AOMO Log: July 29, 2011

Members: Leigh, Rohit, Oleg
Arrive: 10:00 pm
Temp: 15 C
Weather clear and dry.
Our night was delayed by the condition of the road for 200 metres above the second gate.  The roadway was extreme washboard with a soft texture that gave very poor traction.  Rohit was unable to make it through with his car so I backed back down the road to shuttle him and his equipment the rest of the way to the observatory.  On the second trip up  I had to shift the Tracker into 4 wheel drive as the roadway was getting worse with each passing.  While loading Rohit’s gear, Oleg showed up as well.  He decided to use the Tracker shuttle service as well.  Once past the soft spot, travel was more normal for the forestry road.
The first thing I noticed upon arival was the beautiful display of forest spring flowers all over the place.  The undergrowth nearby had gone nuts since the last time I was up to the observatory.  Another item to add to the work list.
The mosquitoes were happy to see us again, however they didn’t seem to have the same willingness to press the attack as usual.  Just a small amount of deet (carefully applied) sufficed to ward them off.
Rohit set up his 12″ dob on the pad and Oleg set up his equipment right next to him.  Oleg was setting up to do imaging.  He used a Equinox 80 mounted on an iOptron Cube mount.  During the night Oleg imaged M31 Andromeda Galaxy, M76 Little Dumbbell Nebula and NGC7331 Stephan’s Quintet.   Oleg imaged with a Canon 350D unmodified camera.  You can view his images at the following website:
Rohit continued his Messier hunt and was successful in finding M39 for the first time.  His list grows.  Rohit also set up my binos on my camera tripod as well.  I got a very nice view of M31 on this moonless night.  I was able to see aproximatly 1/2 of the disc on each side of the centre core.  Not bad for an urban setting.
While locating M31 I was fortunate to observe a really beautiful meteor streak south to north from Pegasus through Andomeda, then cutting the “W” of Cassiopeia in half and finally trailling off in Camelopardalis.  It was a real “sparkler” just like kids used to get at birthday parties when I was young enough to still look forward to them.  It had a slight orange appearance and left a “smoke” trail that persisted for several seconds after the meteor sputtered out.  That was the best I have seen in a long time.
I spent the rest of my night in the dome trying to obtain better focus with the camera.  I had some progress.  Practice will improve my abilities I hope.  The problem has also been this year that the weather has greatly limited our practice time with the equipment.  I spend far too much time re-learning what should come natural by now.
I was later joined by Rohit and Oleg in the dome.  We took off the camera and did some hunting with one of Oleg’s eyepieces.  We got a real nice view of M57.  I could definitely make out a greeny blue colour in the ring.  We also tried to split the “double double” in Lyra.  We are pretty sure that we split one of them, but I only split the other with my imaginary vision.  We also slewed to M2 and M4 to view these pretty little glogular clusters.  We also hunted down Neptune.  It was a tiny blue dot that didn’t sparkle at all.  Otherwise I think I would have had a hard time being certain we had found it.
By 2 o’clock our feet were starting to get cold and tired as we had all worked all day leading up to our night.  We decided to pack it in.
I once again shuttled Rohit and Oleg to their cars before departing for the night.  With one last look at our beautiful dark sky in the forest (Jupiter was just sneaking from behind the trees), I was off for home.  It was again nice to have the roadway lined by pretty forest spring flowers alluminated by my headlights as I drove down out of the forest.
Departed: 2:30 am
Temp: 13C
Darkness meter: n/a Could see hint of Milky Way.