BC on Saturday aka Let the big dobs eat

by Brian Zehring

Gregg and I met at Blue Canyon around 11:45 on Saturday. He had his 25" with a Pegasus mirror and tracking and I had my 22" Starmaster GOTO. I had several small bouts of "mirror envy" that I have been dealing with the last couple days, that will probably lead me to buy the 30" Starmaster on Astromart right now. Kidding. I think.

I had decided earlier to head down to Fremont Peak after talking to the new park ranger and getting the code to the gate. Nice guy by the way. Reminds me of the old ranger (Ranger Rick), who really pulled some strings to get FPOA's observatory built. I was certified to run that scope right after it was built and actually was alone with it for a few hours a couple times. Very nice. Anyway, I was twenty minutes down the road when my wife saw an email from Gregg asking if I still wanted to go to Blue Canyon. Let's see...45 minute drive or 3 hour drive....

There was a little snow to drive through but the tarmac and runway were completely dry. If we were in charge of that site, I would love to make arrangments to get the whole place snow-plowed regularly during the winter. Seems like it would be a good trade-off for the County. Anyways, I don't want to go there. We already have a chief pot stirrer.

The skies were transparent but seeing was not good as predicted by the clear sky clock. We started off with the usual "eye candy" as Gregg called it, M42, M65/55,etc. We compared views of M51 many times during the night, which was really cool. Straight overhead was amazing in Gregg's scope, like a picture. Spiral arms that you could follow all the way around to the satellite and lots of detail in the nucleus. I then ran through 7-8 objects from the RASC's finest NGC objects list. We than went to work on the double quasar. I had a pretty good finder map and Gregg located the field in his scope. We then turned mine towards it. Gregg noted that he thought he was seeing both quasars cleanly seperated through mine and went to his scope to confirm. I noticed two distinct points of light that were at an east-west orientation which was not what I was expecting given my map. I then asked Gregg about the orientation and what he saw and he concurred. I then rotated my finder map to the eyepiece view and realized that is where they were positioned on the map. Pretty cool. Would like to see it again on a better night.

Anyway I have been working on ARP galaxies, Abell planetary nebulae and Hickson groups. I don't know how you guys work off one list, I have the attention span of a two year old. I logged 6 ARPS including the infamous X- rated galaxy, as noted for its phallic appearance (ARP 199, NGC 5544). It was more of a PG-13 in my book. I also was able to see a couple Abell's and several Hickson's. I believe it was Hickson 44 that looked great in Gregg's scope. The fun part is trying to find all the little Mac, CGCG, Zwicky, etc galaxies that lie around the objects you are looking for. I was looking for Abell 36, when I realized the sun was coming up. A great night all in all, and long overdue. Gregg told me to lie and say we saw all members of Hickson 50 so that you "fair-weather" astronomers would be jealous of us getting killer views while you were home in your warm beds asleep, but I don't want to dilute what was a nice evening.