by Marek Cichanski
Casey Fukuda and I showed up at MB around sunset, and it was awfully cloudy. Thick cirrus and getting thicker. Yuck.
We were tempted to bag it, but we stayed around and shot the breeze, to see if it would clear up. George Feliz showed up around dark and the three of us chatted for a while. George said that we would be able to see a surprising amount through the cirrus - and we did! I found it quite amazing. We eventually set up and were able to bag a bunch of bright targets (mostly planets and doubles) through the cirrus. There were some decent-sized holes in the clouds, too.
Eventually the sky got really clear. I think we must have had about two solid hours of nice clear sky. We had all kinds of fun. We played around with wide-field views on my Mak (with a focal reducer) and on George's TV-85. I thought I was doing well to get the whole Sword of Orion in my Mak, but George eventually got the entire Belt of Orion when he put a 27mm Panoptic on the TCV-85. It was one wide-field view after another - Pleiades, Orion stuff, Double Cluster, M31, and a surprisingly bright view of M33.
We also went after some doubles, mostly ones that George pointed out. 94 Aquarii was nice, as was Beta Monocerotis (a triple!), Rigel (which I never even knew was a double), and Gamma(?) Aurigae, which was a nutty close disparate double. I did okay with my 6" Mak-Cass, and Casey did better with his C11, but George did AMAZINGLY well with his TV-85. I've had some "life-changer" views before - first look through an AP refractor, first view through a big dob, first view of the whole Veil complex through a short-focus apo, etc.. These TV-85 views went on the list, too. Now I have yet ANOTHER object of scope lust! Great! Just what I needed!
George and Casey saw some nice Geminids, but true to form I was looking the other way into an eyepiece each time. I never see meteors.
We looked at Saturn a lot, too. There was a nice interval around 10:30 or 11:00 when it got fairly steady. Casey's C11 had some great high-mag views of the planet and its rings.
I stuck around an observed until a little after midnight. George and Casey left about 11:30. I stuck around long enough to look at a wiggly wobbly moon just after it rose. Wouldn't you know it, Mare Orientale was well librated. I think I saw Lacus Veris, Lacus Autumni, and a bit of the Mare itself. I was tempted to stick around for a few hours to see it a little better, but I needed to get home and the MB permit is only good until 2 am anyway. So, I headed down the hill. Some cirrus was moving back in.
Sometimes you get lucky. I feel very fortunate to have had such a good night. Let's hope Tuesday night is good, too!