November 22-23, 2003 - Plettstone

by Albert Highe


All weather sources indicated that Saturday would be a clear, dry, although cold, day for observing. Despite the long drive, I headed to Michelle's Plettstone. Conditions were as predicted. The temperature quickly dropped to the low 30's after sunset and hit a low of 28F during the night. The RH topped out at 77%, so dew (or frost) was never a problem. With no wind, it was a very pleasant and productive night. An added bonus was being able to go into the house to warm up. Seeing and transparency were very good, and remained so throughout the night. The E and F stars in the Trapezium were steady pinpoints. Saturn was best observed no higher than 300X. The Cassini Division was steadily visible about 80% of the time and numerous pinpoint moons framed the planet nicely.


Although the forecast for Sunday night was questionable, I decided to stay. The skies were perfectly clear all day. The temperature dropped quickly to the high 30's, but it never got below 34F during the night. The humidity also was lower than Saturday (max 57% RH). Again, there was no wind. Compared to Saturday, it almost seemed warm. Transparency and seeing continued to be very good. For a while I was even able to hunt down faint fuzzies at 400X.

However, as the CSC predicted, clouds periodically appeared during the night. The first clouds appeared at sunset - a thick blanket shrouded the hills to the south. After about an hour of observing, a band of high thin crud released itself from its perch in the southern hills and swept over us. Star brightness diminished by a couple of magnitudes and hunting faint fuzzies became impossible. We warmed up in the house and then returned to clear skies 45 minutes later. This sequence repeated itself a couple of times. At midnight, the clouds took control of the sky for good and we packed up. We were able to get in a few hours of very good observing.

Scope17.5" f/4.5 ultralight
Eyepiecesmostly 7mm and occasionally 5mm Nagler T6's.

Most of the galaxies I observed this weekend are in Abell 426 (Perseus) and Abell 194 (Cetus). I'll follow up with selected details later after I've added the information for the almost 100 new observations to my website.

Sorry to hear that Bay Area conditions weren't as good.