Observing near 1st Q at Foothills Park

by Mark Wagner

I had a very enjoyable evening last night, tagging along with Rich Neuschaefer for an evening of observing at Foothill Park in Palo Alto. It had been several years since I'd attended one of these events, hosted by Peninsula Astronomical Society member William Phelps. It is a rather cozy area for observing, to our east is the entire expanse of the south bay, looking east across from Mt. Hamilton to Mt. Diablo and north, and up to Montebello to the west. The site offers very scenic views, but is only open to Palo Alto residents. As an amateur astronomer with a telescope, I was allowed in to support the program. Several other TACos were there... and others who are active PAS members that I rarely see.

I had brought out my 8" CPT, the 10" is still on loan. The 8 is an f/6.9, and really performs on the moon and planets. The moon was the early favorite target. Seeing was rather soft though, and even with the 20 Nagler (70x) it looked as if it were under a slow moving stream. But the views were still pleasing, even when I bumped it up to the 12 Nagler (116x)... and the public loves the moon. Views of Jupiter were a waste, the public saw a 70x almost featureless slightly fuzzy ball with four pinpoint around it.

The best views I had were of the big globulars. M13 put on a great show, as did M3 and M5. People were fascinated with these objects. I think M5 was the best at 70x, and shared the field with the nice double star 5 Serpentis. People were able to enjoy the globular at over 24,000 LY and realize that the double star at only 80 LY was really incredibly closer. It helps them realize the view really covers tremendous distances.

I finished the night turning the 8" toward the small globulars in Sagittarius that I had been hunting with 10x50 binoculars a few night before. Of course they showed much more easy in the 8". I picked off NGC 6638, NGC 6642, NGC 6624, NGC 6659, NGC 6528 which shared the FOV with NGC 6522, and NGC 6652. They were all obvious, without the need for charts (I'd spent enough time with binos that I knew where to look).

Other objects that showed well were M22, M4, Alberio, and M28, the Ring and Dumbell.

It was a very friendly and relaxing evening. If you have an opportunity to attend, Foothill Park can be a good observing site.