Wednesday, April 14, 1999

Observing Four Daze

I am still recovering. Four trips to and from Fremont Peak over five days, late nights observing on each trip. It was a whirlwind of observing activity resulting from incessant cloud cover over the winter months. I am tired, but my appetite has just be en whetted.
In The Beginning

Tuesday, April 13, my daughter Mimi was on spring break from school, and I had promised to take her observing once the weather improved. This was a great opportunity to do so. Rashad Al-Mansour had plans to do two nights of observing if the skies looked good, and when I looked outside that morning, I knew I and probably a few other observers would be joining Rashad by the ranger's house at the Peak, at least for one night. I would do two, but not until I was reasonably certain of the second night would not be a bust.

When we arrived at the Peak, only one other observer was there. We set up just east of the observatory. I took out my 20" F/5 and my Cassiopeia, my daughter's 10" f/4.5. You can read about my daughter's two nights of observing in The Messier Monster in TAC's observing report archives at ... but I will concentrate on my experiences in this report.

Once the setup was complete, we had dinner and watched as the fog rolled in to the north and south. Mimi and I headed over to the western ridge of the park to watch the sunset. Over there, too, the fog was streaming in, low, but thick, over the cities and hills that frame Monterey Bay. The smokestacks of the Moss Landing power station were buried under a blanket of gray-white, the only indication of their location being a billow of fog thermally risen above the rest of the spreading blanket. This cert ainly looked like a promising night.

The sun dropped, as Mimi and I talked to a lone observer, his 18" Dob set up along Coulter Row. We headed back to the observatory side, and our observing group.
Like Days Of Old

As the twilight changed to astronomical dark, it became clearly obvious to me that we were in for a dark night at Fremont Peak. There were but a few clouds on the horizon, but they would not intrude on our evening. After helping my daughter observing, I settled down to hunting the Herschel list in Leo and Ursa Major about 11 p.m. or so.

As the night wore on, I came to realize this was a particularly special one. The fog laid in sufficiently to totally remove the lights of Soledad, Salinas and Hollister. San Jose and the cities to the north were nothing more than a soft, muted glow low on the horizon. I could not recognize faces. The sky above looked black rather than gray-tone. There was little evidence of dew, there was no breeze. We were on an observing island, removed, separate from the rest of the 6 million people under the blanket of fog, in and around the bay area. What a great night it would be.... like days of old at Fremont Peak!
The Views

When I finally did get to my own observing program, I logged 28 new objects. The sky was so dark, compared to the usual nights at Fremont Peak, I could not help but linger on many of my finds, using what I had learned over the years to try picking out as much from each object as possible. It would be a relaxed observing session, I think I am over the "rush" to find things. Here are those new objects I was able to view on this first exceptional night of 1999:

Located west of, and on a right angle formed by 70-Theta Leonis (Chertan... mag 3.3) and 78-Iota Leonis (mag 4), which describe the "hind leg" of Leo (where M65 and M66 are found):

Galaxy NGC 3547 Other description Elongated galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Faint, small, little extended, very little brighter middle.
Magnitude 12.8
RA 11h 09m 54.0s
Dec +10 43'00" (Epoch 2000)
Size 2.0' x 0.8'

Taking the line described by 30-Eta Leonis (mag 3.5, located just above Regulus in the "question mark") and Chertan, place the upper 2 degree circle of the Telard "on that line" and the lower part of the 2 degree circle so it almost touches the line described by Chertan and 47-Rho Leonis (this is the mag 3.8 star "below" Leo's body, just about 6 1/2 degrees east of Regulus) This will place your around the field for:

Galaxy NGC 3599 Other description Round galaxy.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Bright, pretty small, round, pretty gradually much brighter middle.
Magnitude 11.9
RA 11h 15m 21.8s
Dec +18 07'15"
Size 0.6'

In and around the field for NGC 3599 will be:

Galaxy NGC 3608 Other description Round galaxy in group.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Bright, pretty large, round, pretty abruptly brighter middle, 3rd of 3.
Magnitude 11.0
RA 11h 16m 57.9s
Dec +18 09'15"
Size 1.4' x 1.0'
Position Angle 74.0


Galaxy NGC 3607 Other description Round galaxy brightest in group.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Very bright, large, round, very much brighter middle, 2nd of 3.
Magnitude 10.0
RA 11h 16m 51.9s
Dec +18 03'15"
Size 1.8' x 1.3'
Position Angle 120.0


Galaxy NGC 3605 Other description Round galaxy close companion.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Faint, small, round, southwest of 3.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 11h 16m 45.9s
Dec +18 01'15"
Size 1.4' x 0.8'
Position Angle 16.0

as well as...

