Observing April 6th into April 7th 2016

     April came and for new moon, the skies were absolutely perfect. In the days of old, and I still use the term, we came to know that two days after a storm, in the winter or spring, or even fall, if the moon was not up, conditions are ideal if not near perfect for observing where we live. The jet stream meanders to the north and we get a pocket of stable air from high pressure that settles in over head, until the next system moves in from the west coast.  This was such a day, a day of days, I would label it perfect.  Temperature during the day was near 60 degrees F and by the time I was observing they were headed down to a low of about 35 degrees.  Here is what I saw as I drove in to the site in my Outback.

Driving up FR006 passing Site 1 Owl's Roost on the left, it was occupied by a family of 4 in a trailer. FR006 had been graded except right after the Cattle Guard. 

Approaching the Cattle Guard, to FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove. 

Driving in to FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove

FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove; Looking east, south-east after parking the Outback. 

FR006 Site 2 Juniper's Grove looking south; AWESOME!!!!

Panorama of FR006 Site 2 looking south to south-west. Gorgeous! 

Set up with 17.5" Star Catcher, table, observing chair, step ladder. 

 Outback, 17.5" Star Catcher, observing table, chair, Observing Chair, Step Ladder. 

Looking East. 

Looking South to the SheepRock Mountains. 

17.5" Dob, Star Catcher 

17.5" Dob, Star Catcher 

Outback set up with camping air mattress on bottom, 2 inch memory foam, -50 degrees F bag, a quilt, a fan, my CPAP hooked up to the battery and ready to go, and I'll put the eyepiece case on the back and use this as an extra table until I go to bed that night. I had considered tent camping but decided against it. 

This is how the Outback looks when it is all packed up! 

Looking North 

So that is how I set up and if I am going to sleep over, how I set up for that IF I am sleeping in the back of the Outback. If I am staying for more than one night, I usually tent camp bringing my Cabella's XL Cot and the same padding mentioned above to sleep on.  I use a good old 8 person tent and I put carpet under the feet of the Cabela's XL cot so it doesn't puncture the bottom of the tent. Good set up!

This night was gorgeous and I was joined near sunset by a family I have observed with before. Sorry, I don't have permission to use their names and in truth, since four were children, I wouldn't use their names anyway. That's the educator in me!  Later after dark two of my fellow SLAS members joined us to observe also.

I spent the first part of the evening showing show objects to everyone in the 17.5" Star Catcher dob. That was enjoyable. I liked having the kids around and showing them objects, until they got cold and worn out.  Daylight Savings had arrived by now so it did not get out of astronomical twilight until around 9:00pm MDT, maybe 9:20pm MDT.

By 11:00pm MDT though, everyone had left and I was left alone. I then started working my list and going after objects I had done to observe that night.

1. NGC 2765 Lenticular Galaxy in Hydra: April 6th, 2016, 11:15pm MDT or 5:15 UT on 4/7/2016;  FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove.  Antoniadi I, clear, mild, 44 degrees F; 17.5"f/4.4  dob Star Catcher, 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

Small, rather faint lenticular galaxy, elongated almost due W - E. Brighter inner core region though no nucleus. One time visit.

2. NGC 2555 Spiral Galaxy in Hydra; April 6th, 2016, 11:30pm MDT or 5:30 UT on 4/7/16; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; Clear, cool, 42 degrees F; Antoniadi I; SQM 21.8; 17.5" f/4.4  dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

Round, rather bright and moderately large galaxy. Could be considered slightly oval, though more round to my sight. Lays NW - SE with several stars forming a triangle around it. Includes a 12 mag star on the SE side.  No nucleus and the outer edge is not well defined.  Some brightening near the core.

3. NGC 2618 Galaxy in Hydra; April 6, 2016, 11:50pm MDT or 05:50 UT on 4/7/16; clear, cool, 39 degrees F; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I; 17.5" f/4.4 dob, Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II;

Galaxy lays NW to SE and is oval in shape.  Uniform surface brightness not much else. One time visit.

4. NGC 2695 (center) & NGC 2697 (upper left) galaxies in Hydra.  April 7th, 2016; 12:15am MDT or 06:15 UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; SQM 21.8; Clear, cool, 38 degrees F; Antoniadi I; 17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic with 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II

NGC 2695 is a rather high surface brightness object. It is oval and roundish in shape depending on whether I use direct vision or averted.  Probably more roundish than oval though.  Very uneven edge to the galaxy and shows the outer envelope with an inner shell. The inner shell has a bright core region and a faint stellar core, though I believe mine is too bright in this sketch.

NGC 2697 is a slightly smaller galaxy, slightly fainter, oval in shape, with an even surface brightness with no detail or core in the core region. Fun pair to observe.

