Saturday, September 11, 2004

Fremont Peak on 9/11

A few of us were talking about the anniversary of 9/11 up at the Peak. Hard to believe how time flies. Time does. It had been over a year since I'd been to Fremont Peak - and this I guess was good as for my annual pilgrimage. It is the first "dark sky" location I had observed from, and where I made the great majority of my long term astronomy friends. It did feel good to be back, as it always does. The SW lot was picturesque as always - fog covering the coastal plain - the Moss Landing power plant smokestack heat causing the fog to billow up into a tower. Rolling hills at my feet disappearing into the mist below - and the sun setting over the cloud-covered horizon. Golden and reddish tones. Beautiful sight. Those of us present stopped to watch for a green flash - the conditions were prime for it. There was no "flash" but we did see a green point! Hey... better than nothing.

Conditions were quite good all night. There was no need for a jacket - calm breeze but nothing bothersome, and the fog came and went, and came again. Seeing was very good - and in some 18" scopes we were playing around with mid mag 15 galaxies. A 20" tracking scope had the Blue Snowball at over 1000X - very steady - and in moments the seeing would settle to dead still at that magnification - the detail in the bright outer shell was spectacular - reminded me of a brighter version of the tendrils possible to see looking at The Crab on a great night in a big scope.

I was looking at some "Eye Candy" and working on the Miles Paul Atlas of Galaxy Trios.

The first object was NGC 6712 - a large globular in Scutum. It was bright - but not like M13 or M22 bright - no problem seeing it though. It was not as dense as the famous globs, but it was a rich globular. I was really surprised by the size.

Next object was a small planetary in Aquila - NGC 6751. I've looked at this one many times - it is in an easy to locate position - at the tail of Aquila - off the two brightest stars. It is small, rather dim (although it shows without a filter) and annular.

NGC 7463 is the brightest and largest member of a nice galaxy trio off Markab in Pegasus. An 8th magnitude star sits close by WSW of elongated galaxy - which is oriented E-W. NGC 7465 is smaller and dimmer to the ESE of 7463. At higher power, little NGC 7464 pops out perpendicular to 7463 on its south side toward the eastern end. All the galaxies have stellar cores. This is a fun trio.

Another nice trio is NGC 4799, NGC 7501 and NGC 7503. All are dim but easy enough. There are a pair of MCG galaxies along with the three brighter NGC's - which are small and difficult to pull out.

We looked at NGC 7635 - The Bubble Nebula. Part of it surrounds a bright star - it is large and sweeps around in an arc - like a big spiral galaxy. The nebula is brighter to the W of the star, sweeps N then quickly dives E and S in a big "arm". Very nice object.

NGC 7532, NGC 7534 and NGC 7530 is an easy trio. All have similar surface brightness - and are in a line. Two are close together with the third one separated out in a way that they'd be evenly spaced if there were four galaxies in a line. Instead, where the "other" galaxy would go there is a star outside the line to the S. The brightest galaxy (to the S) has a NE/SW sweep, the furthest one to the N has a dim star close by to the S. The next closest one has a bright core.

The last ones I put in my notes were NGC 7562, NGC 7557 and NGC 7562A. Only 7562A was difficult - a small slash of light that was a sometimes averted vision object.

If you are using a 15" or larger Newtonian, I would recommend the Atlas of Galaxy Trios. It is fun to go from an "Eye Candy" type object - where there's something fun and brighter to observe, to a challenging target that takes some patience and effort, and back.

When I woke this morning at the Peak - a good number of us remained. Three of us went to San Juan Bautista and enjoyed a very filling buffet breakfast at Dona Esther's, then toured the nearby Mission San Juan Bautista before driving home.

Next month - CalStar...

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