Wednesday night, while The Animal, Carter Scholz and Bob Douglas were observing at Lake Sonoma, Peter N, Steve Winston our token Dubliner and I were out stargazing some 250 miles south of them, at the Pinnacles.
Peter pretty much caught the tone of the session, pure fun with clement weather. I had a fun list - a couple years back I went over my observing logs and picked up objects that I’d labelled as either interesting or favorites, to see again. Had 5 left, in Cetus, Perseus and Monoceros, and made sure of catching them. This was all thru 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, with an Orion Ultrablock for the Flame.
Eye candy night, starting with ngc 151 in Cetus. Peter and I had both severally set that galaxy aside for this night. Looking at my notes for my last time there, I was comparing views with the same Peter Natscher at Dinosaur Point, 5 years ago. Has arms that showed in Felix my 11” back then, swirls of dust lanes around the nucleus, and a trailing arm that touches a following star.
Most of the scads of galaxies we see in Cetus are distant, with few details. But another showpiece is ngc 908, a big bright oval with lots of structure lengthwise along its disk. Splashy galaxy. In January ‘03, with Felix the 11, it looked “big, complex with longitudinal lanes.” So no doubt those big dust lanes run along the length of 908.
Then went to play around with some fancy open clusters. 1513 in Perseus is a knockout. In the 13, I counted >50 bright stars across the field in the 16mm, so 2/3 of a degree. Lots more in the background.
On to Monoceros. The following will be highly familiar to some, but it’s useful. Betelgeuse, Procyon and Sirius form the Winter Triangle, with contains most of the constellation Monoceros (one-horn, like rhinoceros being nose-horn) You tell me why it’s supposed to look like a unicorn, go figure. This is a very rich area of the sky, with the winter Milky Way going right thru here. It’s full of pretty reflection nebulae, like 2282, -83, -85 all in a row, and some snazzy opens, and features the Rosette Nebula, which is rich and complex and never gets old.
I just had 2 of the OC’s listed to revisit. 2324 was first, a lovely dense mat of stars, with at least 3 dozen resolving in the 13 that night. 9 years ago, from Toro Park, our county park just south of Salinas, I said it was “dynamite at 126x.” Here I kept using the 16 Koenig, at 93x. Then while scanning with the 9x50 finder across those fields of dense winter Milky Way, I got curious about a cool-looking column of stars, turned out to be the next target, 2301. A must-see in any telescope. Back in 2000 I called 2301 a “pretty chain in the finder. Lovely bright shapely cluster. Classic Milky Way OC.” No kiddin’. What I wrote Wednesday night was, “stately set of ca 50 bright stars. Reddish bright pinpoint star at center. Gorgeous in 16mm.” DDK says do check it out.
Sky Atlas Companion cites an observer, Leland Copeland, calling 2301, “a curving group topped with a flying wedge of suns.” It has that kind of dynamic look.
Played around with M42, Mintaka, sigma Ori, Castor and the Flame for dessert. This was one of those nights when the Flame actually looked better unfiltered. Very nice night. Sure do like the Pinnacles.
Thursday next, yes the 29th, as noted in the OI list, we have Dinosaur Point open. C’mon out and see some stars.
Thanks for reading,