Observation Report, 10-Dec-2017

Gary Leiker 4.5″ Orion Starblast
Darien Perla C8 fork mount
Your humble narrator 4″ F/7 ED Chinese refractor
Mark Smith 10″ F/5.58 dob

I arrived later than I’d have liked, but it can be difficult to make my wife appreciate astronomy anything like shopping at Lowe’s, but home improvement is a good thing, too.

I brought my Orion 102mm F/7 ED refractor (Kunming Optical OEM), Gary had his StarBlast 4.5” F/4, Mark had his 10” F/5.58 dob, and Darien had his C8 fork mount setup doing astrophotography.

I began the evening aligning my visual finderscope, tried to get my 8×50 RA to work, but it’ll take some fiddling with in the daytime. This evening I finally got the 6×30 RA aligned and the Double Double was a very difficult split that night. Unfortunately, that was the way it would be. Double star splits, in particular, were extremely difficult, and Epsilon Lyrae set the evening’s trend. With the 5mm Nagler T6, they both split, but just barely, and that was 144 power! Even then, the right pair split easier than the left, and one had to wait it out for the snowman to split in half with the left pair. So much for the seeing, but the skies, after a brief time of cloudiness at setup, revealed a glorious celestial dome of stars.

I tried to split Delta Cygni, a task I’ve easily done with my C102GT and 6mm BCO (almost 170 power), but try as I might, and I exceeded this power by quite a bit when I little wouldn’t do it, I saw no double. Folks, the seeing wasn’t so hot.

In the neighborhood, and a bit put off by high powered efforts, I switched to low power, 2″ eyepiece viewing. I got a nice 25.5 power, 2-2/3 degree true field of view from the ES 28mm 68* eyepiece, and that’s what I used for a while, gobbling up Sulafat (Gamma Lyrae), the Ring Nebula (M57), and Sheliak (Beta Lyrae) with room to spare about them. It was a tiny Ring Nebula, of course, but was it in context!

At Darien’s calling, Mark put Caroline Herschel’s Rose Cluster, NGC 7789 into his 10″ dob, and am I glad he did. The Rose really does have a blooming flower appearance, small dark linings amongst the stars that seem to outline petals on a rose. NGC 7789 is worth the effort, just off and up from Caph, as tho to continue the “W” zig-zag pattern in the sky.

On to Andromeda, and to no one’s surprise, Mark’s view of M31, with the distinct dust lane, like Bob Ross had taken an eraser to the galaxy across the top, like a hat’s rim. I rather liked my less detailed, but more dramatic capturing of M31, M32 and M110 all together in my refractor, still with the wide field ES 28mm 68*. Looks awfully nice in a 2-2/3 degree field.

Albireo was a beauty, as usual, the Orange and Blue pair never failing in splendor. I scooped up M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, and brightest of the Messiers while I was in the neighborhood. And the Double Cluster, NGCs 869 & 884, added to this wide field sweep. Even the ET Cluster, NGC 457 in Cassiopeia looked pretty nice at 25.5 power. He was smaller than normal,true, but still distinct and easy to pick out in the dense starfield that is this Milky Way constellation.

I tried for M1, the Crab Nebula, still somewhat low in the east, small, but visible as a cotton ball. Gary started talking about the 100 sisters of the Pleiades he had in his StarBlast, and indeed, he did have them. Couldn’t resist putting them all in my refractor, either.

At Eta Cassiopeia I believe I returned to 1.25” eyepieces. Another beautiful, colorful pairing. With the Pan 24, I went after M35, ghostly NGC 2158 behind it. This pair of clusters forms the “ends” of a set of open clusters, with M38/NGC 1907 its other end, and M37 & M36, in that order, in between. So they begin and end in order, with the middles “swapped”. Also, the beginning and ending have distant, ghostly clusters farther behind them. In M35’s case, some four times more distant; in M38’s case, a mere 300 more light years behind this 4,200 light year away Messier Object.

Attempting to torture myself, I put M33, almost at zenith, in the eyepiece of my refractor. It was nice, and there was almost an expression of “arms” in this most interesting of galaxies. The seeing was better near zenith, or at least it was when I was looking at M33. We went after Mirach and his “ghost”, elliptical galaxy NGC 404. Got ‘em, alright. I was done with groveling on the ground when I commandeered Mark’s dob (he was off talking to Gary and Darien anyway) and put Gamma Andromedae, Almach, in the eyepiece. Again, another pretty, colorful split.

We hurried back to the west to catch M15, off the end of Pegasus’ nose star Enif. We tried Orion targets, getting a rather poor M78. I really couldn’t make out the Flame Tree Nebula (NGC 2024), which was disappointing. My split of Rigel was just plain terrible, and the Trapezium yielded bloated, unfocused stars that could not be focused, and the focuser on my 102 ED, tho only single speed Crayford, is pretty world-class. But that was the seeing. No tight Trapezium (and you could forget E & F, since A-D were as ugly a stars a person could put in the eyepiece).

So not the best night for stars at high power, but a nice night of low power viewing. It was getting late for a “school” night, we were all getting quite cold, and the clouds started to roll back in. Mother Nature even wanted us to quit, so we packed up and headed back south to the city, and our respective warm beds.

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