STARGAZING SESSION IN CALIRAYA , LAGUNA
April 9-10, 2005
by Allen Yu
Again, we are in Caliraya, Laguna for the nth time since some of us here at ALP launched our aggressive campaign in collecting or recording quality photons of the sky. Today, we started a lot healthier than our previous engagements, since arriving at an earlier time of 6pm or just the start of civil twilight, there is plenty of room for small chats, food intake and not to mention rest.
Jun Lao is with us, who continues to share something new, and bet how new it is! Later I shall tell you how he spiced up my night. Also with us, Jett, with his ever-expanding astrophoto equipment, Raymund Sarmiento with his newly acquired and really huge (boy, have I is seen any mount this beefy! Before, all I saw was porky ) Atlas mount from Orion, ridden by a gigantic tube, a 10 inch Hardin, and now a ladder (ALPers now scaling the heights, first time for me to use a ladder to view something through a telescope ). To top it all, he used a green laser pointer to aim at celestial targets, something which drew lots of cheers and jeers from fellow ALPers. Visual observers love the pointer, astro imagers cursed it! Hahahaha and now posed a ban for its use. Poor Raymund and Allen! We will have to wait for Starswars 3 for us to be able to use again our light sabers! (hmmm, which gives me an idea to use it inside the movie house while Starwars is being shown.)
Mac Libid made a comeback, claimed his ordered eyepiece set from Meade. Orly Andico and Lalai checked in with their scopes equipped with setting circles, will be using the pocket computer to crunch the numbers, transforming R.A. and Dec. to alt-azimuth reading. Congratulations Orly, if you have been successful with it, I once attempted it using the old BASIC program inputted to a calculator, but Vega has been way out of bounds! Hehehe. John Law, also in a rare appearance, checked his tempo for another whole night observation.
Joel Munoz, still without a light shroud nor a cover for his upper cage of his truss dob, tsk tsk, I see he shall retire early tonight because a frustrated battle with dew is about to come. Hehehehe and lastly but not the least, El Capo del ALP, James Kevin Ty has in mind a list including Pallas in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. So much plans, so much ambitions, we hope for a better sky while we ate dinner, as the sky has been hazed on our way up there.
I am blessed to have my first view of M82 in higher power, at 140x where it was really large in the eyepiece, but a bit dimmer. Playing with my averted vision, I realized my strength above and below my direct vision, hence I extracted the split almost half of the spindle island universe some 10 million light years away. Also a concentration of light, which appears stellar to me at times, pressed its way towards the split. I sensed some unusual activity here, astronomers have always noted it¡¦s a star-burst galaxy, one exhibiting really exciting activity. Roger Clark has been successful, as of now, and I confirmed his theory that higher magnification will be easier to the eye, as the eye pleasures itself in seeing bigger objects, albeit fainter.
Not far, or in the same field of view at low power, is M81. I know this galaxy is considerably larger than M82, but here only the core and the oval presented itself. No spiral arm, and that¡¦s not what O'Meara has wanted to see. O'Meara's The Messier Objects compares his effort of using a 4" Genesis refractor to an observer using a 10", so I am not an exception. I expect to what he sees. Also viewed at high power of 140x, I matched my observation with that of Roger Clark's where the sketch, was also conservative. Little did I know I am headed in the wrong direction, as I will share with you later.
M51, the Whirlpool galaxy is in sorry state, much a pity than what I achieved last month. Haze is now a problem, as it erased galaxies with interesting details. M83 is a blob, no bars nor spiral arms which adorned my memory way back 1999 in the Petroglyph site in Angono. NGC 4565 turned out simply wonderful in Roger Clark's sketch, and I thought too, it was a wonderful galaxy. I attempted it, but I'm finally convinced. This is not a night for galaxies.
I expanded my reach of the observable universe to 2 billion light years when I attempted the nearest quasar 3C 273, and I was successful after 15 minute of search. Dew is a major problem, I kept wiping my telrad and amici prism finder, and I have to switch my eyepieces even after only 5 minutes of seach. The quasar was attempted because I have initial problems of starhopping to the Virgo cluster of galaxies, where no bright stars abound. 3C 273 was easier due to its proximity to Eta Virginis. Sez here that it was mag. 13. It has a companion or two of about 14 or 15 magnitudes, which was shown in the atlas, but failed to show up in the eyepiece. Anyway, it was enough to correctly identify it. Jun Lao confirmed my claim.
