Mt. Hamilton, Sat 6/7/2003

by James Turley

LocationMt. Hamilton, 4200 ft
DateSat 6/7/2003
Instrument36" Lick f/19 Refractor
Mount14.5 tons with Custom Motor Drive in RA
Eyepiece55mm Plossl

Considering the moony evening and threatened high scud, Jeff Crilly and I decided that to go for some elevation. Where better than Mt. Hamilton? Jeff had some lunar imaging projects in mind.

After 365 turns, we arrived up top and were greeted with beautiful moonlit night, about 62F, dry 40RH. A light breeze cooled the evening. A perfect moonlit Summer evening.

I didn't bring a scope and Jeff only had his dig cam and some IS binos. Since the 36" was already set up we wandered into the 36" dome.

After instructing the dome crew to lower 26 ton dome floor to a more comfortable viewing angle, and climbing up the 14 foot viewing stairs, our first object was Jupiter, moons nicely lined up, at 312x. We were hoping for a view of Amalthea, discovered with this instrument in 1892. But the seeing didn't support it. Too bad we hadn't know about the "mutual satellite event" involving Ganymede and Io. Jupiter was "colorful" :-) without much SEB NEB detail.

Next the scope was pushed to the Moon. The observing floor was lowered for us and we were able to observe comfortably standing. The control paddle was adjusted to bring the slit around. Jeff did some eyepiece projection imaging. Perhaps he'll post the results. We didn't have Rukl at hand, so haven't id'd the field. Seeing was steady, and the tracking was rock solid. Scope damp down was sub second. Great mount design, if not a little heavy.

Watching the moonlight entering the dome, illuminating the 52 foot OTA was inspiring. While Jeff was imaging at the eyepiece. I wandered around the Great Dome looking for a place to set my box of wine in preparation for the next object.

M57 was at a convenient dec, so the 26 ton floor stayed put. Like Tarzan swinging through the trees, the majesting long tube went airborne, arriving near the RA Dec of our next object.

M57 at 312x was crisp. I couldn't get the central star (12.3), but Jeff said it jumped in and out. Too dim to image, I guess.

Corvus was conveniently placed without much requiring much slit movement. M104 was dim and washed out as might be expected from such a moony night. But lovely. Jeff noted the mount wasn't tracking well, however. At the central control panel in the center of the dome, the display was still reading Lunar tracking.

Remembering the great view of Omega Cen last weekend, we imagined what it would look like through the 36". Also we imagined the great long 52 foot tube and objective crashing onto the observing floor as we were seeking to view an object touching the Western horizon. Not an option, I guess.

Not to be defeated, we decided to pack up and had the crew close up the dome and button down the scope. Problem with these big scopes is tear down time. After paying our respects to Mr. Lick resting peacefully (hopefully) under the mount, we strolled outside to continue our search for Omega Cen with Jeff's IS binos. no avail. We watched the reeling Milky Way rise and admired those wonderful Summer sights in the Scorpio and Sagittarius star fields.

All and all a great Summer night, if a little moony. The 36" and dome and observing floor performed flawlessly. The mount was steady and rock solid.

On the way down the hill about midnight, into the valley muck, I remembered I'd left the box of wine on the Central Control Panel console. Next time, I'll remember to leave a real bottle with cork for Mr. Lick.