Saturday at the Peak

by Peter Santangeli

Saturday evening, I headed out to do some imaging. Originally, my plan was to go to Coe, but as I arrived at the turnoff from Hwy 101 (3 cheers to Caltrans for the new lanes...) the wind was blowing through the trees like crazy. Having been at Coe in the wind, I made a quick change of plans.

I continued through the off ramp back onto the on ramp and decided to go to the Peak.

When I arrived at the turn off to the rangers house, the gate was locked. A quick walk up the path to a few people I know and I (and another TAC person behind me - David I believe) were through. One of the people who kindly let me through was one of the (many) people I have met online over the years but never in person Jane Houston.

By the time I arrived, the lower area where the imagers typically hang out was quite full. I usually use my van as a table, and there was no reasonable place for me to park it, so I headed up the hill to the pads.

Saturday was public night, but that was OK with me. I figured I would show some of the attendees how imaging works. I had talked briefly with the ranger while I was making my decision down below, and the ranger drove up to the observatory while I was unloading my van with the intent to move it somewhere when done - I had managed to grab the pad with the picnic table, so I could use that. Imagine my horror when I found out later that instead of simply talking to me the two times I had seen him, the new ranger had instead told Jane off for having let me in when there were too many cars already.

I guess technically, I had not called the ranger to let them know I was going to arrive, so I was in the wrong I guess. But to criticize the volunteer running the outreach program for letting someone use one of the 4 empty telescope pads borders on the absurd. I eventually parked my van completely out of the way between two other cars, not blocking anyone.

We've probably had too many "Peak Bashing" email threads on the TAC list, so let's not start another one (feel free to email defenses and flames directly to me), but all I can say about the Peak is "la plus qui change, la plus qui reste la meme".

Anyways, the evening turned out wonderfully. I spent the time until about 11:30 showing people how imaging worked, while doing some (admittedly cheesy) images of M13:

The reaction was quite positive.

I then spent some time shooting M57 and the Triffid:

The images aren't perfect. I had spent the afternoon evicting a (dead) spider and its webs from my old C8 OTA, and decided to do some prime focus with it that evening. I find that the 2m focal length is a bit too much for the periodic error of the G11 (a topic for TAC-Imaging I guess).

One advantage of observing at the peak was that once all the other's had left we only had to wander over to the 30 and Mojo was serving up the best of the sky. M51 was absolutely a stunning.

I arrived back at Los Gatos at 4:30 or so (58 minutes pad to door!). A great night despite the ugly start.