by Mark Wagner
About Coe last night.
I knew the conditions were likely poor even before leaving home. A steady breeze was blowing from the west, and the sky looked rather milky with some cloud puffs here and there. The Clear Sky Clock for Coe was awful... white in both cloudiness and transparency. But off I headed, down 85 to 101, all the while looking at the stuff hanging over the eastern mountains. The drive down 101 is a snap now, with the additional 2 lanes each way. 15 minutes and I was at East Dunne... shoot, I was trying to keep up with traffic, which means driving like a maniac (for me), and I was still getting passed on the left like I was standing still. We had some conversation about this at Coe... I think average speed on 101 is 85 mph.
At the end of the flatlands on East Dunne, just where the hills start, I looked in my rear view mirror at the orange sun setting over the hills. Very picturesque, but not encouraging from an astro standpoint. I took my Mercedes with the 10" CPT in the trunk, instead of the Suburban, and it was a blast to drive up the road past Anderson Reservoir, winding up to the overflow lot. Whoever commented that the A17 from highway 5 to 44 near Shingletown is as windy as the road to Coe, wrong. Coe is *much* windier.
I pulled into the lot to find Navarette setting up, wearing a sweater, wind blowing.
It was cold out there. On went my polartec. By the time I left at 12:45 a.m., I had on several other layers. The breeze was what chilled us.
Soon after I arrived, James Turley showed up, then Bob Jardine, followed by Nick an Mei Fong, and finally Andrew Pierce.
7 against the wind.
Views were giggly. I think Richard's C11 held up best.
We stood around talking for quite a while, wind to our backs. In the west you could see the cloud layer above us. Someone commented that it was clear overhead, and it did look that way, but I said we were just looking through the thin stuff we were seeing to the west. I agreed with the CSC this time, the thin stuff would kill the transparency.
We looked at mostly bright stuff, when the wind would settle momentarily.
Finally, Turley said he'd had enough. Packed up and left, and the wind settled down. Thanks James!
We looked at big globulars, several H400 open clusters and planetary nebulae. I tried B86 in my 10", but the background was so gray, I could see the cluster but not the ink spot. I knew where it was, since there were no stars, but it was not black... just a hazy shade of gray. Most notable was the Cat's Eye, showing elongation, nice color, and a faint outer halo (7mm Nagler), The Blue Flash, NGC 6781, and 5 Serpentis in the same field as M5.
By 12:30 the moon climbed over the hill, deep orange, throwing light onto the fog that had spilled over the mountains to our south. It was not the best night, but it was good to get out, see some friends, talk astronomy, and poke around a bit with the scope.
My hands and feet were cold. I turned on the heater in the car and enjoyed the stiff suspension of the Benz around the turns on the ride down. I was home before I knew it.... and realized.... the next stop is SSP.