Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Grand View of the Ancients

I'd been talking about a trip like this for maybe a dozen years.  Always put off by the distance.  Then a group of friends, led by Steve Gottlieb and Paul Alsing, decided to do it.  Paul has been numerous times, Steve, not since the 90's.  The destination, Grandview Campground at 8600 feet on the western flank of White Mountain.  Driving time estimated at 8 hours, but with stops and Yosemite traffic, closer to 9,

The weather forecasts were not very promising, and I was very reluctant.  But I had convinced my buddy Richard Navarrete that this was the best opportunity I could think of, to do it, and even with my thinking of backing out, he was in.  How could I not go?

So, at 10 a.m. on Wednesday August 15th, I found myself on the road, 18" scope, observing and camping gear, all packed into a little Honda Fit.  The drive was long, up till I got into the eastern reaches of Yosemite, heading for Tioga Pass.  Then the drive became pleasurable - with unmatched scenery - all the way to the campsite on White Mountain.

White Mountain is a great place to observe.  The fact that it had been a finalist for locating the Keck Telescope, and you know there is dark, and steady seeing.  And in addition, there lived up top, the oldest living things in North America - the Bristlecone Pine.  I had always wanted to see them.

So, soon I was unpacked, and camp set up.

At the end of this narrative, I'll list a few of the targets I observed through the telescope.  Ancient light.  But the weather indeed turned out to be pretty poor for observing, so that time was limited.  But, the trip was great anyway - the views of the ancients in the Patriarch Grove, and the scenery at 11,000 feet on the dirt road leading to it, was easily worth the 18 hours driving over three days and two sleepless nights.

Here are a few photos...

Upon arrival, I found this was indeed a very astronomy friendly campground!
  There was no problem with room for our campsites or astronomy gear.

We certainly had some memorable views. heading up to the Bristlecones

 This view is east into the Great Basin

This view is west, toward the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada

It is a moonscape at 11,000 feet.

But the trees, anywhere from 15 to 45 feet tall, and incredibly beautiful....
 Made every minute of the drive...

 ...worthwhile.  Never have I seen anything like it!

 Even the drive back home, along highway 395, was spectacular!

But we came for astronomy.  Here, to augment the views of the ancient trees, are reports of some ancient light I took in as well... all observations (raw notes) are using an 18" f/4.5 Dobsonian, all eyepieces are Naglers.  I had a great time, as limited as it was for observing.

Abell 68    Vul    PN    40"x37"    15.2    20 00 10    +21 42 58    PK 60-4.1 = PN G060.0-04.3  
7mm uhc-very slight glow, maybe only one edge away from dim chain of 4 stars, toward brighter one.  Very faint and intermittent.  With NPB, shows better and closer to brighter star, possibly annular with brighter edge toward bright star.

N 6852    Aql    Paul's Picks    28.0"    12.8P    20 00 39    +01 43 41    
Easy to locate, visible as hazy small smudge in 20mm.  7mm no filter reveals dim but certain disk, with hints of annularity.  With NBP filter annularity is striking.  Nebula is nearly round and situated between two very closeby stars.  Dimmer of two stars mauy be involved in very dim elongated extension of nebula.

Sh 2-099    Cyg    BN    5    3    20 00 50    +33 29 34        Problem locating on Megastar, shows Sh2-81.  Check it out!

N 6857    Cyg    EN    1.0x1.0        20 01 47    +33 31 38        With NPB and 7mm, planetary is very bright and obvious..Sh2-100 shows nicely without a filter and at lower power (20mm and 12mm).

NGC 6866    Cyg    OC    6    9    20 03 54    +44 00 00        20mm - scattered, broken cluster of several dozen stars, seemingly stretched in an elongated shape, but with a condensation in the middle.  Many nearly the same magnitude.  Takes up about 23 arc minutes by 5.

NGC 6882    Vul    OC        5.5    20 11 54    +26 33 00        20mm - combination of two clusters, 6822 and 6885.  Very large rich groups, with great magnitude reanges, and strewn over large area.  Overflows 20 Nagler field.

NGC 6885    Vul    OC    20    9.1    20 11 54    +26 29 00        20mm - combination of two clusters, 6822 and 6885.  Very large rich groups, with great magnitude ranges, and strewn over large area.  Overflows 20 Nagler field.

 N 6894    Cyg    PN    44"    12.5    20 16 23    +30 33 55        7mm and NPB, bright, ragged appearance, mostly round, brighter along inner edge of ring, and in two opposite sides.

Sh 2-104        BN    7    2    20 17 44    +36 44 40        20mm and NPB shows nice tight group of stars in Dolidze 5 along with lots of nebulosity surrounding the group, and spread throughout the area around brighter stars.  Worth a visit! IC4996?