease out detail.
NGC 5993 (larger one) NGC 5992 Galaxies in Bootes July 16th, 2015, 10:40pm/ 4:40 UT July 17th, 2015; 17.5" Dob; 7mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi III w/Type 2 Paracorr.
NGC 5992 is the smaller and has the higher surface brightness at 12.6 mag. Inner core region is bright. NGC 5993 is the larger and fainter galaxy due to its size at 13.3 mag for surface brightness. It is a faint oval with a slightly brighter core region that is not as bright as NGC 5992's core.
NGC 6070 Spiral Galaxy in Serpens Caput. July 17th, 2015 1;45a.m. MDT/ 7:45 UT; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi II; 17.5" dob with 7mm Pentax XW & Type 2 Paracorr.
Some observers call the galaxy dim and others bright. For me it is both. The outer halo is dim, but the inner core region is bright. At 300x plus the galaxy is how I described it and elongated. Outer halo with averted vision hints of structure which I sketched in where I felt the structure could be seen. Large galaxy in terms of size. Wonderful object to see and capture. Often passed over and forgotten by imagers but it really shouldn't be and if you image, this is one to capture. If your visual and in the area, well worth the view.
NGC 6905 The Blueflash Planetary Nebula in Dephinus. July 17th, 2015 12;45a.m. MDT/06:45 UT; FR006 Site 1; Antoniadi III; slight breeze, mild temperature i.e. low 60's; 17.5" dob: 5mm & 7mm Pentax XW; Type 2 Paracorr; DGM NB and DGM OIII 1 1/4".
Beautiful planetary nebula in Delphinus. 285x in the 7mm showed an elongated shape and a central star that is easily seen. At 400x plus in the 5mm the central star is still easily seen and held with direct vision, and the shape is at first circular and then fainter elongations will come out. At the higher power the region around the central star appears mottled, with brighter and darker regions. This Planetary Nebula really sucks up magnification and if conditions allow, you can really crank it on this. Wonderful one to see!
There you go! I will post the other sketches in a few days as I am really busy with the new job. I did want to share this and remind you that this hobby is one to really enjoy in all aspects. Its a microcosm of how I feel we need to approach life; with awe, wonderment, humility, gratitude, commitment, and amazement. Keep being amazed!