Friday, June 7, 1996

Los Gatos

What a great way to spend a Friday evening. After a week of wilting heat, the weather changed bringing the night temp at 10pm to a nice 70F with clear fairly steady skies with reasonable in-town transparency. My kids (Daniel, 11 and Mimi, 8) prompted me to let them look through my 10" f/5.6 dob tonight, since they are not accompanying me to Fremont Peak tomorrow night.

I started off looking at M13, Daniel and Mimi's favorite. Our dark adaptation was not very good yet, but the cluster was easy to locate and resolved well with a 20mm wide-field. I enjoy this eyepiece so much I decided to use it exclusively during the nig ht. From M13, we jumped north to M92. It is easy to find as well, between two well placed bright stars. It looked much more condensed than M13, but lacked in size by comparison. I then tried for the planetary ngc6210 in Hercules, which if I had charts out side, would have been easy to locate (but, my charts were inside past the lights of my family room, so.... no charts). 6210 is such a beautiful turquoise blue when conditions are right....

Next, over to Leo, beginning to set in the west. M65 and M66, faint, for sure, but there they were. Nice size with the 20mm, and the near identical pa's make them a nice pair. I kept asking myself if I could actually see ngc3268(?) by them, but I think I 'd be fooling myself if I did.

Hmmm... what next? Up to... why not.... M51. Yeah, it is supposed to be just a couple small fuzzy eyeballs looking back in the city, but it really shown well for in-town. For those who asked about tricks to locate it, I make a triangle with Alkaid (the e nd star in UMaj's handle, and the just visible (in town) star Canes Ven 21. M51 is almost at a perfect triangle's position away from Alcor/Mizar. The cores of the galaxies were obvious, and there was clearly some arm structure showing. It was not dark eno ugh, and my aperture was not large enough to make out any distinct dark lanes.

As long as we were around Canes, I moved to M63. My kids were having a ball with this stuff. Soon, a discussion about the possibility of stars no longer being there, although we see them, and the topic of ET's was in full swing. Too bad we were missing I Love Lucy reruns for this idle chatter! ;-)

M63 was bright compared to M51. Easy to identify, even for my 8 year old. But soon, Mimi decided she was getting tired, and went off to bed, leaving Daniel to continue observing with me.

I moved the scope to another corner of my backyard to get a better view of Lyra. M57 was a nice sight, even though it sat just above my neighbor's Altar To The Electric Light (all lights on in the back of their house, as usual). My son looked at the Ring and said we could place a paper "hole reinforcing ring" on the secondary and nobody would know the difference....

I moved to the double-double (Epsilon Lyra) for a quick peek, wondering what I could see at 71x. At first it looked like a single-single, but upon close inspection it became obvious that there were two components to each single. Not split, not even a fig ure eight, but certainly it was noticeable that they were not single point sources.

Now, with Scorpius rising sufficently, I popped in M80. I was surprised how bright it was (I guess my dark adaptation had finally arrived) compared to what I remembered. A nice bright small ball. Remembering Bill Arnett's comments about M4, I next swung over and found myself agreeing with him that it was very loose, and thought it certainly could be mistaken for a dense open cluster. No sign of the ngc globular just off Antares though.

Now, Daniel was being overtaken by the long school week of and the excitement of his pending summer vacation. He said goodnight and went inside.

I began searching for M5, but failed. A star chart would help, but my dark adaptation was too nice to lose now. Geesh.... I know about where it is, but I just hunted for a bit and thought.... why not move into Ophiuchus instead. Do I remember where M12 a nd M10 are? Well, M12 came into view with a quick peek through the Quickfinder and a small nudge at the eyepiece. I thought it looked similar to M4... perhaps larger, but it did not look dense to me. Still, a very nice sight. Where was M10? I got lucky an d plopped down right on it. :-) Now, this glob, although supposedly very similar to M12, was significantly larger and denser to my view at that moment.

For a finale, I pointed the scope almost straight up... there.... between Arcturus and Cor Caroli... to M3. What a magnificient sight to finish up on. This is easily one of my favorite objects! Large, dense, to me it rivals M13 (my real favorite globular is M22 in Sag, especially in a bit larger scope...).

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening for me, and my kids. And, it shows how even in town, with its associated light dome and well-lit neighbors, one can find a dark spot in the yard and get in a very relaxing and rewarding hour of observing.

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