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Thread: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

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    Default Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night



    Date/time: Friday, June 28, 2013 (2100 – 0020)

    Conditions: At Cleveland National Forest, Morris Ranch, Trailhead Parking, Mt Laguna, California (elevation about 6,000 feet). The skies there are Bortle Dark-Sky Scale class 4 (green). Transparency was 3-4/5, seeing was 3-4/5, temperature was 78 dropping to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind varied between calm and 7 MPH. It was my first time at this location; I found out about it from Skaven. It is a very nice observing location, but does have trees all around the parking lot, making it virtually impossible to observe anything within about 25 degrees of the normal horizon. I had the pleasure of meeting Chris from the Mt Laguna Observatory while I was setting up. It was a quick decision to go, so I didn’t have a prepared observing plan other than to check out the Virgo galaxy cluster before it got any closer to the western horizon. I was also trying out my new voice activated recorder that I had purchased since my last dark-site observing session. I found that it gave me a lot more time at the EP, since I didn’t need to stop to take notes.

    Observations: After setting up, collimating, and turning on my mirror cooling fan, I started observing at 2100, 40 minutes before astronomical twilight. I started out by checking my collimation on Polaris. I could see the smaller star of the double no problem and when just slightly defocused had a jumpy (poor seeing), but good diffraction pattern.

    Next was M13, since it wasn’t completely dark yet. I used the 9mm EP and it looked good, when the seeing settled for a moment; I noticed the patterns in the foreground stars in front of the glow of the core.

    Then I moved on to M57, still with the 9mm. The 100 degree AFOV makes it easy to find objects even at 192X magnification. I did a test and found the correct setting for my Paracorr with my new(ish) the 9mm EP is fully extended (position H), just like my 14mm. I noticed that the ring had a green tint and that the center wasn’t completely dark when compared to the surrounding sky.

    At this point it was about 2110 and the sky was getting darker so I decided to move on to the Virgo galaxy cluster, since it was quickly moving toward the tree-horizon. I found M84 and M86 right in the middle between Denebola and Vindemiatrix. While I was checking them out with my 30mm EP I had a satellite transit my FOV, which was pretty cool. I looked around and followed Markarian's chain of galaxies. At one point I had M84, M86, NGC 4388, NGC 4438, and NGC 4435 (5 galaxies) all clearly visible in the EP at the same time! This was just at astronomical twilight (2135).

    Next up was the Needle galaxy (NGC 4565). I was able to remember right where it is because it is right in the middle of an equilateral triangle made up by the γ (Gamma), 31, and 23 stars in Coma Berenices, put the telescope on it with my Telrad and was delighted to find that my target was right in the middle of my 30mm EP! I had trouble seeing the dust lane and decided it was due to the sky glow from San Diego in the West, so I changed to the 14mm and then to the 9mm to try to darken the background. I still couldn’t see the dust lane with the 14mm and I THINK I could see it with the 9mm. I have definitely had better views of the Needle Galaxy. The length of it took up most of my .5 degree TFOV at 192X magnification.

    The Blackeye galaxy (M64) was next and I could see the most detail on it with the 9mm too. I noticed that it was slightly oblong, and the black eye part is on the SW part of it. The core is bright enough that it looked like it had a slightly diffuse star right in its center. I also noticed another star very close to the SW side of it that is very close to the same magnitude as the core. As I was finishing up with M64 and just looking at Coma Berenices with my bare eyes, within 2 seconds of each other I had two meteors go through the area, at right angles to each other, one had a blue hue and the other one was more amber. That put a smile on my face!

    Then I checked out M53. The 100 degree FOV of my 9mm EP allowed me to actually find it with the 9mm. The seeing seemed to get better and my mind seemed to fill in more details as I switched back and forth between direct and averted vision for quite a while. I noticed that the brightness of it wasn’t as symmetrical as most globulars. There was plenty detail to see, but no patterns that really jumped out at me.

    I took a look to the East and noticed that the sky was much darker to the East than to the West (where San Diego is) and that the Cygnus part of the Milky Way had now risen above the tree line. I decided to check out the Double Double (Epsilon Lyrae) as a check of my equipment and the seeing and was able to see a clear split of the closest pairs with my 9mm (192X), so the seeing was getting better. I also checked out Alberio, which was beautiful as usual with its bright amber and blue color contrast.

    Then I went back to M57 again. The ring now looked much better than before, with an almost black background. I had heard that there are some doubles in Lyra. Sheliak (beta) is a binary star too close to split, so just variable, and I also checked out Zeta Lyrae, which I found to be a nice double of almost equal magnitude and both appeared slightly blue.

    At this point the structure in the Milky Way was getting very clear. I checked out M27, finding it with my 9mm and it was the best I had ever seen it. I could clearly see the whole structure of it, as much as in any image, even without any filters; I could not only see the brighter dumbbell part, but also the dimmer part 90 degrees out from it, and it was actually slightly wider in that direction. One side was slightly dimmer making it more difficult to discern the edge of it on that side. I also checked it out with the OIII and UHC filters, finding that the details under these dark skies were only slightly better and the views are very similar with both filters. The OIII darkened the background a little more, but as far as details in the nebula, there wasn’t much difference.

    I checked out the Veil Nebula, finding it without a filter using my 30mm EP. I noted that the East side is brighter, and then put in the OIII filter and was totally amazed—thinking to myself that this view alone makes the cost of the OIII filter totally worth it. I could see so much detail that I spent quite a while exploring all the various tendrils of nebulosity both on the East and West sides and in between them. The southern side of the East Veil curves back sharply toward the center. The north end of the West Veil is the broom handle it goes as a wavy line past 52 Cygni and then breaks apart into two strands on the south end. There was more nebulosity running the whole length of the West Veil just a little way in (east) from it and I noted that Pickering's Triangle is at the end of that strand of nebulosity at the same end as the broom’s handle.

