Monday, May 7, 2001

Full Moon Observing

With such beautiful weather, I could not wait to set up the 14.5" f/5.6 Dob that had been sitting in my garage for most of the past 3 years. This is the scope I used for almost five years of observing, prior to my buying the 20" and then the 18" Dobs. I have wonderful memories of using the 14.5. Many nights at Fremont Peak, Henry Coe, Pacheco and Mt. Lassen. I had begun to wonder what backyard observing would be like with some reasonable aperture, since I had been doing decently with my 10" f/5.6 and recenly the 8" f/7.

So before dinner, I hauled out the beast. I think the mirror box on the 14.5 is about equal in weight to my 18. The 14.5 is nothing to look at. Plain gray paint on a home-made box. Beat up. Dinged up. Over-used. Really needs a rebuild.

But the mirror. A gorgeous Galaxy Optics with one nice figure! This scope would keep up well with the 18" I now own, over the five years the two stood side by side at Fremont Peak.

After set-up, I popped in a Cheshire eyepiece and was surprised to find it very well collimated. So I went in, ate diner, attended to a few tasks, and around 9 p.m. walked out back with the 20mm and 12mm Naglers in hand.

I had forgotten how tall the scope is. It must be taller then my 18. I had brought out a one-step Rubbermaid case to get to the eyepiece. I had seen Randy Muller using one of these, and thought is made a lot of sense. Well, near zenith, I am on tip-toe at the eyepiece even on the step. But, I like to stretch, so the case remained.

It was now about as dark as it would get tonight. Behind the big oak to the east of my backyard, the moon was rising. It was a bright full moon. The tree was a silhouette against the bright ball.

I pointed the Dob at M65 and M66, using the 20mm. After a bit of adjustment, I found both galaxies well in view. Not a lot of detail, but no doubt about them being there with direct vision. This was interesting, as this observing session, while short by intent, would tell me a bit about what I should expect in using the 14.5" compared to the smaller apertures I'd been bringing out. The galaxies were telling, but still, rather washed out with the big moon.

Looking up to the northeast, I saw Arcturus and Cor Caroli, and landed on M3. The 20mm gave a tantalizing view. I could see it was breaking up like fine sugar on black cloth. I grabbed the 12mm and the view was resolved to the core. While a bit washed out, the view was still spectacular, filling a good portion of the field. Several brighter components sprinkled over this mind-boggling ball of stars. Only one star stood apart from cluster, a bright one at the edge of the field to the south... shining gold, alone. M3 told me I would absolutely love using this scope at home. I suppose the 10" or 8" will be relegated to Houge Park or going to friends.

Mimi came out. I was looking at the spread of M104. She described it wonderfully at the eyepiece. The oak to the east was now a dark mass with a bright silver sky above it. It was almost time to call it quits.

I looked up one last time. Regulus, high to the south. Above it the twin gold suns of Gamma Leonis. I pointed the Telrad just north of Gamma, looked in the eyepiece, and there were NGC 3190 and NGC 3193, easily.

I'm going to like using the 14.5". My observing pad is its new home. The trees are full of leaves blocking out the streetlights, the sky is big. I can't wait. I don't know why it took me so long to get to this point, but now the fun will begin.

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