Lake Sonoma, 8/2

by Shneor Sherman

I planned to get to Lake Sonoma no later than 6:30, and so I left home about 4:25 p.m. But I-80 was worse than I've ever seen it on a Saturday, and there was considerable stop-and-go for many miles. I finally arrived at 7:15. The sky was at least half clouded over, but the clouds were moving north. I waited for a few minutes while I wondered if it was worth while setting up at all, but around 7:30 I decided that I had nothing to lose except my faith in the reasonable accuracy of CSC, so I proceeded.

Equipment22" f/4 on an equatorial platform
Denkmeier Standard Binoviewer with OCS
Pair of 32mm Brandons 1.25"
Pair of 9mm Adorama Ultrawides
30mm Widescan II with Visual Paracorr
6mm Adorama Ultrawide
Lumicon Premium OIII filter
Astronomik OIII filter
Conditions (while they lasted)Seeing 9/10
Transparency 7-8/10
Limiting Magnitude at zenith - 5.5

During setup, the mood came out from behind the clouds. After collimating, I inserted my Widescan and had a vey nice view of the moon, which I observe rerely. This was a perfect opportunith to check out my binoviewer, so I put the Brandons in and looked at the mood. My oh my!! Easily the best view of the moon that I've ever experienced. The moon looked like I was flying by, viewing from space, with every feature filled with detail and all in 3-D. I saw features that I've never noticed, clear crisp three-dimensional images everywhere, with mountain ranges remarkably rising from the plain, like seeing Mt. Lassen or the Sierras from above. I put in the 9mms for closeups, and was just amazed at the increased detail. I wish I could put names to the features I saw; I'll have to get a good lunar map. I must have spent at least half an hour viewing the moon.

It was past 9:30 by now, and I waited patiently in my lounge chair for the moon to set, and the skies to clear, which they did. By 10:15 the moon disappeared behind the trees, and that was enough to darken the sky. I began with M4, and then N6144, a small glob between M4 and Antares. M4 of course was quite resolved. I then moved to Canes Venatici, where I viewed a couple of very pretty galaxy pairs, N4485/90 and N4618/25.These are bright pairs, 85 and 90 very close, large, and showing structure, especially 90, which presented an elliptical appearance. 18 and 25 are more separated, with a bit lower surface brightness. As I was right next door, I had a look at M94 with it's bright core.

I moved back toward the south now, and viewed a pair of globulars in the same field, N6522 and N6528. With the 9mm I resoloved a few stars in 6528. I also viewed N6642, another globular in Sagittarius. Of course, I spent some time comparing the Astronomik and Lumicon OIII filters on a number of objects. On M8, the Astronomik showed a larger area of nebulosity, expecially faint nebulosity on the west, but the Lumicon showed brighter. M17 appeared pretty much the same in both. The Veil was definitely brighter in the OIII.

I also viewed perennial favorites including M51, M22, and M57. Around 11:40 when M57 was at the zenith, I viewed it using my 6mm and was rewarded with a couple of glimpses of the central star (375x).

Around midnight, I decided to check Mars out. Although the image boiled a bit every now and then, the view with the 6mm was superb, with cnsiderable surface detail visible, and I could swear that I saw a green tint in the color of the dark thick Y-shaped area at one point. Fascinating view, and my platform was tracking very accurately.

I decided to turn to the west for a look at M13, but was surprised to find it so dim. I ckecked the sky again, and to my surprise, a thin haze had covered the sky. I waited until 1 a.m. for it to clear, then began packing. As I packed, the fog rolled in, only to vanish an hour later.

There was dew at a couple of points, especially at the end, and I'm glad I had my dew zapper (12 volt hair dryer) which I used a couple of times to clear up eyepieces and to clear the secondary before packing. Still, conditions were very good as long as they lasted and I'm glad I made the trip.