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Topics - DDK

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1
Observing Intents / Pinnacles for supernova hunting
« on: May 23, 2017, 04:49:19 PM »
Will be at that open lot well by sunset. Just spent a pleasant week in Philly and DC, would yes like to see any stars.
This is tomorrow, Wednesday the 24th.

2
Observing Reports / New Moon April, Peak and Pinnacles
« on: April 27, 2017, 06:08:03 PM »
Saturday night the 22nd I hit the SW lot at the Peak for observing. Between the Pinnacles and Dinosaur Point, I’d gotten distracted and away from the Peak; last time I was up there was June. This past weekend it was amazingly green everywhere, with lupines blooming across the park.

Got to visit with Derek the cool ranger, with his wife Hali and their two kids, Logan and Penelope. Lovely happy family. Also while hanging out around the Observatory, got to see Ron Dammann and Rob Hawley who are both flourishing to all appearances.

There were campers and astro visitors all over the park, but back at the SW lot it stayed quiet. High clouds played tag with the low fog that comes out of the little valley there around Carmen’s Trail. Did get more than a couple hours of decent skies though, with 5.8 limiting magnitude for a stretch.

Did an eye candy tour, featuring Jupiter with some fancy equatorial bands. The seeing was good enough to let the 4 Galilean moons show little disks. Saw M5 for the first time this year. Stared and gawked at M51, the Leo Trio, caught Cor Caroli and 24 Com for color.

Some time around 11, I had two excellent visitors, this little 6-year old Jack and his mom. Jack got to see Jupiter and M3, and showed off to his mama where the North Star is. Sharp kid.

Then last night, Wednesday, I headed to the Pinnacles for precisely New Moon. There were dense low dark curdly clouds over the whole sky at sunset, stayed that way till 8:50. Looked very skunking-like. A couple stars peeped thru after 9, then the whole sky opened up. For about an hour. Swear it was fun watching those stars come out in the quiet, with crickets and peepers and a low bass wind. Far as I could tell, I had the western half of that entire national park to myself.

Had serious detail on Jupiter, best in a long while. Great Red Spot, all kinds of festoons and curlicues along the main bands.
Still have all kinds of spring galaxies to hunt down. More of this.

3
Observing Intents / Pinnacles Wednesday night the 26th
« on: April 18, 2017, 05:27:46 PM »
Will be set up by the visitors center. Sure like our new national park.

4
Observing Intents / SW lot for Saturday fun, yes the 22nd
« on: April 18, 2017, 05:26:02 PM »
Haven't been to the Peak in way too long. Time to hit the old default spot.

5
TAC Visual / Moon and Aldebaran
« on: March 04, 2017, 06:30:03 PM »
Right now the Moon is in the clear overhead. That occultation is due not long after 7, far as I can discern. I do remember how very cool this looked last time we saw the Moon occult a bright star, both on disappearance and on coming back out.

6
Observing Reports / Dinosaur Point what a night, 23 February
« on: February 28, 2017, 08:11:46 PM »
Thursday night, 23 February, looked like our best weather window for observing this new moon cycle, 3 of us showed up at Dinosaur Point. Boy were we right. Somehow there was no dew, all the clouds dropped by 8 pm, transparency was at 6.3 limiting magnitude for me, and the seeing was sharp, 5/5, which is rare for Dino.

Peter Natscher brought his snazzy 16”, to which he continues to remain true. Mark McCarthy had his 10” Springsonian comet hunter, just an amazing telescope mechanically and visually. As usual he left his Terminagler in the focuser most of the time, for an actual field of view around 2.5 degrees. For fun, I drove my two-seater del Sol and brought the trusty Orion Ultraview 10x50s with a parallelogram mount. You shoulda seen Peter’s moon eyes when I drove up - “How’d you fit Johannes (my 13) in there?” No packing magic, just brought the 2”.

We swapped views back and forth, along with all manner of banter. Highlights included Peter sketching a little blue planetary, which showed bright color in his scope. If I were a better person I’d remember its name. The picture in McCarthy’s scope that sticks in memory was a sharp view of the Leo Triplet, all in the same eyepiece field and all distinct. M65, M66 and ngc 3628, always interesting.

I spent most of the night scanning around in Monoceros and Canis Major. The winter Milky Way there is endlessly fascinating in any aperture. This time I kept coming back to this big fancy dense open cluster, with other bright ones ranging off to the west. Matching the field on the chart, surprise it was M46, with of course no planetary (2438) superimposed to cinch the ID. M47 right next to it, then 2374 and 2360 looking fancy, within 6’ marching due west.

Jupiter was up high enough by midnight for some oohing and aahing, with all 4 big moons in close, along with the GRS. Here comes Jupiter.
And by 1 am we were packed and rolling. We wore enough layers to stay warm with the temps in the mid-30s.

