Sunday, August 16, 2009

Observing Distant Fires (Holy Smokes!)

Richard Navarrete, Elisabeth Oppenheimer and I all met Saturday afternoon in Mogran Hill for a trip to Deep Sky Ranch at Willow Springs. Conditions were uncertain, as the Lockheed fire in Bonny Doon, up in the Santa Cruz Mountains was covering the south bay in a thick smoky haze.... In Morgan Hill, it smelled like BBQ. A quick trip to San Juan Bautista for dinner at Jardines, then down through the wilds east of Paicines, and we were relaxing at the ranch, sipping cool beers in the shade... the only sounds around being the cats, a few horses, Magpies flying around, and Scrub Jays eating unripened fruit off the nearby trees. The hills were golden, and tinged with the yellow-green of tarweed. Temps were comfortable, a cool breeze blew through along with some relaxed, enjoyable conversation. Our hosts were away at an eclectic party in Santa Cruz, and returned after dark... what a treat to have such friends... my thanks to them for their hospitality and generosity. Thank you, Kevin.

We set up our telescopes at sunset... the sky showing some haze to our south and east... and a layer of orange/red glop in the west, all indicating that the smoke indeed would be a factor for us. Just how much depended on the whims of the winds...

I think we got lucky. During the night we were observing targets to about mag 17.2 in the 18" telescopes. When our host arrived home, out came the monster, Dobzilla. I have no idea what limit it was hitting. I was busy working on targets I'd compiled for the evening, Richard was hunting Hickson Galaxy Clusters. Elisabeth, who brought a 4.25" Starblast spent much of the evening in initiation on the big Dob. I would chuckle at times, when Kevin's voice would warn from high up on the ladder, that it was just too dangerous to do. Kevin's twelve foot ladder is about two feet to short!

Aside from the objects below, which were on my list, a few views are worth noting as they were simply spectacular...

M31 in Richard's 18" with a 35 Panoptic showed extensions of its spiral arms way out beyond what I consider even good views. Tenuous thin gauze, the sheerest of silk, fading out behind the foreground of stars, and into the background deep space beyond. The dark lanes were pronounced to the point of being black swaths with etched edges, sharp as you'd see in a master pen and ink rendition, or a woodcut. M110 and M32 were beacons.

To finish off the night, as the earthshine side of the moon rose over the mountains to the east , I noticed Cetus was up high, and suggested the planetary NGC 246 for the big
scope. The first view was without a filter, and I do not know the magnification or eyepiece, but it nearly filled the field. It showed its gray form and embedded stars easily, and hinted at the amazing detail we'd soon view when a filter was added. With the filter, the structure in the shell was reminiscent of some fine views of the Crescent Nebula. Parts were thick and ropey, one end appeared to be "broken open" like a cracked egg. The view was mesmerizing.

Here are my observations. Most of these were very difficult objects... the last one was quite special.

Sh 2-136 Cep BN 5 21 16 29 68 15 12
18" 12mm NPB, distinct but dim triangular glow extending west from, and involving stars GSC 4461:645 and GSC 4461:1453.

Abell 75 Cep PN 67"x47" 14.5 21 26 23 62 53 33 PK 101+8.1 = NGC 7076 = PN G101.8+08.7
18" 12mm easily picked up with NPB filter, 7mm shows slight elongation N/S with star embedded in slightly brighter E section. Planetary appears mottled or possibly slightly annular.

vdB 142 Cep RN/DN 15 21 36 42 57 30 00 the "Elephant's Trunk"
18" 20mm - large elongated dark lane running WWSW/EENE, with glowing edge especially along the S edge along star forming region. UHC filter. Very near the nice triple and double stars Struve 2819 and 2813.

Sh 2-131 Cep BN 170 21 39 00 57 29 10 IC 1396
18" 20mm - scan very large are full of nebulosity

Abell 73 Cep PN 80"x66" 17 20 56 27 57 26 03 PK 95+7.1 = PN G095.2+07.8
18" 12mm UHC- large, elongated slightly N/S, E and W edges show more than N/S, annular, only edges show. Very dim. Dim star inside E edge of shell, brighter star just outside E edge of shell.

Abell 77 Cep PN 67"x50" 14 21 32 10 55 52 43 PK 97+3.1 = Sh 2-128 = PN G097.5+03.1 = LBN 443
18" 12mm UHC - smallish, elongated N/S slightly, can only hold parts of the object, seems brighter on N and S edges, perhaps mostly even brightness across disk.

Sh 2-127 Cyg BN 2 21 28 41 54 37 14
18" 20mm - large area of dim nebulosity between and involved in stars extending mostly E/W, like a river, non-uniform, mottled with dark areas embedded. Subtle.

Sh 2-120 Cyg BN 1 21 03 46 49 52 51
18" 12mm - obvious rectangular brightness with extensions off the corners. In area of rich nebulosity.

Sh 2-121 Cyg BN 1 21 05 12 49 38 59
18" 12mm - very large region of faint nebulosity in rich Milky Way field - dark lanes running through. Sh2 must be a photographic object to separate it from other nebulosity. Very near prior target.

Sh 2-123 Cyg BN 13 21 42 22 44 32 25
18" 20mm - large rectangle, almost square, of nebulosity in rich Milky Way, with many stars embedded - surrounded by dark lanes.

CRL 2688 Cyg PPN 24"x6" 21 02 18 36 42 00
18" 7mm 2x Barlow - elongated N/S with a dark lane separating two nearly equal sized lobes. N lobe is significantly brighter, and shows at times a stellar point embedded. S lobe is nearly equal in size, but significantly dimmer. Entire object is surrounded by oblong faint shell. PK 80-6.1 - Northern lobe is elongated at 824x - more clearly than the S lobe.

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