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Unread post by Rotorhead »

Sorry, Matt, but I’m going to jump the gun. I’m too excited to wait! You can add your observing report later, because I know you’ll remember stuff I’ve forgotten. Alzheimer’s I think. But I can’t remember...

Being terrified to have myself revealed as a true mouse, I decided to suck it up and head out. :( Some car problems (really!!) with my son’s truck held me up much later than I wanted, but it turned out to be a relatively easy 83 mile run in an hour and 15 minutes from door to parking lot. When I turned onto the final road to the beach, another car ahead of me was driving so slow and tentatively, that I figured it had to be one of our gang. When he pulled over to let me pass, I stopped and it was Tom. So we had a laugh and he led me to the parking lot. Gene was already sitting there waiting. Matt and Bruce came in shortly after. We set the cars in line to block the wind (that didn’t work very well :? ) and we set up on the parking lot. I had brought a snow shovel, but the snow ceased to exist somewhere around Dennis, and there was not a snowflake in sight in the parking lot or any adjacent land. So it was DARK out there!!! We had a small light dome on the western horizon, probably Hyannis, and a small bubble on the southern horizon, which I thought might be Nantucket. Low to zero horizon all around, and a dark ocean a few yards to our south. Other than some distant porch lights, we could not even identify ourselves it was so dark. In fact, later on when Gene was saying farewell, I turned from my scope and shook Bruce’s hand instead of Gene’s!!! :oops: That is how dark it ought to be. Everywhere!!!

In fact, we stood for a while just absorbing the sky. Orion was dense with stars. The entire shield was visible, including the faint stars at the very top, and his body was lit up with about 75 or more stars. Incredible. About this time we all noticed a bright nebula low to the southeast that nobody could identify (Sorry, Matt, I just have to tell it!!). Eventually we figured out it was the Beehive!!! :oops: It was the size of a full moon, no lie! Winter Milky Way was nearly horizon to horizon, almost as dense as the summer Milky Way at Stellafane. There are no big dust lanes in the winter version, but it is very bright under dark skies. In Canis Major, M41 (the Heart of the Dog) was a naked eye object, and the Pleiades had naked eye nebulosity. It was incredible.

Except for the wind. I never used my tracking motors last night, because I was certain that the wind might damage the drives. So we pushed the scope all night, and at times the wind would nearly rip it away from you. I had to leave the shroud off the scope, which always makes me nervous, but there is no way we could have observed with it on. I was plenty dark enough out there that the shroud would not have made any difference in the contrast, I’m sure.

Okay, all set up and layered with so many clothes that it was hard to move, I collimated the scope, aimed it at Sirius, turned the Telrad on. And nothing happened. Dead Telrad. I had tested it at home, so I could not believe it. I went to change the batteries and immediately found the problem: the black wire from the battery box was snapped off clean. And the contact was still on the wire, not on the box. Ducking into the car so I could take my gloves off, I figured out that the contact could be put between the retaining spring and the end of the battery, and the Telrad lit up! Since it would not stay, I duct-taped it in place, and it worked well the rest of the evening. Duct tape is the foundation of civilization!

Getting started, we bounced around to a few old standards like the Orion nebula, M41, the Beehive, and I don’t remember what else, since everything we saw was getting the same remarks: ‘Wow! look at that!!!’ So I pulled out my Herschel book and began running my observing list. The first few were open clusters (not my favorite objects!) but everything was so easy to find with all the field stars being so obvious. It was just point-and-shoot. Nice. Eventually, I went up to M81/82 (M82 is actually a Herschel object) to see how nice these would be. They were as bright as M31 usually is! M82 had a distinct dust lane, and M81 was quite large. There are two other satellite galaxies around these two that are also Herschel objects, so we studied those for a while. Mere wisps that would be hard to find under lesser skies. We also ran some of the Leo galaxies and also found them to be very easy and bright despite being only a few degrees above the horizon.

About this time we noticed Saturn, and went for that. It was low, so it was awkward with the dob, but it was worth it to see the rings for the first time this year. And I have to say that Saturn almost looks comical with the rings nearly shut down now, but looking like a thin line drawn at the wrong angle, some poorly-drawn cartoon done by someone who had never actually seen Saturn. It will be a sad sight until the rings come back, but it is worth seeing as an ‘event’ that we have to endure once in a while. It was too low to count moons, so that will have to wait until another night. I’m anxious to see Saturn’s moons line up like Jupiter’s though. That will be interesting.

We finally decided to take a break. Gene was finding the wind to be impossible, so he packed it in. Bruce suggested that we warm up in the ‘Burban, but Tom had such a warm hat on and pulled down over his ears that he didn’t hear us and stayed at his scope. Finally looking up, he thought he had been deserted, and eventually found us nice and cozy inside the truck. We estimated that it was below freezing even inside the ‘Burban, but that felt warm with no wind.

