by Mark Wagner
(http://xpress.sfsu.edu/archives/life/003108.html), in San Francisco's Sunset District - the oldest Irish pub in the city and with a cool tie to the Great Earthquake. That was also the day I visited Ray Cash at his home and enticed him to join us on a trip to Chile... but I digress (and immediately get it out of the way!)... all I can say is at the Peak, we had the luck of the Irish with us, and those who didn't go should be green with envy....
I arrived at The Peak about 4:30 and found Natscher and Bartolini already set up. Another fellow named Scott had a 20" Dob. I found a spot between Peter and Scott, and proceeded to slog down the customary Fosters mortar shell (traditional Peak suds from way back), and yak with the gang as everyone arrived. We had a good turnout - finally completed by modest DDK, who told funny stories about my daughter, his son, The Whippersnapper, and other note worthies from past days. We were all having a lot of fun. We stayed in the SW lot, enjoying a gorgeous view of sunset over the fog covered Pacific and coastal plain around Watsonville, until it was time to put the petal to the eyepiece....
First couple objects were Saturn and Sirius. A man with his two young boys looked through my scope at Saturn. The older of the boys, old enough to appreciate what he saw (the other was too young) made an astonishing remark - looking at the inclination of Saturn in my scope, he commented that it was tipped, like Uranus! Amazing! He couldn't have been more then 7 years old...
Peter then called me over to peek at Sirius. His 18" Starmaster had a no-doubt-about-it view of the Pup, split out at about 1 or 2 o'clock and just off a diffraction spike. In all my time observing, I'd never seen this Dogon little guy before! For a visual observer, this was like finding the navel of the universe (there's some appropriate mythology there....). Thanks Peter!
Once it was dark enough, I spent the night hunting down the remnants of the Herschel 2500 list. I was down to maybe 150 objects - the majority springtime objects.... I divided them up by R.A. - into two hour swaths, then sorted them from north to south. This system worked very well, and I ended up bagging 40 objects on my list - just over one two hour section of R.A., and was starting the next sweep when I packed it in at 2:30 a.m. to drive home. Peter and I were the last two standing - and each had a good night, so why push it?
I would list the conditions as very good. The seeing was at times exquisite. The transparency slightly down early on and improving about the same time the light domes appeared to diminish - after 11:30. Temps were cool but not cold, and only the slightest of breeze and moisture.
Most of the targets were dim, threshold views, but a few did stand out. Here they are, for those more interested in nice views, rather than hunting ghosts:
NGC 2830 area - on the Hydra/Leo Minor border, this dim guy on the 2500 list sits in a rich galaxy cluster - if you can go deep, check it out - three galaxies are virtually on top of each other - NGCs 2830, 31 and 32. Look on your planetarium program - way cool view at 183x in the 18". Lots of other true dimmies in the field....
NGC 4363 area - even if you can't pull this dim guy in with modest aperture, its worth the trip to see NGCs 4319, 4291 and 4386 and nicely positioned away from an easy to find mag 5.7 star. Put it on your list.... I think of it as a Poor Man's Hickson 68.
When the evening was done, I thought about Mark Johnston's commenting that I'd posted on the OI calendar I was going to be in All Virgo, All The Time this session. I never got there. There was just too much to see in R.A's to the west remaining on my list. But, by dividing my "observing zones" into two hour sections, that means one section each month - so Virgo will still be well positioned for me next month. And up earlier too...
Next month - All Virgo, All The Time!
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