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Log, May 10, 2002

45 people. The weather forecast was for clear transparent skies and no interfering Moon. I arrived very early to repair the snapped power cord that lead to our digital focuser. That went well. I went over to the Nature Center for a bit and while I was there Doug placed the 16" on Venus in the daylight. During the evening we would look at all the planets except Uranus and Neptune.

Initially, the air was very unstable. Venus jumped around wildly. The night was a bit of a quandary. It never got really dark. We could always see the tree line clearly marked against the sky. However for several hours later in the evening the clarity was spectacular. We could pick out most of the bright objects in Sagittarious - the Lagoon, the Triffid, and the Eagle were easy targets. We could just make out M4 near Antares at the limit of averted vision. At it best we probably had a 7.5 or 8 night. It would have been a 9 or better if the sky had really become black enough to hide the tree line. Our pseudo logarithmic quality scale runs from 0 (the rain clouds can't been seen because the fog is too thick) to 10 (metaphysical perfection, a night where you need to shield your eyes from the third magnitude stars because they are far too bright).

What a collection of telescopes popped up in the parking lot and the yard. There were 13 sizable instruments out there ranging from refractors up to large Dobsonians. If I am correct our old friend Hank from Woonsocket had the largest scope a 20" Dobs. Many folks who I know from the Internet only made their first visit to FDO on I night I was around so I got to meet lots of folks for the first time face to face.

I spent much of the evening running about the grounds, and in retrospect I realize that I really didn't spend that much time at the eyepiece of the 16" Meade. This really wasn't a problem, since I got many chances to look through Schmidt-Cassegrains, Dobsonians, refractors, Newtonians, rich field telescopes and sundry large binoculars. If you were interested in buying a new telescope, you could hardly miss seeing one like what caught your fancy in action. However, much of my report as to what we saw through the Meade 16" is from our scribbled log. Since we had a swirling crowd of people, I won't be surprised if something slipped through the cracks.

First of all, it looked like were were trying to run a special on Messier Objects. No, we didn't hit all hundred plus deep space wonders, but we did tag M2, M4, M6, M8, M10, M11, M13, M16, M17, M20, M44, M51, M56,M57, M65, M66, M81, M82, M84, M86, and M92. We could see the arm structure of M51 quite easily although when we first went to it the sky was in one of its episodic unstable periods last night. After much searching for two misplaced filters (our prized Oxy-III 2" filter and out Narrowband filter) which had been placed in a drawer, we got stunning views of M17 cloud structure. The Ring wasn't great and I don't know if anyone actually saw the central neutron star, but the two foreground stars partially hidden by the light of the Ring, were obvious. M13 was stunning. If you haven't seen this gem in a large scope recently, RUN (do not walk) to your nearest dark corner of the world that comes equipped with a 16 or more inches of aperture. M92 gave M13 a run for its money. A score of Messier Objects isn't much for a marathon, but giving upwards of two dozen people a chance to see these jewels, means we were really covering a lot of ground.

M92 which last night was only a short distance from another transient wonder Ikeya-Zhang. The comet's tale has noticeably shortened. While the central core remains easy to spot, I did not see the structure I saw last week.

We looked a beta Cancri (Doug seldom misses a night where he doesn't look at some multiple star) and the Ghost of Jupiter (NGC3242, a planetary nebula that some people thinks looks like a pale Jupiter). We also looked at Pluto. Our outermost planet has shifted noticeably since last week where we though we had found a possible nova. Pluto is still one of the least interesting telescopic objects imaginable. If you can't find Pluto, find any dim undistinguished star and you have a reasonable approximation.

For some reason, probably because it is close to M81 and M82, we turned to NGC2787 (a galaxy). We went after a string of galaxies. There are actually five galaxies although NGC5846 and NGC5846A overlap each other. The remainder of the galaxies are NGC5839, NGC5840 and NGC5850. We could three of the "four" at a time but NGC5839 and NGC5850 were too far apart to be seen in a single eyepiece view. NGC5845 is considerably harder to see than the others. I was one of the folks who finally gave up on this one. NGC6366 is one of those very large, very low contrast globular clusters. After M13 it couldn't help but disappoint. NGC6791 was very nice for the few eyes which weren't so bleary that they could see it. We saw IC1296 and a nearby globular cluster which I cannot find easily in the catalogs. Our last target of the evening was NGC6803, a crescent shaped planetary nebula.

-Doug Stewart

Leslie Coleman
Author:
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
May 10, 2002
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Leslie Coleman's Log
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