What a Night!

by Rashad Al-Mansour

I had a great time at Michelle's place over the weekend. Friday night was OK but Saturday night was magical! The transparency and seeing conditions were excellent. The best sky conditions I've had since Shingletown.

I was using "Big Dog" my 16" scope on its tracking platform, Denkmeier Binoviewer with OCS and I also had "Old School" my 4" APO Refractor set up as well. The Denkmeier Binoviewer with optional "OCS" (Optical Correction System) allows for low power, wide field views in Newtonian and Refractor telescopes. The OCS produces 1.2x magnification. The views I had of M2, M15, M13, M11, M8 and M17 were astounding! Wow, was the word of choice form other observers present who viewed some of these deep sky wonders.

I had no observing plan really, as I was still learning to use some of the new equipment I've accumulated over the past few months. So I fired up a new piece of software I just acquired, SkyTools 2.0. One of the nice things about this software is that there is a catalog for all the deep sky objects and double stars listed in Burnham's Celestial Handbook. So "BCH" has become my new observing program. I will start this new program in earnest next weekend while at Fiddletown.

I'm at work so I can't provide a detailed report of the weekend, but the highlights for me, besides the Binoviewing, were M33, Abell 2199 the Perseus super cluster. The view I had of M33 was the best since CalStar II. The spiral structure was just beautiful, and the bright knots NGC 604, 595, 582, 588 IC 135, 136, 132, 133 were very easy to see. I suspected IC 143, 142 and the faint galaxy PGC5899 but could not confirm them.

I can't wait to get back to CalStar this year so I can spend more time on this object. Steve G. has an article coming out in Sky & Telescope describing his survey of M33. I hope to have it by my side when I do my survey at CalStar. The sky conditions allowed me to go really deep in the Abell clusters I observed, down to 15.5-16th mag! With NGC 6166 centered in the eyepiece I could see 9 faint galaxies around it! The eyepiece was just full of them! The same was true for Abell 426. With NGC 1275 centered in the EP there were just too many galaxies to count! The more I looked the more I saw!

In short, I had two fabulous nights at Plettstone. A big thanks goes out to Michelle Stone and her husband Paul for making for such an enjoyable weekend. BTW the Sat. night BBQ was the "Bomb!"