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Messages - Mark

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Observing Reports / Re: IN THE MOON'S SHADOW
« on: Yesterday at 02:41:32 PM »
Interesting.  For me, the show was at 2nd contact.  Looked like a shock wave explosion moving away from the black disk, with spikes inbedded.  That is an *impression* - it all happened so fast and unexpectedly.  When fully eclipsed, the corona was twisted, for sure.  It just wasn't as big or well defined (internally) as I thought it might have been.  Temps, yes, chilly.  Shadows, really weird.  Color of sky around during Diamond Ring was eerie and amazing - odd blue.  Shadowy horizons were almost opaque with dim haze.  Whatever things were, I got my money's worth.  Mind-boggling.  Where did you go to see it?

Observing Reports / Re: IN THE MOON'S SHADOW
« on: August 22, 2017, 10:30:16 PM »
I did see the Corona, during full totality, but didn't descibe it as it was tenuous and not the most amazing feature at totality.  I expected more streamers, and for it to be larger.  I'd estimate, from memory, it extended about 1x the solar diameter away from the black disk.  I don't think I've seen those prominences in photos yet....  the "Bailey's Beads" I saw were nearly concurrent with the Diamond Ring, maybe slightly after.  But then, having never seen a total eclipse before, I'm not experienced at this.

Where were you observe totality from?

Observing Reports / IN THE MOON'S SHADOW
« on: August 22, 2017, 12:39:16 PM »
There is no way to describe this. But, a scene in Carl Sagan's Cosmos, where Ellie sees a galaxy up close from the outside, and says, in rapture: "no words, no words…. they should have sent a poet" gets there. Good old Carl, a way with words (and science).

I joined a group of eclipse-goers in Oregon, on the Calpooia River south of Salem. Hosted by friends of Max Vanderwyst, childhood friend of my son-in-law and his family, this was an intimate group in a friendly, relaxed environment. Pleasant shade camping, next to the river with nice swimming holes.

But this is about the eclipse.

Once the temperature changed noticeably, we all went out to a huge field next to the property. We watched as the Dragon ate the Sun, taking an ever larger bite, while the temperature continued dropping. A hot day now was chilly enough I had some shivers. The horizons took on an eerie opalescent hazy glow. Birds in trees began chattering. Nearly all traffic on the nearby road stopped. The only real sounds were of excited children in our group.

Excitement grew as the last tiny sliver sat, for what seemed almost tantalizingly long. Then darkness.
Off came the solar glasses. Things happened so fast, so fast I could hardly think of what to so. I stood there, as the black disk of the moon hid all but some bright glow… then… then…

The Diamond Ring sprang outward from the trailing edge of the Moon. The sky was a strange almost muted turquoise blue. The Sun, the Diamond, was a brilliant creamy bulge on the side of the Black. Rays emanated from it. The edges of the Black were ringed by a bright glow. Up near the Diamond, Bailey's Beads showed as small, what I would call glowing lumps of red lava, points of light, arcing up around the northern edge of the Black.

People were screaming. Jumping. Crying. Standing agape in amazement. The children were holding each other jumping up and down, 7 year olds and younger yelling "this is awesome!!!"…. what a sight of humanity in sheer awe. My daughter in tears.
I stood, mouth open, dumbfounded, thinking of Sagan. No words… no words.

It passed so quickly. But that's life, isn't it? A spectacular moment. No amount of reading, or hearing people's descriptions, and certainly not this one, can touch what occurred. Its like describing God. You can't. You're not that.

What were the best parts of being in the Moon's Shadow? The Diamond Ring is awesome. Way more than awesome. It is other-worldly. Like the Sun disappeared and a brilliant space ship arrived, glowing off one side.

Its described as spiritual, transcendent, and yes, I have to agree. I've seen and experienced something I'll never forget (the first time is always memorable), and I did it with my pregnant daughter, her husband and his family, and many new friends who shared something that words can't touch. "They should have sent a poet." The kids will be talking about this in the year 2100....

