Fremont Peak 1/6/03

by Kevin Schuerman

I arrived at Fremont Peak after sunset and followed Jamie Dillon up to the Observatory area. This was only my second time at the Peak, and I wasn't familiar with anything besides Coulter Row. Had I not spotted Jamie opening the gate up to the Observatory, I wouldn't have found the group! Once there, I saw that Czerwinski, Kingsley, and McKone were already set up in the area near the ranger's house. I set up my 10" Meade SCT/Losmandy G-11 next to Peter McKone, who delayed his Sunday night observing until Monday in order to watch the end of the Niners game. Talk about a win-win situation! It was clear, 52F, 34%RH and dead calm at 7:30pm.

I took a quick peek at M42 -- The stars of the Trapezium were bloated and I could barely detect "E". The nebulosity, however, was wispy and extended and the dark lane between M42 and M43 was really dark. The night was starting out with mediocre seeing, but good transparency. After a short stop at NGC2024 and NGC2169, two objects I had viewed with my 7" Mak-Newt on Saturday and Sunday, I headed out of Orion and into Lynx.

In Lynx, I decided to get the easy one out of the way first -- NGC2683. This edge-on galaxy appeared highly elongated NE-SW with a brighter center. A dim star could be seen at the galaxy's NE tip. I then moved on to NGC2419, the IGW. I saw it as an unresolved, large diffuse patch at the E end of three brighter stars in an arc that were equally spaced E to W. I see from reading others' posts that this was a popular object this past weekend. Next, I observed three galaxies: NGC2537 - a dim glow between two brighter stars; NGC2549 - an elongated glow with a brighter core and stellar nucleus; and NGC2782 - a dim, round glow with a stellar nucleus, due N of a pair of dim stars.

Moving from Lynx into Monoceros, I observed NGC2149. This reflection nebula appeared as a tiny glow around a dim star in the middle of a Christmas tree-shaped asterism. Three open clusters were next: NGC2215, NGC2232, and NGC2236. Of these, NGC2232 was the most interesting. I saw the cluster as two separate groups, one to the NW and the other to the SE. The NW group looked like a pair of antennae, and the SE group had a bright star at the top and looked like the constellation Andromeda. I then turned to NGC2261, Hubble's Variable Nebula. Peter was leaving and mentioned that he didn't recall seeing this object, so he took a quick look. I really enjoyed the comet-shaped appearance, a little like the "False Comet" in Scorpius, but on a much smaller scale, and of different composition. I then moved on to NGC2301, an open cluster that consisted of a long star chain running N-S with a wide, intersecting grouping running E-W. To me, it looked like a gliding bird and had gold, blue and reddish stars in the center.

Except for a quick look through Czerwinski's scope, I had avoided Jupiter's blinding light all evening. The banter from the other end of the row finally got to me, however, and I decided to make Jupiter my last object of the night. I joined in at 0908 UTC, and saw the usual detail in the polar and temperate regions. The NTeB, however, was very light (I've noticed this more than once this season.) I also saw the merged shadows of Io and Europa in the middle of the EZ, W of the meridian. The shadow was sharp, but definitely elongated. By 0927, the then partially-eclipsed Io could be seen at the meridian, while Europa's shadow had only moved slightly. This was quite a remarkable change in less than twenty minutes! It wasn't until I checked the December S&T article earlier today that I realized what I had seen. Although I knew a double transit and eclipse were occurring at about that time, I thought I was seeing both shadows separated again. It didn't dawn on me until later it couldn't possibly be Io's shadow on the meridian, since the merged shadows were already past the meridian the first time I looked! Excellent, and there are more of these events to come.

Monday night was easily the best night of the weekend. I was at Coe on Saturday night and at both Dino and Coyote on Sunday night, and had problems with clouds, transparency, fog and dew. I'll definitely check out Fremont Peak more often. Thanks again to everyone who helped make Monday a remarkable night.