Boy, how time can fly by! I had hoped to get back out the week of new moon as the crescent moon rose, but northern Utah got inundate with smoke from the fires from Washington, Oregon and California. You can see from the image below taken from the side of a highway near my home how thick the smoke was (those mountains should be clear and easily seen). Thus this prohibited me from loading up and going out another time that week.
However, on the evening of August 15th, 2015 though, I was able to get out and go observing prior to the arrival of all that nasty smoke. I was late getting out and to be honest, expected on a Saturday to not really find a good spot out at my favorite local location. I got out around 4:30pm and had a wonderful ride out to the forest land south of Vernon, Utah. I played no music this day and simply enjoyed the drive, looking at the scenery and anticipating observing that night. I firmly believed that this night I would only have my friend Allan observing with me and as I enjoy his company a lot, I looked forward to that also.
I drove out to the T intersection at the end of the dirt road leading out to either the Vernon Reservoir or to the other land and forest roads. I turned right and drove down to FR006. I hadn't seen anyone camping when I drove out so I had a hope that I might find site 1 clear, but it was the opening of the bow hunt for deer and elk and I thought I would face a lot of traffic out there. Sure enough, on the corner of FR006 and the dirt road I was on, there were some hunters set up with a tent and campsite. I drove up FR006 (or down since I was heading south) and as I approached Site 1, sure enough, it was occupied. Just past site 1 I saw a new set of campers, disperse camping in an area that had never had campers before and so I continued my south bound trek. I crossed the cattle guard and then BAM! The site right after the cattle guard was unoccupied and more importantly, the site behind it, a good ways off the road and with a lot of open space was wide open. This is my favorite location as the Juniper Trees block the very few stray lights from Vernon. I scrambled into my favorite site, picked out my location and unloaded.
The image above and below shows my favorite observing site/location out on the Forest Land off of FR006, that I call Jay's or Jay's Favorite. You can see from the images the skies were just perfect with just a couple of clouds that disappeared over the mountains as night time fell.
I parked the Outback, where a tree in front of it would offer shade when the morning sun rose ove the eastern mountains and hills. I found a good level spot and unloaded my equipment. Out came the ground cover, a mat used for tile floors that is carpeted on top and rubber underneath. Then came the 17.5" dob, or what I am now calling my 17.5" "Zwicky" Dob in honor of Fritz Zwicky. (I have named my 14" Dob the 14" "Piazzi" Dob after the Italian Astronomer of that name, and in honor of my son who lived in Italy for a couple of years: see this LINK for a history of Piazzi). After setting up the Zwicky, I set up my observing chair and other items, realizing that I had not loaded my table. Luckily, Alan shared his with me so that worked out well.
Above you can see the Outback (after I had unloaded, I rolled out the memory foam mattress, air mattress, pillow and connected up my cpap so I was ready to go when I turned in LATE that night).
Here is the few of the Zwicky and the back of the Outback. I have my eyepiece cases open up on top of my memory foam and my observing shair ready to go.
A few of the Zwicky looking back toward's Alan's car and my observing chair in the foreground. Clouds to the north didn't affect us.
The 17.5" "Zwicky" set up and cooling. Small step ladder ready to go. I have to say, that even though I like the light weight of the step ladder, I prefer my three step ladder better and will be adding a half step to it also.
This is Alan's 5 inch Vixen R130Sf refelctor and Porta II Mount package. Sky & Telescope has an excellent review of this scope in their October 2015 issue on pages 60 to 64 by Gary Seronik. He sums up what I believe my friend Alan would say, the plastic focuser needs an upgrade; the mount can and probably should be upgraded but the mirror and views this little scope puts up are wonderful! When I looked, the views were clear, crisp, clean and sharp, and it holds collimation well and a quick star test should a very good mirror. I would upgrade the mount perhaps to an Explore Scientific Twilight II mount or I and put a moonlight focuser on it and this would be a keeper scope!
Sunset, twilight approaching, one of my favorite times in the field. This was taken by my friend Jorge Guiterrez who joined us this night (so glad he did!).
I had a really good night this night, observing 18 objects and sketching the following objects. Most objects were galaxies in Hercules that I saw and felt they were small enough or lacking detail to not sketch. These are the ones I did sketch. The sketch is on top, the STSci Image is on the bottom for comparison.
