On Wednesday night (21 Dec), I met up again with Bob Douglas (28-inch f/3.7 Starstructure) and Carter Scholz (homemade 16-inch with CZ optics) at our Lake Sonoma observing lot 30 miles north of Santa Rosa. Conditions turned out to be excellent for this time of year - perfectly clear, good transparency (SQM readings hit 21.4 by 11:00 PM), perfectly calm and no dew at all. At this time of year I was able to start by 6:30 and logged over 40 objects when I packed up at 12:30.
As we were waiting for the sky to fully darken, Carter noticed an iridium flare towards the north and later he saw a very bright satellite that initially we thought was the ISS. It dimmed slowly like a satellite but headed in the wrong direction towards the southwest?? Later in the evening I was observing in Orion and noticed a slowly moving satellite in my field, which was tracking. I knew immediately what this was -- a geosynchronous satellite -- and turned tracking immediately off so it would just sit there in the center of the field, while the stars zoomed by. Very cool.
First on my agenda after seeing these naked-eye near-Earth objects was another look at the Blazar CTA 102, which was still in its mega-outburst mode at mag ~12.7 -- that's for a quasar at 8 billion light years. Easily seen even when I put an 8-inch mask on my scope. In the middle part of the evening I focused on faint Arp galaxy pairs and logged 9 new ones in Cetus, Pisces, Aries, Eridanus and Orion. I also observed two galaxy groups -- NGC 741 in Pisces (8 galaxies logged) and NGC 1713 with 5 galaxies. I may put together an observing report later with more details.
I'm thinking of an encore session next Wednesday to end the year.