Here’s to Dinosaur Point, with one more winter season in the bin. And good company.
And here's to TAC. There's reason people call us the hardcore observers. And we're here for the fun!

7
Looks like Thursday night might be our best weather window this new moon. There are 3 gatekeepers rarin' to go, talk about wretched excess. There's a good chance of fancy starfields, with the sky freshly washed and all. I'll definitely be there before dark.

8
Waited a bit to let someone else in on the yellow jacket question from Lassen - "Anyone remember the trip with all the Yellow Jackets?"

The reason the yellow jackets came out in force that one year, aside from it being their season, is that was the year we over-advertised the Lassen jaunt and filled up Lost Creek campground. There were many city people there who had no idea of camping - trash and food scattered around everywhere. Saw something unforgettable - one person hadn't liked their dinner, so dumped a potful of stew onto the drain rock under one of the water spigots. The yellow jackets went mad there.

Yes I cleaned that mess up; it might be just as well I never found out who was the culprit.
Under the genius label, that was the year I remembered everything else for a Lassen trip but my shoes. 2007.

9
Observing Intents / Dinosaur Point Saturday night
« on: January 24, 2017, 07:00:08 PM »
Two nights will be open at Dinosaur Point this week, Thursday the 26th as posted, and Saturday night the 28th as well.
You can see the regs on the Thursday post, if you're new to Dino. Beautiful spot, deep southern horizons, can have very dark skies.

10
Observing Intents / Dinosaur Point Thursday night, 26 January
« on: January 24, 2017, 06:57:31 PM »
New Moon is on Friday and the rain let up. I'll definitely be at Dinosaur Point well before sunset on Thursday and again on Saturday night. That's the 26th and the 29th of January. There are 2 others who are likely to be there on Thursday, and maybe 3 others on Saturday.

Here are the regs. They're actually simple and I'm guessing you have them memorized. The rangers ask us to post them:
>>>
Dinosaur Point is behind a locked gate. Access is only on announced nights. A Gatekeeper must make reservation, be present at all times, and escort observers through the gate.

Upon arriving at Dino's parking area, currently you arrive at another temporary gate at the bottom of the hill that's set up for the daytime boaters inspection. There, you will be asked by a CA Parks ranger to pay the $10 CA Parks use fee, or show your CA Parks annual pass in order to proceed to the parking area.
 
General rules for using Dinosaur Point
  1.. Pay the day-use fee.
   1a .. Please write "Stargazing" in big letters on the envelope we put in the iron ranger, to make sure the money goes to the right place.
  2.. Access to Dinosaur Point after dark is by reservation only. Only Gatekeepers can call the rangers and make reservations.
   a. Send observing requests and questions to DinoGatekeepers at yahoogroups dot com.
   b. Do not post OI's for Dinosaur Point until a Gatekeeper has announced it is available, and his arrival and departure times.

  3.. At least one Gatekeeper must always be present.
  4.. Everyone must be escorted out by a Gatekeeper.
  5.. Observers are not allowed to stay overnight.
  6.. Observers must arrive before sunset.
  7.. Locate the Gatekeeper(s) and introduce yourself when you arrive. Confirm your departure time.
  8.. Be prepared to leave on time or wait for the next scheduled escort to the gate.
         When you are ready to leave, proceed to the SW corner of the parking lot and wait there. At the scheduled time, a Gatekeeper will escort you out.
  9.. Leave the park as you found it. Make sure your area is clean.
 10.. Absolutely no boats allowed in the parking lot after dark.
 11.. No overnight camping.
 12.. Do not call the emergency number posted on the gate unless you are reporting an emergency. The ranger you get out of bed won't arrive for over an hour. Get a Gatekeeper to escort you out.
 13.. If you bring guests, you must ensure that they follow all these rules and procedures.

11
Observing Intents / Dino, standing down this week, before the New Year
« on: December 28, 2016, 03:16:41 PM »
Please see the end of the thread just below. Don't want anyone stranded at a cloudy Dinosaur Point inside a locked gate. Oh no.
Here's to 2017!

12
Observing Reports / more from the Pinnacles, Wednesday the Solstice, 20 Dec
« on: December 27, 2016, 02:03:45 AM »
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,
Jamie Dillon

13
Observing Intents / Dino again this year!
« on: December 27, 2016, 12:07:05 AM »
We're clear from the rangers to observe at Dinosaur Point Thursday night. I'll be there by 4. Do get there by sunset.

Here are the regs, the rangers ask us to post them, you likely have them memorized.
>>>
Dinosaur Point is behind a locked gate. Access is only on announced nights. A Gatekeeper must make reservation, be present at all times, and escort observers through the gate.

Upon arriving at Dino's parking area, currently you arrive at another temporary gate at the bottom of the hill that's set up for the daytime boaters inspection. There, you will be asked by a CA Parks ranger to pay the $10 CA Parks use fee, or show your CA Parks annual pass in order to proceed to the parking area.
 
