Fremont Peak, 3/8/03.

by David Kingsley

Matthew Marcus wrote of Pacheco:

The temperature hovered in the high 30s and the humidity at 98%. This caused my C8 to dew over even with the Wagner dew-shield, so I ended up leaving early (11:30). Even so, I survived longer than half the participants. Even when the moon went down, the sky didn't seem to get much better. I imagine that a warm, dry, laminar flow moved in an hour after I left and wiped the sky clean :-)

Conditions turned out to be much warmer and drier at Fremont Peak. I arrived about 7:30 and set up on one of the new flat level pads by the observatory. There were three people working the Challenger last night, one other observer from the East Bay with an LX200 on the observing pads, and Rich N. and Jeff Crilly set up with nice refractors on the flat area by the restrooms.

Skies were decent but not great early on. There was very little twinkle to the stars to the naked eye, but high power views in the eyepiece were not as steady as I have seen on other occasions at the Peak. Temperatures and humidities were both in the 40s, and there was no problems with either wind or dew. However, broken bands of high thin clouds threatened at times in the early evening, and then overtook most of the sky by 10:30 pm or so. Most observers started packing up between 11 and midnight. In typical fashion, the skies began to improve rapidly thereafter. By 12:30 am, it was mostly clear again. And with the moon now gone, it was finally dark for the first time all night. Leo was near the meridian, so I decided to check conditions by heading off to Abell 1367, the galaxy cluster that Bob C. had mentioned in his observing report earlier in the week. Once there, it was hard to leave! What a great collection of different galaxy shapes, sizes, brightnesses, and groupings. I had a SkyTools print out of one degree around NGC 3842. I poked around and found a total of 43 galaxies with the 14.5 inch Starmaster over the next couple of hours,with lots more that could probably be found off the edges of the chart. The faintest targets I was able to find have listed magnitudes of 16.1 on the Skytools chart, (and mags between 15 and 16 in NED). So the conditions late were excellent for deep sky observing. Thanks for the heads up on an interesting area Bob. This was a great way to start galaxy hunting in spring skies. (And Bob, if you decide to do for Abel 1367 what Albert did for Abell 426, I'd like to see a copy of your corrected charts, object names, radial velocities, and magnitudes. I don't have the patience to sort through all the problems, but it was clear to me that the Skytools chart also has lots of errors in names or positions when comparing to a Digital Sky Survey image of the area).

Scorpio and Ophiucus were up by 3 am or so, and I ended the night with some spectacular views of M4, M10, and M12. As I started packing up under beautiful skies around 3:30, my thermometer read 47 degrees and only 27% humidity. In fact, it was so dry that I saw sparks of static electricity every time I handled an observing blanket or touched a metal object while packing up. It had turned out to be an excellent night, but only if you were able to stay well past midnight.