STARGAZING SESSION IN CALIRAYA , LAGUNA
April 9-10, 2005
by James Kevin Ty
Last April 9th, ALP once again had an out of town stargazing session slated at Hilltop Resort at Caliraya, Laguna. The site has been considered already the ALP's official observing site with its numerous sessions already staged there way back since 2003 :) Team ALPha which consist of James Kevin Ty, Allen Yu, Joel Munoz, Jun Lao , Orly Andico and Lalai Tagaan, Dante Cruz and John Lawrence Uy were to meet at Shell Magallanes at 1pm. Team Beta which consist of Jett Aguilar, Mac Libid, Raymund Sarmiento made their meeting place at Shell Alabang.
At around 2pm, team ALPha were still waiting for John Lawrence and Dante and James got a call from John Law that upon fetching Dante, his car's battery went kaput and wont start! James then reco him to just call Motolite Fast Delivery so that a new battery was quickly delivered to their place. But since they were still at QC area, John Law inform James that they will instead make a rendezvous with the group at Shell Alabang as they will be closer there than from Magallanes.
Without further ado, the group depart at around 2:30pm to meet with Team Beta at Shell Alabang. After the entire team members were complete, they then start their trip with a 7 car convoy and they arrive at the site roughly around 6:30pm.
After a long trip, everyone were hungry like a wolf and they started to order their dinner asap so that they can start setting up early in the evening. As they were waiting for their dinner, the group had a great time chatting and discussing their plans for the evening..... James and Jett, as usual will be imaging the DSOs with James adding Pallas to his list to be imaged. Pallas will be located near the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and with him imaging that area last March's session there, the "said starry object" will be the "odd one" out among the numerous stars and galaxies that is in the field of view of his imaging field :) Allen, on the other hand, will be trying to pinpoint the farthest planet of our solar system, Pluto with his 10" dobsonian reflector. Also in his list is the bright quasar (around mag 12+ ) 3C273 that he hope to pin down, sketched and added to his long list of DSO sketches he had done over the years. Raymund will be testing his 10" Newtonian atop his newly bought Atlas Heavy Duty Mount! Boy, the group were praying that his new toy will not bring clouds to the site :) LOL He will also be imaging the planets Jupiter and Saturn with his webcam as well as try to hunt down DSOs which are difficult to observe under the light polluted city skies.
The rest of the group plan to just casually observe and hunt down old and new DSO faces under the dark skies of Caliraya. The group brought along a vast arsenal of astro weapons to deal with the dark Caliraya sky! James brought along his ever trusty TV-101 refractor on GP-D mount; Jett with his C8 on GP-D mount as well as his Stellarvue AT1010 refractor on TV Telepod mount which he will lend to Dante Cruz to use that night ; Joel Munoz brought his 8" f/6 Truss Dobsonian reflector ; Allen with his 10" f/ 5.6 Truss Dobsonian ; Orly with his 10" truss type dobsonian with his built in "Cheat Mode" Setting Circles a.k.a. Poor Man's digital setting circle ; Mac with his ETX-70 GOTO refractor ; John Lawrence with his C8 on CG-5 mount and lastly last but not the least Raymund's 10" Hardin Newtonian on Atlas mount.
After setting up their scopes, the group started to do their stuffs. After a while, members of the group were surprised by a sudden surge of green laser beaming up to the sky! It was Raymund who has installed a green laser pointer atop his 10" scope to help him point to his desired object! James and Jett were quick to inform him to shot out to the group if he is pointing again his green laser to the sky to the laughter of the group. Reason was that both James and Jett were practically imaging the whole night and an accidental strobe of laser beam beaming across their imaging target will ruin their shot! :) LOL
After a series of astro shots, James stood up and roam around the group to see what they were doing. Under a dark sky, it was a bit difficult to walk around without a red light turned on (hey its forbidden to open a white light unless one inform the group that he or she is planning to. SOP for astronomers :) LOL As he walk toward a dim area, there was a dark silhouette beside a big scope and when his red head lamp shined near it, he thought it was a Egyptian Pharaoh observing with the group. and it turns out to be our very own Tutank-Allen (Tutankhamen.. did I spell it correctly? :) LOL ) . Allen was using a towel to cover up his view at the eyepiece and when he lift his face with the towel, he resemble a Pharaoh and James was able to snapped a candid shot of him in real time.... Check out his pic, am I right?
Going over to Joel's area, he saw him casually taking his time to observe the Scorpius and Sagittarius region and visiting old friends such as Lagoon, nearby globular clusters, and nebula as well. Over to Orly's side, he showed James his home made digital setting circle which he needs to use a calculator to compute for the alt-azimuth coordinates for a certain object. He said most of of his targets were within the field of view of his low power eyepiece. Talk about ingenuity and creativity. Although this type of method is already been used a long time ago, but it was the first time that James was able to see it locally being used. Nice work Orly!