Spiral Galaxy UGC6296 Other ID MCG3-29-21
Other ID CGCG96-20
Other ID PGC34419
Magnitude 14.5
RA 11h 16m 48.9s
Dec +17 48'19"
Size 1.2' x 0.4'
Position Angle 166.0

and the last I observed in this area...

Spiral Galaxy MCG3-29-24 Other ID PGC34493
Magnitude 13.4
RA 11h 17m 37.9s
Dec +17 49'36" (Epoch 2000)
Size 1.8'

Taking a line from Zosma north to mag 3.6 Alula Borealis (54-Nu Ursae Majoris), just slightly north, place the western portion of your Telrad's two degree circle there, and you should find:

Galaxy NGC 3629 Other description Round galaxy.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Considerably faint, large, round, very gradually very little brighter middle.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 11h 20m 27.8s
Dec +26 58'17"
Size 1.9' x 1.5'
Position Angle 30.0

Next was NGC 3681, with NGCs 3684, 3686 and 3691 in the immediate area. Find this group in the triangle of Leo's tail. Place your Telrad four degree circle so the bottom edge is on the line from Chertan to Denebola (the tip of Leo's tail). The distance between the four degree and two degree Telrad circle is one degree. Place the western edge of the four degree circle one degree from the line between Zozma and Chertan. Look in your eyepiece. Is NGC 3681 there? Look for NGCs 3684, 3686 and 3691 in the area.

Galaxy NGC 3681 Other description Round galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Bright, pretty small, round, brighter middle.
Magnitude 11.7
RA 11h 26m 27.9s
Dec +16 52'15"
Size 3.0'

Spiral Galaxy NGC3684 Dreyer description Pretty bright, pretty large, extended, very gradually brighter middle.
Other ID UGC6453
Other ID MCG3-29-50
Other ID CGCG96-47
Other ID PGC35224
Magnitude 12.2
RA 11h 27m 09.0s
Dec +17 02'04"
Size 3.0' x 2.1'
Position Angle 130.0

Spiral Galaxy NGC3686 Dreyer description Pretty bright, large, very little extended, very gradually
brighter middle, resolvable, but mottled.
Other ID UGC6460
Other ID MCG3-29-51
Other ID CGCG96-49
Other ID PGC35268
Magnitude 11.8
RA 11h 27m 42.0s
Dec +17 13'40"
Size 3.2' x 2.5'
Position Angle 14.0

Spiral Galaxy NGC3691 Dreyer description Faint, pretty small, little extended, resolvable, but mottled.
Other ID UGC6464
Other ID MCG3-29-53
Other ID CGCG96-50
Other ID PGC35292
Magnitude 13.4
RA 11h 28m 06.4s
Dec +16 55'30"
Size 1.4' x 1.0'
Position Angle 14.0

The next object is back up above Zosma, but a bit closer to the star than NGC 3629. Use the same line from Zozma to Alula Borealis, but this time place the western edge of the Telrad's 4 degree circle on the line between the stars, and just so the edge of the circle touches that line a tick below the center point. Hopefully, you'll see a lone galaxy, and a pair of almost equally bright stars at about 5 minutes away... the stars will have about 7 minutes separation.

Round galaxy NGC 3689 Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Pretty bright, pretty large, little extended, brighter middle.
Magnitude 12.3
RA 11h 28m 09.9s
Dec +25 40'17"
Size 1.3' x 0.9'
Position Angle 96.0

Now for an easy location. Place your Telrad's eastern 4 degree circle on Denobola (the tail star). Use the line to Zozma to bisect the area of your Telrad between the upper 1/2 degree and upper 2 degree circle. Bingo... there will be NGC 3800. It should appear as a nice thin slash, and if you have a really transparent night (or big aperture), you should see NGC 3789 just off the western edge of NGC 3800. A mag 10.8 star, the brightest in the field, sits just 2 minutes off the pair to the south.

