Seeing stars in two very different clusters....

Mark Wagner

I had a few other interesting experiences at Bumpass Hell parking lot on Mount Lassen last week that I had not yet related.

Last year, at the same location, Steve Gottlieb and my daughter Mimi were looking at Palomar 5 in Steve's 18" Starmaster. Both Mimi and Steve were seeing it. I could not convince myself I saw it. Mimi described it, Steve said he thought she might be seeing the core of the faint globular. I was impressed.

This year Bob Jardine had a great and convincing view of Pal 5 in his 17.5" Dob. He asked me to take a look. Bob described a wide triangle of stars that nearly filled the high power field of view. One pair had a dimmer star midway between them. Just outside the triangle and near but to the side of the dim star, I could detect a definite faint glow with averted vision. I could hold it averted. I have to admit being pretty excited about it, after the disappointment of the prior year, and being shown up so badly by my daughter (and her then 19 year old eyes). But, topping of the sighting, as I sat and soaked in the view, I was getting twinkling in the glow! Stars! I almost fell over. I can't tell you how many years I'd tried for Pal 5 at Lassen. This was a great view!

OK. Cluster number two. This one is not so difficult to observe. In fact, it is a naked eye cluster, one any Messier hound has observed. M7 is a noticeable glow, even from many in-town locations. Up at Lassen, it is literally an "in your face" bright blob, to the unaided eye. I know I mentioned how many naked-eye Messier objects there were at Lassen this trip. M7 is, I bet, the brightest of them. So, I'm standing there admiring it, I doubt it was even fully dark yet, and suddenly, I see stars in it. I mean *stars* - twinkling in and out! I had to do a double, then triple-take to be sure I wasn't having sulpher fume induced hallucinations! But there they were, no doubt about it. Not the "stare at it and hold 'em" sort of stars, but moving the eye around, they'd pop in and out. I can't remember ever seeing that in any "telescopic" cluster before. Anyone else? Checking it using "The Sky"... ten of the cluster's stars range from mag 5.6 to 6.4, most of them mag 6.0 or 6.1. Think about it too... that puppy is relatively low to the horizon. I was, and still am, amazed.

Boy, its fun what a trip the prior week gives you a "memory buzz" like this! :-)


Observing Reports Observing Sites GSSP 2010, July 10 - 14
Frosty Acres Ranch
Adin, CA

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