General rules for using Dinosaur Point
  1.. Pay the day-use fee.
   1a .. Please write "Stargazing" in big letters on the envelope we put in the iron ranger, to make sure the money goes to the right place.
  2.. Access to Dinosaur Point after dark is by reservation only. Only Gatekeepers can call the rangers and make reservations.
   a. Send observing requests and questions to DinoGatekeepers at yahoogroups dot com.
   b. Do not post OI's for Dinosaur Point until a Gatekeeper has announced it is available, and his arrival and departure times.

  3.. At least one Gatekeeper must always be present.
  4.. Everyone must be escorted out by a Gatekeeper.
  5.. Observers are not allowed to stay overnight.
  6.. Observers must arrive before sunset.
  7.. Locate the Gatekeeper(s) and introduce yourself when you arrive. Confirm your departure time.
  8.. Be prepared to leave on time or wait for the next scheduled escort to the gate.
         When you are ready to leave, proceed to the SW corner of the parking lot and wait there. At the scheduled time, a Gatekeeper will escort you out.
  9.. Leave the park as you found it. Make sure your area is clean.
 10.. Absolutely no boats allowed in the parking lot after dark.
 11.. No overnight camping.
 12.. Do not call the emergency number posted on the gate unless you are reporting an emergency. The ranger you get out of bed won't arrive for over an hour. Get a Gatekeeper to escort you out.
 13.. If you bring guests, you must ensure that they follow all these rules and procedures.

14
Observing Intents / Pinnacles Wednesday night, 21 December
« on: December 19, 2016, 06:41:14 PM »
Yep, Peter Natscher and I are meeting up in the big lot just inside the park. Easy road, not far off 101, very dark there.

15
Observing Reports / Presolar light at Dinosaur Point last night
« on: December 02, 2016, 07:51:42 PM »
Last night, 1 December, we opened Dinosaur Point for another winter of stargazing at one of our best darksky spots in the region. Once again we have our own TAC combo lock on the gate, thanks to help from the Four Rivers rangers and our own persistent sponsors.

Really don’t want to bury the hot story here. Thru prompts from Carter Scholz and Steve Gottlieb, we got to see this blazar, CTA-102, that’s an astounding 8 billion lightyears from here. Light twice as old as our Sun. The thing usually glows at around 17th magnitude, dim for the likes of us, but it has outbursts.
Bob King in S&T has a good finderchart, though his story sure wanders and gets too cute.
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/quasar-cta-102-historically-bright-violently-variable/

So this is a highly compact quasar that puts out rare bursts. It was easy in McCarthy’s 10” and my 13. We came up with a consensus that it was around 12.6 or 12.7 vM. Little star sitting there with direct vision, brighter than several in the field, only a whole whole lot farther away.

I’d seen 3C 273, the brightest quasar, and one other in Camelopardalis last year, PKS 0716 +71, when it had its own outburst. Those are measured at 2.4 and 3.5 billion lightyears distant. But there’s this whole other category of presolar light, that’s been on its way since before our local star formed. My first time there, and it’s gonna take me a while to wrap my head around this one.

Conditions were really good last night, with starfields at 6.3 limiting magnitude, seeing good, 4/5. Plus the company was superb, with Joe Bob Jardine, Peter Natscher, Mark McCarthy and George Feliz out for fun. The 5 telescopes there were ethnically interesting as well. George brought his 13” grab and go scope, that he made as a sibling for Johannes, the 13” that I bought from its maker, Albert Highe, this past June. Those two scopes have worked side by side at Dinosaur Point countless times over the years.

Joe Bob brought his mondo Albert-made 20”. McCarthy had his new scope that he brought to CalStar, his McCarthy-made Springsonian design, where the trunnions are around the focuser, so the observer sits in one place while the scope goes up and down. With McCarthy’s Terminagler in the focuser, he gets a 2.4 actual fov.

Peter meanwhile had his 16”, which he continues to say is his last scope. This is the man who has bedhopped thru more telescopes than some of you striplings have had hot dinners. Gotta say, this 16 is a serious scope and Peter continues to be happy.

We had a lovely row of planets after sunset, with Mercury perched under a sliver of a 2-day Moon, Venus well above that and Mars farther up, all in a row. There was a long ISS pass at 6 pm, and Jardine somehow caught it going across the earthlight part of the Moon. Cool. Another major highlight was the California Nebula in McCarthy’s 2.4 deg field, yes with an H-beta filter. I had no idea it had that kind of detail and structure, very beautiful.

Toward midnight I made sure and pointed at the Fornax Cluster, with the little equilateral triangle of hop stars for that rich cluster well over the horizon. Galaxies all piled up. It had gotten cold but moderated again, we were all bundled up anyway. At midnight, high clouds were coming in, and we really didn’t mind packing up. Very fun, fascinating, satisfying, congenial night.

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