« on: December 24, 2016, 03:32:58 PM »
I was able to observe for 4+ hours (7-11:30pm) from Pinnacles National Park - West Entrance main parking lot. It was my first visit to Pinnacles West and I concluded that it is a darker site than Fremont Peak with similar driving time of an hour from Monterey. I was using my 16" f/4.5 JP Astrocraft Dob and was observing with Jamie Dillon and Steve Winston. The night turned out to be very nice for astronomy with pleasant winter conditions: no wind, very good seeing and transparency and slight dew on my paper maps that disappeared by 10pm. By 8:00pm, the temperature bottomed to 40°F and 72% RH but warmed to 45°F/65%RH by 10:30pm. The SQM read 21.45 at 8pm. The winter Milky Way was sugary in appearance stretching from Cassiopeia overhead and southward through Orion and Canis Major. with dark zones very apparent.
With the favorable sky conditions, I was able to spot to the south the large and very faint galaxy IC 1613 in Cetus, (the dwarf member of the Local Galaxy Group); a beautiful pair of close galaxies NGC 1531/1532 in Eridanus at -32°DEC; NGC 1808 in Columba at -37°DEC, a striking long edge-on galaxy with sharp opposing halo ends and prominent elongated core; and a interesting pair of galaxies very unequal in size NGC 1888/1889 in Lepus. My best showpiece object shared with visitors who arrived that night was the best open cluster in Auriga - M37. This large cluster fills the low power eyepiece field of view with countless young bluish-white stars, and interestingly one orange star at its center. I will definitely return to Pinnacles National Park - West Entrance again for observing, and for daytime hiking!http://smf.observers.org/Smileys/default/wink.gif