Sunday, September 5, 2004

Short Night at IHOP II

I was at loose ends for things to do on Sunday, and saw some traffic come across the TAC-SAC mailing list.... mention of terrific Clear Sky Clocks and people heading to Ice House Observing Plateau II. I had gone to Henry Coe the night before but had to leave very early, and left the truck packed up. So, it was an easy get away.

I arrived at Jane Smith's and we piled my equipment in her truck, headed out to In And Out, and then on the road toward Placerville.

It is a nice drive. Once through El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park, the mountains start up. Pine trees, gently curving roads and blue skies make it enjoyable. The road up to Ice House is well maintained and offers sweeping views. This was my first trip there, and I found the observing site to be large, offer good horizons, but rocky (and full of shotgun shells).

We were joined by Shneor Sherman, Alvin Huey and, around dark, a couple named Terry and Manny pulled in.

The seeing was very steady except low to the horizons. Transparency was also quite good. I had left much of my setup in my truck back at Jane's, since I planned to observe the same objects she did. I had my 18" Obsession and used the 20, 12 and 7 Naglers throughout the night. I had brought my Atlas of Galaxy Trios - the one Miles Paul compiled. Jane had her Eye Candy list. We alternated between the two. But first, Jane talked about the globular cluster NGC 6380 in Scorpius. Apparently, Steve Gottlieb had mentioned it as a real toughie. So, in the darkening sky we began our night's observing on this SGNB*. With my laptop running The Sky I soon found myself on the right star field. A small inverted "L" of stars provided a pointed, along its short leg, toward the location. A chain of four stars provided a boundary - kind of a visual backstop that told me "don't go past this" - and the middle two stars should somewhat bracket the globular. The Sky makes it look like a big glob, but I think it is not. For quite some time, as I waited for the sky to really darken, and hoping the target would not get too low, I could not see it. I was using my 7 Nagler which gave 294X. Then, after a while, I began detecting a small slightly oblate glow - not exactly where The Sky had the center of the object plotted, close, but slightly to the north. I had trouble at times determining if there was a star involved or not, and the glow came and went - all with averted vision.

We next went for some Eye Candy.

NGC 129 in Cassiopeia is a huge open cluster. It was astonishing to trace out the extent - filled most of the field of the 20 Nagler. What a great cluster and in such an easy position.

NGC 185 and nearby NGC 147 sit between M31 and the bottom star of the right hand "V" (trailing) legs of Cassiopeia. NGC 185 is large and round, diffusing out evenly. It is easy to find, too, as there are three naked eye stars it sits near. NGC 147 at fist glance looks a lot like NGC 185, but it is smaller, dimmer and elongated. This nice bright pair are two satellite galaxies of M31. I always like them, since they seem far off from their host galaxy - gives me a feeling of the distances. We also jumped over the border, past the three bright guide stars, to NGC 278, a smaller bright spiral galaxy which, at high power, showed some good spiral structure. Nice group.

NGC 1501 was a nice view too. Large planetary with dark mottling in Camelopardalis. I used the Lumicon UHC.

Observed the Crescent Nebula - NGC 6888. It too was very good, but this time I used the OIII filter. Lots of good detail in the fat end of the Crescent.

There were some "tourists" that stopped by too. Man, wife, couple of teenagers. They were all interested, but did not have enough warm clothing. I showed the daughter M15, NGC 7789 and NGC 7331. She seemed very interested and asked questions.

Jane and I also snagged a couple galaxy trios from the MiIes Paul atlas.

NGCs 6927, 6928 and 6930 were fun. There is a nice double star that sits SE of the dim and elongated galaxy NGC 6930, with brighter and larger NGC 6928 to its NNW. NGC 6927 seemed more difficult to me than NGC 6927A... but both had to "appear" from the background after some waiting and searching around.

All the above galaxies were in Delphinus, as were NGC 6956 and UGCs 11620 and 11623. I know I saw these, but by then I was tired, the moon was about to come up, and I didn't write anything down other than the numbers as "seen"...

The ride back was easy - good highway is nice.

* Dillonism - Steve Gottlieb Nut Buster

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