Back outside, I started playing with filters and looking for the Rosette. Never found it. However, there were some nice star clusters in Monoceros, so I bounced around to some of those. I also looked for Thor’s Helmet, usually an easy object, but didn’t find that. I think the cold was getting distracting, and the wind was simply awful. There were times when the scope would swing 20 degrees! And other times, trying to gain elevation, the wind would simply make the scope feel as if it was frozen to the base, and it took raw strength to move it. Not the best circumstances, believe me. Nonetheless, we studied the Orion Nebula with an O-III filter, my favorite combination for my favorite target with the big dob. As always, tendrils of nebulosity ran out of both sides of a degree and a half FOV, and the swirls of gas near the Trapezium were simply lovely. We next moved to M1, and viewed it with no filter (bright!!!) and we could see some details even then, with the O-III filter (too dark), an old Deep Sky filter (not enough detail), and a simple UHC, which brought out some excellent swirls and knots of darker material. Very sweet!

Next up was the Pleiades, and the nebulosity was nearly overwhelming. It looked as if someone had breathed on the ep. Merope glowed in its cloud. And brighter than usual, again because of our super darkness.

Now came the challenge object. We all agreed to save it for last. I brought out the Hb filter, my 23mm eyepiece (Paul and Pete know why). Looking toward Alnitak, I slowly panned downward. Nothing. Two more times. I kept getting a bright red star (red due to the filter) which I believe was 26816, the star with all the fluorescent molecular hydrogen. I kept seeing some faint and indistinct nebulosity, but nothing more. Again. And again. Pete’s words kept ringing in my ear “It’s big. Think bigâ€
Bob M
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Unread post by Bruce D »

I guess I should post this here:

It was a memorable night that's for sure. Tom found a great spot, no street lights, a couple of houses 200 yards away, and a very low horizon in all directions.

You may be right Steve, there was a considerable light dome in the direction of Hyannis, more than I expected at that distance and maybe it was because of the snow. Overhead and to the south were very dark, just the tiniest of glows from Nantucket Island. I think we all agreed that it was much darker than MSSF. The winter Milky Way went just about from horizon to horizon.

Thanks to Bob and his scope I saw several objects I've not seen before, including the Flame Nebula and the Horsehead which surprised me because it was much larger than I expected. A real treat!

As we were packing up the police stopped by, they had no problem with us being there and even told us of another spot they thought would be great for observing. Bob invited them to show up a bit earlier next time so they would have a chance to look through the scopes.

Gene had his big 10 inch dob which gave a spectacular view of the Beehive cluster although it was about an hour later that Bob hit on what that big fuzzy near Leo actually was.

Tom was doing some imaging and I'm not sure how he made out with the wind blowing. He had his TV which gave an awesome view of M42 which was situated in the very darkest part of the sky.

Bob's scope it goes without saying also gave a spectacular view of M42, and when he put a filter on it was like a picture from a book - the detail and variations in density that were visible were unbelievable. Of course the Horsehead topped off the night, that alone made the drive and the cold all worthwhile.

The combination of low temperatures and wind were a challenge, I can now say that Matt, Tom, Bob, and Gene deserve the Extreme Astronomy award!

I think the Chatham spot is a keeper!
Bruce D
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Dark Helmet
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Unread post by Dark Helmet »

Don't worry about jumpin' the gun Bob, I still have images to deal with.

Also, like to mention the Leo Triplet was real good last night in the 15"

Matt P.
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Joe B
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Unread post by Joe B »

Great reports guys.I talked to Matt for about 15min last night and could hear the excitement in his voice.The capturing of the Horse was a job well done.Cant wait to hear the stories at the next meeting.I can see Bob doing the lucky me dance in the parking lot..

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Unread post by James T Kirk »

Read your report Bob... WOW...seeing the Horse Head that's awesome.
I was planning on going, but the cold and wind forecast for the area I decided not to (squeak, squeak)

Paul had called me on Thursday night and told me that his scope had come back from Meade AGAIN for the third time and that he was dieing to fire it up.
So I ended up going to Paul Faria's house and Lou was also there.
So we went out to Paul's observatory at about 7:30pm and he turned on his LX200 the Autostar said "Finding Home" the three of us are looking at it and nothing happened :shock: , the scope wasn't moving in the RA.
So we shut down the scope and tried again, Autostar said "Finding Home"...NOTHING :roll: in RA but it does move in DEC. :?
By this time Paul is ready to throw the scope into the woods and burn down his observatory :evil: (at least we would have a little heat)
Paul said that he had talked to the tech at Meade and that his scope was now working fine and that he had heard the motors slewing over the phone, so what the #$&^% is going on, so we came to a conclusion that there must be a loose wire caused by shipping (UPS being so careful and all)so we strip the scope down and bring it in the house. As I put the scope upside down it looks ice crystals on the bottom of the base, Lou passes his finger over it and said that's not ice it looks like foam dust :? .

