Friday, August 26, 2005

Houge Park August 26

Last night I hauled my 18" Obsession to Houge Park. I'd done this once before, but had forgotten how much fun aperture is in the city. I'm used to bringing my 10" CPT out, its a fine scope and I enjoy it. But, the views last night showed once again what da Weasel says... "aperture wins"....

Driving over just before 7 p.m., and yes, I was first to arrive, I was noticing the thick haze in the valley. I worried that this was the start of a condensing marine layer and that taking and setting up a big scope would be a waste. Instead, skies cleared nicely and we had very good transparency and steadiness. The summer Milky Way could be detected running the length of the sky from the Teapot well up through Cygnus and back toward Cassiopeia.

I had a nice time visiting with Kevin Roberts and Cathy, Bob Havner, Jim Van Nuland, Dan Wright, Alan Zaza and Rob Hawley. Later on Robert Perri stopped by, hadn't seen him in a year or so. As the night wore on my daughter Mimi and her boyfriend Jeff came by as well. It was a socially and astronomically fun night!

The public turn out was decent. It sounded like the SJAA's advertising had fallen off for a while and was just getting back in gear. Most people had heard about the event in Bay Area Parent magazine. There was one interesting woman there with an 8" Orion Dob that came by and wanted to look through an 18. She home-schools her kids and has a 20 person astronomy club that meets at her house as part of the "school"...

Objects last night shown well in the 18. The Dumbell with a UHC at about 180X was excellent. The big globulars M13 and M15 put on a great show as well, resolving very nicely. We looked low at the Lagoon, Triffid and Butterfly Cluster. M31 later on was showing hints of dust lanes, and NGC 7331 was easy.

Oh, early in the evening, after going through the collimation "meditation", just after sunset but still with a bright sky I found Venus. Nice slightly gibbous phase and quite steady. Knowing approximately where Jupiter was, I found it easily in the 10x70 finder. It too was very steady in the twilight sky, showing many cloud bands.

About 11:30 I packed up and went out for a late night bite to eat with Mimi and Jeff. It had been a very good night at Houge. I'll probably continue to bring the 18 now... it is not really that much more effort, and the reward in brighter more detailed views was well worth it. If you've got a choice of scopes to bring there, my recommendation is "bigger is better"... the public sure loves it!