South Jersey Star Party 10/04,05/02
I arrived Friday night about 7:30. My Wife and 2 kids came along. The weather report for Friday was dismal at best and the weatherman got it rights. Only one other ASTRA member made it Friday Ro and her husband Pardo. We set up our tents and chairs and sat there making good conversation while we waited to see if the sky would clear. About 12:45 we caught a break. We quick got the Binos out and saw M45, the double cluster and M31. At that point I set up the 80MM short tube refractor which took about 5 minutes and we were observing. Over the next hour or so we saw all three again, Saturn at 40x, M37, M42 & M43, M103, The Hyades and then about 2:15 we saw the Nothing! Yup, it clouded over again. So we called it a night.
Saturday, was clear all day. So clear in fact, the Sun baked us to about 90 degrees. Unbelievably hot for October 5th. We barbaqued burgers, dogs and chicken. We drank water constantly. Other ASTRA members arrived including Phil, Gene and his Family. My brother came with his girlfriend, Ro’s son Chris came with his friend Chris and lets not forget Doug, his son and the 20” Obsession which is basically a member of the family. There was a speaker (can’t remember his name) from the Franklin Institute. Among other topics, he spoke about the connection between Planetariums and Astronomy Clubs. How it’s important for the public to see both the Planetarium show (artificial) and the Telescope (the real thing). Next was the Raffle. Several excellent prizes were given away including several books, a $100 gift certificate at an Astronomy store, a pair of 15x60 binoculars and a 9MM Nagler Type 6 eyepiece. If you look 2 feet above your head, you’ll see exactly what I won. Gene Mr. Lucky Russo walked off with only 2 prizes this year, which was down from the 3 prizes he won last year. Each child under 15 got a prize from the prize table as their tickets were called. After that we all went to dinner, “Table for 14 please and we’re in a hurry!” We actually said that!
We got back about 8:00 and the sky was dark and clear. Turned out to be quite a bit of air turbulence so the seeing was not as good as the clear sky made it appear. Every thing was wavy in the eyepiece. But it was a good observing night. I had many people who were not observers there to entertain so I didn’t get in much new item hunting. That was OK, I had lots and lots of favorites to see I hadn’t seen for a while. A 12”LX200 is a very impressive sight for a visitor not into Astronomy. Then with Gene’s brand shiny new Mead 6“ LXD Refractor standing 15 ft. away and Doug’s 20” Obsession (the Herbst 0.5 meter reflector) close by we had an formidable lineup of scopes to be sure. Also on hand were the 15x70 binos on the Unimount and the 10x50 on the camera tripod, both getting a real workout . We stared with many Messiers. I was too busy to take many notes so this will be mostly from memory.
Globular clusters M13 and M92 were outstanding. Even though seeing was not great, the sky was crystal clear so was had a clear view of wavy stars. And stars there were! Everyone was commenting on the number of background stars in ever view. M13 with the 22MM eyepiece on the 12”LX200 at 138X was amazing. But then you go over to the 20” Obsession and Wooo! With a 35MM Teleview at about 75X you look directly at the center and you just don’t stop seeing stars. They just get smaller and smaller. In the 12” you see stars and background haze, in the 20” it’s all stars. I’d really like to see it in that scope at about 200X. Maybe next time.
Planetary Nebulas are among my favorite items. They go over real well at starparties with lots of new observers around. Who can resist the Ring Nebula M57. I stayed mostly with the 22MM, that’s such a great eyepiece and focuses so sharp at 138X. Lots of details in the ring and just an explosion of background stars. M27 the dumbbell was wonderful just hanging there appearing in front of the stars. NGC6826 the blinking planetary always fun, NGC7662 the blue snowball always blue, NGC6543 the cats eye always…catty(?) and of course NGC 7009 The Saturn nebula. I used the ultra block filter on off for most of these. The big surprise was when I borrowed an OIII filter from Gene for NGC7008 in Ceph a small PN 13th magnitude 1.4’. I have it logged in my notes as a visible blur. But not last Saturday. It looked like an embryo. Real big round area on one side with a very bright spot in the center. The round area extends in a loop around the bottom and comes back up to another smaller circle. The whole thing fades off in the center. Wonderful sight. I didn’t see many new items, but this sure felt like one.
Open clusters NGC457 the dragonfly again very popular and the eyes were just so bright. M11, what else can I say! It’s the best open cluster in the sky. M52 in Cass, very impressive. M37 looking terrific. M45 in the binoculars, easy target for the new people and a thrill a minute. The double cluster easily visible to the naked eye. That was a fun item. I showed it to them naked eye, then in the binos then in the scope. It was like, Oooo, Aaaa, Woooo!
