Friday, August 16, 2002

Light Pot Cooks The Green Pea ;-)

Friday night at Houge Park the seeing was about as good as I can recall for a few hours after astronomical dark.

The turnout was very good... maybe a couple dozen telescopes and very interested crowds sharing views. I had my 8" CPT(1) (aluminum frame collapsible Dob) riding on a Compact Equatorial Platform(2). The tracking of the platform was flawless, allowing me to center a target and either study it uninterrupted, or allow the public to view without my having to nudge the scope every couple minutes.

The tracking also allowed easy use of higher power. This came in very handy as I went after targets that would otherwise be difficult.

Immediately I found the view of the 1st quarter moon exceptional. I quickly removed the 12 Nagler and went to my 7mm Meade, taking the magnification to 200x. The views down into several of the larger high-walled craters showed intricate detail. Peaks stood out crisply with black shadows in stark relief pointing at the terminator. This was some spectacular seeing. So much so that I soon swapped the 7mm for an Orion 3.8mm Ultrascopic, taking the magnification to 368x, near the theoretical limit of an 8" scope.

What a view! The inner crater walls were showing detail more clearly than I have even seen. I wished, and I know this will come as a shock to those who know my aversion to planetary observing (they are so darned bright!), yes, I wished I could view Jupiter under these conditions.

But alas, I was stuck with awesome views of the Great Light Polluter.

The sky was so washed out due to haze, mag 3 would be generous. So, other than the bright thing, I found myself searching for targets. Aha! Antares was very close to the moon. I swung the Light Pot (hey... its bigger than a saucepan and smaller than a bucket) over, put the 3.8mm back in and... and.... WOW! The Green Pea!(3) Sitting at the edge of Antares glare and the somewhat swimmy diffraction rings was a dull grayish-green dot, in and out, chucking and jiving, but there. I had never seen it in any of my telescope (not that I try often). I called out to a couple other observers next to me. Over they came and one by one looked. The first one asked me as he walked over where to look relative to Antares, and I suggested he look and tell me if he saw it, rather than my biasing him. He looked and nailed the position. Two others looked and also nailed the position.

I called over a very experienced observer and had him look. But the seeing had slightly deteriorated mushing out the little vegetable. Pea soup. Frustrated, the observer claimed a bad-hair day.

I moved the scope up to the Double Double(4), finding it with the 7mm. The conditions again looked superb. Super clean split, even on the tighter pair. In went the 3.8mm. Awesome! The pairs of stars sat still at opposite sides of the field of view. The splits on the pairs was very wide and each of the four tiny stars had beautiful concentric rings surrounding them. If I could only put this seeing in a can and save it! Passers-by looked. They loved the sharp views of this target.

A couple of hours had now passed by and the seeing suddenly trashed. I could get nice splts on the Double Double at lower power... in fact I should not complain... at 200x it still looked good... but I was now jaded by the earlier views. I looked around for other targets.... oh my.... what a poor looking naked-eye sky. I guessed at where M15 should be and got lucky landing right on it. Poo. It was not a very pleasing view. Up to M57. More poo.

Back to doubles. Alberio was drop-dead gorgeous. People came by and would take it slightly out of focus and marvel at how distinct the colors would become when "spread out". Over to Eta Cassiopeia(5). Again, the colors were the show. Very nice!

Then I looked back over at the polluter. Thin clouds had moved in and masked it down so it was less irritating, making it somewhat brown. I looked overhead at Vega and, try as I might, I just could no longer see (at zenith!) Epsilon Lyrae. The sky was going.

I decided to tear down. I talked with friends while putting my equipment away. Looking around I noticed the number of scopes had dwindled to just a handful.

I stowed the equipment in the truck of my car and was home by 11 o'clock.

Nice night. Surprised me as I didn't expect to do much with the scope due to conditions. I'll be back out tonight, trying to put the "DeathStar" into the Light Pot. :-)

  1. CPT -
  2. Compact Equatorial Platform -
  3. Splitting Antares -
  4. Double Double -
  5. Eta Cassiopeia -

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