by Dana Crom

After a long hike with the family yesterday, I decided to wimp out and set up in my backyard rather than loading all my gear in the car. So I put my 12.5" Dob out to cool down before sundown.

Though I regretted losing the darker skies of the Peak or Coyote (my original intention) it was a surprisingly good night for the city - I don't recall ever seeing less light pollution from my backyard (Almaden Valley).

OR for Feb 1, 2003 - Almaden Valley (San Jose)

Time Out: 10:30 PM
Time In: 12:45 AM

Very dark (for the location), very transparent, but extremely poor seeing - Saturn appeared to be swimming in the eyepiece at 76x; I immediately gave up any notions I might have had about planetary observing went for my deep sky list. Since I was feeling lazy, it was a few old favorites I wanted revisit, sprinkled with a handful of new targets. Dew was annoying, but bearable.

M1very obvious and bright; never seen it better from SJ; substantially better than my last Coyote session (with rather poor transparency)
M38+NGC1907just a quick peek since I was in the neighborhood. M38 isn't my favorite OC, but still pretty nice, and NGC1907 is one of my private tests for transparency since it washes out fairly easily.
M36Well, it's an open cluster. Looks nicer (by comparison with its neighbors) in smaller scopes.
M37The nicest of the three for a medium to large scope. I like the richness compared to M36. Not (IMHO) as nice as M35, but close.
NGC2022PN in Orion. Small, but very easy to find - just a couple of degrees from Orion's "head". Burnham has it (I think) at 12 mag - seems brighter, probably due to the small size. Appears rather elongated to me - an oval, not a disk. This was my first attempt at it and I was surprised how easy it was - I'll try this in my 6" next time I'm out.
M78Again, very easy tonight - nicer than a few weeks ago at Coyote. Quite bright, and the detached portion was easily distinguished.
NGC2023/2024First disappointment of the night - apparent, but not very clear. UltraBlock filter did not help at all, so reverted to naked optics. Nebulosity was there, but I've seen more structure on other, less promising, nights from the same location. ??? Panned down towards the Horsehead but not even a hint. Oh, well.
NGC2264The "Christmas Tree" Cluster. Nice, but although the associated nebulosity was easily seen I wasn't able to distinguish the Cone Nebula, my real reason for dropping in.
M42/M43Beautiful, with a lot of structure. Seeing still not good, but at 76x a fifth star kept popping in and out of clear view in the Trapezium. And enough eye candy to make up for the last couple of mixed results.
NGC2352The "Eskimo Nebula" in Gemini. A favorite and easy target, but showing a lot of structure - the dimmer outer halo was easily visible at 76x but much more apparent at 169x. I've never seen it nicer from this location (becoming repetitive, here). Seems odd, given the mixed results on 2023/2024 and the Cone, but the "Eskimo" structure (if not clear details of the "face") was quite apparent.
NGC2415Galaxy on the Gemini/Lynx border. Glimpsed it a few weeks ago, but transparency was sufficiently dodgy then I couldn't confirm it. Nailed it this time - pretty small and dim. At lower powers would look more like a fuzzy star; at 76x visible as an extended object, but only barely. Better at 127x. Fairly bright core surrounded by a faint haze - too dim to confirm any structure but appears fairly symmetrical. Burnham's has no entry for it (looked in both Gemini and Lynx lists) - I suppose it's time to break down and buy the NSOG. Anyone have any info on it beyond "Well, it's a galaxy?". Observed while star-hopping my way to -
NGC2419The "Intergalactic Wanderer" GC. Pretty easy target, really, but if I didn't know it was a GC I'd have taken it for a face-on galaxy - it looks more like one than 2415 did at first glance. Fairly large even at 76x, round, brightening smoothly from a dim outer haze to a fairly bright core, but no hints of resolution at the highest power I tried (OK, 169x isn't too high). Neat object; if I want to observe a more distant GC I'll need to start going for the ones in M31.
M50Just a whim - I realized that I'd never visited it except when doing a Messier survey. Fairly nice OC when not in a rush - somewhere between M38 and M37 in richness and apparent brightness. I spent some time playing connect-the-star-chains before putting the scope up.

Not too bad a session for a lazy, in-town, night!