by Mark Wagner
Our group topped out at maybe 15 observers, including a couple college students. I'm always surprised at how many people don't post their OI! We all bundled up, it was cold, mostly due to the breeze. But the wind was not strong enough to raise dust in the lot.
I had cleaned my 18" mirror with Collodion a few weekends ago, time for a fresh coat of photons. Using Collodion was interesting; it removed years of dirt that I don't believe washing it would remove, at least the way I do it. My first attempt with Collodion was less than perfect, but still pretty good.
As it grew dark our first views were of Venus and Saturn. Venus was about half phase, and appeared very steady. Saturn was beautiful, observers were counting its moons through some of the 18" scopes. As the sky darkened the gang enjoyed looking at what new equipment showed up, and talking about upcoming observing trips. One was asking what sort of items he'd need to be ready for GSSP at Lassen. An observer arrived from Fremont Peak, saying fog was pouring over the Peak and things looked pretty dismal. We could not see the lights on the towers at the Peak from Coe.
Once it was dark enough everyone headed to their own scopes. The sky looked very good, and the wind had dropped almost entirely. We got lucky....
I enjoyed showing the college students some eye candy early on, then got down to hunting galaxies in Virgo. It turned out to be an excellent night to observe dim targets. Most of them were just fun for the hunt - not worth writing about, for aesthetics. Still, here are a few notable targets:
NGC 4626 and NGC 4628 in the same field. Mags 12.5 and 14.5.
NGC 4708. Same field with NGC 4700 and MCG-2-33-20, three in a straight line and reminiscent of (although much dimmer than) the eye candy NGC 5982 trio in Draco. This one was funny as I had lots of trouble finding it, and finally I walked back over to my scope and it had simply drifted into the field! Mags 14.6, 12.6, and surface brightness 14.5. It felt like that old "look ma, no hands!" thing.
NGC 4770. Very easy to find, with a mag 4.7 star in the field. What's cool is the multiple galaxy system NGC 4759 (Hickson 62) also in the field, three of the four were visible.
NGC 5094. Dim at mag 14.2, but I also saw in the same field MGC-2-34-36, putting my mag limit for the night at 15.9. I said it was a good night!
NGC 5327. Mag 13.4, but another deep one in view, CGCG 17-79 at mag 15.4.
Around 11 o'clock or so I looked south and could see the lights on the tower at Fremont Peak. The breeze kicked up a bit later, making fingertips cold, and may have caused several people to leave. I packed up and was on the road home at 1:30. I knew going in it was would be a short night. It was a very good, deep and steady night, start to finish.
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