Observing with the Mount Wilson 60-inch October 18, 2003

by Jane Houston Jones

A trip to Mount Wilson is always amazing. The sunset colors the 100-inch Hooker telescope dome to a subtle shade of pink. A walk on the wooden walkways between the 60 and 100-inch domes trace the steps of famous astronomers of the past and present.

After sunset this time of year, the sky darkens quickly. By 7:30 p.m. October 18, 2003 we were observing through the historic 60-inch George Ritchey f/16 telescope. You can read more about the telescope and the others on the mountain in Mount Wilson Observatory Association VP Mike Simmon's article on the Mt. Wilson webpage. http://www.mtwilson.edu/

Our telescope operator for the night was Dave Jurasevich and Mike Simmons assisted him. Virginia Bogdanovich, who operates the adjacent Mt. Wilson 16-inch, and is the LAAS VP too, also helped out and showed me her Mars sketches. We had a small group on this SFAA club night - just 8 observers - so that meant we got to view many more objects than usual between dusk and dawn. Groups can reserve the telescope for nights such as this. Details are on the MWOA website.

Our first targets in the 60-inch were Epsilon Lyra, M 13 and Campbell's Hydrogen Star, Pk 64+5.1, 19h 34m 45.2s +30 31.01" in Cygnus. This small planetary, shows a small red disk around the orange star. In amateur telescopes this is one object that responds well to a H-Beta filter. 240X using the 100mm (4-inch diameter) Kellner eyepiece.

Next we moved to the Ring Nebula, M57. My sketch revealed two stars in the center. The mag 15.7 central star, a planet-sized white dwarf, and a fainter companion. I also observed knots and bright spots in the shell around the star. Mike and Dave pulled up Brian Skiff's Ring Photometry and we compared my sketch to the chart. I saw and sketched the mag 14.7 and 14.9 double stars north of the planetary nebulae, and the mag 15.6 star on one side. Here's a nice chart for this project. http://c3po.cochise.cc.az.us/astro/images/M57!dss2_3.jpg. 240X using the 100mm (4-inch diameter) Kellner eyepiece. 400x using the 4-inch diameter 60mm Erfle.

The dome was rotated and our next targets were Neptune and its moon Triton, Mars and Deimos, and Uranus showing 4 moons, mag 14 Titania, mag 14.2 Oberon, mag14.4 Ariel and some of us saw mag 15.1 Umbrial. We did not see mag 16.6 Miranda. I thought I saw a lighter area on the planet disk, but it could have just been that the opposite limb darkening made the rest of the planet look lighter.

We next tried some faint globulars within galaxies.

G1 or Mayall II, 00 32 46.5 +39 34 41 Mag 13.7. A globular cluster in the Andromeda galaxy definately looked just like Roland Christian's image here. http://voltaire.csun.edu/roland/mayall2.html A fuzzy oval with two fainter stars made a triangle. The two fainter stars are mag 15 to the SW and an even fainter star to the NW. Deep Sky Magazine issue 32, has a great article and finder charts by Paul Hodge, which I have used on previous observing nights with my 17.5 incher to see these objects..

G156 00 42 25.3 +40 57 18Mag 15.6 was very near the core of M32. Faint stellar object in-between two stars.

Then we observed G57 in M110. Exactly 5 years ago to the date, I observed these same globulars at Fiddletown! http://www.sjaa.net/eph/9812h.html I was really enjoying these but everyone else wanted to get back to the big and the bright, so on we moved.

High surface brightness objects look best through this telescope, so we looked at several planetary nebulae and I sketches some of them. Two planetaries are worth noting: NGC 1514 in Taurus was visible while holding an OIII filter between eye and eyepiece. IC 418 (the red Planetary) in Taurus is a great object showing two shells, the outer one red.. We also observed the Saturn Nebula, the Blue Snowball (everyones favorite), the Perseus Double Cluster, M76, M42, Sirius B, Gamma Andromeda, and later Jupiter and Saturn.

Our last target was the moon. It was aimed at Copercicus everyone thought, except when I took a look, I noticed it was Buliadus (RUKL 53), another deep crater with a crumpled rim and debris all around. So I showed everone Kies and the dome Kies Pi and another unnamed dome nearby. Then we moved the telescope to Copernicus, and observed the many lunar domes in the region. (RUKL 31). Dawn was brightening the sky. It was after 6:00 a.m. It was time to call it a night.

My sketches from this Mt. Wilson trip are here: http://www.whiteoaks.com/sketches/60inch.html

DateOctober 18/19, 2003
LocationMount Wilson, San Gabriel Mountains 34 13.6N 118 3.4W
Altitude5,715 feet
Instrument60-inch f/16
Ocular 50mm Zeiss 480x, 60mm Erfle 400x 100mm Kellner 240x
Seeingpoor with some moments of steadiness
TransparencyLM 4.0, third quarter moon and LA light pollution