CalStar IV

by Jamie Dillon

With my work and Liam's schedule, once again we had Saturday night for CalStar. Actually works out fine, it's fun and stress-free. As noted, the company was fantastic. Having listed the folks who showed up by surprise, it'd be hard to list the fun and great company with folks who were expected. I had the great good luck to be observing next to Nilesh Shah, Rashad Al-Mansour, Jim Everitt, Mark Wagner and Jeff Blanchard. Good shared eyepiece views and some gutsplitting humor.

I had a 3-item observing list. First off as you'd better remember was NGC 300, a close-by galaxy down in Sculptor, the last item on the Edmund's Mag 6 atlas north of -45. There was a fair amount of extinction in the south most of the night, and that bugger was tough. Joe Bob sat by and commiserated, then confirmed the view. Sauntered off saying, "Don't wanna make you feel bad, Jamie, but that's a binocular object from Bolivia." From the south end of the Salinas Valley it was broad and diffuse, no visible nucleus, looked to be ca 24' by 16'.

These are the adventures of Felix, a Celestron 11" f/4.5 Dobs with optics made by Discovery Telescopes. Was using a 22 Pan, 16mm UO Koenig, 10mm and 6mm Radians. Had started with with 6535, a globular I'd missed just into Serpens from Ophiuchus, the one Gottlieb had mentioned that the Herschels missed, was discovered by John Hind in 1852. It popped into the 16mm, best in the 10. Granular, almost round, could see 6 brightest stars in the core. 3 foreground stars in a pretty row along the western edge. Then I got feisty and went looking for Palomar 11. The one Palomar globular I'd yet found was Pal 8, easy from Bumpass summer '02. Number 11 was not in Felix. Blanchard had some time and was gracious about joining the hunt with his 14.5. With some work, it showed in the Starmaster as a broad diamond, visible dimly to averted vision when jiggling the scope. I didn't feel so bad.

On the way to 300, the Sculptor Dwarf was right along the hop. I'd just read Warrior Planet, a space opera Liam had said was a fun read. He was right, and the malefactors in that book have come into the main disk of the Milky Way from, you guessed it, the Sculptor Dwarf. The angle and dimensions were right, it looked long with some skeins of structure. 280 kly away. That gives me 12 objects in the Local Group. More on that later.

By then I was done with dim stuff. 3rd item on the wishlist was Struve 2816, the pretty triple in Cepheus. Sure enough, Struve 2819, a bright close double, is in the same apparent field. Later spent time staring at M33, picking out the brightest 3 HII regions. Further study pending. Saturn took a while, gorgeous around 4 am, steady, with 5 moons and every possible detail in the disk and the rings. Blanchard and I at the same time could clearly make out the sharp gap in the outer ring, Encke or Keeler or what name you like. Also sat and gazed at M42 for the first time this year. I dunno about you, but my memory will not capture that level of beauty. Stops me flat cold every single time.

Joe Bob hissef understood the import of catching NGC 300, bestowed on me a very space age HP key fob with red LED. As TAC Awards Czar, I now give myself credit for being the first known observer to scour the Edmunds Mag 6 Dickinson-Costanzo atlas. 233 DSO's past the NGC. NGC 300 is my 734th extended deepspace object. 77 globular clusters, 3 of 'em in other galaxies. Not taking credit for that amazing cluster Everitt ran down in 6946.

Side note. Rashad Al-Mansour has hit the big time. His light dumpster, Big Dog, with bino viewers, is the berries. The Swan unfiltered was 3D, a knockout.

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