Texas, 2024. Plans already made…..

Observing Reports / Re: The Pinnacle of Dark Skies
« on: August 05, 2017, 10:41:09 AM »
Hey Brad - stumbled across the picture today.  Surprise!  What year was it?

TAC Visual / Experienced Eclipse Chasers. Your input please.
« on: August 02, 2017, 08:54:51 AM »
I know there are many experienced eclipse chasers here.  This month's will be my, and undoubtedly others, first.

How about posting what to watch for, and how?  Visual stuff.  I recall listening to a recording made by someone experienced, and they were calling out the various events as each approached.

I'd like to have such a list, as the group I'm going with are not only eclipse newbies, but total astronomy noobs, far as I can tell.

Thanks for any and all suggestions.


Great observation Steve.  Reminds me of how surprisingly easy it was seeing that new glob near B86 a few years ago.  Interesting what can be seen.  With I'd been there!

TAC Visual / An observation about observation.
« on: July 26, 2017, 02:22:11 PM »
Last Saturday at Pinnacles, I had a brief moment of the type of observing we all hope for.  They're really not all that frequent.  Seeing was incredibly steady, and transparency superb.  It wasn't just me, I head others in the dark mentioning "like Bumpass Hell" or "only seen it like this at Lassen".

My views of the Veil and Crescent Nebulae were tremendous.  So much so, the Veil was at times a confusing large area of nebulosity I couldn't place, as I hadn't seen such detail before.  The Crescent showed easily all those parts that I'd seen previously, but in crisp sinewy details making the views new.

My old friend Dean Linebarger used to say observing is a lot like skiing (he was an avid skier), its all about conditions, and you may get truly great conditions only a few days of the year.

Dean was right.  I think being regular and running into those moments, getting such views, is what really drives the hobby. At least for me.  I got quite lucky, for about an hour, at Pinnacles last weekend.  More of that, please!


Observing Reports / Re: The Pinnacle of Dark Skies
« on: July 25, 2017, 07:47:42 PM »
Smart choice going home.  It's really an easy drive.  I got some sleep in my car, setting the alarm for 6:30 to be gone before the rangers arrived.  I was something of a zombie on Sunday.

Observing Reports / Re: The Pinnacle of Dark Skies
« on: July 25, 2017, 11:23:30 AM »
I mentioned poor seeing.  When it was good, it was very very good.  When it was bad, it was horrid.

Transparency was also coming and going.  We had some unusual warm air currents invade the observing site for a while.  I think with those, the poor transparency arrived.

I think Pinnacles can be, and likely for those who go regularly is, a great place to observe.

What I saw could be best described as "Lumpy Darkness".  On the subtle side of subtle mottling.  I chuckled when McCarthy told me he was looking at Sh-2, which I spent a few years chasing down.  Its a world of eye-torture. :o

Observing Reports / The Pinnacle of Dark Skies
« on: July 25, 2017, 09:58:37 AM »
Saturday the 22nd of July I trekked to Pinnacles National Park to join what I assumed were a few members of the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club, along with my friend Richard Navarrete, for a night of dark sky astronomy. 

Getting there is easy, just heading down Highway 101, as if going to CalStar, into the Salinas Valley then turning east on Highway 146 at Soledad.  I used to visit that town returning from CalStar, whenever our event coincided with the Harvest Festival at the old Mission - a wonderful local celebration of food, wine, music, art and California history.

