Yosemite Sunday 2003 May 18

by Bob Jardine

Matthew's belated OR reminded me that I've been meaning to write one up as well, and coincidentally, from the same day.

I was at Yosemite for an annual hike with friends from work (and my brother, too). We hiked to Rancheria falls from the dam at Hetch Hetchy. If you haven't done this, I highly recommend it; a moderate day hike, with three very different waterfalls, all very beautiful. One benefit of all of the bad weather that we've had over the last few months is that the waterfalls were all very full. The weather was perfect.

On Sunday night, after the hike, I took a scope up to a turnout near Crane Flat, at about 6000 feet. The sky was clear, and it was cool, but not too cold. At about 10:00 I did an LM check in Bootes: mag 5.9 to 6.1, which was pretty darn good, as I generally run 0.1 or 0.2 worse than most people, and about 0.5 worse than BP and others.

I was testing out a new Orion XT-8, which is scheduled to go to a relative. Since I have already sold my XT-10 and my new scope (Portaball) hasn't arrived yet, I'm keeping the XT-8 for an extended checkout period before turning it over ;-)

I started with Jupiter, but the image was very soft; I suspect tube currents, not bad seeing, as this was early after a long hot day. I then got decent splits of Castor and Algieba, before turning to my main target, NGC 3003. This was the last, and by far the most difficult, of the RASC objects for me. I had struggled with it for most of a year with the XT-10, and I never really had a good view of it, although I was certain I was on the field many times.

NGC 3003. Galaxy in LMi. Viewed at about 37X, 60X, and 120X. Best view at 120X. Somewhat elongated, not much brighter center. Really just an elongated smudge, no detail seen. Can hold it directly only just barely. A pretty difficult object in this scope, even in these good conditions.

NGC 4536 and 4527. Two galaxies in same field in Virgo. Both elongated with slightly brighter centers.

I searched for 3C 273 for awhile, but gave up as I had forgotten to bring a decent finder chart for it; all I had was SA 2000, a great atlas, but not good enough for this job.

NGCs 5838, 5846, and 5850. Galaxies near M5 that Jamie has mentioned a couple of times. Very nice field; all three of these are pretty easy.

M51 and NGC 5195. I looked for M51 with Canon 15X50 IS binoculars. Pretty easy to find, as expected in these skies, but I was somewhat surprised to be able to see (I think) its companion, 5195. What I saw was a circular glow, with a little extension glow off to one side. For some reason, I was to muddled (not mottled) to think to record the PA of the extension or verify it in the scope. But I was pretty convinced I was seeing the companion.

Has anyone else seen 5195 in binoculars?

Finished up with killer views of M13, M5, M81, and M82. Pretty nice view of the dark lane that runs at an odd angle across M82, and some noticeable mottling. The views of these objects were as good, or better, than I had ever gotten with the XT-10. This is a pretty decent scope.

I packed up just as the great obliterator was rising. This was the perfect end to a perfect day. Good weather, a perfect hike, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and a beautiful sky. I slept very well that night.

Date2003 May 18
ObserverBob Jardine
EquipmentOrion XT-8. Orion 32mm and 20mm Plossl ("Highlight") eyepieces, TeleVue 2X Barlow. Canon 15X50 IS binoculars.
LocationCrane Flat (approx.), about 6000 feet, Yosemite National Park.
Conditionsmild, no dew, sky clear and transparency good to excellent. Seeing pretty stable. LM 5.9 to 6.1 (Bootes at about 22:00).