The Peak last night

by Rashad Al-Mansour

Friday evening found me at the site of my astronomical birth, Fremont Peak. The drive to the Peak from San Francisco was made in order to star test some new astro equipment.

As I drove south, I was hoping against hope that the high thin clouds above me would thin out as I got the closer to the peak. This was not to be the case however, if anything it got worse! Undaunted I climbed the mountain road to the Peak and parked at Coulter Row in the very place were it all started almost 7 years ago, at the annual FPOA Star BQ.

I arrived at about 4:00pm, did my setup and waited for dark. All the while admiring the new scope and mount, a Celestron G9 / Losmandy GM8 with a Tele Vue Genesis sdf APO Refractor riding proudly on top. As I sat there, trying to think of a name for the scope, it came to me. The name? "Old School." Why? Refractors are the oldest type of telescope and because this scope is ten years old.

The story behind the scope is amazing but true. A gentleman in Florida purchased the Genesis new in 1993. When he received it, he open the box to checked the contents, satisfied with his purchase he put the scope in a closet were it sat unused for 10 years! Believe it or not, last night was the first time starlight had passed through the objective! The damn thing is ten years old and at the same time factory new.

As darkness fell I could still see the clouds and it was obvious that they were here to stay but at this point I didn't care. I figured I could at least get some idea of the quality of the assembled gear.

Saturn was approaching zenith so I made that my first target. As it turned out the seeing was really good, Cassini was easy all the way around, but because of the clouds, the transparency really sucked. (A technical term) with the naked eye everything looked like a planetary nebula.

While I still need to do more testing, preliminary result are very good. I observed the double transit on Jupiter. At 160x I easily saw both Io and Europa as white disks. Both Moons crossed at the Jovian equator and the view was spectacular as I could see what looked like two white marbles rolling across the face of a beach ball. Also the shadow cast by Europa was crescent shaped, similar to a phenomenon witnessed at the Peak's SW lot about four years ago by a number of TACo's.

Again, because of the clouds the contrast through the scope was really bad, instead of the velvet black background one would expect to see in an unobstructed scope the view I had was a washed out grayish look across the entire FOV. Even so, there was lots of detail seen on Jupiter and Saturn. I can't wait to get this scope out again under proper sky conditions. I did try looking at some brighter DSO's but even M35 was unimpressive. By this time it was 10:15 so I packed up and went home.

I think I'll do all again tonight!