Friday, January 2, 2009

Ice-nine night at Willow Springs

Tuesday afternoon I met Richard Navarrete and Greg Claytor in Morgan Hill and headed for Willow Springs. The sky worsened to the south with clouds and lots of moisture in the air, you could see how heavy it looked. Still a nice drive. When we arrived, Greg LaFlamme was there with Chris Jensen. Kevin Ritschel had some guests visiting who left shortly after we arrived, so things were busy. Steve Gottlieb arrived, followed by Mark Johnston.

Even before dark, there was dew on the shrouds of our Dobs, and the roofs of the cars were already quite wet. The hair-drier and battery saved the night for most of us... there were 2 or 3 of them on site.

Considering we had very misty skies, with fat stationary contrails criss-crossings, things (aside for being wet) were actually pretty good. There were some suprising SQM readings, but I knew how dark it was just by repeatedly walking into my observers chair and ladder, which I usually can see. It was dark.

I took it easy observing. I hadn't expected to get out this month and didn't put a list together, but looking at my list from Jan 08, I realized I didn't get out that month... so, I was saved. Here's the list. There are lots of list there, actually, just change the date.

But I also spent a lot of time at other scopes, and talking about telescope making with Greg L. Some of the memorable views were through Kevin Ritschel's 33", especially striking was the galactic "Z" - NGC 1365. The shape was very distinct, never have I seen such an angular bright galaxy.

Steve revisited Abell 12, a nice planetary in the glare (right in it) of about a 4th magnitude star. We also looked at a part of the Vela Supernova Remnant.

Navarrete called me over to count galaxies in a Hickson group. Fun, elusive.

I don't know who the big dog was, I turned in after 1:30 but before 2. I think it was either Steve or Mark who was last man standing.

The views were memorable, and the company was really good. We would walk into Kevin's garage to warm up, and defrost eyepieces. He had a nice catalytic heater going in there. We needed it, it had dropped to 25F outside last time I checked. Oh, and this was the second time I've had ice on the shroud of my scope. And not just a little, it was thick and made the fabric very stiff. Heavy enough to change the balance of the scope when pointing low.

When I awoke at sunrise I found the fields, cars, scopes and tables all covered in a layer of ice. It looked as if someone spilled some Ice-nine and everything froze. It was 32F outside, and I was the only sign of life other than the sounds of a few horses warming up, and some Magpies chirping. Here is a dated photo.

Here are my notes from the eyepiece. The telescope is an 18" f/4.5 Dob. I found each object interesting, even the open clusters. There is so much variety.

Arp 213 Cam GX 5.3' X 3.9' 10.5 04 07 47 69 48 00
IC356 was large, faint, amorphous, and slightly elongate east/west. Its middle was brighter, but no real structure was visible.

Arp 210 Cam GX 3.7' X 1.8' 11 04 30 49 64 50 00
NGC 1569 is elongated 3x2 north-northwest/south-southeast, with a brighter middle that extends along it length. With averted vision a pinpoint dim stellar core comes in.

NGC1502 Cam OC 7' 5.3 04 42 00 62 20 00
My notes on this call it Kemble's Cascade, but that's a string of stars that form a nice binocular object, ending at this cluster. The cluster has 20 to 25 bright stars in tight group overlaying a dim haze of star. It is dominated by a tight red brighter pair along the southern edge. It is a visually nice cluster.

NGC1501 Cam PN 13.3, 9 04 42 00 60 55 00
A large planetary, and fairly bright. Its round with an even brightness, has sharp edges and is somewhat mottled. The central star is easy, and there are very dim stars embedded in the east and west edges.

N1624 Per C+N 5'x5' 10.4 04 40 37 50 27 41
This was one my my favorite objects of the night. Nice cluster embedded in large nebula. I wonder if it would make a good imaging target? Cluster is small and rather sparse extending e/w, with three brightest stars in brightest potion of cluster at S/E point. Cluster extends E/W, nebula has hard edge along E, running N/S, and is triangular with another bright portion extending W. Dimmest section is from N to W.

NGC1545 Per OC 18' 8.0 04 20 00 50 15 00
OK, some clusters are not so exciting, but they are varied. This one is a large sparse open cluster, with perhaps no more than five or so bright stars.

NGC1528 Per OC 25' 6.2 04 15 00 51 14 00
This is very near the prior cluster, and is very large and dense, with many stars of similar magnitude. Throughout its perhaps 35' in size is an extensive dimmer glow of faint stars. It also had hard eastern and western edges. I thought this was a very outstanding cluster.

NGC1513 Per OC 12' 8.8 04 10 00 49 31 00
Another fun open cluster! This had an interesting shape. About 23' north-south and 14' east-west in size. A distinct open "hole" along east edge that gives it a flat u shape. The brightest members seem to form the outline of cluster, especially along the east side. The hole in the cluster's side is strange looking.

N1605 Per OC 5' 10.7 04 34 52 45 16 18
Another open... this was large, rich, and elongated mostly south-north. The stars were very dim and all about the same magnitude. Surprising.

N1582 Per OC: 24' 04 31 39 43 50 00
I didn't realize how many open clusters I was tracking down, since I was looking in other telescopes, but here's another. Its a huge open cluster, distinguished by a large arc of bright stars from east to west and heading south. The rest of cluster is lackluster in comparison. 40' diameter.

NGC1664 Aur OC 15' 7.5 04 51 00 43 42 00
My last open cluster. I admit, I'm ready to look at something else. This one was shaped like a mini Perseus, somewhat arcing out to an open end. It contained several relatively bright stars, but was rather poor. Fan shape opens to west, and there is a bright star a western end of one arm.

N1579 Per RN 12'x8' 04 30 14 35 16 47
A nebula! And a good one too. There is extensive nebulosity. A 15' north-northeast/south-southwest extension with large bright knot at the south end. That knot is bifurcated, with dark areas intruding. The central section of nebula appears to be its widest, although it appears relatively dim compared to the knot. Nice target.

N1514 Tau PN 136"x121" 10.9 04 09 17 30 46 33
Nice to finish up the night on a planetary. I was surprised at this one. It has a bright central star and even almost round disk. It was easy without filter. With an NPB filter at almost 300x it was somewhat annular, and the brighter outer ring had a rough outer edge. Check out the photo, nice object.

Clear skies for 2009!