Lake Sonoma Sat 1 March 2003

by Matthew Marcus

When I arrived, I went to Lone Rock, saw that there was no outhouse, went around to Grey Pine, and met the Ranger there. He said that they had gotten a call from a North Bay astro group and had opened Lone Rock, and that they'd be closing Grey Pine for the night. The outhouse was removed from Lone Rock because it's off-season. As previously reported, we congregated there anyway. Some trees are going to have growth spurts. Looks like we have to strike Lake Sonoma off the very short list of places we can just go without the hassle of calling, permits, gates, etc. Damn!

The night started unpromisingly, with high clouds. As it got dark, the transparency seemed rather poor. At one point, almost the whole sky was awash in pink-gray light, with a darker slit running approximately N-S through the zenith. Fortunately, things improved rather quickly after that, and the seeing and transparency were fine.

I started off in Orion, with the Trapezium (6*) and zeta-Ori, which I hadn't known was a double. It's not very close, but it does have a magnitude difference of about 4, so it's tough if the seeing's bad. The seeing was good, so it was easy.

Next up was 1662, the "3" cluster. It really looks like a 3 picked out in stars. NSOG calls it "loose and obvious" and it is. I don't know why I didn't have it logged, but I do now! Two degrees N of this is 1663, which in the Notes section of the logsheet I have flagged as a "Navarette".

Next came J320, a PN in Orion which I described as "tiny and faint". It took 250x to become clearly nonstellar.

1788 is a RN which surrounds two stars, but is much brigher around one of the stars. I wonder how it is that the star which lights up the nebula the brightest itself looks the fainter of the two. Maybe it's heavily obscured by that same nebula.

426 is another RN which I have drawn as a round glow sitting on several faint stars. VdB62 is a much fainter and smaller RN around one star. Of course, I looked at M78, while I was RN-hunting in Orion. Missing that one while in the area would be like not looking at M42.

Last OR I noted that there are a number of Collinder clusters which are well-known as asterisms but not as OCs. I didn't know until Robert (or was it Dave S?) told me that Orion's Belt is a Collinder cluster (Cr70). Actually, it's the belt plus a multitude of fainter stars all around. Quite a sight in binox and the Ranger at 15x.

I had previously logged the 1977-1973-1975 complex, but somehow missed the large, bright OC just to the N, 1981. I hereby rectify this omission.

2112 is another OC, which I have drawn as a ring of stars, more populated on the N side.

I spent the next several hours on galaxies in Leo: 3599, 3611 (bright core, in a line of stars), 3629 (has a star in disk I labeled as 'not a SN'),3630 (nice edge-on with prominent bulge), 3646 (soft fuzz with no obvious condensation in center), 3659, 3666 (edge-on near a mag 5.7 star), 3689 (edge-on with prominent bulge like 3630),3720 (tiny round fuzz), two members of Abell 1367 (3861,3842), 3872 (bright core, stellar at 125x) and 4008 (round glow).

By this time, everybody else had left and Leo was about to as well, so I switched to Coma and picked up two more galaxies, 4032 and 4064.

At that point, I ran out of logsheets after logging 24 objects, so it was dessert time. It was also time for Omega Cen to pop up over the hills. Somebody ought to take a picture of it just over the hills; it would make a beautiful shot. Of course, I also got the Great Hamburger (Cen A). Finally, I finished up with the pleasant exercise of tracing Markarian's Chain. After doing so many mag 11-12+ galaxies, it was a pleasure looking at galaxies which showed obvious shape and structure in an 8".

I left at around 2 or 3AM, driving home through intermittent dense fog.