Litebox pollution at Lake Sonoma

by Jane Houston Jones

September 20 was a great night at Lake Sonoma. Lots of telescopes up there with us in the inversion layer - 15 or more setup in the lower area and 10 more up on high ground where we were. Shirtsleeves all night. 73 degrees at 3:00 a.m. when we finally packed our three Litebox reflectors back in the Dodge minivan and headed down into the cool air.

Besides our three 12.5-inch, 14.5-inch and 17.5-inch Litebox reflectors Saturday night, Carter Roberts brought his 18-inch, Mike Portuesi brought his new 15-inch and Pete Goldie and Sarah Szczechowicz brought their 10-inch "exploratory design" for a compact 10-inch made by Litebox Barry Peckham. We lined them all up on "dob heights" and took a group photo. This one by Carter Roberts.

Then we had alot of fun comparing views of Milky Way objects in each of the instruments. The Helix Nebula looked great in Pete and Sarah's 10-inch and in Carter's 18-incher. Mars looked excellent in Carters 18-inch stopped down to 6-inches with a #85 salmon filter. Neptune and Uranus looked great in Mojo's 14.5 inch. Hickson 87, well at least mag 14.0 PGC 65415 (M-3-53-5) was visible, with some averted imagination, to some of the eyepiece visitors to my 17.5-inch Hagrid.

Most of our personal projects (a few remaining Herschel 400's for Mojo and many Hickson and Abell galaxy clusters for me) weren't optimal for viewing until after midnight, so we took the time to help a new telescope owner polar align his 6-inch Orion StarMax. Worked better once he got the hemisphere switch turned to north instead of south.

We hung out with my 8-year old nephew, Aaron, who was sketching Mars through his 6-inch f/4.8 Pierre Schwaar reflector. Before he left for home in Healdsburg, Aaron took over my 17.5 incher at times and the 12.5 incher at other times. In the 12.5 inch, he liked the Perseus double cluster best. In the 17.5 incher, he liked the Andromeda Galaxy and its companions best. Speaking of M31, Aaron singlehandedly moved my big 17-5-inch Litebox from M31 over to Vega, standing on the ground and pushing on the rocker box, while sighting through or near the Ttelrad, sort of. Then after climbing the ladder, eyeballing Lyra in the Telrad, he nailed M57, the Ring Nebula first try, with the 9 Nagler at 222x in the focuser. Many of my favorite observing sessions are when my nephew Aaron joins me at Lake Sonoma.

By 11:00 p.m. we all got on to our own lists of things to see and it wasn't until after 3:00 a.m. and a look at Saturn that some of us finally packed up and headed home.

DateSeptember 20, 2003
LocationLone Rock Flat, Lake Sonoma, California 38 42 90N 123 02 43.7 W
Altitude1,129 - 73 degrees at 3:00 a.m. RH 30% humidity Saturday
Instrument17.5-inch f/4.5 Litebox Reflector, Hagrid Ocular 9mm Nagler type 2 for 222x
Seeinggood, softened after midnight.
TransparencyLM 6.2 on 9/20 using LM area 6 Alpha Andromeda, Gamma and Alpha Pegasus chart.