The Door IS Open and the Coffee's On!

by Jim Ster

Last night I took a run up to BC for a very short observing session with Brian and the 30". When I finally arrived around 7:30ish, I found Brian and the 30" set up and running. The temps were extraordinarily warm, in the low to mid 70's, and pretty much stayed that way until I left around 10:00pm. All I wore was a very thin long sleeve shirt and never felt chilled at all nor did I ever have to put on my coat. I checked my thermometer in my truck as I headed down the hill and it was saying 66 degrees. It doesn't get much better than that.

The skies were promising, but there seemed to be a bit of smog/smoke in the air which caused the light dome from Auburn/Sacramento to stretch almost 90 degrees across the horizon from the south to the west and projected at least 40 degrees into the southwest sky. There was also a significant light dome coming from the northeast, which was probably from Reno/Truckee. While all of the light domes were most likely being accentuated by all the smoke in the air, it certainly doesn't bode well for the future of the BC site. In the past three years, I'd say I've seen the light domes grow at least twice a big as they were when I first started going up to BC.

Overall, the skies were probably only Mag 6 at best, maybe 6.2, and the haze seemed to cause the transparency to come and go, but the seeing was rock steady for the most part. Tom McMahan, who was there last night as well as until 4:00am Monday night, said that Monday night was slightly better, although at one point last night as part of his Mag check, saw a Mag 13.8 star through his Stellarvue 4" APO refractor, which is pretty amazing. He confirmed this observation with The Sky astronomy software on his laptop.

Shortly after I arrived, Brian took me over and introduced me to Keith Mullen, who is the SVAS's new Observatory Director as well as being one of the newest members of their Board of Directors. I have to say that Keith was a tremendously nice fellow who is truly interested in making HGO a place where all are welcome. He gave me a tour of the building to show me the latest renovations, and I must say that I've never seen it look so good. The warm up room has been cleaned up and reorganized and can accommodate quite a few chilly observers if need be. He has plans to put another scope (a 14"?) in the observing chamber along with the 16" Ritchey that currently holds center stage. Keith fired up the coffee pot and we enjoyed a nice hot cup of coffee, which is always a welcome and appreciated luxury while socializing in between observations. I am very happy to say that Keith has an excellent perspective on what "In-reach" is all about and is striving to make HGO as inclusive as it can possibly be. The door is truly open and the coffee is on! Thanks for being such a gracious host Keith. It was appreciated by all.

As for observing, Brian and I chased down a couple of PN's as well as one or two faint galaxies, particularly that little one near the Ring Nebula which was damn near impossible to find without charts (and Brian's knowing where it was from previous frustrating attempts). The Ring's main central star easily visible with direct vision and the secondary central star was seen with averted vision. Some of the PN's and galaxies we looked for I swear are figments of someone's imagination. We spend several minutes looking in vain for them with no luck.

I had a great time and would like to say thanks again to Keith for his refreshing hospitality. I highly recommend that if any of you go to BC for an evening and see the observatory open, stop in and introduce yourself to Keith. He's a great guy to know and have around.