There is a turn on 146 in the vineyards, paralleling the valley, before heading off into to wilds, where the entire spread of Steinbeck's country shows itself.  The coastal range mountains to the east, containing the National Park, the broad flat fertile Salinas Valley covered now in vineyards, and across, past the town, past the Mission, the western part of the Coastal Range Mountains holding the Ventana Wilderness, and entrance to Big Sur.  It is a magnificent sight.  The road winds through a shallow canyon, in an area known for greasewood, Manzanita, grey pine, live and blue oak, buckeye, coffee berry, holly leaf cherry and elderberry.  During my drive in the park, I saw Turkey Vulture, Magpie, Roadrunner, Scrub Jay, Turkey, Quail (with many chick lets), Chipmunk, Ground Squirrel, Jack Rabbit and Cotton Tail Rabbit.

Entering the western part of Pinnacles is quite different from the eastern entrance, which I usually access for hiking (it’s a terrific park for hiking, in cooler spring and fall temps).  Just at the entrance, the Hoodoos welcome you, what a sight!  These are the western  remnants of  the ancient Neenach Volcano, last erupting 23 million years ago.  The eastern portion is 200 miles south near Lancaster, transported there by the San Andreas Fault, on which the park sits.

The observing site de la nuit was the parking lot by the ranger's station, just inside the park.  There was plenty of room and good horizons, especially to the south.  Once the skies darkened, I found it to be as dark as any sight I've been at within three hours of the Bay Area - to the sough it looked absolutely black, but nowhere was I disappointed with bothersome sky glow.

Richard and I brought our nearly identical 18" f/4.5 Obsession telescopes, planning to leave behind computers and work from paper charts (Sky Atlas 2000).  I observed mostly in Scorpius and Sagittarius, peeking into Pegasus late at night, with a few choice incursions into Cygnus for the fancy fun stuff there.

There were some park tourists visiting, looking through our telescopes.  I had one 11 year old girl describing views of the Bug Nebula, the more I asked her to look, the more detail she related.  It was great, and I know her parents (who had trouble seeing The Bug themselves) loved it.

Here are selected targets I observed:

NGC 6302, The Bug Nebula at 297X.
Bright, elongated E/W with a brighter section to the east.  A dark intrusion in the elongated western section leading to a bright knot 2/3rds of the way to the eastern end.  Approximately 1.5'x0.5', fading dramatically toward the eastern end.  Using an NPB filter, the object looks distinctly like a bi-polar planetary nebula, with the dimmer section and nucleus to the east.

NGC 6334, The Cat Paw Nebula at 200X with Ultrablock filter.
Faint nebulosity close to two bright fiend stars (mags 5.9 and 7.9) separated by 16 arc-minutes.  This view was probably hampered by poor seeing at the time.  The greatest portion of nebula, really just mottling in the field, was to the southeast of the stars.

NGC 6357, The Lobster Nebula, 200X with Ultrablock filter. 
Easy to locate at the straight eastern end of a chain of four mag 6 and one mag 7 stars, with one crookedly offset over 37 arc-minutes. The nebula runs N/S with uneven brightness, the most obvious portion is off the tip of the chain, and to the east.  More of the nebula runs from there north the to the west.  This is called a mini-M42.  Using 297X, clumpy nebulosity shows around dim stars in the chain, north to south, then a large clump east to west.

NGC 6990 and NGC 6995, Veil Nebula, 297X, NPB filter.
This was a mind-blowing view.  I knew it was a great night for the Veil when the Witch's Broom section showed tremendous detail.   I looked at this from Lick Observatory the prior weekend, and barely saw the tubular shape extending north of 52 Cygni.  At Pinnacles, there was so much to see, I kept moving my telescope wondering if what I was viewing was part of the Waterfall portion, but no, it was just very bright knots throughout the center, around Pickering's Wisp (or Pickering's Triangle).  When I finally moved enough to see the Waterfall (NGC 6995), it looked like stretched taffy, frozen, interwoven strands, bright knots mixed in with slivers and chards of "broken" pieces, leading to the delicate western turn where the "waterfall" drops off back toward the center of the Veil.  As I said, terrific, eye-popping view.

