Mars night on the Peak

by Jamie Dillon

David "Gidney" North was right, it was zoolike on the Peak last night, but the rangers had things really under control. Having had the place to myself or sharing with one other person, several times in a row this summer, I was all.... But after a bit I said to myself, "Jamie, star party," and calmed down. Jim Everitt a couple over from me, in any case was handling the traffic. Good rule at a star party, set up in plain view of a larger scope. Jim apparently had a great time, explaining and showing off all kinds of goodies to enthusiastic visitors. This was all in the SW lot.

Akkana and Dave were there in force, and it was great fun to compare notes on Mars with two expert planetary observers. My boy Liam also took over Felix for part of the evening, explaining how the scope worked and showing off Mars.

After a week under the marine layer in Salinas, it was fun to see it from above. Transparency was real good, at 6.3 LM. Seeing was excellent early on, 5/5, moving to 4/5 after 11 or so. My work was with Felix, an 11" Dobs effectively made by Discovery Telescopes ( Was using a 22 Panoptic, 10mm and 6mm Radians. Most of the observing I did last night, in between visitors, was actually watching Mars. It was fascinating how much the south polar cap had shrunk since last Saturday night! Meridiani was clear, and the effect of a rocky planet was again unmistakable.

Found two new galaxies, one of which I had logged on 3 August last. Aging is not for sissies. The one genuine new find (NGC 7042) was a bugger. Everitt sat in and watched me work, packed and left, and I was still looking for the thing. "Picked an easy position (hah!) just west of M15. Barely there in 10mm, in 6mm a faint smudge like a calel's hump. Far away." 240 million lightyears far away. Didn't show to scans in the 22 at 57x. Camped right on the spot in the 10mm, suspected it once, finally sat on it, all the time in the same location. Confirmed at 210x. SB is listed as 13.2, Vmag as 12.0, not usually difficult numbers for ole Felix or ole Jamie. Sure was subtle last night.

Had a brief fun visit over to Ranger Row, where Rich Neuschafer, Dean Linebarger, Kevin Roberts and Doug Forehand were all in a line. There were other scopes in the workshop area with very quiet attendants. I understand the waiting list numbers for the 30" went up to 390. The Peak was doing its thing.

Clearly a lot of people had their sense of wonder expanded last night.