Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Magnets In My Boots (A short night of observing)

Tonight I had my 10" CPT set up out back, on an observing pad. The conditions looked so good this afternoon that I even collimated.

Funny how 20 minutes of looking at the sky can be so fun. That's all I spent out back, but worth it.

I first looked at Saturn. My 10" is an f/5.7, and with a 7 Nagler I could see some excellent ring detail, but the real show for me was the surface of the planet. Subtle colors - three major "band" demarcations on the disc. The dark polar region, then a lighter colored band, with somewhat darker again toward the equator. Made me wish I'd set the scope up on my equatorial platform. Maybe tomorrow...why not, the CSC for La Caja looks good:


I swung over to Jupiter, still low in the east. Blah. Too low. A few good bands, but mushy.

I thought then about how the public viewing at Houge Park would look at the same view and get excited. Then I thought about a young mother and her son - a baby she held on her hip, named Jove. That's right. There's the connection, looking at Jupiter I thought of baby Jove.

The mom was funny. Dresses like she is out of the 60's. She looked through my 10" scope that night at Houge and, with her eye at the eyepiece said "when I look at these things, I feel like I'm transported - like I'm leaving the earth and am going to the thing I'm looking at".... I enjoyed that. I thought it fun, and funny. So I told her (on that wintery night) that the same thing used to happen to me, and that I worried so much that I'd put magnets in my boots. She looked at me and said "really?"

Fortunately for me, I'd put on my Sorell boots, and knew just what to do. I told her "Sure.... here...." and I took off one boot, reached into the front and pulled out a spent chemical heater. Handing it toward her I showed her the "magnet"...

She looked at them, still saying "really?" I think she's still wondering about that one.

Houge can be lots of fun.

Well, tonight I moved form Jove up to M81/M82. The sky seemed kind of bright, and I just somewhat pointed the scope to the general area I knew the objects to be in. Then I looked through my 9x60 finder and, there, was a funny looking star, or something. I centered it, looked in the eyepiece, and there at 74x were two galaxies. Both easy to see, the bright core and dim spiral of M81, the dimmer M82 still obvious - a slash of light in the sky. I don't know about others, but when I saw this I found myself thinking "this is fun.... this is fun!" and, that I get a visceral reaction to seeing these things. What a kick! The photons tickle my optic nerve, and I react.

I then began hopping around. NGC 2903 - one of my backyard test objects. Sure enough - dim, but I've seen it dimmer from La Caja. Very cool.

On to M65/M66 - point, look in the finder - uh.... maybe.... look in the eyepiece and... another pair of bright galaxies! What a blast. I looked then for NGC 3628 - trying to complete the Leo Triplet. But, tonight was not the night for so much dimmer a target.

I thought to myself how cool it was to be able to get out for just a few minutes - to take even a little time to do what I enjoy. If you have a scope - it is worth setting up, even for just a few minutes out back.

More tomorrow.