Tech Terrace on a Monday night, 10-10-2016

Gary Leiker called me on Monday night, October 10th, 2016, to go out to Tech Terrace Park. There was a big gibbous moon in the sky, but we were both ready for some astronomy. I didn’t arrive until about 9:30, but went straightway to setting up and was aligning my finders (red dot and 50mm RA) by 9:45.

I had my Celestron 102GT refractor (97mm clear aperture, F/10.4), while Gary had his Celestron Edge HD 8, and Scott Harris with Lesley had out his NeXStar SE 8 with 2″ visual back. I was very interested in determining the apparent field of view of my 2″ GSO 42mm Superview eyepiece. I had heard it was actually only 55-odd degrees, even though it is advertised as a 65* eyepiece. I centered around a point between Sulafat (Gamma Lyrae) & Sheliak (Beta Lyrae), the “bottom” stars of Lyra in between which lies M57, the Ring Nebula. One could see the tiny nebulosity, even at 24 power in the SV 42. Quite nice. But there was only about a third of a degree or so outside Gamma & Beta Lyrae, so I’m putting the AFOV of the SV42 at about 57 degrees. That’s about it, folks. Not the best news for me, but still a wider true field of view than what the Hyperion 31mm provided.

Scott and Lesley split the beautiful Eta Cassiopeiae, which I unfortunately missed, still calculating the AFOV/TFOV of the Superview.

But with that out of the way, and Delta Cygni nearby, I decided to try and split that 2.7 arcsecond uneven double. With my BCO 6mm at almost 170x, it split. A bit tight, and wavering due to all the upper atmospheric turbulence we had, but at least it split, at least most of the time.

Epsilon Lyrae, the Double Double, on the other hand, split even in my 11mm Nagler T6.

Scott and Lesley put Albireo in the eyepiece. Plenty of oohs and aahs on that pretty double.

I then put Brocchi’s Cluster, the Coathanger, into my scope. Scott tried it with my SV 42mm, but it’s just too big for an SCT, even with a widefield 2″ eyepiece. Gary’s still got to buy a 2″ visual back for his Edge HD 8.

I put M31/32 into the eyepiece for some reason, nostalgia I suppose. It was there (no M110 of course), but Scott put it in his 8″ SCT and we could make out the cigar shape, even with the glare of the moon! My refractor showed two blobs, but Scott’s gave the galaxy some form. In the neighborhood, I split Almach, Gamma Andromedae, with my 11mm Nagler. What a nice orange-yellow, blue-green combination it was. That inspired Scott to put it in his SCT. Quite a nice one.

That’s when Scott pulled the night’s coup. His tracking impeccable, he put Uranus into the eyepiece of his NeXStar 8. Uranus! In Pisces! On a gibbous moon night! I couldn’t make out ANY stars in that huge southeastern swath of sky. Under Luna’s unforgiving glare, no star dared shine. But the NeXStar tracked right to it. He focused and called us over. Yipee! Third largest planet in the solar system, aquamarine orb, at our service. Hot diggity! This was completely unexpected by me, and gazing at the washed out southeastern skies at Tech Terrace Park I was genuinely impressive.

Scott attempted to do the same thing with Neptune, but Neptune is more finicky, and the skies weren’t exactly cooperative this Monday night. He might have put it in there, but honestly, it wasn’t all that clear. Was it Neptune? Probably. Could it just as easily been a mistaken star? Less likely, but just not certain. Neptune can do that. It’s really a deflating thing to see, knowing how grand it is, fourth largest and all, yet still hard to distinguish from a pinpoint star, unlike the certain orb of Uranus earlier. I’ve always felt that way about Neptune. Even when you KNOW you’ve got it, you’re always kind of scratching your head at its stellar quality, how genuinely tiny it is, and not too planetary looking. Oh well, the turbulence was, indeed, bad, and Neptune wilts plenty under these circumstances.

Gary managed to get a bit of resolution on M13, with a few stars shining about the gray mess of sky the moon grudgingly allowed us.

It was late and we were ready to go, so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Luna demonstrated the turbulence of the atmosphere in the eyepiece, features literally washing about like rocks “moving” through the reflections of a creek bed. She was 10 days old, but quite beautiful …

We packed up and left, satisfied with an evening under the stars, but eager for another.

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