    I noticed that Scorpius had now gotten high enough above the tree line that I could check out the globular cluster M4. I noted that although M4 isn’t that spectacular in any other way, it has a LOT of really good patterns in it. There is a thicker strand of stars through the middle of it, it doesn’t have a particularly bright core, but it has lots of circular and horse-shoe shaped patterns strewn around in its outlying stars. M4 definitely looked better than any other time I had seen it.

    I checked out M13 again (with 9mm EP), as it was right at zenith (time now 2320). It looked much better now since the skies had darkened up—really nice. It is much brighter than M4, and I could see LOTS of well resolved stars all through it, but I actually found myself thinking again of how much I enjoyed the patterns in M4.

    I decided to take a look at M51 (with 20mm EP). About that time some clouds started making their way across the EP as I was viewing. I got some good looks between the clouds, which were moving fairly quickly and could see some pretty good structure, but not the bridge that goes between M51 and its companion galaxy NGC 5195.

    Then it was M101, also with the 20mm EP. Between the clouds passing I was able to see some structure, but nothing super clear. M101 looked a lot like the clouds that were passing by, but when they were gone it was still there. Averted vision brought out more structure.

    At this point the southern part of the Milky Way was rising above the trees and I could see a lot of structure in it. I was able to see the glow of M8 (Lagoon) with my bare eyes and put the telescope right on it with the Telrad; I was also able to see and put the telescope on M20 (Trifid) and M24 (Star Cloud) the same way. I used the 20mm EP on all of these as they are quite big objects. Without any filter I was able to see the dark U shape in the Lagoon’s nebulosity, I could see the stars near the center of it brightening up the nebulous clouds and I could see the star cluster part of it, noting how all the stars in the cluster were of similar brightness and fairly evenly spaced, almost in nice neat rows. I checked out the Trifid Nebula (filter-less) and then put in the UHC filter and noticed how much more detail became visible. I noted the two small stars near the center of the nebula at the edge of the dark lane and that there was some nebulosity that was outside the circular part, north of it, that was almost half as large as the main circular part of the nebula. Then I went back to the Lagoon with the UHC filter in place and was amazed at the detail I could see. Where I thought there was no nebulosity in the main star cluster part of the Lagoon I found that there actually was nebulosity there and almost everywhere else too, including in the darker part, the U shape. There was only one area where I couldn’t detect any nebulosity, and that was right at the bottom of the U shape. There was even nebulosity out past what I would normally consider to be the edges, it just kept on going, and then eventually faded out of view.

    I took the UHC filter off and put the 30mm EP in and checked out the M24 Star Cloud, which is amazing! I noted something I have noticed several times before: there is what looks like it could be a very rich spherical star cluster on the northeast side of the M24 Star Cloud. It really stands out because there is an area around most of its borders where there are actually less stars in the main Star Cloud. I also noted that on the south side of the round evenly spaced rich open cluster there is a much brighter red star adorning it. If anyone knows about this (I’m guessing) open cluster that is inside the Star Cloud, please tell me what it is called.

    From M24, I followed the structure of the Milky Way up to M11, the Wild Duck Cluster, and noted how it could look like it has some V shaped star patterns in it like ducks migrating. I also noted that it has one oddball bright amber star in it.

    I got on M22 with my 30mm and then went up to the 14mm and eventually to the 9mm EP. The seeing had improved a lot since the night started and the views at 192X were outstanding, filling a good part of the FOV and having a nice dark background. Besides seeing the brighter stars out in front of the bright core, I could actually resolve a lot of very fine, very close stars in the core itself. Compared to M13, M22’s core is not as bright, but I think it makes up for it by having stars that are well spaced to allow you to resolve many many more stars in it when conditions permit (dark skies, enough aperture, and good seeing).

    About that time I noted that clouds were now dotted across most of the sky and that the moon was rising. I checked my watch and found that it was 0020 and started packing everything up to go home. Sorry for such a long post; I got so many more details recorded with my voice recorder that it got really long.
    KT4HX, markan, AbbN and 14 others like this.
    Name: Sam
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Congratulations on a great session and thanks for taking the time to write this fantastic report! I really enjoyed your descriptions of the objects you located. It felt like I was out there with you looking through the eyepiece.
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Quote Originally Posted by samgray1 View Post
    I checked out the Veil Nebula, finding it without a filter using my 30mm EP. I noted that the East side is brighter, and then put in the OIII filter and was totally amazed—thinking to myself that this view alone makes the cost of the OIII filter totally worth it.
    Sam,

    this is an excellent report. I read it through carefully, and felt like I was with you that evening. What a great night!

    I've had the pleasure of using an Ethos eyepiece complete with an OIII filter on the Veil. Using our club's 510mm reflector it was quite a sight I can tell you.

    Thanks again for a lovely report.

    Alec.
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    Alec in France (now back under orange UK skies)
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Sounds as if it was absolutely.....heavenly I wish I had been there with you
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    what a wonderfully interesting report - sounds like it was a fantastic night - thank you for spending the time to share it with us
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Hello Sam,

    thanks for sharing your amazing observations.

    Wishing you many more such nights,

    JG
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Very nice report Sam.
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Wow Sam, what a great report! Very well done and thank you.
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Lovely report, thank you. I'd love to do things like this, but I could sum it up in a few words. Set up in back garden, complete alignment, cloud comes, go to bed.
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    Default Re: Super-Long Report of a Super-good Night

    Great report!
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