Observing notes from the evening of Sunday, July 27, 2003

This observing session started out with less than optimal expectations. The skies just weren't clearing up like I wanted. On my drive out to the Big Woods observing site at Jordan Lake, thick clouds hung on some of the horizons. In fact, there was a thunderstorm brewing to the south, that would occasionally light up the sky with lightning. Combine that with the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, I almost decided to cancel this trip before it began.

I've titled these notes as "Sweatshop" because that's what it felt like I was in. Although my study of astronomy is a labor of love, I was surprised at how irritated I became at the sweat dripping from my brow and down the back of my neck. Swatting at the hungry mosquitoes, that apparently weren't repelled by my insect repellent, I setup my 8" SCT scope at a leisurely pace. In addition to the heat slowing me down, I wasn't too sure of the skies since a few bands of clouds made their way over the observing crowd. I didn't want to be in a big hurry to setup if I just had to take it down soon after. There were quite a few other club members on hand, so there was optimism if nothing else. I guess even a so-so clear night is still pretty good considering how dismal the summer has been so far. And my bad luck didn't venture too far way from me since I was greeted by a failed battery when I tried to power up my scope. Luckily I had enough cables to reach the 12volt power of my car.

I decided to once again take a shot at the Herschel II list of objects. I was more selective tonight, choosing only those that were high enough, and bright enough to be seen in my scope. I still only managed to observe a handful, but something is better than nothing. And of course the best thing was being surrounded by fellow astronomers.

Despite the failed battery and less than perfect skies, the biggest disappointed of the night was the performance of my scope. I compared views through my scope with the views through Jeff McAdam's relatively new Celestron 8" SCT. His views were noticeably brighter. The only difference other than the optical tube was the reducer/corrector lens used. I even used his eyepiece. Inspection of the corrector plates showed his to be nice and clean and mine to be quite dirty. I'm really hoping that is what the problem is because the difference was great enough that I would consider getting another telescope. We'll have to do another comparison next time the scopes are setup together, and the optics have been cleaned.

Listed below are the few Herschel II objects I managed to view:

NGC5813. Galaxy in Virgo. Small, dim, roundish. Framed by stars to east and west. Brighter core, seems south of the center.

NGC5831. Galaxy in Virgo. Very faint. Barely can see it. Bright core. Small, roundish.

NGC5850. Galaxy in Virgo. Oval shape. Relatively bright compared to previous. Pin-prick core with averted vision.

NGC5838. Galaxy in Virgo. Small, medium brightness. Oval, saucer shape. Bright core.

NGC6507. Open cluster in Sagittarius. Small, dim members. Star to west that is a marker. Shows up nicely with some power. Boxy shape.

NGC6717. Globular cluster in Sagittarius. Just to south of bright star, orange star. Oval, roundish fuzzy spot. Gradually brighter core. Hints at resolution.

Mars. Bright and lots of detail, despite unstable skies and being kind of low. The southern polar cap stands out. Dark markings are strewn about the planet, easily visible since Mars is now very close and bright.

Jeffrey L. Polston

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