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Log, Jul 14, 2001

32 people. Les was certain that the Friday night crew had gotten the better of the weekend weather, but not so. Except for some scattered clouds which fromed in place near 10:30 and disappated before 11:30 the sky was immaculate. Even at earlist dusk while many of our friends were setting up a variety of telescopes (a fine 10" LX200, a nice 8" dobs, a lovely 4.5 inch goto refractor as well as innumerable large binoculars), we got our first taste of the treats we had in store for us tonight. Mars was steady, even at relatively high powers. We used the 19mm Nagler Panoptic because it is such a large eyepiece with great eye relief and provides 210x on our scope. We could clearly see the Hellas Basin and the North polar cap. Since we were using the 19mm "straight through" to place the eyepiece ideally for children we got a rather odd presentation of Mars. The image was doubly inverted, placing the north polar cap at about 5 o'clock. We could easily see faint background stars but beilliant Mars made finding it moons problematic tonight.

The remainder of report includes a lot of repetative adjectives: Wonderful Spectacular, Best-Ever, Incredible, Oh-Wow, Fantastic, Unbelievable and even the ultimate accolade MDtB (More Detail than Burnhams!). With the Oxy-III filter in place there is no doubt that the Swan/Omega Nebula [M17], the Lagoon Nebula M8, and the Trifid Nebula [M20] were showing intricate details and structure which both Les and Doug who are very seasoned observers can never remember an equal. These three rate at least W/S/BE/I/OW/F/U/MDtB to a high numerical power. If you rated views, these are worth a trip from anywhere from New Jersey up to Maine.

Outside, the excitement was equally high. From one corner of our lot (where Barry has set up shop in recent weeks) to the far corner near the gate where Les has placed his big binoculars, people were shooting "Come look at this" and "I've got ... in the eyepiece." Naked eye observations include many globulars, nebula, Andromeda [M31], intricate details of the MWG, sightings of Comet Linear. The only real problem was running from one instrument to another without bumping into someone going the other way. Spectacular as every one of these views were, it was amazing what was possible with modest tools like 9x63 binoculars. Details of M31 and M33 were clear, Albireo was split, dozens of cluster and nebula were rapidly sighted.

No "good" Iridium flares were predicted for the FDO area last night but several impressively bright (-3 magnitude or better) satellites drifted across the sky. One very bright "tumbler" made its way out of Vulpecula where we first spotted it nearly touching Sadr (Gamma Cygni) and Deneb (Alpha Cygni). It had two brightness cycles at 7 and 11 seconds. Les called out the flashes once he detected the pattern. While looking at M20 and M22 together in binoculars, another satellite made its way across them. Of course, we got many meteors out of Cassiopia. Les decided to name them the "Cassiopiads". Don't bother to look up this famous meteor shower, the name exists in Les' mind alone.

Inside, more incredible sights were accumulating. We split Antares (Alpha Scorpii) at 340x. We picked up M4, M8, M9, M17, M19, M20, M22, M62, M80 as well as NGC6804 and NGC6781 (planetaries), and NGC6603 which Dave dubbed the "Nike" cluster because of its startling resemblance to that shoe company's trademark slash. Take your pick of adjectives from the list W/S/BE/I/OW/F/U/MDtB as you desire; you won't be wrong. Special note must go to M2. It filled the eyepice from side to side with so many stars each easily made out that it looked like an major special effect from a high budget SF movie. On and on, we looked at the Saturn Nebula making out detail on this normal blob of a planetary.

Just to prove we aren't predjudice against the solar system, we tackled Uranus, Neptune and Comet Linear C/2001-A2. Neptune was first and we got many seasoned observers literally running to get their first lifetime view of Triton. One wag suggested he could see the Great Blue Spot. Well maybe not, but the planet was crisp and well defined. Uranus was even more spectacular with 3 and if you were lucky four moons visible. Everyone could easily see Titania, Oberon and Umbrial. A few people could glimpse Ariel which was tucked up close against the greenish disk. Comet Linear was large and well defined. It was an easy target in the better binoculars. The 16" was able to resolve two individual fragments tucked in the head of the comet. Many visitors were surprized by the tiny, almost non-existant tail (except photographically).

Les finally left at 2:30 when two nights of viewing finally did him in. The folks in the field had packed up and gone home (mostly to Massachusetts!). However, three of our regular crew stayed on - Doug, Dave and Barry. To paraphrase the catchy tune from Voltaire/Bernstein's Candide "What a night, what a night, for an awe fill'd delight!"

-Les Coleman

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After Les left the only other new object we observed was M18 in Sagittarius. We had just logged NGC7009 the Saturn Nebula (very blue!), and M2 (Wonderful!). We next spent some time outdoors with binoculars admiring the whole sweep of the heavens, noting the Pleiades, Capella, etc. and later the fine conjunction of Venus and Saturn low in the east, sitting less than one degree apart.

By 2:30 Comet Linear was very high in the sky, and a fine sight in binoculars. Doug decided it had dimmed somewhat since last night. He placed its magnitude at about 5.2 - definitely fainter now than nearby 31 peg at 4.8. We were just able to get a full view of the comet in the 16" without repositioning the dome shutter. And we were treated to a fine view of it's now very noticeable tail. This was barely detectable in my 10 x 50 binoculars, but in the 16" showed quite clearly at 100X. The southern fringe of it showed some signs of dust and/or gas streaking, and Dave and Doug noted that the tail appeared to be divided into two dim sections, the more southerly being the brighter of the two. What we earlier thought might have been a second core turned out to be a 12th magnitude background star that had been diffused somewhat by the comet's head. By 2:30 AM Linear had moved about 6 arc minutes away from it, toward the north-northwest.

It was now 2:45 and the moon was beginning to seriously lighten the still excellent skies, so we three (Dave, Barry, and Doug) reluctantly closed up. Gary Weston (10" LX200, Cambridge) had just finished breaking everything down when we decided to close as well. We left the park at 3:10. No sooner did we reach the road when we noticed morning twilight beginning. So we couldn't have done any decent deep sky observing for much longer anyway!

-Doug Stewart

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Jul 14, 2001
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
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