I have in mind Pluto, as success in 3C 273 boosted my confidence to go deeper, stellarly peaking. However, by midnight, Ophiuchus was still low in the east. Mac took over my 10 incher then pointed at Omega Centauri, something which I declined him a moment ago because I was busy finding 3C 273. The giant globular still failed not to amazed, as it has been resolved to the center using a 22mm Panoptic. However, another concern is to be raised while we took a break from observing and munch on some junkies and softdrinks.
We have repeatedly complained of the glow from the west. I lamented it methodically erased my chance of seeing the Horsehead nebula while Orion bathed in its glow low in the west. Edmund once remarked the culprit may be the town of Lumban, down the mountain side. But tonight, Jun Lao was in his usual stealthy self, 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! Boy was I surprised to hear this, as it really resembled a glow from the city, but such a glow could hardly be slanting. This is my first surprise of the night, as I am now not discounting the possibility of seeing the gegenschein too, if the zodiacal light has been this easy.
After being mesmerized by the Zodiacal Light, I have collected myself once again to hunt the most distant member of our Solar System's certified planets. Pluto, I know, will be easy tonight, something which James, during dinner time, gave me a short laugh, and a tag on the back: "You were saying that since last year". I am confident, as it was less than half degree from Xi Ophiuchi, a 3rd magnitude star and a big prominent member of the constellation. It was positioned in a rather void area, a special case since the Milky Way lies in Ophiuchus, which typically makes effort extra difficult because of so many stars around. 5 minutes since starting. I have a strong candidate. I summoned James to take a look, briefed him how to relate the view in the printed map. There is only one "star" in the blank space which the atlas showed there shouldn't be any star of similar magnitudes. This star, at first, seemed to blink a bit through averted vision, or maybe because of haze, but after the haze, it has glowed a very steady one, not even needing averted vision. It is faint, but steady, erasing doubts of "imagined star". James agreed, and went back to his scope to image the field. I am rather pleased to see Pluto does not appear in his field of view, but what the heck! That is common sense, a 10 inch scope against a 4 inch? Surely, nothing magic to please, that is the law of optics!
The Virgo cluster of galaxies has been uneventful for again, no bright star to guide me in star hopping. Maybe I am now tired, its 3am, I realized I am running out of energy, will want to sleep soon, though I still want to observe more, I do not possess that kind of fresh energy when we started the night. 3:30am, I attempted to make a couple more of sketch before officially retiring and start to pack up. A shame I initially ignore so many beautiful things in Sagittarius, so revisited M20 and M8. I attacked these objects with my Lumicon filter on a 22mm Panoptic. M20, the Trifid showed well definition even at high power of 127X, sketching has been fruitful, as I believed I have done so accurately. M8 has been a problem in high powers and it started to lost its luster in the same magnification. Clark's theory of high power is not passing the test very well here. In this case, I have to recall that O'Meara has been doing most of his work shuffling eyepieces and barlows like cards so as to get the best of all worlds, where he then combined every detail picked up into one very productive sketch. I remembered my most impressive sight of this was through binoculars, where it appeared like a tempura shrimp in the city, way back 1996 or 1997. Through a telescope and with some magnification involved, the nebulosity starts to cease, then, as you may have guessed, almost became invisible in higher powers. However, I have more "luck" now, or maybe the nebula filter has been extremely helpful, I managed a sketch far outclassing that of Clark's, I registered some extended nebulosity which did not appear on O'Meara's. Now, don¡¦t tell me I have exaggerated, I can pass the ball to O'Meara too, I don't think he "likes" some very "plain" nebulae in his sketch; I swear I noted these nebulosity. O'Meara is fond of having a lot of tendrils and loops inside the nebulosity, and I think if the entire objects is soaked in sheer plain nebulosity, he finds it boring and I doubt he will just shade the whole thing, but I don¡¦t think that has been the case for majority of visual observers. So sketching, which derives from artful judgement, is how the observer connects with a celestial objects, and thus the impression. Sketching can never be really accurate, as to what new methods of astro imaging has been showing now! No regrets to my sketch of M8, I stand for what I see!
The invasion of Caliraya last weekend has been a successful one, but we hoped dew and haze has not been a factor, but what more can we ask? Accuweather predicted a possible night shower, something that we were blessed not to have materialized. Six vehicles parked along the bridge, three 10 inchers, three 8 inchers, a humble 70mm ETX, a 101mm TV refractor, binoculars made up more ammunition to bring down the hunt, I salute to all participants for staging a wonderful summer observation.
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