Great Night at Montebello

by Peter McKone

Arrived at the parking lot early, to mooch views from Michael Swartz' beautiful Takahashi with the Coronado filter. It was like watching a science film, and the "star" of the film didn't disappoint its audience. Everyone who walked by asked Michael the same question. "Do you have a filter?". He sure as hell does!

One of the impromptu solar observers was Mercury News writer Kellie Schmitt, and photographer Ann Marie. As they asked questions and took notes, at least a dozen more astronomers pulled in and started to set up their bizarre looking contraptions. Kellie may have felt that more people would be interesting in knowing about TAC and Montebello. Do we have a star party scheduled at Montebello this year? If Kellie publishes her notes, we may have one whether we want to or not!

There was a hint of things to come when I pointed my Intes Mak at Jupiter, just after sunset. I only intended to align the finder; Jupiter hasn't been worth looking at for several weeks. But when I looked in the eyepiece I couldn't believe what I saw: clear dark bands and pinpoint moons. I had to ask some other people to verify that I wasn't hallucinating. Since I planned to devote the night to double stars, good seeing was good news.

After dark, I heard people, including a gentleman with an Edmunds F13 refractor, talking about splitting Antares. In my scope, at 360X, there appeared to be a blue-green star preceding Antares, that popped in and out of view. The image was somewhat ambiguous, but it was a clearer view of Antares than I have seen in the past, and I definitely saw more than one set of diffraction rings.

The temperature stayed warm all night. At 1 am I pointed the telescope at Mars, which appeared to be boiling when I looked at it last week. Not tonight. The polar cap was quite clear, and I saw some hints of detail on the surface.

If you are working the Astronomical League double star list, and happen to be looking at 51 Bootes (Alkalurops), try to remember to take a close look at its companion.