by James Turley
|Location||Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, CA
This year Jeff Crilly and I volunteer for the Lick Summer Visitor programs and concerts. I just love being on the mountain, with those Victorian buildings surrounded by white domes of all sizes perched on nearby ridges, watching the sky reeling through the dome slots.
When I arrived, I was surprised to see Mark Wagner set up next to Rich N. Rich was setting up his AP 7" Refractor next to Mark's 10" CPT driven dob. Later Alan Adler showed up with his Flex Mirror eq mounted Newtonian instrument. Jay Freeman was there too, with a small Japanese refractor showing great views.
Jeff Crilly and I helped herd the public (about 220) through both the 40" Nickel Reflector and the Great Lick 36" Refractor. Objects were M11 in the 40", and M13/M92 in the 36"...silently and respectfully very unimpressive.
After the public left, Jeff and I went out back and hung out by the modern APO glass :-)
A soft, breezeless but chilly Summer evening. The Milky Way barely visible through the Moon Shine. Mars was showing promise and got better and better. Rich brought out his Zeiss binoviewer and matched Zeiss Orthos set. Mark built a Nagler and Barlow stack reaching 579x and holding as Mars culminated.
The views were stunning through all scopes. We were invited into the Great Dome to view Mars in the 36", big as a Golf Ball. Color uncommented.
What a Candy Store! Holy Scopes! The World's Biggest operating refractor, perhaps the best amateur refractor every built, Alan's exotic "push the envelope" reflector achieving high powers, Mark's CPT Holy Scope pushing 579x and holding. All instruments, a few steps away. All night, we all circulated through the instruments. All had outstanding views. Never knowing which was better. It's like my brain was doing a RegisStar stacking internally, combining the most "superbest" views from each scope. Alan was imaging away, taking hundreds of shots, repeating as a mantra.."This is the best Mars, ever" "This is the best Mars, ever"
Me too. Crilly saw albedo features resembling a gazelle. Rich saw open-jawed snakes. I saw fine detailed unnamed gray scale features within Hellas.
Features we talked about and probably saw: Mare Sirenum, Hellas, Syrtis Major, Penus (in Hellas), maybe Xanthus, Mare Serpentus. The South Pole "band" (what is that?). Some peninsula jutting out of the South Pole.
The evening was punctuated by a high energy 12w Sodium Laser beam, piercing the sky from Dr. Gate's Adaptive Optics experiments ongoing at the Shane 120" dome. What a show.
And Perseids! Some here and there. Jeff caught an odd bolide streaking.
Mars got higher. Mark's platform tracking spot on at 500+ power. Rich's bino views showing Mars a huge sphere suspended in space. During good times, there was no "snaping into place"...instead, you arrived at the eyepiece (doesn't matter which scope), and the view as already "snapped". No waiting.
An exhilarating Summer evening on a Magic Mountain. Interacting with the world's best and historically important optical instruments, with the fine company of the world's best observing buddies, under the bright moony shadow of the Great Lick Dome.
Wow. A night to remember.