Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wet Behind The Ears - Dewy night at Willow Springs

A small group of observers took the opportunity to go to Willow Springs last Saturday night, There had been plenty of indecision leading, as a large bank of clouds lay to the west, on the heels of the rain we had Friday. The jet stream forecast pointed the problem to the southeast directly at Willow, but the visual and IR weather loops an east-west trajectory with the southern edge skirting the south bay. I met Olga at the usual Morgan Hill Chevron rendezvous and caravaned south. The sun had already set and twilight silhouetted the black hills to the west against florescent golds, oranges and a deepening electric blue. The Belt of Venus was already well up in the east. An hour later we arrived Willow, followed closely by Greg and Marko. The air was a chilled 38 degrees, sunset a dying ember. The only light was from the stars, Jupiter and crescent moon.

Soon our host Kevin emerged, dragging out Dobzilla, his 33" Dob. I had my 18" f/4.5 Obsession, Greg a 22" f/3.6 and Marko an 18" f/3.7 . I shared my telescope with Olga, who has proven to be a good observer and very proficient star-hopper, in spite of still being wet behind the ears. Even well before the moon set there were some great views. Greg showed The Veil in the 22, and we had fun poking around with his 77mm binoculars, looking at wide field targets.

After dark Kevin shared a mind boggling view of the Dumbbell Nebula in the 33".

At low power and with a filter, its distinct apple-core shape was very apparent, containing what appeared to be strings of filamentary material. The outer edges were clearly defined, in a large oval, but with extra "puffs" of ejecta outward of the main shell, at right angles to the major axis of the apple-core. Easily one of the best views I've had of the target. We'd run back and forth, scope to scope, grabbing views, but most of the night was spent in pursuit of dry optics. The only master of the seas that night was Marko, who's dew setup kept him out of the drink. We talked about dew prevention a bit, and I related that I've only been really dewed out a handful of times in all the years I've been going out. But this high on the the "bad" scale of those nights. All night long, the views would bloat, then fade to empty fields. My secondary and eyepieces were hit bad. The combination of dew and masacara are a deadly combination.

But the night was still a lot of fun. In the background, there was plenty of chatter, and Kevin's selection of music, eclectic, ranging from beautiful flamenco guitar to lullabies in foreign languages, to old cowboy tunes from the American West. I think my favorites were The Streets of Laredo, Red River Valley, and Happy Trails, which I would have loved hearing as the last song of the night. It occurred to me how ingrained in me those songs of the old west were - back to my earliest childhood memories. But to my observing partner they were as foreign and new as most of the objects we were observing. I enjoyed the old songs, and new songs, along with the old views, and new views.

By the end of the night, we were picking out bright targets just for fun. M42, M37, M38, M36, M35, M46/47, The Eskimo (bloated and dulled by dew), a teasing taste of Thor's Helmet, then off to the Mexican Jumping Star in NGC 2362. The star would not jump much though... I think the telescope was frozen. W pointed low toward Canis Major, it just kept dropping down... unbalanced from the weight of the frozen ice sheet of dew on the shroud.

In the morning, I looked over at Marko's scope, and chuckled at the ring of obliterated footprints surrounding it, too many to count, marking his mostly circular travels during the night. A small distance walked, but such a great distance traveled.

Packing up my gear, I lazily daydreamed of a bigger scope, wondering just what I could might see. Its a fun dream. I dream it a lot.

It had been a very wet night. Yet even with the cold and dew, it was a fun. It was good to be out again, with friends, under the dark sky. Thanks Kevin, for the hospitality.

Here are our other observations from the night. Happy trails...

NGC514 Psc GX 4.2'x2.7' 12.2B 01 24 03 +12 55 03
12mm - amorphous, some central condensation, no detail. Large, dim.

N524 Psc GX 2.7' 11.3B 01 24 48 +09 32 00
Viewed NGC 524, along with NGC 518, NGC 516, NGC 509, NGC 532 and NGC 525 all in the same field. Most had to be teased out, due to conditions.

HCG5 Psc Hickson 0.9'x0.7' 14.9B 00 38 54 +07 03 46 NGC 190
Observed A, B and C components. Very surprising, conditions are apparently varying.

AGC 0076 Psc GX 28.0' 15.0 00 39 48 +06 46 00 IC 1565
Located very close to Hickson 5. Only picked up IC 1565 and IC 1566.

N486/90/92 Psc GX Trio 0.4' 15.5 01 22 06 +05 24 00
This trio was a very dim smudgy grouping that would not break into individual galaxies.

N48 Psc GX 1.4'x0.9' 14.4P 01 21 48 +05 15 00
Fighting very dewy conditions, picked up round glows of NGC 49, NGC 51, NGC 48 and IC 1534.

Arp157 Psc GX 4.5'x1.8' 12.2B 01 24 35 +03 47 00 NGC 0520
OK view. With 7mm a bright knot on the NNW end, with a spread appearance, almost fan-like, at the SSE end. Long and thin.

Arp227 Psc GX 7.0'x6.2' 12.4B 01 20 06 +03 25 00 NGC 0474
3 nice galaxies in a group. NGC 470 and NGC 474 very close together, with 470 appearing noticeably fainter. NGC 467 is the smallest of the three and about 10' E of 470.

NGC428 Cet GX 4.1'x3.1' 11.9B 01 12 55 +00 58 54
Entire galaxy appears chaotic. Large, with a N/S oval shape and fairly even brightness across surface.

HGC7 Cet GX 2.2'x0.8' 13.4B 00 39 13 +00 51 49 NGC 0192
Perhaps the most pleasing view of the night was teasing out this wonderful foursome of galaxies. This is a bright Hickson. NGC 201 is the largest of the group and stands alone, with the other three smaller galaxies grouped into a small tight arc.

1 comment:

Greg said...

It was a fun night despite being so wet. I wish I had known you were looking at all this cool stuff, I would have barged in :-)