Allen then later told Jun that the only problem here at Caliraya was the western glow that comes from Lumban area. Later analysis by Jun correct the group perception on the glow. Jun Lao said it was Zodiacal Light that we were seeing and not light pollution! He drew a startling theory after he traced the shape of the glow slanting to the left. And notes that it lies in the path of the ecliptic, which can only led to an educated guess....the Zodiacal Light! It caught all by surprise as it really resembled a glow from the city, but such a glow could hardly be slanting. Allen said that he might be discounting the possibility of seeing the gegenschein in the future too, if the zodiacal light has been this easy here at the site :)
Over at Raymund's scope, he can see him aligning his 10" scope to the field of view of his webcam. Raymund was trying to image Jupiter with his scope and later processing thus reveal a promising Jupiter with lots of details on Jupiter's equatorial belt region. He also was able to image the ringed planet Saturn also that night. A little more practice and he might give Jett and Chris a run for the money on quality of his planetary imaging :) As for his mount, he was very satisfied with it as it handles his huge scope very well to his liking.
James, on the other hand also tried imaging once again M83, the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy in Hydra. His image shows a good face on spiral galaxy that is almost a look-alike of the original Pinwheel Galaxy M33 in Triangulum but at a smaller scale when compared to M33.
Later, Allen called James' attention to look at his scope. He finally got Pluto after all these years! :) James then slewed his scope toward that area and since his scope is a 4" which normally can reach max to up mag 12 at dark skies. Allen then inspect also its field and indeed it was not there thus confirmed his observation of Pluto. James then imaged that field for later comparison with his sketch and also confirmed its presence on the same sketch as that of Allen's :) Congrats Allen for a job well done!
As for Jett, he had already image Sombrero Galaxy, M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy earlier and was trying to image Omega Centauri, NGC 5139 in Centaurus. When his initial image came out from his test shot, he was overjoyed to see the globular cluster sprinkle his field of view with thousand of small shining gems of stars! He said now he knows why James haven't changed the Omega Centauri image there at the philastro-forum mailing list! :) LOL
The real problem in observing in good dark transparent skies is the ever presence of the pesky DEW PROBLEM. During the course of the night, all scopes some be it either finderscope or main scope has dew covered all over it! Fortunately for James, he had learned his lessons early ahead from the group members bec of his many trips to this site has equipped his scope and guidescope with dew heaters so he didn't had that problem the whole night out. Just how bad the dew at Caliraya? When dew already covered his scope before, it still needs more than 30 minutes at max setting of his dew heater to remove all the dew in the optics! He also had experience how fast dew can cover his camera lens! In less than 2 minutes, dew will start at the center of the lens thus making his refractor or camera lens into a Maksutov look-alike :) LOL . Takes less than 5 minutes for dew to cover up the entire camera lens! Jett had to learn the heard way as he was slowed down by the constant dewing on his corrector lens as well as camera lens! He tried to wipe the dew off with a lens cloth but in less than 2 minutes, it came back to cover the lens again with a vengeance! :) Actually, James had earlier inform group members of the dew problem at the site but most of them ignore his warnings and thus had to suffer the fate! :) LOL Maybe next time around, James expect most of the Caliraya guys will either buy or make their own dew heaters to combat the dreaded DEW PROBLEM.
At around 2:00am, Scorpius was already high in the sky with Sagittarius slowly rising up as well thus the full glory of the Milky Way was displayed to the delight of the group. One can see the main Sagittarius Star Cloud as the prominent Milky Way area and it spread sideways, one from Sagittarius to Scorpius area while the other area spreads from Sagittarius toward the Cygnus area. It was a sight to behold!
MILKY WAY - SCORPIUS / SAGITTARIUS REGION
MILKY WAY - CYGNUS / AQUILA REGION
A little later, scattered clouds passed through the dark sky and they had to wait for almost 1.5 hrs before it becomes clear again. James then try to image the Veil Nebula , NGC 6992. Although still low in the eastern horizon, his initial processed image gives him some encouragement to try again next month when it will be in a more favorable position high in the eastern horizon. After some more observations and imaging, the group called it a day at around 4:30am and started to dismantle their scopes. A little later, they paused for a group shot beside the bridge then head straight to the food table at the canteen for an early breakfast. James, Jett, and Mac got a good short sleep after breakfast before heading home. The rest of the group left after having breakfast.
All of them are looking forward to the May 7 Caliraya session for another wonderful and exciting stargazing again!!!
Below are the complete unedited personal observational reports of the following members:
For Comments firstname.lastname@example.org
©2003, 2004, 2005 Astronomical League of the Philippines Inc.