Fremont Peak Last Night

by Peter Natscher

The four of us (Ray Duval, Pete Santangeli, David Kingsley and me) all had an enjoyable time observing up at the SW parking lot at Fremont Peak last night. It was very quite up there since all camping is closed until next March. The temperature remained pretty much at 28F 'til 12 am with the RH approaching 85% at that time. I took a naked-eye limiting magnitude test at 8 pm choosing the constellation of Andromeda which was overhead at that time. It came out to be mag. 6.5 and I had to shield my sight from the bright 4-day old moon to get that great result. The transparency level was very good along with 65% RH at that time. Seeing was diffraction limited early on for my 20" Dob but turned softer by 10 pm. There wasn't any wind and no dewing on our scopes the entire duration until 12am when we packed up. After laboring to find my first few Herschel II objects with my 20" Dob, I'm realizing that I need an optical finder (8x50, 9x60, etc.) on my Dob instead of the Telrad that I've used since the beginning. I need to star hop to find mag. 13 objects in remote areas and the Telrad is useless for this activity. The Telrad worked fine with finding Herschel 400 objects since that are brighter.

Pete S. ran his battery down so low he couldn't start up his van to leave but did jump start it with his extra deep-cycle battery he had. I ended up having a different problem leaving the in my SUV at 12:30am. I in my SUV ended up 'crawling' down the mountain at 10 mph because of a surprise ABS/ESP electronic malfunction with the 4-wheel braking system. As I stepped on the gas pedal to drive, the vehicle's four all-drive wheels would continually lock up as I stepped on the gas. It was like stepping on the gas and the brakes at the same time. The SUV would continually want to brake and lock up all four wheels as I used the gas pedal. It took me 45 minutes to make it to the bottom of the Fremont Peak where I could try to speed up and get past the braking problem. The brakes did work but just too much. The intermittent ice on the roadway wasn't a problem for the 4-wheel drive, though. This was my first experience with this type of electronic problem. By the time I made it to the bottom, speeding up to 30 mph erased the braking problem but the ESP warning light that stayed on 'til I made it home in Monterey 45 minutes later. This morning, I drove around the block and there was no problem or warning light showing. I'll still have things checked out tomorrow.