Now the Galaxies don’t impress new observers as much as the real big bright items. There are some, M31 of course which was also an easy naked eye target. My brother Bill, who never saw a Galaxy in a telescope before pick up M32 in the same field himself. He was not too impressed with M110, but I was! I usual show NGC7331 in Peg as a good example. I tell them before looking it resembles a background galaxy in a Hubbell photo. You know, just a dim streak with a bulge in the center. This prepares then for the image. Usually it goes over a little better. I tried for Stephens quintet but only one galaxy was visible. The seeing was not at all steady. NGC7177 the whales tail was diving straight down so it didn’t resemble the whale. It was just a spot. Not impressive to the crowd.
Later in the evening M42 was just outstanding. I didn’t even put the filter on. Giant wisps every where. Only 4 trapezium star could be seen, just waving around too much. But the most impressive item of the night was the Vail nebula. With either filter, outstanding. The OIII wins the prize this night. The NGC6960 part near 52 Cygnes was very bright. You could follow it way out of the field. The 6992 portion was speckled with lights and darks and the knotty piece 6995 was well defined and full of dim details. All this was with the OIII filter on the 22MM. While I was engrossed in this, Doug yells over to me, “Hey Bob, You got to come and see the Vail in the 20”. So I go over knowing full well I’ll be coming back disappointed with the view I’m enjoying right now. And I was right. Oh Baby! You know, some people say they don’t understand how someone could get a scope so big you need a ladder to reach the eyepiece. What a pain in the butt. Let me tell you something, when you get to the top of that ladder and see the Vail Nebula, you know why. This was not the bright steak of light I was just looking at or the dimly detailed knotty clump. It was a wispy filament full of surprises. A bend at the top was very bright on the edge and dark in the center getting very bright on the other side. Thin tendrils running through it. Like 2 locks of hair twisting around each other. You could follow it for miles. It was like, where does it end. Every portion full of amazing details. Clumps, brights, darks and that was just the main portion. To the sides everywhere in the field you could pick up all sorts of smaller pieces which don’t even have their own designation. That was a real thrill. Real glad Doug showed up.
Now lets get to the brand shiny new Meade 6” LDX Refractor. At a glance, it’s a real impressive looking scope. Those big refractors usually are. The stars focused very sharply down to points. I didn’t see any color distortion, but Gene did say he saw some purple when looking at Vega (I think). I didn’t see any planets in it. I got a glimpse of NGC 1 which is a 13th magnitude galaxy. It blinked in and out with averted vision but it was there. That might be just about the limit for that scope. Epsilon Lyre with a Meade 12MM Series 4000 plossel and a 2x Barlow at 200x was split but not clean. They were hazy, the stars were fat with some haze around them. We changed to a Teleview Radian 8MM at 150x and the star were sharp points, nice clean obvious split with less magnification. And people ask me why I don’t like Barlows! It was a little shaky when focusing. It was focus, stop, focus, stop until you got it. The tripod could use to be stronger and much higher. When pointing at the zenith with the tripod fully extended the eyepiece was about 18” to 24” off the ground (I didn’t measure it, it was low). You have to sit low or kneel. The finder is almost impossible to see in in that position. A right angle finder would be a big improvement. It pointed well, although after bumping into it Gene had to redo the alignment. Is it worth the money. If it was $2700, I’d say maybe go for an 8” LX200, you get more features and 2” more aperture, it would be a toss up. I think the 6” refractor might even be better than the 8” SCT. But it’s not $2700, it’s $895 + S&H, and that’s an excellent buy for that that scope with the Autostar complete.
I did see 2 new items:
NGC 1, Gal, Peg, mag 13.0, dia 1.9, just a small round smudge.
NGC7239, The Helix Nebula in Aqu. Very impressive. I didn’t see it at first. I started moving the field to see if I’d get a glimpse, there it was. It was huge! It filled the field. I didn’t notice it till it started moving out of the field. Then I just kept moving it back and forth to see it. I’d go with a bigger eyepiece, but I didn’t have a 2” Filter. Everyone was impressed.
Now we did see many more items I can’t remember them all. And there was lots more going on in the field besides for our area. People were drifting in from all over. I saw about 3 16” Dobs and a 24” Obsession. I didn’t get around much, I tend to hang around my scope at these events. And besides, there was a 20” a few feet away. I had a great time. I think everyone did. I may post a few follow ups as I remember other highlights, there were many. For example Ro asked me for my wife’s cell phone number. 20 seconds after I gave it to her, my phone rang, I figured it was my wife trying to call me. No, it was Ro, I gave her my number by mistake. Looking forward to next year. Hope to see you all there.