After 10 years of thinking about it, finally made it to Lake Sonoma. It was fun too. Angie and Doug Traeger came out, as did Steve Gottlieb and Carter Scholz, who put me up along the way. Lake Sonoma is 200 miles from Salinas.
What a beautiful place, in the rolling Sonoma hills west of Healdsburg. Decent conditions too, limiting magnitude 6.0, moderate seeing 3/5 with a steady breeze, dry and temperate. This is more of a site report than an OR, given that my starhopping skills just went away that night. Went back into the Leo Cluster and got way lost. There was wind and the seeing was variable and I was so not up to the challenge. Did get one new galaxy to get this night into the logs, ngc 3687, just south of the Alulas (Borealis and Australis, handy pair of hop stars in the south end of Ursa Major). And 3687 is visually interesting, with roughly defined edges, looked triangular, with a stellar core coming and going to averted vision.
Excellent company, lots of fun comparing views with scopes and comparing edibles. Angie brought along these improbable fat delicious early strawberries, plus chicken caesar wraps that I didn't even get to sample on account of being too full. Carter and I had loped into Healdsburg heading for this eminent deli, they were closed for Easter Sunday (imagine the nerve). Said no to Round Table, then saw this sign dead ahead saying "Tandoori Kabobs Open." Zowie.
Observing next to Steve Gottlieb is a treat every single time. He's not the Astro Animal for nothin'. Steve shared one view of 3 interesting fairly distant galaxies, one that looked double. The highlight view was ngc 3003 in Leo Minor, a galaxy on the TAC Eye Candy List. Showed a row of bright points along midline that could well be big HII regions. To both Steve and me, it looked like one end had a hint of a hook heading out. 3003 is a barred spiral, so it's quite possible we weren't kidding ourselves, though the picture on Nightsky Observer's Guide doesn't show it. What was funny, the observing notes the Animal had for comparison, again in TNSOG, were his own in his 17.5.
In Felix, my 11", on a night almost exactly 9 years ago, 3003 had showed a bright bar along midline. In Gottlieb's 24, this resolved into that set of bright points. What Luginbuhl and Skiff call stellarings. It might not ever catch on but I love that word.
Please stay tuned. Monday night got up to the Peak and made up for the lost search in the Leo Cluster.
Thanks to those nice Traegers and Scholz and Gottlieb for sharing their current default observing spot. Big fun.
Jamie Dillon <*>
"Throwin' hangin' sliders is no way to make a buck."
- Mike Krukow