Galaxy NGC 3800 Other description Very elongated galaxy close companion.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Faint, pretty small, extended, pretty gradually little
brighter middle, resolvable, but mottled, eastward of 2.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 11h 40m 10.0s
Dec +15 21'15"
Size 1.7' x 0.4'
Position Angle 52.0

Spiral Galaxy NGC3799 Dreyer description Considerably faint, round, westward of 2.
Other ID UGC6630
Other ID MCG3-30-37
Other ID CGCG97-47
Other ID PGC36193
Magnitude 14.7
RA 11h 40m 06.8s
Dec +15 19'54"
Size 0.8' x 0.5'

This one is easy to id in the eyepiece, as there are several stars pairs in the field that appear to be pairs of equal magnitude. It is a distinctive field. To get to NGC 3872, place the 2 degree circle of the Telrad just west of Denebola. The 1/2 degree circle should appear to form a 45 degree angle with Denebola at the junction with Chertan. Easy hop, nice view!

Galaxy NGC 3872 Other description Round galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Bright, small, round, abruptly much brighter middle star.
Magnitude 11.7
RA 11h 45m 46.0s
Dec +13 46'14"
Size 0.8' x 0.6'

I can honestly state that I have no idea how I located the next pair of galaxies. They are at the conjunction of Leo, Coma Berenices and Ursa Major... an area just west of the Coma "open cluster".... nothing in the area as far as bright or landmark stars go. It is most likely that I took Denebola, and the naked-eye star 93-Leonis to its north, and extended that line about one and a half of their separation again to the north, placing the Telrad's western 4 degree circle just on the line. That is approximately the right area. The star field is again, destinctive, with nice geometric shapes of bright stars to help confirm. In the field with NGC 4008 is UGC 6968, and although The Sky does not show it here (maybe it was in Uranometria), I also logged NGC 4008A.

Galaxy NGC 4008 Other description Round galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Pretty bright, pretty small, extended, pretty
abruptly brighter middle, star involved north.
Magnitude 12.0
RA 11h 58m 16.1s
Dec +28 12'18"
Size 0.6' x 0.4'
Position Angle 166.0

Spiral Galaxy UGC6968 Other ID MCG5-28-64
Other ID CGCG157-70
Other ID PGC37704
Magnitude 14.1
RA 11h 58m 41.7s
Dec +28 17'43"
Size 2.8' x 1.0'
Position Angle 84.0

The next object is an easy star-hop. In the "question mark" of Leo's head is the star Rasalas (24-Mu Leonis, at mag 4). Use it as a starting point. If you are familiar with the lower "paw" of Ursa Major, and Gemini's bright Castor and Pollux, you can use them to locate the tail pair of stars in Lynx. Both pairs seem to point "off" their constellations at the Lynx pair. The southern, or end star, in Lynx is slightly brighter than the other, mag 3.3 vs mag 3.9. From the mag 3.3 star, draw a line back to Rasalas. Place the Telrad in the center of that line and nudge is very slightly up toward Lynx. You should find NGC 2893 there, with a mag 9.2 star outshining any other in the field, just 7 minutes northeast.

Galaxy NGC 2893 Other description Round galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Very faint, small, round, very abruptly brighter middle 12th magnitude star.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 09h 30m 15.0s
Dec +29 32'14"
Size 1.0' x 0.8'

How about a fun one? Why fun? Because it was difficult to confirm this one.... took a bit of work to assure myself it was "fuzzy" and not just a group of stars. NGC 2894 is "buried" in a chain of stars. Not until I looked at the DSS image included with The Sky could I convince myself I was seeing a galaxy. The other thing that is usual, at least to me, is that at one NGC digit from the prior galaxy, I expected it to be a close neighbor. Instead, it is on the opposite side of Regulus from 2893, over 21 degrees away. Still, its location easy to find. Look at Regulus, then find Leo's "front foot" (21-Omicron Leonis). If you continue the line from Regulus past 21-Omicron, you will find 22-Theta Hydrae, in the serpents's "neck." Use this star and 21-Omicron. The 2 degree circle of the Telrad should sit just outside the line, and the edge of the circle closest to Omicron should be just over one degree away. I did say it was easy to find the location, but the galaxy has a low surface brightness, and required persistent averted vision.

Galaxy NGC 2894 Other description Elongated galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Very faint, extended, easily resolvable, 2 or 3 stars involved.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 09h 29m 21.4s
Dec +07 43'06"
Size 1.6' x 0.8'
Position Angle 26.0

Not so very far away sits NGC 2914. Place your Telrad outer circle so 14-Omicron Leonis is just inside the 4 degree circle. If you extend an imaginary from Regulus beyond Omicron, such that the south edge of the 2 degree circle touches the line. Omicron should be at the inside edge of the outer circle. This should be a pleasing view, with NGC 2914 joined by NGC 2911, 2919 and UGC 5093.

