Montebello Wednesday May 21, 2003

by Peter McKone

The air was warm and still and clear with no hint of dew at Montebello on Wednesday night. Turnout was a little lower than I expected for the first clear Wednesday night after the rains of April. It would be ironic if the Timothy Ferris lecture at Foothill drew people away from observing!

The sky didn't seem quite as dark as on Sunday night - maybe there was less haze down below - but it was plenty dark for chasing the moderately bright galaxies on the Saguaro list, and it got darker after 11 o'clock. I found several galaxies, and would perhaps have found more, except for Bob Jardine helpfully mentioning how he had to go to Yosemite to see his final object on the RASC list, namely the mag 12.1 galaxy, NGC 3003. Who could resist such a challenge? Four galaxies are visible in the area, and in the end I'm not so sure that I wasn't looking at NGC 3021, instead of the intended 3003. 3021 is mag 13, but much smaller, and therefore easier to see.

I also spent looking for Palomar Globular #5, and came up empty. I'll try again from a darker site, but first I want to check the Digital Sky Survey to see just how dim this object is. I did view the globular NGC 4147 in Virgo, and it was a nice bit of variety in the Realm of the Galaxies.

Speaking of variety, Pete Santangeli found an extra star in one his six images of M65 and M66. No one suggested a plausible explanation.

It would be wrong not to mention another nice object that was visible on Wednesday night, and no special skills were require to "find" it. I'm speaking of Mark Wagner's new portable telescope with the 10" Royce mirror. The strikingly sharp image of Jupiter and the pinpoint stars around it were enough to take your breath away. Seeing must have just been better on his side of the parking lot, because I certainly wasn't getting that image my eyepiece! Because this telescope folds down into the dob base, you could easily carry it on trips. And the optics would certainly make you want to!

The temperature was 65 degrees at 1:30 when I left the parking lot, but 55 degrees when I reached the bottom of the hill. Is it too much to hope that this weather will last through the weekend?