Saturday, May 15, 1999

Messier Monster Update

Friday night at Fremont Peak, the West Valley College (Saratoga, California) astronomy class, led by instructor Benjamin Mendelson and retired instructor Tom Bullock, came to Fremont Peak to observe through the 30" Challenger.

Mimi, Rashad, Rich, Jay Freeman and I were set up by the observatory.

There was maybe an hour or so of reasonably clear sky, during which time I mostly watched Mimi show college students Messier objects. I got quite a kick out of the students asking questions, and Mimi doing her best to answer them (what is the focal length of your telescope? What is the eyepiece size? What is the telescope called?). Mimi would explain, then sign the student's worksheets. Friday was a short observing night, but fun.

Saturday night was cold but nice and clear. There was a bad light dome from Salinas, but at least there was no high fog or bad wind.

Mimi wanted to work some easy Messiers, but she'd already logged all the early evening Messiers in prior weeks. All that was up was the Virgo objects. So, in she dove.

I am amazed at the spatial relations she exhibited. Mimi mostly lands on the object she is after... using a 20mm wide-field Meade eyepiece. It was fun watching her on the laptop computer, identifying galaxies in Markarian's Chain, around M84 and M86. She loved "The Eyes".

The only place she had trouble was trying to find M89. She kept landing on the wrong galaxy, and the star fields just did not match up. I asked if she'd scanned around the adjacent fields. She tried, and found M89 immediately. Her next Messier object, and her last in Virgo was M90. She looked at the computer and was very happy to see that M90 was the galaxy she'd been mistakenly landing on while looking for M89.

To finish the night, Mimi climbed the ladder next to my 20" Dob, and pointed the scope at M13. She gasped. What a view! No... not the view of the cluster... the view of the 10 year old pushing around the big Dob, and the charge she got out of her view!

The night was complete. The Messier Monster had completed Virgo. Now she must wait for the summer objects to come up to log more Messiers. She could always start the Hershel 400 in the interim.

I did very little personal observing, but I had a great time.

I wish I could land on objects as easily as the Monster.

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