Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tales of a Roving Astronomer Part 2

Thursday evening brought mostly clear skies and wondrous opportunities for man and scope. My plan was to carve up Leo with every NGC item residing there with in reach. 15 mag item in a 8" scope? We know that ain't happening. I saw every galaxy punched in to my hand control. The scope performed flawlessly as usual. I am ever so happy with that scope. It has never failed me! I brought my Celestron CPC this trip for good reason. It's small, compact and you can only get so much stuff in a Ranger. There was one thing I left at home that I paid for dearly and oh so dearly for two nights. It was a warm sleeping bag or at least a warm blanket . I knew better but for some reason I left it at home because of the lack of room in the truck. Friday, after my presentation, I went to Westcliffe Colorado and bought pizza for my boy and me and a warm blanket. A good move that was. Temps ranged between 30s in the predawn and 80s for the afternoons.

As the sun went down on Thursday and the wind died, the sky began to give up its treasures one by one. It takes me all of five minutes from powering the scope up to CPC Ready status and if you do it right gotos are very accurate. They were dead on, spot on, even double dead on using a 13mm 68 AFOV eyepiece. There is nothing better than dialing up a NGC and take a look in the scope and actually see companions to the dial up galaxy This requires you getting out the star atlas to check on the sisters identity and Holy Tater Tot there they are crowded in together. Now granted I could not see a lot of structure when it came to some of these faint fuzzy marvels but I could see them and well enough to log my observations and impressions This went on for several hours as there are lots to take a gander at I even plugged in a number incorrectly and it took me to an obscure little number also in Leo another score!!! I was putting my 17mm Baader Hyperion and its brother the 13mm through their paces I do not think I got out another EP that night. The 17mm is in the wheel house of a C8. 17 mm to 21 mm do so well That I rarely go beyond except to try and pick up a bit more detail. As the gloom faded into blackness I chose the brighter galaxies to start out with basically because I knew they could defeat the wash out of dusk and give me more time to pour over the more difficult NGCs of Leo. So 95,96,66,65 all quickly dropped by the way side. Every time I look at the triplet, it just takes my breath away. That is probably why I am so enamored by the HCG catalog. Alas I did not have quite the horsepower needed to do the Hickson parade of wonders. Next time... It was a work horse night and I was very satisfied with all the not seen before NGCs I jotted down into my observation book

A shivering nights sleep is great motivation to get moving so I rolled, out of bed and got the blood pumping. I was fine in a few minutes. next is the hardest job on the Planet.... Waking my son up to go over his part in the children's presentation. I plan about an hour early waking the kid up that way he actually gets up on time. I was not aware of the children's presentation until I arrived. I carry about 13 years of Theatre with me with at least 2 of those years dedicated to children's theatre. I love a challenge. The children presentation was to start at 1:00 and no equipment has found it's way to the event tent till almost 12:30. I just went ahead and used my computer to hook up to the projector to do the PowerPoint. All went well as I kept it lively and made it interesting I got more questions about black holes than anything else. They were a good bunch of kids. I ended the program by telling them to take the math they will never regret it. I had a crowd gathering as the children and parents left They filed in and away we went. I spoke on Exoplanets how we find them the possibility of life on them and what's coming in the pipeline equipment wise to get bigger better badder results it was a very intelligent crowd. They asked some very good questions ,some I could answer and some I could not answer like: How many potential planets could be in our galaxy. I said how many stars are there in our Galaxy? 100 billion 200 billion came back. OK just twenty years ago that number was 100 million so that is a problem so is sampling accurately. Say we miss a planet circling around a star because of its plane. It will be counted as a planet less star. This might happen 90 percent of the time. Too many variables still exist to give a guess unless you will go for" a bunch" as an answer. But the questions that I got such a hoot out of was about the Cincinnati Observatory Center and it's wonderful scopes. I gave a quick history lesson about the 1843 scope and how it came to be I told them that not only did we have one Alvin Clark refractor, we actually had two in town. There was an 8" at our Club's headquarters. I shared with them about the drives on the scopes. That was a great experience. All were invited to Cincinnati to take a look through the first national observatories scope. I hope the presentation was well received. I got a kick out of doing it as always.

After a late lunch, I looked up at the darkening skies. Well Rats!!! The search in Virgo would have to wait another time. I set all my cases in the tent and put the cover over my scope I was tired from the sleep deprivation of the last two night so I drifted off to sleep as the pit pat of rain tapped a steady beat against my tent fly. What the heck! it is morning and the pitter patter of rain drops have not lessened. On the contrary, they have increased. A quick look at the clouds and I knew this was a long haul event. So this is every campers favorite thing to do... Break camp in the rain! I would be issuing a canard if I said "Fun was had by all!!!" It was not fun but a job to do was done and done well by Cole and myself. Twenty two hours later and I Sank into my bed and was fast asleep before my head hit the pillow. Now that was a Father's Day present... 8 hours of sleep. Well deserved sleep indeed!

Clear skies and good seeing too

Steve T

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