5. NGC 2708 (large galaxy in center) and NGC 2709 (small galaxy in center top), galaxies in Hydra.  April 7th, 2016, 12:50am MDT or 06:50 UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove.  SQM 21.8; clear, cool 37 degrees F; 17.5" f/4.4 dob, Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II.

NGC 2708 is a spiral galaxy that lays inclined to us.  It is rather bright, diffused stretch of light extending NE to SW.  Even surface brightness in the envelope, with well defined edges.  Brightening in the core region with a stellar nucleus in evidence.

NGC 2698 and NGC 2699 are rather bright nearby galaxies just out of the sketch that I have covered before.  They lay north of this pairing.

NGC 2709 is at the top of the field, as a faint fuzzy patch, with even surface brightness.

 6. NGC 4105 & NGC 4106 merging Galaxies in Hydra.  April 7th, 2016, 1:10am MDT or 07:10 UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; Antoniadi I, clear, cool, 35 degrees F; 17.5 f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm & 10mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II.

NGC 4105 is the larger of the two galaxies in the sketch and eyepiece.  It is almost if not completely oval in shape, moderately bright with an even surface brightness in its outer envelope with defined edges.  Bright inner core region with a small stellar nucleus, which averted vision helps to bring out.

NGC 4106 is the smaller and rounder of the two galaxies.  It is more concentrated and has a more even surface brightness, with a bright and larger inner core region.  Very fun pair to observe.

7. NGC 3242 The Ghost of Jupiter, Planetary Nebula in Hydra; April 7th, 2016, 2:10a.m MDT or 8:10UT; FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove, Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 32 degrees F; 17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 20mm, 10mm, 7mm, 5mm Pentax XW, Paracorr Type II; OIII Thousand Oaks Filter;

One of my favorite Planetary Nebula.  Very large in size, easy to identify when your in the FOV.  Used the 27mm Panoptic to capture the FOV, then worked down on my eyepiece list for observations. PN has a teal color to it, perhaps a greenish teal.  OIII showed the outer and inner shell and I could just pull out the central star with the 17.5" dob.  The 7mm Pentax XW showed more detail to the PN as did the 5mm Pentax XW.  Best view was with the 7mm Pentax which I used on the PN to sketch it.  Happy with the overall sketch.

8. Messier 51 or NGC 5194 with NGC 5195 (the companion); Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici; April 7th, 2016, 2:40a.m. MDT or 0840 UT;  FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove; SQM 21.8; Antoniadi I, clear, cold 30 degrees F;  17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 20mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW; Paracorr Type II.

I do not think my sketch does service to the view the 17.5" dob Star Catcher provided me of Messier 51.  Both arms this night were easily observable and visible as they came out of the bright inner core. The various HII regions were also observed.  The bridge seemed to attach to NGC 5195 faintly.  Just a tremendous view and one of the best nights I have had in a LONG time.

9. Messier 101 or NGC 5457 called the Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major.  April 7th, 2016, 3:20a.m. MDT or 0920 UT, FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove;  SQM 21.8; Antoniadi I, clear, cold, 29 degrees F; 17.5" f/4.4 dob Star Catcher; 27mm Panoptic, 20mm, 10mm Pentax XW's;  Paracorr Type II.

FR006 Site 2 Juniper Grove provided just an outstanding view of this large, low surface brightness galaxy.  Arms were clearly in evidence as were the H2 regions.  There was detail galore this night in M101. Bright inner core region and a stellar nucleus in evidence.  Mottling was clearly evidence in the arms as well.  After observing and sketching this beautiful galaxy, I put away essential equipment, covered the 17.5" up and crawled back into the back of my Outback for a nice, warm and long spring nap.


  1. Stephanie5/05/2016

    I've been stalking your blog for a while, and thought I'd better pass a little appreciation your way - I live in a small town in Northeastern Utah (3 hours from Salt Lake) and it is difficult to get first hand experience with equipment out here. (I acquired my first telescope a few years back -your reviews were a big help in that decision making process). Just upgraded to a 12" dob - can't wait for the never ending spring storms to clear out so I can try it. Great sketches and great info - it's been fun to follow info from someone who is relatively local. Hope you keep the posts coming!

  2. Thank you! What a kind comment, it made my day. Congrats on the 12" dob! I'll keep posting as I have the opportunity to . . . not much this week. You and whoever would be welcome to observe with us or if we come north, which I do more than I let on as I don't post about those experiences for a reason, you'd be welcome also. Keep looking up!

  3. Stephanie5/05/2016

    Well thank you, I'd love to take you up on that sometime! I live in the Uintah Basin...don't know if you've ever made it over this way. Astronomy clubs aren't exactly a dime a dozen here, but there are some beautiful skies to be had.