Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Good One At Montebello!

Last night at Montebello was a great example of turning frustration into fun. Arriving around 8, I was there with only two other vehicles in the lot - day hikers. There were clouds overhead and to the west, things did not look promising. But the serenity of the place, views of the green hills, red and brown clouds, made it worth the drive. Andy Pierce had posted his OI for the night, so I decided to hang out either until dark or the ranger arrived, for Andy to show. True to his word, there he was as dusk began to set in. I looked at him, looked at the clouds, and asked if he was setting up. Andy has the right attitude, what the heck, yank 'em out and get 'em ready. You never know.

Early on the clouds were a problem. There was a nice alignment of Castor, Pollux, crescent moon and Mars, with Saturn nearby. I looked at Jupiter, coming in and out - sometimes very sharp, then it would suddenly soften. Over to M104, nice dark lane (clear part of the sky). Peeked up at M3, in a clear space. Dull. There must have been clouds up top too. I shot over to NGC 6910 in Herc, pumped up the power, and had saw a nice dim shell around the very green ball - nice planetary. But, as time passed and dark set in, the clouds gave way to some quite good skies.

I had a very frustrating time at first... I had come out to continue hunting Herschels, but something was wrong with either my battery (please, don't start a battery thread about this), the DC-DC converter (I was cursing Crilly), or with.... with... the laptop. Oh no! To top it off, I had left my charts, a cardinal sin, back on the table in my garage, from observing on Sunday night. I was not happy. Andy suggested we share his SA2000 and Uranometria, but I know that's difficult at best, even though it was a nice offer. I suggested I follow along on whatever Andy was going to observe.

That turned out to be a great. Not only did I learn how another good observer generates interesting lists, we were able to compare views. It was a lot of fun.

While I don't think Montebello last night would have been a really good location for dim Hershels in Virgo, my original plan, I did have some surprises. I did a star count in the Finnish Triangle 11, and came up with 43. That's a good sky. One of the galaxies I picked out last night, NGC 4792, was not on SA2000, and today saw it is not on the older Uranometria either. The Sky lists this object at mag 16.14, and exactly where I saw it. The VMag is actually 15.2, not bad... but I think the surface brightness of 13.4 really helped it show up. I also had a no doubt about it (direct vision) views of NGC 6426 the dim glob in Ophiuchus. And all this was at Montebello!

Andy was working small areas in Virgo and Corvus. He'd put "hops" together of bright or interesting objects. As I said, it was fun. It was also great to get back to paper charts and using the optical finder.

Here are the objects I observed, single galaxies by themselves, others that were one field or close are grouped. I'd recommend all of these targets, Andy did a fine job putting them together in an observing list:

  • NGC 4123
  • NGC 4116 (maybe)

  • NGC 4073

  • NGC 4030

  • NGC 4699
  • NGC 4818
  • NGC 4739

  • NGC 4742
  • NGC 4760
  • NGC 4781
  • NGC 4790

  • NGC 4802
  • NGC 4782
  • NGC 4783
  • NGC 4792
  • NGC 4700

Finished up with fine views of M5, NGC 6426, M51 and finally NGC 4565. Very good night... back home in bed by 1:30....

Now, to figure out the battery problem....

ps - next stop - SSP!

pps - observed with 18" Obsession, 20mm, 12mm and 7mm Naglers.

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