Finally some clear skies

Looks like fine observing weather tonight and tomorrow. The moon is just two days old and the skies are clear.

I need to find the time to put up maps to various observing sites, along with an easy way to announce when people are planning to be there.

I’m planning to go to the Boundary Bay observing site at the south end of 72nd street this evening at around 10:30pm. It would be nice to have company.

5 thoughts on “Finally some clear skies”

  1. It was indeed great to get out observing last night. I finally got my digital setting circles to work properly with the scope on my equatorial platform, so I was able to quickly find galaxy after galaxy. The sky at Boundary Bay got progressively softer as the evening went on, so the contrast wasn’t great and there wasn’t much detail, but the first sighting of an object is still exciting even when it’s fuzzy. Old favourites like the globular clusters M13 and M3 were spectacular, and the ring nebula was pretty good although I once again failed to see the central star which should just be visible in my 15″ scope under good conditions. The dew put an end to my observing around 1am. By then the fog was rolling in waves off the marsh onto the observing site and my books, eyepieces and the shroud of my scope were coated with a thin layer of water. One intrepid soul was still imaging as I drove away.

    I will definitely be observing again tonight. I’m tempted to go to Hope Slide; we’ll see whether I’m still that ambitious come evening.

  2. I did go to Hope Slide last night, after all. What a night!

    I left Vancouver just before 8pm, the streets eerily quiet as everyone else was watching the overtime period of the second game of the Stanley Cup final. I got to Hope Slide about 9:30. By the time I had finished setting up the scope, it was dark enough that I could see Polaris to align my equatorial platform. I took occasional looks at Saturn as I waited for full dark and for the scope to cool. Seeing was bad. Bright stars were big, fuzzy, roiling balls when viewed through the scope. Saturn’s ring was doing the Wave as the planet bounced back and forth in the eyepiece. Porrima was its partner; the two were only 16 arc seconds apart last night and fit easily within the field of my eyepiece.

    The slide is at the north end of a valley that runs roughly NNW to SSE. Saturn and Porrima were just above the ridge of the mountain to the southwest. The wind was fairly strong in the valley and probably much stronger above the ridge, which no doubt exaggerated the usual twilight air turbulence. I certainly could not make out the Cassini division, which I had just been able to do from Boundary Bay.

    Viewing galaxies was another matter entirely. A bit of turbulence doesn’t much disturb the view of something that’s fuzzy to begin with and the skies at Hope Slide were _much_ darker than at Boundary Bay. I could see galaxies in the Virgo Cluster by 10:30pm, well before the end of astronomical twilight at around midnight. The views just got better from there.

    Markarian’s chain was a delight. I saw for the first time why “The Eyes” have that name as we engaged in a staring contest through the eyepiece. I blinked first. The view wasn’t quite like the recent APOD photo, but it was still spectacular. M84 made a nice equilateral triangle with M86 and NGC4388, with NCG4377 clearly visible right in the centre of the triangle. I don’t remember whether I noticed IC3303 along one edge of the triangle. Galaxy after galaxy came into clear view as I made a sweep through the area. Sometimes I thought I could make out a dust lane.

    After admiring the area for awhile, I used the digital setting circles to quickly hop to nearby Messier objects. When I got to M64, the dark arc of the “black eye” was obvious. Wandering further afield, the arms of M100 were clearly outlined. M51, the Whirlpool, had nice structure with the tail toward its companion showing as a faint arc. I thought I could make out dust lanes in M82, but I was probably fooling myself; the view was very fuzzy.

    I goofed up the alignment of the digital setting circles the second time I reset my tracking platform. I was getting tired by that point, so instead of realigning I decided to just visit some old friends. M57, the Ring Nebula, had climbed high in the sky. Though it was as lovely as ever, I still couldn’t make out the central star, which was no real surprise given that the air was still quite turbulent. Likely a side effect of the very short summer nights. I paid quick visits to the globulars M13, M3 and M71, with a side trip to the the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) since I was in the neighbourhood after M71. M27 looked a lot like this picture, except without the colour and the finer details. It appeared more like a milky eye than a dumbbell.

    I moved from the Dumbbell to the Lagoon and Trifid nebulas, which had risen well above the horizon. For some reason, I couldn’t find the Swan and the Eagle nebulas. By then it was 2am and the sky was starting to brighten to the northeast. I decided to pack up and go home, putting an end to a very satisfying night.

  3. Thanks very much for the reports. They encourage me to try the Hope Slide site.
    I’d be interested to know what kind of scope you were using.

  4. If the weather clears this weekend as predicted, there will be a couple of us going to Campbell Valley Park on Saturday July 2nd. We went out last Saturday and got lucky with the clouds.
    E-mail me at [email protected] if anyone is interested.
    And keep your fingers crossed.


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