Hello again from the Sandhills. Here is the update for Monday night/Tuesday Morning:
It was another 105 degree day with windy conditions. The wind eventually died down right after sunset but there was a 10mph breeze still going which made the night quite comfortable. Our PAC group of about 9 people and 7 telescopes moved up out of the valley were in the previous night on the hope that the wind would keep the mosquitoes at bay which worked like a charm until the wind died out around 2am. The glow from the Aurora was pretty faint but still visible in the north and we were also able to spot bands of air glow from way up in the upper atmosphere. In the south there was a faint arc about 20 degrees up of the Zodiacal Light. We also had a few thunderstorms way off to the west that we could see the lightning from.
I worked on my Caldwell list again. It was a frustrating night trying to find some of the objects. I spent 20 minutes trying to find 3 or 4 objects only to not find them. I moved on to other ones to find. I was able to spot 10 more Caldwell’s which brings the total 25 for the three nights so far. By far the coolest object I looked at was a Galaxy in Cepheus called NGC 6946. It happens to be 22 million light years away and partially obscured by the milky way. It is also located next to an open cluster in the milky way. So you would think just by looking at it through the eyepiece that they are really close together but they are separated by 22 million light years. Pretty cool. We wrapped up around 230am when a bank of clouds moved in from the southwest and blocked a lot of the sky. The wind also picked up as well out of the west. Back to the hotel around 33oam.
The weather is hot again today with a light south breeze. We may not get any observing in tonight with a cool front moving in later this evening which should bring some rain and clouds and drop the temperature in to the mid 90’s instead of the 100’s. Hopefully the air will clear out and get 1 or 2 mores nights!
We spent the afternoon in the motel lounge getting our plans done and logging the past night’s viewing. Valentine had the distinction of being the hottest city in Ne again yesterday with highs reaching 106. Winds were 30-40 mph most of the day. Winds are suppose to cool you down, but it makes you wonder when steel mills blast air (winds) into their furnaces to help speed up the melting process. Brett Boller joined us and showed the Aurora photo series he captured on Sat night. He really got a great visual of the event.
After beef dinner at the field site, we began to “scope” out our observing location. Sunday night we set up in a valley behind a hill to get out of the winds. It was a great decision. Last night the high winds began to subside around 9 so we moved up to a middle ridge behind the hill. We lucked out again as the winds were 5-10 and enough to keep the misquitoes at bay. Around 2 am a front came through and the SE winds went quiet. While we were all respraying bug doupe the winds came back up from the W. a cloud bank came up from the west and we were mostly packing up by a little before three.
Observing was an improvement over the previous nights. The northern Aurora was more of a sky glow and stayed lower except for a few spikes. We had 7 scopes and two binocular observers in our group from Lincoln last night. At sunset the high clouds formed a beautiful fanfare of lights streaking clear across the sky. John Reinhert took some great photos of the sunset. This is the second night that we could get lightning flashes from the western horizon as storms went around us.
Again it was a long wait till the skies darkened around 10:45. Dave Knisely joined us with his 14″ Orion. Dave Hamilton had his 12″ Portaball. Lee Taylor set up his 9.25″ Nexstar. Jason’s 12.5″ Dan and I with out 12″ and Jim’s 10″ scope. Dave got all excited because he could see the Zodiac light band streaking from Virgo past Scorpius to the bottom of Sagitarrius. The zodiac light is the dust lanes from our solar system. Brett did a photo time lapse of the sky and picked up the air glow bands after sunset. These are particles in the upper atmosphere that are charged by the sunlight and then release the energy after sunset. The sequence of photos are really cool to see.
Each of us were viewing different parts of the sky and logging our observing lists. Between Caldwells, Herschels, Messiers, and then some IC objects. Dave helped me confirm a very faint planetary nebula using an O III filter. Then Dave put in the Cresent nebula in Cygnus. I was able to put it my scope and it looked like a potato shape with a lot of eyes. Nice object to view. Dave put in his 14″ the dumbbell using an O III with my 9 Nagler and could really see the filaments structures and almost a 3-D affect. Best view of the object that i have seen. NSP can really offer a chance to see details in these favorite objects.
The usually Messier suspects were also included in the night. In the pipe nebula in Ophiuchus shaped like a pipe or tomahawk I was able to actually see the individual stars. Looked like dense light specks like those plastic reed lights looking down from the ends. NGC 4754 is a pair a galaxies that are nestled each in a bed of 3 stars. The 3 galaxies in Pegasus also were a challenge to capture but we were all able to get them over the last couple of nights.
Best quote of the night: “Wow” “Cool” “Awesome” “Look at that detail” etc. etc. And a great one from Dave: “That object is an SOB”
Worst quotes: While in line for dinner a couple of guys were talking about the Aurora – “I can’t remember every seeing that much light glow from Valentine before” They must have missed the news for the past week.
Greatest revelation: Dave Knisely actually could not find an object. I really did not think it was possible. Dave, welcome to our world. Thanks.
Embarassing moment: after spending over 30 minutes trying to find a very dim 12.8 mag IC object for my Herschel log, being told that there are no IC objects in the Herschel list. Well…..maybe I was just trying to find a good challenge object. It is my new story and I’m sticking to it.
Have a great week wherever you are. Stay cool.