Observing Report: Prescott with BIG scopes

Well on November 8 we took a trip up to Prescott Arizona to visit my grandparents, and as I have mentioned before on here, my grandpa is an astronomer- at it for 59 years! Anyway, Saw a LOT of stuff but I posted it on Cloudy Nights.  So as not to repeat, here’s the thread.

One thing I don’t think I mentioned the thread, but the seeing (how steady the air is) was rated a 10/10.  I have never seen skies so still before.  One thing about going to dark skies is that I have found that you have to sort of re-learn the stars.  I remember when I got into the hobby I visited dark skies- it was stunning.  So stunning in fact, that I  could not stick to my observing list.  I found myself just looking up rather than through the telescope.  It was like the first trip or two.

Now when I visit the dark skies, I am still awestruck by the skies, but can get to work.  I don’t really make observing lists, rather, I look on star charts at a certain constellation at what’s in the area and for a while, I’ll sweep through the constellation, looking at everything there is to see.  When I have swept a few constellations of their most interesting targets, I go back and choose from the most interesting objects and sketch them.  While in Arizona, I made only three sketches, but that’s ok.  Generally, the sketches take time to do, but it does vary on the object.  I’ve sketched objects in 10 minutes and some objects take as long as an hour to do.  Even on the easier objects where I don’t think there will be much detail, I stick with it and find detail that often gets overlooked.

I’m not sure if I included this in the thread, but the last object I looked at up there was Jupiter.  It was getting pretty high by then (about 3:40 AM).  The seeing was just so good that I was able to put on a very high magnification and the image would hold up.  The highest magnification I went up to was 609x (this is with the 16″).  The image was still good, and could have definitely taken more.  The image was as good as in my 12.5″ reflector.  The Great Red Spot was out, and I could see white swirls in it.  The view that I had was one of the few times that it looks exactly like a photograph or better.  By this time the temperature had dropped to about 37 degrees F* and I went back in.

Hopefully I’ll be able to be making some sketches of Jupiter soon as I have not made one in a very long time, looking forward to it with the 6″ and 12.5″ especially!

Meade Lightbridge 16" F/4.5

Meade Lightbridge 16″ F/4.5


Observing Session #1: Mount Baldy

Me and my Dad got to go up to Mount Baldy (elevation 4000 feet) for an exciting evening of dark sky telescoping.  We knew it was going to be cold, considering it was already down to 48 degrees before we even started ascending the mountain.  We had along my 70mm f/10, and my Dad’s Orion  XX14 Go To dob.

We also had brought along an armada of eyepieces and accessories  as well as a LOT of jackets and coats.  I think by the end of the night, the temp got down to somewhere in the 30s.  Up until about 3 or 4 weeks or so, the average temperature in southern California for the past 3 months was somewhere around 100 degrees.  I’m sure that if we were “seasoned” with cold weather previous to this trip, we probably wouldn’t have been as cold.

Since the recent time change, this is a great time to make a trip up to acceptably good dark skies, just for a couple hours of observing.  This time, we came prepared, with a list of objects to observe, and we had almost everything we needed, short of a few batteries.

We were set up in a lot off of Glendora Ridge Road.  I’m not sure if there any more decent places to put up a scope farther up the mountain.  Itchy for dusk to settle below the horizon, I went over my list of 23 objects.  They were mostly Messier objects, with a couple of NGC’s.  It seems like most of the objects we observed were star clusters, but hey, they’re pretty, and respond well to dark skies.

Some of the highlights of the night included:

– The “Propeller feature across M13.  There are 3 thin dark lanes that cut into the globular and form an airplane propeller.

–  NGC 7000, North American Nebula.  A very large nebula by Deneb in Cygnus.  It was seen naked naked eye.

– NGC 7009, Saturn Nebula. A very cool Planetary Nebula that looks like the planet Saturn.

– Individual Stars in M31.  I could resolve some stars in a cluster within M31- NGC 206

– M31, M32 and M110 in the same FOV.  Was done in 70mm f/10 at 28x.

– M33- Triangulum Galaxy.  Seen for the first time in 10×50 binocs, 70mm f/10, and XX14.  Best view was in 70mm.

– M76- Little Dumbbell.  Allegedly the hardest Messier to find.  Not true.  looks like a smaller, flatter M27 (Dumbell Nebula)

– Dark Nebula in front of M45.  Seen in 10×50 binocs when leaning on the car

– Just seeing the Milky again was a real treat.

In the end, we observed 19 out of the 23 objects on our list.  I definitly don’t regret making that list.  One of the best feeling you can have is having so many stars in the field, you’re overwhelmed.  This happened when I had gazed upon the Double Cluster (NGC 869) with the 70mm f/10 at 28x.  It framed the 2 groupings perfectly; this sight brought a tear to my eye.  This is what a serious astronomy buff does .

Photo: GSMimaging.com

This was the closest picture I could find to what I saw in the eyepiece.  Truly overwhelming amount of stars visisble.  There had to be hundreds, quite possibly thousands of stars visible.  I’m glad the scope is a refractor, because had it been a reflector, the stars would no have been quite so sharp.  I failed to understand this  until I owned this scope.

As far as the seeing, it was great, and dark as it can get for that location.  The location has dark skies, but they’re not the darkest I’ve been under.  For example, Lake Arrowhead.  My family went there on vacation years ago.  My Dad had brought along his 6 inch reflector, and he said that the view of M31 was compared to the view of it through the 14 inch, the 14 was slightly better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a say in this.  I was very young and my primary interest was in my Game Boy.  Oh well, all of this observing makes up for that, so my conscience is clear!

Ascending into the skylight