STARGAZING SESSION IN CALIRAYA , LAGUNA
November 13-14, 2004
Text and Images by James Kevin Ty
Last November 13, ALPers that include James Kevin Ty, Allen Yu, Jett Aguilar, Orly Andico and his girlfriend Lalai, Dante Cruz, Jhun Embuido, Mac Libid, Henry So, Lea Visaya, Jon and Ellen Alcartado together with their 2 children went to Caliraya , Laguna to spend some good quality imaging and observation time under dark skies.
They meet at Shell Magallanes at around 2pm to make a convoy to the site. On the other hand, Jett's group which composed of Jett, Mac, Dante, Henry and Lea were to meet at Shell Alabang as they were coming from the Katipunan via C5.
As they were waiting for James' group to meet with them later, they decided to go straight to the site a little earlier to avoid traffic jam that is expected around 3:30pm onwards.
James' group which consist of Allen, Orly and Lalai, Jon Alcartado's family and James departed at around 3:30pm. They arrived at the site at around 7pm, half an hour later from Jett's arrival on the site.
After a heartful delicious dinner, the group rest a while and started to setup their stuff at around 9:00pm. They were blessed with a very good sky that time as stars at the zenith reached about mag 6, a testament of the good quality of sky at the site under good weather condition. As they were setting up their scopes , everyone was excited to what objects they were planning to start with. James brought along his trusty 4" f/ 5.4 TV-101 apochromat refractor on GP-DX mount with SS2000 ; Allen brought along his monster 10" f/ 5.6 truss dobsonian reflector together with his 80mm f/7 Orion ED refractor on EQ-3 mount and 6" f/ 8 dobsonian reflector; Jett with his new toy , an 8" f/ 10 Celestron C8 on GP-DX mount with SS2000; Henry So with his new toy also, a Nexstar 130GT; Mac brought his ETX-70 refractor while Orly brought also a big light bucket , a 10" f 5 dobsonian reflector. The others brought along their 10x50 binoculars.
As they were setting up, James and Jett had a hard time setting up their mounts because they were planning to have a long night of imaging, polar alignment is a must so they had to go through a hard time playing hide and seek with Polaris though the clouds and trees (the sky was clear but only at Polaris area in the north had some clouds.) Is this a case astro jinx of having new toys during a stargazing session :) LOL Also, the ground was a bit soft due to occasional light rain that fell maybe in the afternoon before they arrived at the site. Luckily, Jett brought along his canvas matting to share with James to lay their numerous gadgets against the muddy ground.
When Allen was all setup, he first pointed his 10" dob to the magnificent Orion Nebula. With his Panoptic 22mm at 64x and around 1 degree field, the entire nebula filled up his scope's field of view with numerous tendrils of nebulosity as well as showing a sparkling Trapezium inside it. Orly moved from his scope to Allen's scope to compare the views of his 10" against Allen's and compare notes. Orly also had a good talk with Allen on his telescope design as both of them use truss designs to lighten their scope's weight. Orly says that he needs to improve more on his scope design to make it more smoother and after giving Allen's scope a well inspected check, he knows what to remedy when he returns home.
Henry and Mac, on the other hand, were playing around with their goto scopes and had a great time casually viewing from one object to another. They were joined by Jhun Embuido, Dante Cruz, Lea Visaya and Jon Alcartado and his family. Some of the objects they observed were Double cluster in Cassiopeia, Orion Nebula, Beehive cluster, Andromeda galaxy and its companion galaxies, Pleiades star cluster, etc.
Allen also observed with some spiral arm details on M31, Andromeda Galaxy as well as the faint M33 Pinwheel Galaxy in Triangulum (its bright magnitude estimates found in astro books can deceived you as this galaxy is huge so its brightness is scattered thus making this object a bit harder to see than with a pair of binoculars.)
At around 11pm, it was Comet 2004 Q2 Machholz turn to be viewed upon by ALPers. With Allen's scope, the comet shows a dim mag 7 small fuzzy smudge with a short faint tail that is less than 1 degree long. James' image shows it likewise with a short tail but with a greenish nucleus.
James and Jett finally was able to get a fairly ok alignment as they had to rely on a 3 star alignment to make the tracking ok. James, on the other hand, had to wait for a while to check the drifting if it is tolerable for him to track it, although he was able to get a bit close to a good alignment, result of his images with his Canon 300D digital camera at prime focus of his TV-101 refractor were a bit ok than he expected but not that perfect though :( Among the objects he imaged were Orion Nebula, Pleiades star cluster, NGC 2024/ B33 (Flame Nebula/Horsehead Nebula), Comets 2004 Q2 Machholz & 2003 K4 Linear, Leo Galaxy Triplet (M65 / M66 / NGC 3628), Ursa Major Galaxy Duo (M81 / M82) as well as M51 Whirpool Galaxy.
Jett was able to observed also Andromeda Galaxy , Comet 2004 Q2 Machholz, Pleiades, Orion Nebula , M65, as well as planet Saturn. He also attempted to image with both his Olympus C5050 compact digital camera as well as his newly bought Canon 300D digital camera. His first time attempt at prime focus imaging with his C8/300D leaves a good taste for him to neglect his Olympus compact digital camera for DSO astrophotography :) Jett also setup his Philips Toucam to try imaging Saturn with his C8, but he say seeing was not that great but will know if the results will be ok later after he processed his stack images of Saturn with Registax.
At around 4:00 am, most of the scopes have turned to Comet 2003 K4 Linear, but this comet had significantly dimmed from its predicted brightness of mag 5.2 . Instead, it shined at around mag 7 with also a greenish mottling nucleus with central condensation from the image James took of this comet. It also display a faint anti-tail (?) as well as a short tail like Comet 2004 Q2 Machholz which they observed earlier.
In the east horizon, Jupiter was fast rising up and some ALPers took the opportunity to take a view of the gas giant. Orly was first to point his scope to Jupiter and was surprised to see 5 moons instead of the normal 4 Gallilean satellites that all of us had accustomed. Later checked confirmed that it was a mag 8 star Hipparcos 61791 that was lined up beside Callisto :) LOL Nevertheless, it was a funny way to wake up the already tired observers of the night :) Some of the members also point their scopes to Venus which shines at around mag -4 that time and shows a gibbous phase.
At around 5:00am, everybody started to dismantle their scopes. Before they fully packed up their stuff to their car, they posed for a posterity group shot with a happy satisfied heart that they were able to have a good stargazing session that have eluded them since the month of June :) LOL
After having early breakfast of either corned beef or tocino with eggs with a hot cup of either Milo or coffee, some of them take some time off to sleep, take a shower and go home later with a happy heart :)
Personal accounts of the Caliraya trip from other ALPers:
For more activity images, click here.
Astrophotos / sketches taken by ALPers at Caliraya , Laguna , click here.
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©2003, 2004 Astronomical League of the Philippines Inc.