Friday, October 13, 2017

calstar 2017

All these weeks later and I haven't written up my CalStar experiences.

With my busy work schedule I knew I would not be able to attend the full event, which lasted from Wed. through Sunday the September new moon.  I worked from home a little on Friday and drove down after lunch, arriving at around 4:30.  Most of the field was set-up already, but I found my spot between Steve and Carter, with Rick's 32-inch nearby.  I brought Clara's telescope, 10-inch f/3.7, intending to do rich field viewing of mostly dark nebulae.  Steve seemed disappointed I didn't bring my 20-inch.  I parked my van nearby and draped it with a tarp for shade.

The first night was pretty good, and I dove in to the dark nebulae project.  Most of the targets were low down, but I had no trouble finding them.  I needed to get used to the image scale -- sometimes my scope was perfect to frame the object, but other times it was too low power -- though I didn't bother changing the eyepieces.  Of course many objects were naked eye or I used my 7x50 binoculars.  I made good progress on the list the first night, and finished it up the second night.  Most memorable was the Cocoon Nebula, a jagged tubular cloud with bright nebulosity at one end.

Steve called me over a couple of times to look at objects in his 24-inch.  One was the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy, which I was able to detect after getting the star hop within the eyepiece view.  Detected with averted at first but then could just hold with direct for moments, it was on the lower right end of a wide trapezium of stars, a very faint amorphous glow.  My view matched Steve's so it was confirmed.  Another object was a recently discovered globular in a local group galaxy (which I won't name online for now...) which was surprisingly easy to detect.  Another view was of Andromeda's Parachute, a gravitationally lensed quasar 11 billion light years away.  It appeared to me a faint double star in a rod shape; the elongation position angle I was seeing matched Steve's.  There were moments one side of the elongation appeared to brighten, but it was tentative at best.  It was much smaller and fainter than I expected.  Saturday night I asked Steve if he ever observed Outers 4, a large PN in Cepheus.  It was plotted on my atlas and I was struggling to see it in the 10-inch.  We tried for a while with his 24-inch, and I seemed to think I saw the brighter lobe with OIII filter, but this might've been bias after studying the photo I had of the object.

Saturday night was public night, and a few of the locals came over to Whisper Canyon to look through telescopes.  I entertained a couple who said they come out at night for wild boar hunting and usually end up stargazing through binoculars instead.  The looked through binoculars at a few bright objects then I showed them in the scope -- Ptolemy's cluster, M22, M31, the Veil.  They were really excited.  I tried to share objects they could see in their binoculars -- so they could enjoy the equipment they already have more.  I tried to describe the objects with what limited knowledge I have.  The husband left for a while but then he came back with some frozen wild boar sausages he had made, to thank me for my time.  What a nice surprise!  I put them in the freezer at the pole barn and ate them for lunch when I got home.

The other exciting event was an Atlas V rocket launch of a spy satellite from Vandenberg AFB, which was about 50 miles away.  Someone was monitoring the launch time and let us know when to look.  We saw a bright white glow suddenly light up the horizon beyond a hill; the glow condensed to the center then a bright light rose over the crest of the hill, casting shadows.  It rose slowly and I could see the long fire trail coming from it; with binoculars I could see the individual round engines and the flame exhaust in more detail.  Eventually there was a wide white circular vapor trail, which as the rocket turned down range, engines pointed at us, turned into a five lobed flower.  Then the first stage separated, causing a dark ring to widen through the flower.  The second stage lit up and the rocket kept getting smaller and dimmer.  That's my second rocket launch, and they're very cool to watch. 

Overall a good experience and a lot of observing done, however I began to miss my 20-inch after a while. 

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