Greg Laflamme and I gave Willow Springs a shot last night. As this was Greg's first trip there, we met up at San Juan Bautista and caravanned south past Tres Pinos and the remote stretch down Panoche Road (J-1) to Willow. When we arrived at 5:00 at Kevin Ritschel's property, there was a hopeful array of scopes set up including a 17.5" that was completely dwarfed by his 33" f/5. But we had to fight a mixed bag of partially cloudy skies along with some dew, so much of the early evening was spent socializing with Kevin and Bob Ayers.
A casual look with my 18-inch Starmaster at the Trapezium and the large mag contrast pair, Zeta Orionis = Alnitak, 1.9/5.5 at 2", showed the seeing the very good, despite the hazy skies, so I pulled out a list of doubles in Orion and started working on sub arc-second doubles. Here's the rundown if anyone would like test stars for their optics.
14 Ori = ADS 3711
05 07 52.9 +08 29 54
Clean split at 0.8" at 450x. The companion mag 6.7 is 0.8 arcseconds NW of the 5-8 mag primary and the image was generally steady with just a little motion.
Otto Struve 517 = ADS 3799
05 13 31.6 +01 58 04
Very close 0.65" pair but clean split (dark space between components) at moments using 450x. Generally the image was jiggling around but still resolved. This mag 6.7/7.0 pair is located 54' S of Rho Ori (a large mag/color contrast pair).
Burnham 190a/b/c = ADS 3927
05 20 24.1 -08 01 47
Burnham 190a/b is a difficult mag 8.4/9.2 pair at 0.6" pair, and it was resolved at 490x (companion very close NNW). Also a mag 8.5 star is at 35" to the north so this system is considered a triple.
32 Ori = ADS 4115
05 30 47.1 +05 56 54
This bright 1.2" pair was cleanly split into two separate airy discs (large at this magnification) using a 6" mask at 490x. Subtle color contrast and moderate mag contrast (4.5/5.7). Located 1.5° ESE of mag 1.6 Bellatrix.
Struve 849 = ADS 4730
06 08 44.5 +17 24 07
This 0.9" pair of mag 9 stars was cleanly split at 490x. The components are relatively faint (9.1/9.5) but pretty well matched.
Ho 22 = ADS 4823
06 13 27.5 +10 14 52
This 0.9" equal mag 8.5/8.6 pair was cleanly split and striking at 490x
Burnham 1019 = ADS 4882
06 16 07.6 -02 52 56
Very difficult split at 490x as this pair is close (0.8") and has a significant mag contrast (delta = 1.6). The fainter companion is attached on the west side.
Around 10:30 Bob Ayers decided to drive back to San Jose and wouldn't you know it, the skies started to clear immediately and we had about an hour an half of good transparency to go with the seeing. I spent much of this time working through a cluster of galaxies in Cancer, including NGC's 2801, 2804, 2807, 2809, 2812, 2813 and a contingent of dim PGC galaxies to make the hunt more challenging.
I also took a look at a few bright planetaries in the 33" (NGC 1535, NGC 3132 in Vela) and a couple of fainter ones in my 18-inch including the senile, giant planetary Abell 31 in Cancer and the smaller, little-known Sanduleak 2-21 (Sa 2-21) in Puppis. Sa 2-21 is a snap to find as it lies 4' from a naked-eye star. It was faint but readily visible unfiltered at 150x (13mm Ethos). Adding an OIII or NPB filter improved the view quite a bit although the NPB gave a more pleasing view with the stars less suppressed. Sa 2-21 appeared as a crisply defined, moderately bright oval, 4:3 NW-SE, with a size of ~45"x35". There was an impression of a slightly brighter rim. As far as the bright star, look for 4.4-magnitude 16 Pup.
Greg worked pretty feverishly on galaxies during the clear stretch, but took off around 12:30 as clouds started to drift over again while I observed about an hour longer before crawling into my minivan for a few hours sleep. Certainly not the best of nights, but good company and a some impressive views at a dark site.
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