Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorable Weekend.

Sunday night observing over a new moon is a rare treat for most amateur astronomers. This patriotic Memorial Day weekend I took the opportunity to do so over three nights in two dark sites at 5,000 feet elevation in northern California's Sierra Nevada, among friends, old and new.

My last night was a return to Blue Canyon (BC), and would turn out to be the best of the three nights for conditions and achievement. So, this is For You (red, white and) Blue.

Conditions on the drive up highway 80 from Auburn to BC looked highly suspect. Big white cumulus clouds boiled up over the mountains to the east, ahead and in the direction of my destination. The prior two nights, while providing good observing, were both impacted by clouds and humidity. By the time Marsha Robinson, Bill Porte and I were set up, next to Terry and Gary (new acquaintances), dew was evident on the seats of our observing chairs (always the first indicators). However, as darkness rose, the clouds fell... and by the time twilight ended we had a clear sky, and improving conditions.

I again concentrated on the remaining targets of my Herschel 2500 observing project. I began with 69 left, and knocked out another 29. The remainders are mostly in parts of the sky unavailable this time of year, so I'll have to return to this later, when the winter sky begins to rise again in the early morning hours.

I logged some highlight views last night. My sparse notes (still on search-and-destroy observing mode) listed NGC 5490 as being in a great field, in which my target was "5490c" - IC 982. I also had fun splitting apart NGC 5679c from its two brighter and overlapping galaxies. I found a number of misidentifications in The Sky (Software Bisque's planetarium program) - such as NGC 5098 being twice mislabeled - in fact that target is not displayed in the program, and two MAC catalog galaxies are each labeled as with its designation. Weird. Again, I was all over the sky in declination, from targets near Polaris to those at -31 in Hydra where I was on my knees to peek though the eyepiece.

Late in the night, Bill asked me what I was going to do once I was done with the Herschel 2500, and I joking replied "find a new hobby". Reality is, there are endless numbers of ways to alter the recipe, and I don't think I'll ever tire of mixing the ingredients.

I think it was close to 3 a.m. when we pulled out, leaving Bill to close the gate behind us. A half hour later back in Auburn, I headed to my room and was quickly asleep.

Thanks to all my TAC-SAC friends for making this such a memorable Memorial Day weekend. Marsha, Bill, Randy, Alvin, Gary, Shneor, and new friends Gary and Terry, see you at next month at the Golden State Star Party, or back at BC...

Below are the targets logged last night... I have 40 left to complete the list, 8 of which I can get next month if I'm diligent.


NGC 4993
NGC 5093
NGC 5361
NGC 5303b
NGC 5403
NGC 5403
NGC 5305
NGC 5265
NGC 4774
NGC 5401
NGC 4711
NGC 5199
NGC 5228
NGC 5223
NGC 5233
NGC 4737
NGC 5096
NGC 5157
NGC 5025
NGC 5074
NGC 5187
NGC 5592
NGC 5328
NGC 5694
NGC 5490c
NGC 5679c
NGC 5718
NGC 5618
NGC 5866b

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