Annie Jump rides again

by Jamie Dillon

8 weeks after the last time out to a hilltop, and after being stolen, recovered and fixed up good as new, our Toyota van pulled up to the gate at the Observatory Sunday night just at sunset. She had gotten a new front end as well, back in March, so those corners on the road up to the Peak went real smooth.

We had wide horizons and plenty of room. While Ken Lum was up on the Knoll imaging, Everitt, Crilly, Jardine, Newquist and I were in the workshop area. It stayed warm and dry all night. The sky got to 6.6 limiting magnitude for me, 6.7 for Everitt, the whippersnapper. Seeing was steady all night, 5/5 excellent. I'm learning to use the Manning All Purpose Astro Scale, on which Sunday night was NSF, no suck factor.

I spent a whole lot of time staring up at all those stars. Watched Corona Borealis wheel around. What fun. Did 3 projects, all time-consuming and intensive. Used Sue French's chart from the April S&T to get the field for Leo I, which has been on the wishlist a long time. With optimum skies for our region, holding the field at different magnifications, with averted vision and jiggling the scope, a fuzzy patch stayed in the same part of the area, where it was supposed to be. Everitt and Jardine saw lint in the same spot. Showed best in the 10mm at 126x. Leo I is in our local group, and might just be the most distant satellite of the Milky Way, at 750,000 ly some 4x farther away than the Magellanic Clouds.

This was with Felix, a Celestron 11" f/4.5 Dobs with optics made by Discovery Telescopes. Was using a 22 Pan, 16mm UO Koenig, 10mm and 6mm Radians.

Over in the Dipper, just above the NE corner of the Bowl, up and over from Megrez, are two of the three galaxies I have left on the Dickinson atlas, the atlas that never ends. Close pretty pair, fitting within a 24' field. 4036 is the brighter of the pair with a stellar core, dense nucleus with lens extending at PA 80 deg. Showed some structure, swirls around the core. 4041 showed a concentrated nucleus, no clear core, with an irregular halo. The two are physically neighbors.

The last extended object on the Edmund's Mag atlas above -40 S dec is NGC 300, in western Fornax, nice object for CalStar. I'll let you know.

At one point I was sitting watching the stars turn, heard Everitt go "oh sh*t" quietly. No response to a query if he was OK. Got up the nerve and ambled over, and he'd stumbled into the middle of the Coma Cluster. Now that's one of my main plans for the summer, to explore Abell 1656. Jim had galaxies popping up so fast he got dizzy. My own plan for the evening was to dip into that area and just look around, without using a chart, what I'd done in the Fornax Cluster a couple of years ago. So I took the cue, sat and gawked and then sketched the 6 most obvious galaxies within half a degree from the big pair of 4889 and 4874. This'll be fun. I'd wanted to get a baseline of the Coma Cluster from local skies, to compare at Shingletown. This incredibly rich cluster is some 350 mly from here. Not quite as far as the Hercules Cluster at ca 0.5 bly, but do still pack a lunch. With that stupendous distance, the two big bright galaxies come off amazing, how huge and bright they have to be, to be obvious in a medium-sized scope.

I'd started the night staring at Jupiter, then studying M65 and M66 and 3628. Took a long look at M13 in Everitt's 15". Ended looking at Mars, after spending some quality time looking at the Lagoon and the Trifid, as well as M6 and M7, the two big opens off Scorpius' tail. Sat down and hung around the Sagittarius Star Cloud, as mentioned yesterday, never gets old. The Swan in Everitt's 15 was huge, with nebulosity extending well past the long end, and structure for days in the main corner. This was unfiltered.

Great news that so many of us had great nights this past weekend, all over the map. On our end the night was pretty much pure delight.

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