Fremont Peak 6 January 2003

by Peter L McKone

I intended to go out on Sunday night, but after watching the first half of the Football Game, it became clear that the Niners' needed me, and I postponed my observing plans until Monday.

Bob Czerwinski and David Kingsley were already set up near the observatory when I arrived at the Peak. Jamie Dillon and Kevin Schuerman (I think) arrived together, and then Jeff Blanchard. Did I miss anyone?

It was a warm night. My car thermometer read 58 degrees when I departed at 12:30, but dropped to 41 degrees as I reached the bottom of the hill. A light breeze came up later in the evening, strong enough to flip pages in the chart, but not enough to reorient my telescope. There no hint of dew. Seeing wasn't perfect, but after the weather we've suffered through in recent weeks, I didn't hear anyone complaining.

The Intergalactic Wanderer, 7 degrees north of Castor, is moving into a good position for observation. I spent so much time trying to find this object at Montebello with my F4 8 inch Orion 'scope last year, that I learned to center it using just the finder. Unfortunately, I never saw the object itself. The field of view matched the photo I downloaded, but the globular wasn't there. Even now with a 15 inch mirror, it is very faint at Montebello. Fremont Peak is a different story. I looked at the IGW several times as the sky got darker, and it is brighter than many galaxies (mag 10) and surprisingly large. A hint: the GSC mag 7.7 star that TheSky shows in the center of the cluster DOES NOT EXIST.

IC418 is another object that eluded me last year in the smaller 'scope. It is a small (.2 arc minute) mag 11 planetary nebula in Lepus, with a bright central star that makes it appear stellar. For comparison, the Saturn Nebula's size is 1.7 arc minutes, and the Blue Snowball is 2.2, while NGC 6572 in Ophiucus is even more stellar at .1'. At 135X I was pretty sure I was looking at a disc, and at 270X there was no doubt. Since I was in the vicinity, I revisited NGC 2022, 2 degrees ESE of Orion's head. This is a .3 arc minute mag 12 planetary that would be harder to find, if it weren't for a pair of pointer stars that are visible in the finder.

I aimed in the vicinity of Hind's Crimson Star, but I couldn't find anything noteworthy in the area. More research is required!

Jupiter put on a good show. Io and Europa appeared to merge together to become a single object, and then crossed the face of the Planet together. I think Bob reported seeing two separate shadows. I stopped watching earlier to try to preserve a little night vision.

Just to make sure I was awake for the drive home, one of those magnificent FP pigs stepped in front of my car as I was leaving the lower parking lot. I don't know why anyone would go to Kenya when we have cooperative wildlife like this just outside San Jose!