Sunday night, January 11, 2015 Emma

I arrived late, about 7:15, and too late to catch Mercury and Venus, now setting low in the west, but Maurice Clark, Scott Harris and Gary Leiker had seen them, and Mark Smith may have arrived early enough to catch them, too. Dr. Clark had his Jaegers 5” short tube achromat, an almost 50 year old scope. When not imaging, Dr. Clark paired the scope with a Williams Optics 28mm UWAN. More on this later. Gary and Scott had the 12” dob, while Mark had an 80mm achromat. I brought my C102GT, a 97mm clear aperture F/10.3 achromat. Gary used his Meade HD60’s more the most part, occasionally borrowing my ES 28mm 68*. I used the ES 28mm 68*, the Pan 24, and TeleVue Nagler T6’s 7 & 13mm.

Of course, the first item on my agenda, and even theirs although they’d already seen it, was Comet Lovejoy. That night, the 11th, in Taurus and a fuzzy naked eye 4th magnitude “star”.  Dr. Clark noted how fast it was moving, and indeed it clearly had changed positions from the first time I saw it to further north & east on its way toward Aries and Triangulum, but from the “legs” deeper into the corpus of the Bull this evening. Dr. Clark snapped off a few shots.

We looked at a lot of things. Dr. Clark getting Gary and Scott to bag some Eridani galaxies, while I worked on the Orion Nebula & the Trapezium, having more luck, surprisingly, with my 13mm T6 vs. my 7mm one.

Without a doubt, however, the highlights of the evening were the jaw dropping widefield views the Jaeger’s 5″ together with the WO UWAN 28mm. Simply spectacular! Dr. Clark had been imaging earlier, so the scope wasn’t available for viewing until later. He had to reconfigure the focuser a bit to get the diagonal in place after removing the CCD, but, man, was it worth it! The 3.62 degree true field of view combined with the light gathering of a 5″ unobstructed primary, the rather perfect 5.6mm exit pupil, 22.68x magnification and the pristine Emma skies came together for an optic nerve nirvana. You’ve GOT to see it to believe it, folks. M31, the Andromeda galaxy, spread on forever and ever, amen! Obviously attended by both M32 and M110, seeing its galactic wings go on in a 3.6 degree field is just stunning! M33 lay in a beautiful field of Milky Way stars, faint arms unfurling. Maurice showed us the “pointing stick” of stars directed at the Double Cluster, stars one would never associate, could never associate, in a lesser field. And of course, comet Lovejoy’s long ion tail was spectacular flaring off this temporal inner Solar System interloper.

Now Gary’s 12″ did a nice job of pointing out M31’s dust lane, and with my 28mm 68*, we could just put M32 and M110 in the same field. This level of detail is nice, and it was satisfying to have both widefield star scape and exacting detail on the same observing field.

Around 9:30 the winds picked up, and the warm 60* sunny day of Sunday gave way to the wintry, freezing fog of Monday.  Just before this, I noticed the flickering and shaking of Rigel, which I was able to split, just barely, stars gyrating madly in the eyepiece, photons tussled about by the upper atmospheric disturbances that soon begat our much lower atmospheric ground winds.  We packed up and headed home, a night of stargazing that I will not forget, widefield heavenly vistas running through my head even to this writing.

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