Dino, Saturday 3/1

by Marek Cichanski

I'm not sure if anyone's posted an OR from our observing session at Dinosaur Point on Saturday, so here goes...

As I recall, we had several observers: Denny Woolaghan, James Turley, Brian Boothman, David Kingsley, Phil Terzian, Kevin Schuerman (sp?), Dan Wright, and myself. We arrived in batches, and were pretty much all set up by sunset. Most folks left around midnight, although Kevin, Dan, and I stayed until sometime after 2. I think we were locking the gate and hitting the highway back towards Gilroy at about 3 am.

It was my first time at Dino, and it lived up to its reputation as a big, convenient, and dark site. Smallish light domes from San Jose and Los Banos could be seen, but they didn't amount to anything significant. The picnic tables and trash cans are really convenient for a "Dino-Q". (I have to remember to bring more food next time...)

The only drawback was the problem with lights on the dam. Although the dam is at the far end of the reservoir, three of the several lights were quite bright. Although these post-9/11 security lights have apparently been shielded somewhat since they were installed, some observers wondered if maybe they've been "un-shielded" since. Hard to for me to say, since I hadn't seen them before. (Apparently we have Albert Highe to thank for lobbying to have them shielded; hopefully his good work hasn't been recently undone...) Once I moved my Jeep so that I could set up behind it, I was fine, but the lights were a somewhat unfortunate blot on an otherwise primo site. (We need a TAC 18-wheeler to park at the far end of the lot, thus assuring a nice bright shadow over the whole lot...)

Skies cleared nicely after about 7 pm, just as Denny promised. (James Turley and I had both been rained on while driving to the site.) The seeing started out fairly good, no problem with the E and F stars in the Trapezium in the XT10. Jupiter was good for a couple of hours, but I seem to recall that the seeing got fairly soft after about 10pm. I was mostly looking at deep-sky objects.

I managed to log 55 objects, using a new system that I'm trying, which involves a PalmPilot database program. Probably half of these were just "checkoffs" of galaxies in Hydra, Leo, and Coma B. Had a lot of fun hopping between galaxies in CmB - it's a minature version of Downtown Virgo.

I also managed to identify 3C273, thus seeing my first quasar. From such a dark site, it wasn't terribly difficult in a 10". Structure in M51 was also nicely visible in a 10". Kevin pointed out the "Ring-Tail Galaxy" in Corvus, which looked nice in his (12"?) dob. I saw NGC 4565 for the first time since last spring, and loved it. The dust lane was nicely visible. I think that someone - David Kingsley, perhaps, observed FU Orionis. David was probably bagging some fairly advanced targets in the Millenium Star Atlas. Phil T. was doing photography - I seem to recall that Gum 1 was on the target list.

Dam lights aside, it was a good night. I got some light dew on the cordura nylon cover of my SA2000, and on the painted steel tube of my dob, but that was about the extent of my dew problems. (If I hadn't kept my finder and Telrad covered when not in use, however, I probably would have had more of a dew problem.)