10/25/03 - Fremont Peak State Park

by Bob Czerwinski

To celebrate Daylight Squandering Time coming to a thankful end, I spent Saturday evening observing from Fremont Peak State Park. Finding Ranger Row already well packed with observers, I set up my gear in the Southwest Lot, joining about a dozen other folk.

ObserverBob Czerwinski
DateOctober 25-26, 2003
Observing Time7:30pm to 3:15am PDT (UT -7, or 0230-1015 26 Oct 2003 UT)
LocationFremont Peak State Park's "Southwest Lot", 3646'N 12130'W, El. ~2800-feet
MoonNew Moon -- Phase < 1%
Equipment18" f/4.3 Newt/Dob e/w Telrad and Paracorr
Eyepieces17mm-133x (default) and 12mm-188x TV T4 Nagler; 9mm-251x TV Nagler (magnifications include Paracorr)
FiltersNone in use
Sky ConditionsZenith LM 6.1-6.2; average transparency 7/10; average seeing 7/10 (w/ substantial variations in both transparency and seeing)
Temp/R.H.Generally 70~72F/22~23% all night. A light, warm offshore breeze from the E/SE.
CommentsSubstantial smoke-bank from the Ford Ord fire visible to the west prior to sunset, but not encroaching on the Peak area. After astronomical twilight ended, some high cloud cover still visible far to the NW, with some high/light cloud bands seen moving across selected sections of the sky from time to time. With the continuous warm offshore flow, no fog below the Peak; the lights of the nearby communities created the Peak's expected light-domes.
TransparencyFairly decent overhead, but varied quite a bit in other areas, depending on the hour and the direction. Jet contrails
disappeared very quickly; very low humidity. SeeingSomewhat soft, with occasional periods of "very good"; stars at pinpoints only about 20% of the time at 251x, the highest magnification I used this evening. Others in the SW lot were up over 400x from time to time; YMMV. The "E" and "F" stars in the Trapezium would come and go, sometimes holding very steady for extended periods of time. Clear Sky Clock prediction not checked prior to outing.

In brief...

My plan for the evening was to continue working on my H2500 list, as well as to check out several comets. I still have 287 items left to go on my H2500 list, ironically most are in the springtime sky, and I didn't make much of a dent last night: just five more items. Following up on Jeff Gortatowsky's 2P/Encke report last week, I wanted to see if I could find this comet, along with 29P/Schwassmann-Wach and C/2002 T7 (LINEAR).


Turned out to be a shallow-sky night.

Comet 2P/Encke: Spotted in Andromeda near M31, in the vicinity of RA 00h 42m, Dec +4303'. No wonder Jeff Gortatowsky had trouble last weekend; ignore those posted 10.5~12.5 magnitude reports and tales of a large diffuse coma. This comet is a stellar object at around 15th magnitude. Without an updated ephemeris to point the way, forget finding it. To verify I actually had the comet nailed, I tracked it on and off over the course of five hours. It's clearly moving at about 3-arcmins/hour, something you'll definitely need to see to identify it. Given last night's conditions, I don't think this thing would have been possible in a smaller 'scope. Two other observers noted the comet in my eyepiece as well. Unless this comet has recently undergone a dramatic change, I'd like to meet the folk reporting its 11th magnitude description!

Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wach: Just as difficult as 2P/Encke, but for different reasons. In Aquarius, in the vicinity of RA 22h 15m, Dec: -0514'. A small patch of very diffuse light, strictly an averted vision object, with maybe a hint of a slight center brightening. A guesstimate says mag 14.5, although reports had it listed in the range of mag 12.5~13.5. NGC 7239, also an averted vision object last night, was only about 10-arcmins away, equally small and, perhaps, just slightly dimmer. Know where both objects are ... or you may confuse 7239 with the comet. Over a span of almost three hours I noted no movement at all in this comet. Again, my observation verified by two other observers.

Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR): Ah! Finally a no-brainer. Nice and bright, easy to spot, and well placed in Auriga. Resembles a bright galaxy core. Probably about 10th magnitude. Sometime after midnight I watched it slip by an 11th magnitude star, GSC 2401:928, which TheSky positioned at RA 05h 06m 29.5s, Dec: +3621'20". The comet was probably moving at about 1-arcmin/hour.

Asteroid Hermes: With coordinate information supplied by "Joe-Bob" Jardine, I *may* have spotted this object which, after being out of sight for 66-years, was recovered ten days ago by Lowell Observatory's Brian Skiff. Still, I won't know for certain if I found it or not unless I run another check tonight and compare my coordinate information. I only looked for this object twice, an hour's time apart, but I *think* I found something that moved about 6-arcsecs in that hour's time. I'll be the first to admit that's a pretty quick jaunt. I'll also admit that I was pretty tired, and I haven't looked for an ephemeris on-line yet, so I don't know if I truly spotted this asteroid. Seemed to be about the right magnitude, probably just slightly under 13th mag. Anybody know how fast this thing is moving? Is my 6-arcsecs/hour estimate anywhere close? That'll probably help confirm my initial siting.

Besides the five nondescript H2500 objects I spotted, a fair amount of the night was just spent on fall season eye candy. You know, the "don't log it, just enjoy it" stuff. Sure was nice to get beyond the front yard for a few hours.

With the clock set back, I headed down the hill about 3:20am PST, mumbling a good riddance to PDT. <grin>