Galaxy NGC 2914 Other description Round galaxy close companion.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Very faint, small, round, brighter middle nucleus, eastward of 2.
Magnitude 13.1
RA 09h 33m 57.4s
Dec +10 07'07"
Size 0.8' x 0.6'
Position Angle 14.0

Lenticular Galaxy NGC2911 Dreyer description Faint, pretty large, round, gradually brighter middle, westward of 2.
Other ID UGC5092
Other ID MCG2-25-3
Other ID CGCG63-7
Other ID PGC27159
Magnitude 13.1
RA 09h 33m 43.9s
Dec +10 09'16"
Size 1.9' x 1.5'
Position Angle 140.0

Spiral Galaxy UGC5093 Other ID MCG2-25-4
Other ID CGCG63-8
Other ID PGC27175
Magnitude 14.9
RA 09h 33m 56.3s
Dec +10 01'45"
Size 1.0' x 0.3'
Position Angle 152.0

Spiral Galaxy NGC2919 Dreyer description Faint, pretty small.
Other ID UGC5102
Other ID MCG2-25-7
Other ID CGCG63-13
Other ID PGC27232
Magnitude 13.7
RA 09h 34m 45.2s
Dec +10 17'11"
Size 1.8' x 0.6'
Position Angle 158.0

Sitting above Leo's head, the galaxy NGC 2918 is found by again locating the two tail stars of Lynx. Use them to point about the same distance between them, beyond to their south. Now, move just under one degree further south. Place the western edge of the 4 degree Telrad circle on that spot.

Galaxy NGC 2918 Other description Round galaxy with bright core.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Very faint, considerably small, round, abruptly brighter middle nucleus.
Magnitude 13.0
RA 09h 35m 45.0s
Dec +31 42'15"
Size 0.6' x 0.4'
Position Angle 64.0

NGC 3107 is easy to find. Place the Telrad's outer ring on Regulus, with the center of the Telrad between the front "legs" of Leo, just slightly to the east. The distance between the outer Telrad circle and its northern neighbor (31-Eta Leonis) should be about 1 degree. The galaxy is just under 2 minutes from a mag 8 star, the brightest by far in the field. At the edge of the field is another mag 8 star, with a dim small triangle of stars just to its north.

Galaxy NGC 3107 Other description Round galaxy.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Pretty faint, pretty large, irregularly round, 8th magnitude star, 148 , 112".
Magnitude 13.0
RA 10h 03m 15.5s
Dec +13 38'10"

My last object for the night (excluding the big bright showpiece objects, which are unreported here, but were interspersed with the objects in this write-up) was NGC 3691. This is very easy to find. Place the Telrad in the triangle of Leo's tail. Get the 2 degree circle situated to it touches the line between Denebola and Zosma, and get the 4 degree circle to rest on the line between Denebola and Chertan. Look in your eyepiece. In the immediate vicinity you will find NGC's 3681 (mag 12.4), 3684 (mag 12.2), 3686 (mag 11.8) and if you can go deep enough, MCG3-29-54 (mag 15.2) and UGC 6843 (a nice edge-on at mag 15.1).

Galaxy NGC 3691 Other description Round galaxy.
Constellation Leo
Dreyer description Faint, pretty small, little extended, resolvable, but mottled.
Magnitude 14.0
RA 11h 28m 09.9s
Dec +16 55'15"
Size 0.8' x 0.6'
Position Angle 14.0

Having had enough, I sat back with the remaining observer, looked naked eye at the clouds of the Milky Way up high in the east, and thought about summer.

I don't think I even felt my head hit the pillow as I crawled into the truck and laid down next to my little girl. Part 2 of this report at a later date...

The Messier Monster...

After a winter of poor skies, the opportunity recently arose for my 10 year old daughter, Mimi, to use the 10" f/4.5 Coulter Odyssey I bought her several months ago. We had a nice time out in our suburban backyard, observing together. Mimi asked when my next trip would be to Fremont Peak, as I had been promising to take her once the night temperatures rose above meat locker. One of my observing friends has been talking about two nights at Fremont Peak this week, since conditions looked unusually promising, and since Mimi was on spring break, I offered to take her, the 10" and my 20" f/5 for a night of observing. Mimi has almost grown up going to Fremont Peak. She's seen rangers come and go, made friends, lost them, explored the terrain up there, and in general, feels about as familiar and comfortable up there as any old timer. Needless to say, she was overjoyed at the thought of the first trip of 1999.

