Sunday, April 4, 2004

Observing at Shingletown - April 10, 2004

I went to Shingletown on Saturday to meet with people in the town who are helping organize SSP 2004. I arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon and after the meeting went out to the airport. There were some clouds, which made us unsure about what the evening would be like. But I set up my 18" Obsession, up went a 18" StarMaster, 22" StarMaster, 22" Bruce Sayre made Dob, and a 25" home built Dob.

Transparency was variable. At times it was excellent, other times there must have been thin cloud cutting down the limiting magnitude. The planets were crisp and full of detail early on, but the seeing softened significantly as the night wore on. Temps were chilly, but not cold.

This is really my time of year for deep sky observing. I have picked at the H2500 list over the past several years. What I have left are predominantly in Virgo, Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices. I spent my time working in CVn.

At one point the 25" owner called me over to look at Abell 1656. I counted 25 galaxies in the field of view. I don't know the magnification, but the scope was tracking and I had a very good look at the area. We were also trying to see who could see what in a parallelogram formed by Denebola, Chertan, Zozma and 93 Leonis. I came up with 12 stars. That's not a bad night.

I most enjoyed taking my time, relaxing, talking with the other observers, looking through their telescopes. I was using the Sky Atlas 2000 Deluxe and Uranometria for star hopping. I think I had the only undriven scope there. I think most of the others were goto equipped.

Objects I viewed were:

NGCs 5440, 4248, 4719, 4986, 5141, 5143, 5142, 5149, 5238, 5243, 5263, 5352, 5355, 5371, 5358, 5350, 5354, 5445, 5225, 5154, 5312.

This was not a rushed list. There were multiple objects in some fields. Most were located in the relatively barren sky northeast of Bootes. Some were not too difficult, as Cor Caroli and Chara provided a good pointer. Others were adversely affected by the transparency, making them much more difficult than they should have been. One thing we all noticed was at 1 a.m. the light to the west from Redding disappeared entirely.

Probably the most pleasing object for its pure aesthetics was 5326, which shared the field with M3. Reminded me of M13 and NGC 6207.

By just after 2 a.m. I was tired. I pointed my scope to the west, and got into my sleeping bag. There I lay, in a sleeping bag, on a futon, on the runway of the Shingletown airport, listening to the other observers packing up. I watched the sky for a bit, fading in and out of sleep. I was asleep quickly.

In the morning I heard the sound of footsteps nearby and woke to find two women walking the runway, smiling at my grogginess, and saying good morning.

I stood up and looked at the craggy snow capped peaks of Mount Lassen in the morning sun.

What a great place to wake up.

I stood up, looked down the runway, and imagined what it would look like on the morning of June 17th.

It was worth the drive up and back.