Last Night at Esparto

by Shneor Sherman

I arrived at 4:25; skies were partly cloudy. As I set up, the sun slowly went down and dusk fell. I ate dinner about 5:45, having set up my 18" and 25x100s. As dusk fell, the sky turned transparent as the clouds disappeared. I viewed Saturn for the first of several times, then M42. As it grew dark, the Milky Way stood out in some detail above, extending west from Casseopeia. At 6:35 p.m. the adjacent property owner cut the lights, and for maybe an hour, I had some excellent views. The seeing was excellent, and I viewed Saturn at various magnifications, finally at about 684x, The A ring looked like it had lanes it it, and several faint bands of color were visible on the planet; The shadow and the crepe ring were easy to spot. At least 5 moons were visible, maybe 6.

One reason I wanted to observe this weekend was to check out a 20mm 1.25" no-name 3-element eyepiece with a 60 degree AFOV that Bill Burgess sent me a couple of weeks ago. For what it is, it's a terrific eyepiece, and has superb light transmission. Observing M42, the colors of the nueula stood out very well, and additional nebulosity was visible to the west of M42 -something I have not really noticed before. Saturn and it's moons looked magnificent in this eyepiece as well.

I also had an excellent view of M31 in the 25x100s - Saturn and Jupiter as well. I also have some very nice views of Jupiter, even thoug it was low in the sky, the image was quite steady.

Of course, I hit some old favorites, M81 and 82 and a few other galaxies in Ursa Major, then turned my attention back to the area between Orion and Lepus, in a search for IC418. At this point, my secondary dewed up. I had already used my dew zapper to clear off various euyepieces as well as the binos. After clering the secondary, I noticed that the clouds had begun to move in rapidly, In a few mnutes, not a star was visible.

Since CSC had predicted no clouds by 9 p.m., I waited patiently until 9:30. When the situation had not changed, I began to pack. When I left at 10:15, a few stars had poked through, but the clouds still covered the sky. Of course, CSC had predicted poor to no transparency and was totally wrong there, too.