We enjoyed the drive together, a rare opportunity to spend some extended time with my daughter just one on one. The ride up San Juan Canyon Road, with the lush greenery, running stream, boulder strewn fields, sheep, cows, wild turkeys, horses, hawks and turkey vultures was, well, a tranquil and relaxing backdrop to a conversation with a young girl who is growing up. Anyway, we arrived at the Peak to find Jeff Crilly waiting. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Blanchard pulled in. We were all wondering who's tent was set up... it was Rashad's.... he had been the first to arrive, but decided to return home for some additional equipment. After dark, he arrived back at the observatory, and our party was complete.

Mimi was raring to go. She immediately zeroed in on M42 and started her observing log. She found the Trapezium interesting, but it was not completely dark yet and the nebula was not fully showing. She would come back to it later. After waiting longer for the sky to darken, she asked me to suggest a target.

The Big Dipper was high and rising, and I knew that she knew the asterism. So, I suggested she try for M97, The Owl Nebula, just off the end star of the bottom of the bowl. After a moment's discussion of approximately where to look, I suggested she just try, and I would be over at my scope viewing if she needed help. I turned to walk away and heard "I think I've got it"....

I turned, stunned. I think a few others in the group were stunned. I looked in the eyepiece and surely, the nice round visage of The Owl was just off center. Everyone came to look and congratulate Mimi on her first real Fremont Peak Star Hop.

"What's next, Dad" ... a phrase I would become very accustomed to over the two nights. But, surely, she will not find them all so easy.... and I described M108, saying it was close to M97 and she should scan around, always trying to keep a known star in the eyepiece so she'd know where she'd already been. I turned to walk to my scope and...

"I think I've got it!!!!" I could not believe it. I chuckled. She said "It's a small slash of light, right?" I said yes, and took my confirming view... and it was good. More congratulations, and the 10 year old was bouncing, almost vibrating with excitement. With the number of nights she's seen her dad hunting objects with friends, the methods must be, by now, genetically coded into her being. She hit her first two real objects in seconds.

So, where should she go next? What would be an easy target, but not too easy? M51.... I can find it, but I rarely "land on it".... so this would be next. I had a bit of trouble explaining its position, so Mimi and I went to the tailgate of my truck where my laptop computer was running The Sky. It occurred to me I might not get any observing in at this rate.. but ... well, my thoughts on that in a bit. We looked at The Big Dipper again, on screen. I showed her how I found M51, forming a right angle with a star below the handle midway between the end star and the middle handle star.... but she told me she had an easier way, and she was right. Over to the scope she went, and... well, first, I have to describe what an excited 10 year old looks like moving the scope...

Mimi hugs her scope. She loves the scope. Calls it Cassiopeia, the sky queen. So, she hugs it while moving it. When she thinks she's on the right spot.... wham!!!! Up go her hands.... off the scope in a flash up into the air, like someone responding to a hold-up command "get your hands up"!!!! It kills me to see this, makes me laugh... but it works for her.

Anyway... M51. She nailed it. It was becoming obvious to everyone that a monster was being created. What else? How about a few naked eye objects. I told her M45, the Seven Sisters was a Messier object. She asked me how Messier could mistake it for a comet. Good question! She put the scope on it to officially register it as a telescope object on her list. Now I described a star hop into Cancer, off Pollux and Castor in Gemini, telling Mimi to look for a fuzzy haze, where M44 would be. She found it easily, marvel ling at the naked-eye smudge. When she looked in the eyepiece, she said it was "beyond words" and she could see why it is called the Beehive.

Next she moved on to M65 and M66, telling me there was a big edge on galaxy in the field with them. She'd picked out NGC3628. She was dancing. What fun!

And I was having fun too. I've coached plenty of people, but had never taken time to help my own daughter. This was as good as it gets. I knew it didn't matter if I did my own observing that night.... she'd improve and be able to be on her own soon enough... and probably sooner than that at the rate she was going. I decided I would surely be up later than her, and my observing would happen after she went to bed.

About this time, another observer, Robert Perri, showed up, setting up his truss tube 10" Dob. If you are a local reading this, you should get a look at Robert's design. It is amazing. His scope is a "front seat" telescope... no reclining the seat, and nothing touching the floorboards.

A few of us helped tell Mimi where to find M104. I think Jeff Crilly told her about the little group of pointer stars near it. We looked on the computer and found a naked eye star just below the galaxy. At the scope, she found the pointers in no time, then said "I think there's something at the edge of the eyepiece"... she'd done it again.

