Fremont Peak Last Night, Jan. 4, 2003

by Peter Natscher

My first observing trip up to Fremont Peak for this new year, 2003, offered mixed pleasures. I brought my AP 10" Mak-Cass telescope to primarily observe Saturn. There were 6 or 7 of us from the TAC observing group set up around the Coulter Area. The skies struggled to offer us a clear window to the night skies, but all to often we encountered obscuring cirrus moving in from the west. Every 15 minutes, we would get a good clear sky window that would last another 15 minutes or so. The early part of the evening gave us the best seeing. By 9pm a few of us became disenchanted with thhe continued cloudiness and dew and we packed up. My plans in leaving early were to spare myself a late mediocre evening so that I can arrive fresh again tonight, on Sunday. I enjoyed the company of all who were set up in the area. Michael outdid himself with a full table offering of great food, and of course--CRAB!

The Crab Nebula (M1) did show itself behind Bright Saturn to me as an elongated patch angled 90 to Saturn and its rings. The hazy patches shape extended beyond Saturn's scattered-light glow through my two 10mm Zeiss Ortho's with a binoviewer at 400X. Before 9 pm, the seeing was good enough at that power to observe Saturnian globe and ring detail to under 1 arc-sec. Light band filters and a Sirius planetary filter failed to provide a better view of the Crab/Saturn event to me other than with my normal eyepieces. What gave a better view (less light scatter) was the use of simpler eyepieces with less glass, as in my Zeiss Abbe orthoscopic eyepieces.