Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fremont Peak, 12/12/15

Clear Sky Clock predicted four hours of clear weather before the next raft of clouds was to move in.  Based on the prediction I packed the car for just an evening's viewing.  Even though I brought my 20-inch, I still had enough room in the minivan to bring Val along with our Astroscan for her to use.  We arrived a bit early and hiked up to the small radio tower, before setting up the telescopes and eating a picnic dinner as it fell dark.  I saw the very young moon over the peak and pointed it out to Val -- just before some fast moving clouds covered it over.

I decided to tear down my scope, knowing we would not be lucky that night.  I joked with Val that as soon as I put the scope back into the car it would be clear -- and it was.  But, seeing a wall of cloud to the north, I could tell it would be short-lived.  Instead I scouted the sky with binoculars as it was finally dark.  Val asked what that bright cluster was just coming over the trees -- it was the Pleiades.  She aimed the Astroscan to it herself and had a look (16x, 2.8 degree TFOV).  She was so excited and ran to get her notebook to make a sketch.  She described it as a running man and asked me to look into the scope to see what she saw.  She said she had discovered a new constellation and was very proud.

I scanned the area of Cassiopeia, Perseus, and Taurus as this was the only area of sky open to us.  The Double Cluster was naked eye and I pointed it out to Val, and we had a look through the Astroscan.  There were so many more stars in the nearly three degree field of view, the two clusters were just about lost in the crowd.  Next we viewed the "S" shaped chain of stars in Melotte 20 (Alpha Persei Cluster).  While Val was having some hot chocolate I kept scanning through my 2.1x42 Vixens.  The Hyades and  Pleiades fit in the FOV, and they look like a double cluster, just nearer; there are so many more stars to be seen in the Vixens it joins the two.  I also found where M34 was in the Vixens as they could not be seen naked eye, and pointed the Astroscan to it for a look: a nest of stars.

I tried out a new chart stand I put together with a used a monitor arm which had been discarded from some test chamber equipment at work.  When attached to the side of my ladder I can position it conveniently whether standing on the ladder or on the ground.  I told Val this was a project worth posting on Cloudy Nights Forums for other astronomers to read about, as opposed to my roll off shed which is clumsily built, of I was embarrassed and afraid people would be critical.  Val said something very wise: "Don't worry if they make fun of you; they all have faults of their own."

The Geminid meteor shower was to be active this night, as I was scanning around I kept my eye open for them.  I saw one, a streak seemingly dropped from the sky, but Val missed it.  Clouds were fast encroaching the whole viewing area, but we were determined to stay until Val had seen a meteor.  Unfortunately we didn't.  But it was not a disappointment.  We both had a wonderful time under the stars together, even if it was only for an hour. 

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