Monday, August 13, 2007

My "Joe Friday" Observing Report

This report contains "just the facts".... I'm attempting to avoid anything overly figurative....

This past Friday and Saturday nights I joined a small group of TAC (htttp:// observers at two different observing sites in far northeast California. This section of the state is known for its wide empty spaces. We observed in sight of Mount Shasta, from private properties in the towns of Fall River Mills, and Adin. Friday at Fall River Mills was at the property of bay area amateur astronomy icons Denni and Kevin Medlock, builders owners of the 30" Challenger telescope at Fremont Peak Observatory (, and long time "movers and shakers" in most notably at Chabot Space And Science Center and the Amateur Telescope Maker's Workshop ( Group 70 (

At the Medlock's property we set up on the western edge of a five acre field, and joined other guests who were attending a weekend long Perseid party. The BBQ fired up, and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner and each other's company as twilight set in. Later that evening I and another attendee did a star count in the Finnish Triangle number 6 (

We both reached the same magnitude we had the month prior at Bumpass Hell parking lot at 8200 feet on Mount Lassen, 7.1 and 6.5. My target list ws the the one I had compiled for the August issue of the SJAA's newsletter Ephemeris. It provided a nice variety of objects pres with varying degrees of challenge. I'll post my observations after the descriptive narrative.

Of particular note during that evening was a spectacular Perseid bolide. It dropped quickly from about 40 degrees elevation to the southern horizon, intensely bright, illuminating everything as if someone briefly switched on a klieg light, then turned brilliant yellow green, changing to a florescent orange just as it broke into pieces as it disappeared behind a mountain to our south.

Welcome to Perseid weekend!

The next day was spent relaxing after a nice breakfast, until it was time to head east, to Adin.

Adin is 100 miles east of Redding, and about 60 miles west of Alturas. It is a town of 500, living at the east end of what is known as The Big Valley, which runs for many tens of miles north and south up to Tule Lake and the Oregon border. The region is dominated by the stratovolcano Mount Shasta to the west. Our hosts offered us use of a huge empty plateau on their property, with outstanding horizons for 360 degree.

We joined the owners in their home for a wonderful dinner that included filet mignon from their own grass fed beef cattle, as well as local vegetables, delicious homemade deserts, and assorted wines. Our hosts were extremely wonderful and gracious people who I owe my gratitude for their hospitality, and giving me an excellent night of observing.

That night, I did a careful count of the Finnish Triangle 6, twice, and got 48 and 49 stars, easily giving me the best limiting magnitude I've ever obtained by counting. The "dome of the night" extended unabated to the horizons in every direction. The Milky Way was not just sugary, but as one other observer noted, it took on a distinct three dimensional quality. About the only place I've seen such a deep and dimensional sky was two years ago at 6000 feet in the Andes of Chile. This was the darkest site I've been to in California, and I plan to return.

Both nights, we ended our observing sessions at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday night was special too, as our host family joined us at the observing site, where we enjoyed stories about astronomy and life in the wild and unknown country of far north eastern California, while watching the Perseids.

Next morning, I crawled out of the tent at dawn, the sky still dark enough for stars to cover the sky, but bright enough for land features to again be visible. I stood there, barefoot, no shirt, in my jeans. In the brisk morning air, facing west, the enormous Big Valley spread out at my feet, I enjoyed the stunning emptiness as Perseids flashed over my head and disappeared over the Big Mountain to the west. Mount Shasta was memorably described by the poet Joaquin Miller: "Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California." The mountain continues to be a place of spiritual importance to several Native American tribes.. The view that morning was truly magical.

It was a very memorable view with which to finish the observing trip.

Again, my thanks to our hosts at both locations for making this such a wonderful weekend. We'll see you again!

Here are my astronomical observations with my 18" f/4.5 Obsession Telescope...

- Just the facts (mam) -

N7023 Cep. BN 14.0' 21 01 36 68 10 00
Star offset to W of brighter circular glow. Dinner glow, almost detached extends to west of star, and brightens with averted vision. No filter. 190X.

NGC 7142 Cep. OC 4.3' 9.3 21 45 12 66 46 23
Rich dim cluster even mags with very dim haze interspersed. LBN 497 very obvios glow without filter, around 4 stars, 4th one comes in averted. Filter degrades view. Area is repleat with dim nebulosity.

N7129 Cep. OC/BN 8.0' 11.5 21 42 00 66 05 00
Rich dim cluster even mags with very dim haze interspersed. LBN 497 very obvios glow without filter, around 4 stars, 4th one comes in averted. Filter degrades view. Area is repleat with dim nebulosity.

