Surprisingly good night at the Peak

by Peter J McKone

Arrived at 5:15, hoping to get collimated while there was still some daylight left. Pete Santangeli (with a new 10 inch Schmidt Newtonian from Meade), and Bob Jardine (TV101) pulled in shortly afterwards. While aligning the spotting scope, I could already feel moisture accumulating on the shroud. Bummer! Quickly covered the Telrad and finder with socks, and made a note to avoid all overhead objects. I aimed at some bright targets as twilight disappeared. Was surprised to get a good split of Castor and a very stable view of Saturn. Evidently the jet stream was turned off. Things looked grim as a large cloud enveloped the radio towers, Ranger Stuart came by to say hello and ask how we were doing. We all made our $3 donations to the park system, and it was if we had deposited a quarter in the viewing machine at Coit Tower! A breeze came up, the cloud disappeared, and the dew evaporated from my eyepiece.

Six stars were clearly visible in the Trapezium. Pete Santangeli saw them his 'scope too.

I alternated between old and new objects from the RASC list. Equipment was a 15 inch Dob made by Discovery, mostly with a 14 mm. "Lanthimum" eyepiece from Orion (135X), and an Orion Ultrablock filter.

NGC 2194 is a run-of-the-mill open cluster near Orion's club. Don't drive to the Peak to see this one! Hopped up to M35 and its buddy NGC2158. Now THAT is a cluster!

NGC 2371 and 2372 are two lobes of a planetary nebula in Gemini. Put the Iota star in Gemini at the edge of the finder, and you'll see an elongated fuzzy area in the main eyepiece. It's listed at mag. 13, but didn't seem particularly dim.

NGC 2237 is listed as the Rosette Nebula. NGC 2244 may also be the Rosette Nebula. Sources don't agree. It's an easy hop from Betelgeuse to the Epsilon double star in Monoceros. Two degrees to the east, a cluster is obvious in your finder. You might as well use your finder to view the nebula itself, because it is HUGE. At first I didn't see it because it is much larger than the field of view in the eyepiece I was using. Need low power! A filter helps.

NGC 2539 is a nice planetary nebula in Puppis, 3.5 degrees due shouth of M46. What could be easier? The note in the RASC list says "almost starlike". In binoculars maybe! At 135X it looked big and bright to me. But it won't be up for long. See it while you can!

Obscure Object of the Night award goes to Bob Jardine's suggestion that we look at the "Medusa" Nebula, 5 degrees north of the Beta star in Canis Minor. I understand that constellations were named for mythological figures in ancient times, but this nebula should have been pretty hard for those guys to see. It is listed as mag. 10, but that is deceiving. Its diameter is 10 arc MINUTES, which is 3 times the size of M97 (the OWL). A mag 10 object spread over such a big area is not easy to pick out. No wonder it doesn't have an NGC or even an IC number. This is one faint object, but it is definitely visible, once you know where to look.

At 11 pm a large cloud rose on the northwest horizon, and we agreed to pack up and leave.