Thursday, December 10, 2015

OR, Fremont Peak, 9/6/15

I met my friend Balint at Fremont Peak last night, he with his 16” and I with my 20”. We welcomed some campers as it grew dark: a high school physics teacher from Alameda; a young family of four; and later a group of six of family and friends. The latter group included some astrophysics students in their 20s, one of whom just started a job with Northrup Grumman working on the James Webb Space Telescope. I urged her to launch it ASAP! I showed various Messier objects, M31, and 7331. I showed Stephen’s Quintet, which appeared as a misty triangle with just four brighter condensations -- too difficult for an unsuspecting member of the general public to pick out! But they were very appreciative and stayed until about 10pm or so.

Seeing was very good but we were bothered by sky glow to the south, west, and north. Sadly it seems Fremont Peak is now limited to east, southeast, and zenith views. Many of the targets I planned to view were now sinking into sky glow, so I turned my attention to Pegasus which was well placed. At around midnight we noticed the air became noticeably warmer, and realized we were in the inversion layer. Seeing & transparency became superb for the site and the SQML improved from the 20.3 earlier to 20.90.

We looked at M31 which was impressive to our previous guests but not so much to us; now I was wowed by making out at first two and then three dark lanes rippling out from the core. The galaxy as a whole extended well beyond my finder’s 4° FOV, and I could notice the twists I had seen last year in a 6” outside of Yosemite.

After M31, I used my Interstellarum atlas and wandered object to object at random – and it took me to some interesting places.

NGC 7463 & 7465, Gx, Peg. 7463 was the brightest in the group, elongated 5:2 slightly WNW-ESE, the diffuse halo seemed slightly twisted. Averted vision split the core in two, and once seen I can hold the small companion [NGC 7464] with direct vision, just separated to the SE. NGC 7465 was close by to the SE, stellar nucleus with bright bar like core and ball shaped halo, 3:2 NNW-SSE.

Arp 13 / NGC 7448, Gx, Peg. Direct vision with a faint, small stellar nucleus. Halo was large 3:1 NW-SE, strongly mottled. The halo had three, maybe four relatively brighter condensations in northern and eastern sections, barely glimpsed with averted vision.

NGC 7441, Gx, Peg. With direct vision had a bright oval core and a diffuse halo 3:2 SW-NE. Averted vision showed the core as a smooth flattened disk, nebulous. A faint star to the NE was in line with the position angle.

AGC 2634, Galaxy cluster, Peg. Brightest of the group is NGC 7720, but nonetheless appeared small and dim. I saw it had two components A and B, and looked for a double nucleus but could only make out an egg shape. 7720 is the apex of a triangle with two ICs, 5342 to the SE, 5341 to the SW; both of these appeared as dim, bloated non stellar patches. With averted vision I could just make out a very faint non-stellar point, which I find on Aladin this morning is CGC-476-090.

This session will have to tide me over until next new moon, as my work schedule it too full to let me attend CalSTAR. I hope everyone going has a great time.

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