N7139 Cep. PN 77.0" 13.3 21 46 08 63 47 31
UHC enhances this round PN, which appears annular without filter, and mottled with filter at 190x. At 290x dim stars at sw and e edges of pn, which appears uneven with somewhat jagged edges.

Abell 75 Cep. PN 56" 17 21 26 23 62 53 33
Moderately small, dim, diffuse, bifurcated dark lane running sw/ne, elongated same direction, star embedded just E of center. East edge is brighter.

NGC 6939 Cep. OC 7.0' 7.8 20 31 31 60 39 14
Large highly resolved open cluster with many bright members.

NGC 6946 Cep. GX 11.6'x9.8' 9.6 20 34 52 60 09 15
Large arm sweeping south, knot In arm NW of the core. Nice in FOV with OC to N.

Abell 73 Cep. PN 73.0" 17.4 20 56 26 57 26 00
Wow! Large, elongated N/S with only the brigher E/W edges showing, no visibility of N/S portions, center is darker. Take up 20% of FOV in 12 Nagler.

Abell 77 Cep. PN 76"x49" 16.4 21 32 10 55 52 42
Large, with stars embedded all around the glowing edges, slightly elongated e/w with bright knot on star on SSE edge. Best view is 12 Nagler with UHC - bright knot is the planetary - elongated e/w.

NGC 7008 Cyg PN 86" 13.3 21 00 33 54 32 32
Bright, coma shaped pn with bright knot to N, open to E, two bright stars at S end of curve. What may be a central star is obvious embedded in dark central part of the open section. Dim star at w edge just ahead of the pn, darker lane from center through w section almost break pn in half, creating brighter wwnw knot. Kind of a Flame Neb feeling.

NGC 7128 Cyg OC 3.1' 9.7 21 44 00 53 43 00
Small, condensed, many stars, pentagon of brighter stars in larger dimmer triangle. Nice view due to this being a tight group.

NGC 7086 Cyg OC 9.0' 8.4 21 30 30 51 35 00
Fairly large with wide range of magnitudes, in rich area of MW.

N7031 Cyg OC 15.0' 9.1 21 06 52 50 51 00
Small handful of stars that constitute no more than an asterism.

M39 Cyg OC 31.0' 4.6 21 32 12 48 27 00
Beautiful eyepiece full of bight stars. Coarse, no more than a dozen or so stars, all bight, with rich MW field of dim stars as background.

N7067 Cyg OC 3.0' 9.7 21 24 12 48 01 00
Small, dim haze, few bright stars overlay lots of tiny hazy stars

N6991 Cyg OC 25.0' 20 54 54 47 25 00
Very sparse and large haze of stars barely distinguishable from MW.

Abell 71 Cyg PN 2.6' 15.2 20 32 23 47 20 56
Very difficult to distinguish from background, especially due to stars overlaying target. Dim haze in correct position.

N7082 Cyg OC 24.0' 7.2 21 29 24 47 05 00
This rich OC is in a thick MW field, which hides it well. There are several bright components aligned linearly mostly N/S.

NGC 7062 Cyg OC 6.0' 8.3 21 23 28 46 23 03
Small, about 6' with a few brighter members around the perimeter, many dimmer members (dozens) in center,

N6997 Cyg OC 8.0' 10 20 56 30 44 39 00
Large, coarse, relatively sparse cluster with few bright members.

NGC 7000 Cyg BN 120.0' 20 58 00 44 20 00
Very large, dark lanes extremely prominent and well defined. Extremely extensive - covering areas I've never previously seen.

NGC 6866 Cyg OC 10.0' 7.6 20 03 55 44 09 36
In rich MW field, elong n/s with lots of dark lanes around cluster. Really stretched out.

NGC 7044 Cyg OC 5.0' 12 21 13 09 42 29 44
Very nice about 5'x4' sw/ne, all stars about even mag. Appealing dimmer cluster.

NGC 6910 Cyg OC 7.0' 7.4 20 23 06 40 47 00
About a dozen stars stretched out in a slightly curved line E/W with brt star on E end and brt star to S outside line, curving to N. Nice fun view.

M29 Cyg OC 6.0' 6.6 20 24 00 38 30 06
Two small arcs of stars facing away from each other running E to W with one solitary star centered between.

N6888 Cyg BN 18'x8' 20 12 01 38 23 00
Very well defined elongated N/S with only E edge ill defined. Bright knot inside N edge. Very fine object

N6857 Cyg BN 38.0" 11.4 20 00 46 33 31 32
PN is obvious but uneven glow, fan shaped to SW from central star.

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