8” Celestron SCT Gary Leiker
10” F/5.56 dob Mark Smith
4” F/7 ED doublet Collin Smith
I arrived at 9:45 PM, which was a little later than I’d written for the invitation (9:15-9:30), but still early enough to encounter a good deal of twilight and still be the first person there. Fortunately, Polaris was just visible, so I began to set up my AstroView mount via the polar alignment scope and clock.
Gary Leiker showed up a few minutes later followed by Mark Smith. A little later, Neetu and my girlies Maya and Sofia appeared, followed by Wade Estepp with his chair to start the evening. Maya was ready to stay up and enjoy the night, but Sofia was asking about food, even though we’d eaten a pizza and everyone else in the family was full. But at least they got to see the planets.
Although Mark started out with horizon-hugging Saturn, I went for Jupiter, almost two weeks past Eastern Quadrature. Unfortunately, I tried my Baader Classic Ortho 10mm with Q-Barlow for a 4-4/9 mm equivalent eyepiece, but the image was dim and featureless, so it didn’t look promising for high-powered planetary viewing, and in fact, it proved not to be. Just the same, using my Brandon 12mm with Old School Made-in-Japan Orion 2x barlow worked, as well as the TeleVue DeLite 7mm. And my early mount aligning efforts paid off, with only a slight amount of drift at the eyepiece. Jupiter looked great in all the scopes, of course. That show-off, by Jove.
I split Algieba, Gamma Leonis, but it’s not a very interesting double, with both primary and secondary stars a yellow-white. I moved on to the near-zenith Cor Coroli, Alpha Canes Venatici, which was a bit better, with a green-white primary and yellow-white secondary. It certainly offered more contrast than Algieba could muster.
Wade and I were simply looking higher up into the northwestern section of the sky when we both caught a strange, greenish-white object that brightened quickly, then faded just as quickly, the whole thing lasting a few seconds. It didn’t seem like a meteor, and we suspected an Iridium flare, but checking the Heavens Above website for Iridium flares doesn’t turn up anything, though perhaps it was a brief satellite, or maybe a meteor after all? Was quite dramatic, that’s for sure.
The best view of Mars was from Gary’s 8” SCT. In particular, the view with his Meade 18mm HD-60 eyepiece produced the sharpest image we’d get of the Red Planet. My own refractor produced a miniature version of Gary’s image, which wasn’t bad, but about all one could expect from half the aperture.
On the other hand, Saturn in Mark’s 10” and Explore Scientific 8.8mm eyepiece was the best view there. The Cassini division was easily apparent, as well as the significant brightness of Ring B relative to A, and the translucent Crepe ring added a mysterious reverence.
I went after M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra, just for the heck of it. I found it, but was a washed out shell of itself given Luna’s intense late gibbous glare. Mark’s 10” did a better job, of course, but it wasn’t nearly as good as what we can get out at the Gott on a dark sky night. In the neighborhood, Mark brought up the Double-double also in Lyra (Epsilon Lyrae), a target I’d forgotten about, so I put my refractor on it. Honestly, after comparing the Brandon 12mm-with-Barlow to make it a 6mm equivalent view, I preferred the TeleVue 7mm DeLite’s view. I was surprised at this, but it was indeed true. The split seemed cleaner and I appreciated the larger framing.
As the night grew later, Albireo, Beta Cygni, was now high enough to tackle above the east-facing tree which shielded us from both streetlights and all low eastern targets. This one is a crowd pleaser, with its yellow-orange primary and blue secondary.
Many of the desired targets out of the way, it was time to turn my eye to the Moon. The moon was really only two nights shy of full, so VERY large. I found that the entire globe would fit comfortably enough in the Nagler 9mm T6. It took up almost the entire eyepiece, but one could move one’s eye around and see the whole thing, from the sunrise on the terminator to the slight greenish hue along the edge with space that my ever so imperfect F/7 FPL-51 4” doublet puts up. Tycho and Copernicus were prominent, the sun rising along the southern cratered highlands remarkable.
It was after midnight and it’d been a long week, so time to pack it in. All in all, a pleasant night out under God’s heavens.