Saturday, 8/8/03, observing at Lick

by Rich Neuschaefer

Saturday night was the second night this week for the Summer Visitor's Program. It is really a pleasure to volunteer at Lick. The people at Lick and the visitors are outstanding. There were at least six of us outside the observatory with our small scopes available to the visitors for a look while waiting for a lecture or view through the great 36" Clark refractor and 40" Nickel reflector.

The amateur scopes last night, a 12" Meade SCT, a 10" Orion Dob, an 8" Meade SCT an 8" Newt. made by Alan Adler with a flex mirror and fan, an AP 180EDT (180mm f/9) APO refractor, and I think a Meade 125mm ETX. If someone knows of other scopes up there please feel free to mention them.

The weather for the last few days has been beautiful. The skies virtually cloudless. Friday, it was easy to see detail in the hills near Gilroy. There was almost no haze. Saturday, there was a little more brown haze but it was low, the sky around Lick was clear. The temperature at Lick in the afternoon felt like it was maybe 68 deg F. and at night about 10 deg less.

The seeing was better than Friday night at Lick, maybe a 7 of 10? The Moon was big, Aristarchus and Schroter's Valley were near the terminator. It was easy to see the "low" peak in relief next to Aristarchus where Schroter's Valley starts and winds its way down hill and around into the lower part of the lunar surface. Schroter's Valley is a lava channel or collapsed lava tube.

Saturday, I had the scope on only two objects, the Moon and Mars. Others were showing DSOs. I started out using a 10.5 mm Pentax SMC-XL eyepiece giving 154x and a 65 deg apparent field of view. It was easy to see Schroter's Valley. When the moon got higher I used a 7mm Pentax SMC-XL giving 231x and again a 65 deg apparent field of view. This gave a beautiful view of the Aristarcus, Schroter's Valley area. The seeing was not dead steady. You could see movement in the image but there was still good detail.

Waves of people would come from the observatory to look through our amateur telescopes. As people would look into the eyepiece I would "walk" them over to Schroter's Valley starting from the dark terminator going left to crater Schiaparelli to crater Herodotus and the bright crater Aristarchus. Just a little above and to the right of Aristarchus is the little hill where Schorter's Valley starts. People would say, "Oh, that's amazing!" I was happy to show people other parts of the Moon. But, most of the time I kept Schroter's Valley in view.

Mars was behind a tree from my observing spot until a little after 11 pm. I started looking at Mars near 11:30 pm with the 7 mm Pentax eyepeice (@ 230x) you could see the large South Polar Cap and a long dark feature across the middle of mars with a light break in the middle. This long dark feature was Mare Cimmerium and Mare Tyrrhenum. The light area was Hesperia.

By 12:30 am (PDT) the visitors had left but several of us were still there with our telescopes. I switch from using the Pentax eyepiece to my Zeiss binoviewer. I attached the binoviewers barlow directly to the base of the binoviewer with a thin interface attachment. This lets me put the barlow into a standard 2" diagonal, with the binoviewer attached, like a large eyepiece. The combination of the barlow in that location and the 1.25x corrector lens in the base of the binoviewer give about a 4x increase to the eyepieces used. I started with 16mm Zeiss Abbe Ortho eyepieces giving about 348x. Mars had climbed high enough that the view was quite a bit better. There was more light and dark mottling. Near Mars transit the image was much better. It was easy to see two sharp "horns" on Syrtis Major. There was a dark line at the edge of the polar cap. At times Hellas seemed to have some slightly darker areas. There were The horns on Syrtis were sharply defined where before they were fuzzy. The Northern Polar Cap was a thin white line.

About transit time I switched to 10mm Zeiss Abbe Orthos. The seeing wasn't quite as good as I've had other years when observing mars but the higher magnification (@ 557x) did let us see more detail. As Syrtis Major came closer to the middle of the disk Albert mentioned the dark areas looked like a large spider. I took a look and he was right. It did look like Mars had a large dark spider with thick legs stretched across its disk.

We had a great time looking at Mars. Alan Adler was taking lots of images through his 8" flex mirror Newt and through my AP 180EDT. He also took images through the 36" Clark. At least he did Friday night. I'm not sure if he did on both nights. It was a long two nights but what a treat to get to see Mars when it is so large, from a great location like Mt. Hamilton and Lick Observatory.