ALP CALIRAYA STARGAZING REPORT
March 12-13, 2005
Text and Images by James Kevin Ty
Last March 12, ALPers James Kevin Ty, Jett Aguilar and Jhun Embuido meet at Shell Alabang at around 5:00pm and en route to their scheduled stargazing session at Caliraya , Laguna. They arrived at their destination at around 7:30pm. Initial weather analysis by fellow ALPer Dante Cruz based on the weather outlook near Lumot, Laguna suggested that it will be a bad night to proceed. But James, who based his experience on the numerous Caliraya observing session he had with Allen & Co., decided to pushed through the session and indeed his weather estimate was a bit correct as when the group arrived at the site, the sky was clear!
The group then had a short dinner at the canteen before they setting up their telescopes at the desired site. Allen had text James that he is already near Pansanjan already so is about 30 minutes away from meeting the group. Allen wasn't able to join the convoy earlier because he had a scheduled Wushu competition in the afternoon. But Allen's perseverance and desire to observe made him decide to join the group nevertheless.
At around 9:00pm, they started to set up their astro stuff. James brought along his trusty TV-101 refractor on Vixen GP-D mount; Jett brought his Celestron C8 on Vixen GP-D mount ; Allen brought his big gun, a 10" dobsonian while Jhun Embuido casually brought along his ever reliable 10x50 binoculars. After less than 30 minutes of setting up, all of them were ready to start observing and imaging the night sky.
James started his imaging session by observing the now neglected C/2004 Q2 Machholz which is located a few degrees away from Polaris . The comet was still bright at mag 6 and still show a greenish nucleus and a short stubby tail in his acquired image.
Jett, on the other hand, was busy focusing and composing his planned image of M101 Pinwheel Galaxy in Ursa Major. He was able to acquire several 2 minutes images for stacking later. Over at Allen's corner, he was trying to test out his newly bought Lumicon H-Beta filter on trying to get a glimpse of the very faint B33, the Horsehead Nebula, a reflection dark nebula near the star Alnilam in the constellation of Orion. Since Orion was already low in the western horizon, the light glow of nearby town of Lumban hampered his chance to see it :( Better luck next time Allen! Afterwards, Allen turn his scope to the beautiful M51, the Whirpool Galaxy. Jhun Embuido as well as some of the resort staff were lining up to get a view of it. Careful inspection of M51 shows 2 separate cores that seems to be connected by a large spiral arm. Although the resort staff members were not impressed unlike us avid DSO afficionados, who are impressed with faint fuzzies :) LOL To let the staffs have a good memory of a good celestial object, Allen pointed the scope to the giant planet Jupiter and finally one can hear some positive response when they looked though the Jovian planet :)
After imaging Comet Machholz, James slew his scope to the popular M44, the Beehive star cluster in Cancer and image it as well. The galactic star cluster was easily visible to the naked eye and Jhun was impressed with it using his 10x50 binoculars. Among the images he was able to acquire that night were the Virgo realm of Galaxies, and Omega Centauri and M51.
As James was imaging Omega Centauri, Allen and Jhun were silently observing the globular cluster with Allen's 10" dobsonian. At low power, the globular cluster was already resolve to the core. James then walked over toward them and also take a peek at Omega Centauri. He then suggested to Allen to increase the magnification with a moderate power eyepiece to resolve the cluster even more. With his 12mm Ultima eyepiece at 116x, the globular almost pop out of the eyepiece as the whole field is literally almost filled with stars and that really knock Jhun's socks off :) LOL
Then, the group finally feel the heavy dewing as most of their scopes were already wet. Jett's C8 with retractable dew cap offers little help to stop the dew from forming into his scope's corrector :( James likewise had both his main scope and guidescope soaked in dew as well but James came prepared to this scenario as he brought along his dew heaters for both scope and it still took more than 20 minutes before the heater remove all the dew off his scope's optics. But at that time, a thin haze started to cover the dark sky and later clouded out the sky at around 1:00am. After waiting for a while for the sky to open up, sleepiness has overcome both Allen and Jhun that they called it a night and went to the rented room to sleep :(
Only James and Jett were left out in the field as they waited patiently fort he sky to clear up. While waiting, they used that opportunity to also have a coffee break brought along by Jett and they trade imaging techniques over a cup of coffee :)
At around 3:00am, sky started to clear again and Jett started to aim his cope at M81/M82 galaxy duo in Ursa Major, the image was not that impressive as there was still some thin haze that is dimming the field of view of his camera :(
James was waiting for Comet 2003 T4 Linear to rise at around 3:30am and it took him almost 45 minutes to recover this comet. Estimated magnitude was supposed to be mag 6, but based on Jame's observation and images, he estimated the comet to be fainter than expected :( The comet was showing at a feeble brightness of around mag 8~8.5. Nevertheless, he was very happy to recover this comet and add it to his long list of comets observed by him over the years.
At around 5:00am, Jett and James finally called it a night (or is it day? :) LOL ) and start to pack up their scopes. They then had quick breakfast with Allen and Jhun then had a short sleep before returning to Manila at around 11:00am.
They will be returning again to Caliraya on April 9-10 for another great observing and imaging session :)
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