I arrived at the Gott late, having finished watching the tear-jerker “Angel in the House” with my wife and young daughters. Gary Leiker was already set up and showed us the GRS just before it rolled off the globe. Mark Smith was setting up his 10” F/5.56 dob, and I brought my 8” SkyWatcher dob, but forgot my 1.25”-to-2” adapter, so was limited to widefield views from my large, 2” eyepieces. I only used one, the ES 28mm 68* with a magnification of about 43 power, and a TFOV around 1.59 degrees. Bloody! Oh well. Gary informed us that besides the GRS, he had caught Juno approaching, too 🙂
All four Galilean moons were present, but Saturn stole the show as he’s apt to do. The globe against the rings just looked stunning in both Mark’s 10” dob with ES 8.8mm 82* and Gary’s 12mm Meade HD-60 in his Edge 8” SCT on the rock solid AVX mount. And it needed to be rock solid. The wind and mosquitoes weren’t as bad as they’d been the week before, but they were still pretty bad. Mark’s dob took a particular beating, proving Gary’s AVX is one sturdy mount. And it weighs little more than my ancient Orion AstroView mount! Well engineered.
Mars wasn’t quite as dramatic as Saturn, as usual, but it still looked good, and we enjoyed the dark “hood” around the polar cap, easily visible in both scopes, but easier to see in Gary’s given the wind resistance of the AVX mount.
Limited to low-power views, my planetary views were laughably small. I quickly turned to DSOs, and the Leo triplet, M65, M66, and NGC 3628, were all nicely framed in the dob, if a bit dim. But hey, 20 million light years is a long way from here, so … Cor Coroli, the wide double Alpha Canum Venaticorum, was nice, with a distinct color difference. At 130 light years, it’s got some advantages, brightness-wise. 800 AU apart, this pair has at least a 10,000 year orbital period. M51/NGC 5195 were a well framed in their galactic dance. Even M101, though still pretty much a blob out at the Gott as it usually is, was a nicer blob, with the most vague spiral hints I’ve seen at the Gott. M97/107 in Ursa Major were nice to see, but somewhat lackluster at 43 power, though, again, framed nicely. Looking for M81/82, I first caught NGC 3077 which was often my method when finding these galaxies in days gone by. Interesting that this evening I should find them in such an old familiar manner.
M57, the Ring Nebula, was tiny, but framed such that Sulafat and Sheliak almost fit in the field of view! Not quite, but very, very close. The Ring looked much, much better in Mark’s 10”, of course. M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, was similar. A very bright, distinct “cotton ball” in my scope as the brightest Messier object, it resolved into a nice Dumbbell shape with much more nebular detail in Mark’s 10” at 160 power.
I put in an O-III filter for a ghostly view of the Veil Nebula, starting at the Witch’s Broom, NGC 6960, on the western edge, and traveling around to the distinct eastern rim, NGC 6992, with lots of detail and the other NGC’s in between and within and about these two. Very nice.
Clouds from the north began to limit our viewing options, so I put M17, the Swan Nebula, in my scope, and although very nice and distinct, Mark’s 10” with higher magnification really brought this to life. I quickly put the Lagoon Nebula M8, and the somewhat less spectacular Trifid, M20 (at 43 power, that is), into the eyepiece. No one else got the time to do so. All night, I’d been aiding Mark to find things by putting the objects in my scope, going back to my red dot and shooting my laser pointer onto my red dot, so Mark could find things. Unfortunately, M8 and M20 got clouded out before I could even help Mark.
Raced down Scorpius to NGC 6231 & Collinder 316 just before clouds removed them from our sight. There was a brief clearing near Antares, so I quickly put M4 into the eyepiece. Quickly, I snatched up M54 and M70 in the base of Sagittarius, but before I could even get to M69, clouds obscured even the lower end of Sagittarius, and it was time to pack it in.
Given the clouds, having a low power eyepiece to quickly snap up targets against an advancing column of clouds wasn’t such a bad fate. Another enjoyable night under God’s great heavens, with many heavenly bodies on display for inquisitive human eyes.