Willows Springs 12/30/08

Steve Gottlieb

I'm finally getting around to posting an observing report from the end year star party on December 30th at Willow Springs. There was already a fairly large group set up outside Kevin Ritschel's ranch when I arrived (Mark Wagner, Richard Navarette, Greg Claytor, Greg Lafllame, Chris Jensen) and a bit later Mark Johnston joined the party.

Weather and sky conditions were on the wild side heavy dew formed early and the sky looked like a cosmic tic-tac-toe game, with long contrails intersecting across the sky. Despite the necessity of dew heaters and hair dryers to keep our optics dry and the catalytic heater in Kevin's garage to keep our bodies warm, the transparency was very good and kept getting better as the night wore on. Before crawling into my sleeping bag at 2:30, I recorded readings on my SQM- L of 21.55-21.60!

Because the southern horizon is very inviting at Willow Springs, I took a look at NGC 1097 in Fornax as well as other southern horizon- hugging goodies. Kevin was looking at the Vela SNR in his 33-inch and I was surprised it was visible from the latitude of Monterey, so pointed my 18-inch Starmaster at the hills on the horizon and can report that the Vela SNR is definitely a Willow Springs target!

NGC 1097 (Fornax): very bright, large, very elongated NW-SE. The brightest portion is the entire central "bar" which extends ~5'x1.5'. This region is surrounded by a much fainter "halo", increasing the size to ~5'x3'. The center is strongly concentrated to a very bright 50"x40" core, elongated NW-SE. At the NW end of the bar, a very diffuse arm sweeps to the east in a counterclockwise direction for ~2.5' in length and appears to brighten or have a faint knot near the end. At the SE end, only a hint of a short extension sweeping west was detected. A faint star is along the W side at the NW end of the main bar, near where the brighter arm is attached. A small companion galaxy, NGC 1097A, is just off the NW side of the galaxy and appearedfaint, very small, irregularly round, 25"x20".

NGC 1365 (Fornax): a pale imitation of the view I've seen from Australia in 20" and 24" scopes when it was nearly overhead. Still the brighter arm of the celestial "Z" galaxy that is attached at the west end of the central bar was faintly visible sweeping to the NNE for at least 3' in length. It was easier to view the arms, of course, in the 33-inch.

NGC 1448 (Horologium): Although the elevation was only 8 degrees (-44.6 deg declination), this southern galaxy appearedmoderately bright, large, edge-on ~6:1 SW-NE, ~4.5'x0.8'. Contains a brighter, elongated core that increases to the center. A brighter star is close SE of the core (1.4' from center) and a fainter star is near the NE end. Situated at the midpoint of two mag 9.2/9.7 stars located 7.5' N and 7.5' S. Next time in Horologium (fun just to say the name) I want to pick up NGC 1512 and 1510 as I've only seen these from Costa Rica.

Vela Supernova Remnant: at 73x (31 Nagler) and an OIII filter, a huge faint filament was picked up near mag 4.1 e Velorum. It started ~10' N or NW of the bright star and stretched across much of the field, extending ~30' to the W with a width varying from ~2' to 5'. Although faint, the observation of this section of the SNR was certain. The declination here is nearly -43 degrees, but the southern horizon was very clear and transparent late in the evening.

Here's a couple of my northern targets..
Palomar 1 (Cepheus): it took some effort to star hop over to the correct field, but the exact location was pinpointed 2' NE of a mag 11 star. At 285x this difficult Palomar globular (or old open cluster) was occasionally visible as an extremely faint and small knot, round, ~20" diameter.

Palomar 2 (Auriga): immediately picked up at 285x as a faint, fairly small, roundish glow, ~1.5' diameter. Easily visible with averted and could be held continuously without difficulty. Very weakly concentrated with a very small brighter core or knot that seems offset from the geometric center.


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

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