STSCi Image of NGC 6106
1. This is NGC 6106, a galaxy in Hercules. 11:09 MDT/5:09 UT; August 15th 2015; FR006 Site Jay's Fav.; SQM 21.80; Clear, Mild, Antoniadi II; 17.5 Swicky Dob; 27mm Panoptic; 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr.
The galaxy appears oriented SW to NE. A faint fuzzy with the outer portions of the galaxy faint, almost just a smear. Averted vision shows a bright inner core region and a possible stellar nucleus.
2. NGC 7217; 4:00a.m. MDT; 10:00 UT; August 16th 2015; FR006 Site Jay's; SQM 21.77; 17.5" Swicky Dob; Antoniadi II; Clear, Mild, Slight Haze starting to build (beginning of that summer smoke); 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;
NGC 7217 is a somewhat large and diffused round galaxy. It has an evident outer halo and a brightening inner core region. The size of the galaxy diffuses the light/surface brightness. Fun object to observe.
3. NGC 7680; August 16th 2015; 3:08 am MDT/9:08 UT; SQM 21.77; Antoniadi II; 17.5 Swicky Dob; 20mm, 14mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;
Easy star hop and this is a very faint galaxy. No structure is evident though it is somewhat roundish in shape, with some elongation. No brightness at the core.
5. NGC 7805 & NGC 7806; August 16th 2015; 03:40am MDT/09:40 UT; Antoniadi II; SQM 21.77; 17.5" Swicky Dob; 10mm Pentax XW, 20mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;
NGC 7805 is in the sketch, the upper or top galaxy and is the brighter of the two galaxies. It has a stellar core that is evident and a bright core inner region. Round in shape.
NGC 7806 shows a bright stellar core also and a bright core region, no other structure is seen in this galaxy. Nice pairing and an enjoyable one.
6. NGC 7331 and the Deer Lick Galaxies in Pegasus (NGC 7336 top of the deer licks; NGC 7337 farthest right in the sketch and below NGC 7337; NGC 7335 just to the left of NGC 7337 and bove the left part of NGC 7331; NGC 7336 next to the second star and diagonally up to the right from NGC 7335). August 16th, 2015; 01:30a.m.MDT/ 0730 UT; SQM 21.78; FR006 Site Jay's; Antoniadi II; 17.5" Swicky Dob; 7mm Pentax XW, 10mm Pentax XW; Type II Paracorr;
Wonderful views of NGC 7331 in Pegasus with the Deerlicks easily visible at direct and averted vision. Averted vision let me hold them in focus in my eye. NGC 7336 was the exception and that only came out with averted vision. NGC 7331 has a very bright inner core region, with various degrees of brightness that fades as you observe out from the core. The western edge I believe, the one near the Deerlicks is brighter and more defined. Possibly showing some structure in this area but I wouldn't bet on it. The Deerlicks show no structure or details, just faint fuzzies. NGC 7331 appears tilted to me as I observe and sketch it.
7. NGC 6992 and NGC 6995 the Eastern Veil Nebula in Cygnus; August 16th 2015; 11:52pm/05:52 UT on August 17th, 2015; Antoniadi II; SQM 21.73; 17.5" Swicky Dob; 27mm Panoptic, 30mm ES 82 degree; 35mm Panoptic; 17.3mm Delos; Type II Paracorr;
We had such stunning views of the eastern veil nebula as Alan can attest to, that I had to sketch it. The filaments really did pop out like this and it was just a gorgeous view. The top sketch is the actual sketch, no adjustments made. The bottom sketch reflects a increase in contrast and a reduction in brightness (I just can't seem to make my camera take the image I want and that reflects in accuracy the sketch; the sketch looks a ton better). Anyway, wonderful object to sketch as it climbed to zenith and through zenith. You can decide which you prefer and let me know if you want.
Another shot by Jorge as twlight begins to end and the Milky Way is revealing her majesty to the camera.
That was it for this observing run. I hope in September the weather calms and I can get out two times to observe. There is nothing like it and I can't wait! September and October can be some of our best months though it does get cold at night and I"ll need to wear by bow hunting bibs and coat to keep warm. I LOVE fall and have some wonderful objects to go after to both observe and sketch! Keep enjoying the wonders of our night sky!