NGC 6888, Crescent Nebula, 297X, NPB filter.
After such a great view of the Veil Nebula, who could resist? So… wow. Beautiful view, the western edge to the north with the bright star embedded looked like smooth clay, thick and stretching and thinning to the south.  The nebulosity breaks, near the star close to the inner the western edge, getting thin and ragged as it turns toward the south where two bright knots show, at the curve eastward.  The eastern section is the thinnest, but a nice extension crosses the void to meet the bright star near the inner western edge.  Along the eastern edge, beyond the thin inner extension, is a brighter knot outside the oval, where the continuity of the "egg" shape seems to break.  Then it continues toward the north, brightening and thickening around two bright embedded stars, curving back over to join the northern end of the object.

Those were the highlight objects.  I also tried some tiny dim Planetaries, but the seeing was such that most stars were looking like Planetaries, so, too much work (NGC 6442 and IC 4732).  I popped a few small globulars, they're everywhere in this area, then finally jumped up into Pegasus for some NGC galaxies.

All in all, a fine night.  We had good company, and I have a new observing site that I look forward to returning to again just 1-1/2 hours from home.  But, new moons between now and then, an eclipse journey, and CalStar.

I also heard other observers and imagers were on the east side of the park, along with a star party that you weren't allow to bring scopes to (really????)!  Its certainly a world of wonders....

See you all soon.

Photos below: Entering Pinnacles West, early morning Hoodoos, fog in the Salinas Valley next morning, Crescent Nebula.

See you there.  Navarrete coming too.

TAC Visual / Re: Epic Montebello Wednesday
« on: July 21, 2017, 12:38:41 PM »

Thanks for getting the gang up there.  So many faces from the past.  We should try it again.

I spent the observing part of my evening there, looking in the darkest part of the sky, low in the curve of Scorpius' tail.  Lots of gems in the area, including of course the two big opens M7 and M6.  I thought The Bug Nebula was the most interesting, and teasing out a bit of The Lobster (NGC 6357) was fun too - love the nice hooked chain of stars it sits on.  Think I'll bring the 18 the next time, but did enjoy getting my 10" out too.

I'm certainly up for more of this!


Observing Intents / Re: Observing at Montebello on Wed July 19
« on: July 19, 2017, 02:14:32 PM »
All packed up and ready to go.

Forecast looks great.  There's about a 3% chance of precip in Palo Alto at 9 tonight, which I take to be low cloud/fog moving in low... so we may get some light extinction help.

My 10" CPT Dob is the choice for a close-to-home trip.  Hunting targets using the Tirion Sky Atlas 2000.  A few hours of fun mid-week is perfect.

See you there - noobs, come have a look, no need to bring a scope.  Or if you have one, join the party.


Observing Intents / Re: Observing at Montebello on Wed July 19
« on: July 18, 2017, 09:20:31 AM »
There looks to be one of the largest crowds complete with a few special guest TACos  heading up to Montebello this Wed.
This just may be an epic get together for good old Montebello gravel crunchin astro fun

Thanks to Marco for announcing this week's Montebello here on TAC.  I'm in, either with my 10" or 18".

This site is an original TAC hangout, where beginners get to meet more experienced observers, check out equipment, and enjoy a night under darker suburban skies close to home.  Casey Fukuda has gathered the gang at Montebello Open Space Preserve ( ongoing for years now, and James Turley's been keeper of the flame (our group permit for Wednesday nights) for over 15 years - thanks to them both for keeping this a vibrant astro-site!

This event is highly recommended for any and all who are interested or curious.  Big globulars, great double stars, Summer Milky Way rising full of visual treats.  If we're lucky enough, fog will mute the bay area lights.

Bring warm clothes just in case, red flashlight or cover a regular flashlight with shopping bag paper (so you can see in the bathroom).  Arrive before dark as the parking lot gate will be closed once its dark (sunset 8:30).  We'll help people drive out when you want to leave.

I've returned to Montebello after an almost 8 year absence - can't wait - see you there!


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