Pillars of Plettstone June 21

by Richard Crisp

Saturday night, June 21, I was fortunate enough to be invited to observe at Michelle and Paul's wonderful retreat in the gold country, Plettstone.

Although on the map it is considerably further away than Fremont Peak, the driving time worked out to be only a half hour longer for me than my typical run to Fremont Peak. Since I am in Castro Valley in the East Bay, it is a simple matter to blast out 580 to 99 in Modesto etc.... Not only that, it was a positively lovely ride on a beautiful Summer Solstice afternoon. I had a few ultra-sweet cherries to munch on that I had purchased from a roadside stand near Gilroy which were left over from my previous night's aborted mission to Fremont Peak. They reminded me of just how sweet this wonderful existence on our planet really is.

When I arrived at Plettstone after a 3 hour drive, I was initially greeted by Guillermo Ortiz, who was taking full advantage of the ambiance, enjoying a good book in a very comforable looking lawn chair.

I then met Michelle and Paul, and we all talked for a while. Plettstone is a wonderful place and what better day to arrive than a very mild first day of summer.

I set up the C14/AP1200GTO rig with my newly installed mirror locks and got prepared for my night's quarry; finishing up my Pillars of Creation, which I had set out to do about a month ago with my new [SII] filter.

As the dark approached, Jeff Crilly rolled in with his 6" newt/piggybacked refractor photo rig. He is using 35mm film on the newt with the piggybacked refractor serving as a guide scope powered by an ST7E. Nice setup sitting atop a Losmandy G11. He has this very cool interface board he made to have the Losmandy talk to the ST7E. If interested in that sort of thing you should ask Jeff about what he did with the blinking LEDs!

When it got good and dark I first started out shooting M57, thinking about a potential next target. This was while I was waiting for M16 to get high enough. Around midnight I began on M16. I had a few annoying tracking problems and a few other things to fuss with, but managed to get enough data through my [SII] and [OIII] filters to combine with my previous Ha data, all taken from the C14 after the mirror locks were installed to prevent the mirror flop.

The data looks pretty good. So here it is, the Pillars of Plettstone:


Some of you will say that you have seen this aleady, and you have sort of. I just keep working on getting the stars round. Look at the first one you saw about three weeks ago and you will see the difference. Not perfect right now, but a lot better. I included a link to the Nasa Shot too, just for comparision. Yes, they have bloated red stars with halos too!

I want to say thanks again to Michelle Stone and Paul Plett for the invitation up to their lovely haven in the hills. It was a memorable experience and I finally got a shot of M16 good enough that I think I can move on to another target. Perseverance!