11/23: Observing with a theme

by Richard Ozer

I went up to Mt. Diablo last night as I figured that the 28 degree prediction for Coe didn't offer much incentive. If I'm going to freeze, it may as well be close to home.

The drive up the mountain was colorful, with the setting sun illuminating the dried grass with a fiery yellow glow. I reached the summit just as the sun set.... it was already 39 degrees and dropping. The wind was a steady five or six miles an hour, with no sign that it would let up.

About a dozen or more observers were there, half with a very nice selection of refractors. There was even a new 6" Takahashi APO. I had my dob, there were a few Orion refractors, two or three SCT's, and a 16" obsession.

As the temperature continued to drop, I mentioned that anyone who should notice another observer visibly and uncontrollably shaking behind their eyepiece or, conversely, demonstrating no movement whatsoever, should consider it a distinct warning sign and immediately call for help.

I certainly had ice on my mind. First, I took a last look at Mars' southern polar cap, then we had a contest to find comet Encke. Encke, as described in Peter Natcher's earlier post, was easily found by locating the coat hanger. It had no visible core, and appeared as a distinct arrow shaped smudge (or smudgecicle).

A more challenging find, which I haven't yet seen anyone post about, was comet Linear C2002 T7. Linear was located just above the California nebula. Unlike Encke, it was all core, about the size of a medium sized planetary nebula. I had trouble finding it because I was using too low a magnification. Only after I bumped up the power to over 100x, was I able to clearly see it. Part of the problem was the wind, which had picked up to a steady 10 - 15 mph, and the fact that my eyes were watering (and then freezing).

After seeing both of the comets (which is the only reason I went out last night), I took a look at the Blue Snowball and then packed up. It was only 8:30.

Althought miserably cold, it was nice to get above the smokey gunk. The transparency was superb, and the seeing wasn't half bad, even with all the wind.