Log, Mar 24, 2000

Thursday: Joe and I met at the Dome to try some CCD imaging. We are not so much interested in the pictures as the process. While we took a quick peek at Mars and Jupiter, most of our time was spent with the Trapezium in M42.

One annoyance was that our Radio Shack 12 volt power supply has gone kaput. There was enough 12 volt current available for one device but we needed a second 12 volt source. Joe had left his handy 12 volt rechargeable battery home but we suddenly thought - we drove here didn't we? Our cars have batteries don't they? So Joe's car became an accessory to our telescope. Driving the car up to the door might look strange but it worked fine.

We tried to finish up with the Sombrero but we missed it. Small objects must be exactly aligned or they fail. What with the Moon coming up, and the sky brightening, plus the fact that we expect a big night tomorrow, we called it a night around 10:30 PM.

Friday: 100 people. 100 is a count of signed names not an estimate. We had a real crowd on this first Friday in Spring. The folks from Kimball finally got to see us. Weather has caused them to cancel time and time again. We had two troops of Girl Scouts and a Cub Scout Pack. There even were some teens taking an astronomy elective course. Add to that all the folks who have been waiting for clear skies for weeks and weeks and you get an overflow crowd. Luckily, we had all our stalwarts there. Bob had set up his Newtonian on platform 1 and Art had his 10" Dobsonian over on platform 2. I had a small richfield scope set up for the Kimball folks over on the deck of the Nature Center. Allyson, Dave and Joe kept people circulating through the Dome and up to the LX200.

I got a call from Joe asking me to bring some software. I expected to arrive early enough to be the second person. Silly me! Joe was already showing people Mars, Jupiter and Saturn with the Sun still above the horizon. The crisp cleanness of the air allowed this unusual daytime viewing. We noticed the declination drive was up to its all tricks. Joe quickly rectified the problem with a few turns of an Allen wrench. Once again the declination drive was pointing perfectly.

As it got darker, Jupiter and Saturn, the mainstays of the early evening began to show their families off. We managed to see the four Galilean moons and the seven brightest Saturian moons. Jupiter displayed its storm bands as it so often does. Saturn displayed clearly storm bands and the Cassini division. Momentarily, even the Encke gap was visible to seasoned observers.

Once we got onto M42, the lines of people made it impossible to display multiple objects. Here is where Art and Bob came in so helpful. At least everyone had chances to see several objects. After we finally left the Great Nebula, we went to the open cluster NGC 2362. The next open cluster was M46 with its embedded planetary nebula NGC2438. Right next door was M47 and NGC2423. On to the Eyes galaxies - NGC4435 and NGC4438. Of course we right in the neighborhood so we tackled M46 and M84 galaxies. We tried for NGC2207 and IC2163 - two galaxies in the process of colliding edge-on, but they were too dim for untrained observers. We'll try them again another night. We went on to M86 and the dim nearby NGC4425. From here it was a short hope to M87 and it cluster NGC4476, NGC4486A. NGC4486B was washed out by the rising Moon. Our next target was the Pinwheel galaxy M99.

For a change we started back on the solar system. Earlier we had displayed the greatest of the asteroids Ceres. We now went after the closest and remotest world circling the Sun. Pluto was visible and easily identified because the star field was relatively clear of possible confusions. With the 2" polarizing filters, the Moon was pleasing to view. At least we did not have the problem of a complete loss of night vision.

By now, the lateness of the hour and the chill of the air reduced our numbers to members only. However we were far from ready to shutdown. We went to M60 with overlapping galaxy NGC4647. Within a one degree circle were M59, NGC4638 and NGC4360. As a change of pace, we looked at NGC4361 - planetary nebula, sort of alone by itself in a very dim star field. Our next target was the relatively bright globular cluster M68. Once hooked on globular clusters we hit M10, M5 with a yellowish foreground star PSC0340-0114 that I hoped was a nova find. (It wasn't). Finally we hit the northern hemisphere's magnificent M13. If you haven't seen M13 it is hard to describe. A box full of tiny diamonds against a velvet black background is a poor simile at best.

Back to galaxies with M81 and M82 just off the brightest star in the Big Dipper. By now the Summer triangle had come fully into view. Altair was above the horizon and Deneb and Vega were well placed for viewing. Of course this meant we had to go for the Ring M57. While were in the neighborhood we skipped over to m56 another globular cluster. Out came the cry "Lets try to split some stars.", then another voice "Yeah, right - lets do the double double in Lyra". This is not a thing normally tried on a night when the Moon is as bright as it was tonight but we were punch drunk from lack of sleep. So over to Epsilon Lyra we went. We went over an they split clearly and easily -twice. They looked rather like a colon (Epsilon 1), a gap and two periods (Epsilon 2). However, between hem in the less than 4 arc minutes between the Epsilon 1 and 2 were yet two other stars. If we hadn't had the full Hubbell data base on line, we would have been baffled by two stars far in the background GCS3122-0926 and GCS3122-2161.

We went up into Draco and looked for the planetary nebula called the Cat's Eye - NGC6543. Right near by was NGC6503, so we looked at it. By now I was so sleepy I could barely recognize it as a galaxy. We went over to a galaxy in Ursa Minor called NGC6217. Whether it was our eyes or its own intrinsic blahness, we deemed this object to be the Smudge galaxy. Joe swung the scope around and when I couldn't even recognize the Dumbbell (M27) [I called it Bigger Smudge], we knew it was time to and go home. Well after 2 AM we locked up the dome, the big front gate and went our ways.

All in all, a really great night at Frosty Drew. We had sighted more than 45 deep space objects, plus 17 solar system denizens, and a few special stars. A full 100 people got a chance to look through our telescopes. We eclipsed a record we just set a few weeks ago by a half dozen objects.

-Les Coleman

Leslie Coleman
Leslie Coleman
Entry Date:
Mar 24, 2000
Published Under:
Leslie Coleman's Log
Subscribe to Leslie Coleman's Log RSS Feed