On Wednesday night the 2nd, I headed down to the Pinnacles, had a fun night. The last time I’d gone to the Pinnacles, 2 months ago, I had been watching swaths of smoke heading east from the Santa Lucias, coming off the Soberanes fire. Also good for time perspective, I cleaned some dust off the base when putting my scope together, that could only have come from Whiissper Canyon, from the last time I’d been out, at CalStar.
Good conditions, limiting magnitude 6.3 across the sky, with seeing good 4/5. There was a fancy Milky Way overhead, with Cygnus at zenith after dark. A pretty crescent Moon and Venus took their time to set. Did a starcount out of curiosity not long before and after moonset at 8:30, saw a jump from 5.9 to 6.3 LM. Even a thin 3-day Moon makes a substantial difference in how many stars you see.
My main goal that night was to go over Abell 194, a fairly distant and interesting galaxy cluster in Cetus, that Carter Scholz had been playing around in at CalStar. After getting started there last month, I found out I’d been exploring in that cluster 8 years ago from the Peak. Did make good use of one of Carter’s handy custom findercharts.
Now that same Mr Scholz, at CalStar ‘08, on some really excellent nights with his 12”, caught 19 galaxies in this cluster. Here on a very decent night with my 13”, I was patting myself on the back to catch 8. The difference is those teeny UGC near-stellar galaxies. Also clearly my lack of character.
This was with Johannes, an Albert Highe made 13" f/4.5 grab and go scope. Was using a 24mm Panoptic, 16mm UO Koenig, 9 and 7mm type 6 Naglers. Just got this scope from Albert this past June, and the novelty will take a while to wear off. Elegant design, serious optics.
In Abell 194, ngc 547 and 545 are a very close pair, right next to one another. 541 is just to the southwest; the 3 form a pretty view just for starters. I’d seen these 3 from the Peak yes 8 years ago in Felix my 11”, without breathing too hard. 530 is the one galaxy in this group that’s charted in SkyAtlas, and I’d caught that galaxy in 2011, almost exactly 5 years back, from Dinosaur Point. Got one new one at CalStar last month, 538. This is after figuring out which finds from CalStar I’d already seen years before. This is a warning, children, you can’t be too diligent with your logs.
Others in the group were less obvious. 535 took some work. Camped out on the spot, got it 50% of the time to averted vision. Even more subtle was ugc 974, which was there 50% of the time to averted vision only when jiggling the scope. Several deepsky tricks for one galaxy; this one gave a measure of what my limits might be with Johannes, with a visual magnitude of 14.0 and a size of 1.1 x 0.2 arcminutes. It’s small enough the surface brightness looks more tolerable, at 12.2. Piffle, it was barely there. The one more ngc in that group, 548, I could not see, after camping out where it lives.
More fun was 543, close to the bigger bright starter pair. That one I could hold in averted vision, enough to measure the position angle. Figured 80 deg, and the official number is 90 deg. David Kingsley and I are the two people I know who constantly play with PA’s. It may be compulsive, but so is a lot of what we all do. And it’s a good method to make yourself sit down and take in everything that object has to show. Plus it’s fun when you get an angle right.
There were crickets and peepers going all night, which doesn’t always happen in November. Coyotes were singing at sundown. Conditions stayed friendly till midnight when I started packing, ca 55 deg F, only light occasional dew, an occasional light breeze. Beautiful night. After getting all I was personally gonna get in agc 194, I stared for the nth+1 time at ngc 253, inexhaustible major galaxy. Put in the 24 Panoptic for a 1.1 deg field and took the tour of cool open clusters in Cassiopeia, gawked at the Double Cluster. Just generally had fun that night.
More of this, please,