So I remove the bottom base plate and there's foam dust everywhere :roll: , so I blow out as much as I can, plug in the controller and power supply turn it on and now the DEC motor slews :D , put it all back together, bring it back to the observatory set it up ( mind you that there is a lot of ice on the deck and lots of snow on the way) power it up Autostar says "Finding Home" and and and... NOTHING again nothing.
You know where this is all going...back in the #%$%@ house, do the same thing, back out and nothing, burning down the observatory for heat sounds good about now.
Back in with scope in hand for the third time.
We all came to the conclusion that it's the static in the foam that is causing a short on the circuit board, Lou and I are taking the base plate off and Paul comes back with a compressor :wink: and we clean the hell out of the base (there was a lot of foam dust) and everything just like before works great, Lou and I put everything back together again (by this time I'm feeling like all the kings horse's and all the king's men) go back out , set it up, Autostar says "Finding Home" and and and and it WORK'S OMG... IT'S ALIVE!!!!
Paul had me do an alignment and the scope was working great, and I think Paul creamed his pants! :oops:
By this time it is now 11:30pm :roll:
Went to M42, M45, double cluster and then asked Paul to put in his Stellacam II, it was his first time using it so Lou read the directions and Paul hooked it up.
When they got it all powered up and in I went to Betelgeuse and worked on the focus and then went back to M42 and Paul played around with the gain and gamma and frame count and we were getting a pretty decent picture out there and yelling like a bunch of kids.
Went over to M35 and that was cool and then I said let go to the Horse head,didn't see anything other than stars, there will be a bit of a learning curve with that camera.

It's now getting really cold and late ( 1:00am) we pack up shut the roof and go inside for another cup of coffee.

Paul I'm glad that your scope is now working fine.
Manny M.
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Unread post by Bruce D »

Amen to that Manny, Paul has been through the wringer with that scope :!:
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Unread post by Mark G »

WOOT :!: WOOT :!: WOOT :!: Sad to say but it sure seems like one has to open up thier Meade scopes after it arrives back to make sure all is good.

So glad it's working Paul. TY Lou & Manny for keeping Paul calm and getting the GPS working. Good job folks!
Last edited by Mark G on Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by Dark Helmet »

What a trip this turned out to be. Despite the weather and wind, all who came a had a great time down on the beach in Chatham. Myself, Gene, Bob, Tom, and Bruce comprise the ASSNE contingent for this our first ASSNE Winter Field Trip.

For me, what should have been a 1 hour 15 minute ride down to the beach turned into a two hour odyssey as my GPS got Old Route 28 and the regular Route 28 ass backwards. Today a firm update to my Garmin hopefully solved this issue for good. I end up in downtown Chatham on Main Street looking at a cop who seem as confused as me, to see me doing a totally illegal u-turn in the rotary. Anyway, several phone calls to Tom and 45 minutes later, I was down at the beach with everybody else.

I arrived and was immediately struck at how dark the sky was, especially over Nantucket Sound. Hyannis and it's surrounding area was a huge light dome, much more than I expected, to the west. To the east over the Atlantic Ocean and National Sea Shore was dark, with the exception for the few lighthouses, light-stations, and the airport beacon light. Yes, Bob the small light dome to the south was Nantucket Island.

I setup my camera on a tripod, Gene had his 10â€
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Unread post by Galactus »

Congrats guys...between being laid up with walking pneumonia/asthma difficulties the last two weeks, I revel at your exploits and the horesehead accomplishment vicariously!

I wish I could have been there, have been cabin-fevered and trying to take the trash out to the back vinyl cans where we keep the till trash pickup night, just so I can sneak a peek at the lovely night skies--when they're clear--due to the searing cold, dry skies. Mom--at 75--practically tackles me when i try to do so.

Add to that longing is the lonliness I've been feeling as my laptop died last week (a charging issue). I am posting this using the club laptop which Pete lent me so I could get out some Press Releases on UMD and IYA2009 and ASSNE. I hope to be back up with a new laptop soon and get the old one repaired...I have missed you guys and these reports are all a joy and boon to my soul...thanks.
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Unread post by Pete »

The Horsehead! That must have been some dark site. I've only seen it that once, and don't figure that I'll ever do it again visually.

Saturday night was one of those dark transparent nights for sure. But the wind on the beach must have been intense. I thought of you as I sat protected in the dome - report to follow once I process a couple of the images.

Wonderful reports guys. Only the Horsehead would compensate for what you went through though. It's probably a once in a lifetime thing.

Pete P.