Observing Report for this weekend

by Jim Ster

I had been painting my house all day long so I didn't get up there till 9:30 pm. It takes 45 minutes to get my LX-200 set up and running and another hour just to reach thermal equilibrium, so with only a little over 2 hours of observing time left before moonrise, I felt my time would be better spent mooching views off of everyone else. I wasn't' disappointed.

Brian's new 30" is truly one of the most impressive scopes you'll ever see and Jane's new Zambuto equipped 18" w/goto held it's own against the competition. Both of these scopes have absolutely the quietest goto motors I've ever heard. With my balaclava on, I could barely hear either of them during a rapid traverse to the next object. And during slow slewing, there was nothing, absolute silence. I think Brian is onto something with the beeper idea. ;)

But aside from the wonderful silence, the optics on both of these scopes appears second to none. Even under relatively crappy skies, through Brian's 30", M42 was stunning. There were tons of tiny little stars surrounding the trapezium which I had never seen before. Hundreds of little diamonds shining through the cloud. And the colors were simply fantastic. Near the center, there are bright blues and greens and the brownish wings took on a definite red tinge which turned to a deep muddy brown as you got further from the core. I can't wait to see this again on a good night. Rumor has it that the previous owner observed 22 stars in the trapezium on at least one occasion through it.

Jane's new 18" is an awesome scope. After bribing her with some hot coffee, she took me on a little tour of some cool DSO's. The most memorable for me was M82, which prominently displayed its "disturbed section" with great clarity. It was actually a better view of it through Jane's 18" than from Brian's 30", due to contrast problems caused in the 30" by the glare from the ski resorts to the east who are running hundreds of 1000w metal halide bulbs to light up the slopes for night skiing. I'm sure that at least 50% of the light is reflected/wasted back into the sky.

But of course, this white light pollution was nothing compared to the rudeness of a few SVAS Board Members who were up there that evening. When asked by one of their own card carrying observatory members if they would mind turning off the white lights in their observatories so we could observe, one of them (who was reeking of alcohol at the time and obviously drinking in HGO, which is against HGO use rules but I guess only applies to dues paying members, not Board Members), made comments that they don't have to, "it's a public place". I guess we'll have to remember that one.;) The lights stayed on till after 11:00pm when the rude offender finally closed up his private observatory and left. If there was any doubt that the SVAS is anti-observer, it was certainly put to rest this evening.

Alvin brought along some new observing catalogs, which he is in the process of publishing, which proved to be very handy this evening. With a new 22" on the horizon, I'll probably be one of his first customers.:)

Mars was being her usual quiet self, grinding out object after object in her 14.5" Starmaster. That is until she decided to check out Jupiter and she got all excited when she saw the pimple of a moon beginning a transit. When Randy wasn't hogging her eyepiece, we were able to enjoy some very nice views of Jupiter, which after 4 months of collecting ZERO ancient photons looked very cool as it would drift in and out with the seeing. Saturn was similar in that when the seeing was good, you could easily make out the Cassini division as well as some moons.

For a fairly short night, it was well worth the drive, if only to see my friends and enjoy their company again.