My daughter knows the mythology of Corvus, Crater and Hydra, and saw on a star chart that M68 is just below Corvus. She measured the distance below, and soon checked off another M object.

I reminded her that she'd found M95 and M96 in her scope from our backyard, and that they'd look much better at the Peak. It should also be noted here, that this night there was a good cover of fog over the valleys and coast, and the sky darkness was like the Peak "used to be".... it was quite dark. Mimi checked her chart, found M95, M96, M105 and NGCs 3384 and 3389.

She had her fill for the night, and was soon tucked into her sleeping bag in the back of the truck.

The next night we returned to Fremont Peak after a trip home so I could get some work done (and so Mimi could shower). There was no fog at the Peak, and though the sky was much brighter, the transparency and steadiness were both 10's. It was a great night.

Mimi began with M43, as I had told her it was essentially part of M42, or seemed to be. Mimi decided she wanted to get all the Messier 40's tonight, as a project. So, M41 was the next quarry. Easy pickings. I looked and confirmed. She found that by taking the foot of the dog (Canis Major), drawing a line to Sirius, and making a right angle above it the same distance, she'd be about on M47. The bright coarse cluster was gorgeous. I said M46 was just a short way off, and after a bit of poking around, she said "this MUST be it".... and it was. I asked if she saw a little dim ball in the cluster, and she identified NGC2438, the planetary in the big cluster. She looked at it on the computer and mentioned how it was at the apex of a dark "triangle" pointing into the cluster. She must have better eyes than I do!

After a late night the night before, fatigue was beginning to catch up with her. We looked for M48 in Hydra. It was an interesting star hop from Procyon in Canis Minor (using the "other" star in the little dog to draw a line), to two dimmer stars to the east, and just off a visual triple star. Sure enough, it was in her eyepiece. I was looking at our only observing partner for the night, Rashad, and shaking my head. Mimi was awesome. She described M48 as like "being inside a diamond mine" and I think she's right.

Asking about M40, I said she should forget about that one until some other time, as a double star is not very exciting, and difficult to confirm. So, she asked about M49.

M49.... where was it? I didn't remember. We checked. Ouch!!!!! Right in the heart of Virgo.... the beginner's graveyard. Virgo strikes fear into newbies. It strikes fear into a lot of people with poorly developed star hopping skills (in Virgo, you need galaxy hopping skills). But Mimi insisted, she would get it.

We used the computer to map out a strategy. Mimi went to her scope and swung it toward Virgo. Looking in her eyepiece she immediately said "I've got it!!!!" .... but, she didn't. I told her Virgo had sooo many galaxies that it was a tough area to work. Again, at the computer, she determined she'd looked at the wrong star in the sweeping curve of Virgo's bright "arms"... so .... back to the scope.

In a matter of seconds, M49 was hers.

Smiling, content, the Messier Monster was done, but only for the night. There will be no stopping it. An observer is born.

Mars 4/14

Mars was beyond words last night at Fremont Peak. We didn't have any nice refractors, so we used a 20" f/5 Dob with various eyepieces. Found the best view by far was with a 3.8 Orion Ultrascopic (cheap, but it worked wonderfully).... how many X is that anyway? :-) I would guess we were observing Mars at about 1 a.m. (PDT).... aside from very large dark areas all over the planet, I was impressed by what seemed to be a dark apron, looking even textural, extending away from the polar cap. There were also two big bright white areas on the limb (sorry, I am a planetary newbie), on each side of the equator. It was nearly as good a view as I had two years ago through a friends AP180. Anyway.... Dave.... good seeing was just an hour south of where you were.

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Mars is looking good

At one point last night, I thought my secondary had dewed, but it was just a momentary thing. Rashad saw that I was looking at Mars and was going to call the press, until I told him with the dew on my diagonal it was the only thing bright enouh to cut through. It was a painful view. At that time, it was still relatively low and I didn't think the image was very good. Robert Perri put some window screen in front of my UTA, which gave a wonderful rainbow effect that was reminiscent of some parties I attended in the late 60's, but the diffraction effect did pick up more detail.

Later, about 3 a.m., when Mars appeared to be transiting, the view was much better, 3 distinct dark areas on the surface, a polar cap, but it was still much too bright for serious observing ;-) I again commented that I didn't really like the image... even though others swore that it was very good (some of the best views of Saturn I've ever had were during the ring crossing a few years back, though the 20 when Dean owned it)... but I reminded them that the views of Mars through Rich's 180 were much, much betta.

To bad those finderscopes cost so much....