Fiddletown/Saturday night

by Dennis Beckley

It was a perfect night last night up at Fiddletown. I arrived early (around 6:00) to set up and no one was there but me and a few ants. It was a "short night" because of a 2:00 A.M. moonrise so I brought the short-night scope, my Orion Skyquest 10 inch Dob.

Just as it was starting to get dark, Steve Gottlieb rolled in with his brand new 18 inch Starmaster with Zambuto optics and full GOTO. It's truly a beautiful scope with great views. I took some pictures which I'll post later.

We were the only two people up there and the conditions were perfect! The air was extemely steady (easily split some tight doubles) and the sky was cloudless.

Steve showed me the central star in the Ring at 1100x (!!) and I could hold it for a few seconds with direct vision (a personal first for me). A xeroxed copy of surrounding field stars and their magnitudes from the 9/2001 issue of S&T was very helpful in preparing me as to what to expect.

There was tons of structure in the Cat's eye nebula (NGC 6543) and Steve showed me several HII knots in M101 which he's IDing for an upcoming article in Sky and Tel.

Also saw a neat galaxy trio in Draco with each galaxy showing a different shape (NGC 5981/59/82/5985). After showing me the "propeller" in M13 we looked at the small 15.5 mag. IC 4617 galaxy between M13 and NGC 6207 and then turned our attention to the small IC galaxy - mag 14.8 - IC 1296 parked right next to M57. It was that kind of a night!

In the early morning we located Comet 65P/Gunn just over a degree from M54 in Sagittarius. I tried to see it in my 10 inch but no cigar.

After moonrise, we turned our sights on Mars which looked great with Steve's scope: huge S. polar ice cap, irregular black surface markings in the middle of the planet and suggestion of ice clouds around the outer circumference. We tried a variety of filters and I especially enjoyed the blue one.

In between looking through Steve's scope I managed to work my way through Sue French's Draco tour in the latest S&T and Tom Polakis's Sagittarius tour in the latest Astronomy magazines.

We turned in around 3:00 after a truly memorable night. Having Steve and his great new scope all to myself was like spending the evening with E.B. Bernard or Walter Scout Houston and I learned a lot!