May 7, 2010: Anderson Mesa

Tony Hurtado

In a word: don't. That is, don't go if you don't want to be drawn back time after time. I've only been observing there once, but I'm already planning a return. I can't say enough about Arizona observing. As we've heard from others including recent transplant Greg LaFlamme, Arizona's dry skies are simply unparalleled.

My opportunity came with a trip to attend a NAU graduation in Flagstaff. Flagstaff is the home of the original Lowell Observatory where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, but the new Lowell is located ~15 miles southeast of Flagstaff on a high mesa. Flagstaff is already at 7000 ft, and the new Lowell is at 7250'. I had planned to observe for 2 nights but family obligations meant that I would only make Friday night.

So who's ready to make a trip with me?

Here's a brief run down on my night with a few choice targets.

Conditions: 5 out of 5 if you ask me. Super transparency and super seeing - extremely stable with no hint of a twinkle anywhere. Earlier in the day I had spotted a few small puffy clouds drift by, and contrails behind the few planes that fly this airspace were sticking for quite some time. But after dark, the sky was devoid of any clouds and the wind from earlier in the day had subsided. Didn't take a LM measurement but I'd estimate at least ~6.4. Pretty dark, no visible light domes even from nearby Flagstaff.

The site is very flat but horizons are just a little impacted, especially to the west, due to tall tress here and there. Since star extinction towards the horizon is nearly nonexistent, this counts! Paved roads all the way, and the site itself is a turn out from the road to the observatory that can hold at least a half dozen cars. You can see the Lowell domes from this site.

8:05pm Mars
Very small now and it's not yet dark. Some detail here... The polar cap is clear in the 5mm Nagler having spotted it in the 9mm Nagler. The cap is outlined by a dark line that can also be seen rining the other polar region. No ice seen at that end though. A couple of dark features swimming in the mid latitudes but nothing I can identify.

8:20pm Saturn
Most excellent view of Saturn! Rings are now tipped slightly down so that the shadow is visible against the planet above the rings. Being early still I did not see as much color as I expected, but there was some really subtle shading visible. I claim the following moons, in order of brightness: Titan (mag 8.5, 0.8"), Rhea (mag 9.9, 0.24"), Dione (mag 10.6, 0.175"), Enceledus (mag 11.9, 0.078"), Mimas (mag 13.1, 0.062"). Yeah, Mimas, which was absolutely a first for me. I saw it averted vision only but could hold it steady, whereas it vaporized rather quickly with direct vision. Upon some post-session investigation, Tethys was transiting but I didn't catch it. Too stunned with seeing Mimas, I guess. Came back to Saturn later in the evening but it's hard to improve on views this impressive.

NGC 4038/4039 - The Antennae
Ever since the first time I saw this interacting pair it's been one of my favorites. It sure didn't disappoint this time. I have seen some of the detailed mottling before but never with such clarity. Clumpy and knotty are the words that come to mind.

NGC 1560
Man, Camelopardalis is dim even out here! This was a hard find. Extremely elongated spiral galaxy although not a lot of detail indicating such. Bright central area but no noticeable central bulge.

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

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