Last night Bruce, his friend Paul, and I set up scopes near the parking lot while most folks were on the observing field. It was mostly dark by 22:00, but much cloud. It started breaking up, and by 22:45 was almost entirely clear and GORGEOUS! Really dark, transparent, and surprisingly steady. My Celestron 8″ Nexstar Evolution performed beautifully, especially considering I aligned on objects that were still popping in and out of cloud. Mostly used the 32mm eyepiece (e.p.) (62.5x), which showed off several deep space objects (DSOs) really well. For planets, I pushed to either 25mm (80x) or 15mm (133.3x), but not much more than that. Saw four planets – Venus (1/2 phase), Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – but didn’t spend much time with them.
Venus was in and out of clouds and set soon, so just glimpsed it.
Mars was a blob, maybe with some polar cap, but nothing to write about.
Jupiter, with a neutral density filter to cut the glare, was pretty, and the Great Red Spot was visible about half way from the meridian to the east limb. Not much else visible but a few gray protuberances on the NEB (northern equatorial belt).
Saturn is what it was the other night: rings open, disk overlaps halfway. No evident shadows. Temperate zone to pole (N) shows darker color than below. It was pretty but the seeing was pretty wobbly.
Saw several nebulae of different sorts and also globular clusters and such.
M27 Dumbbell Nebula (planetary neb): large, obvious, sort of boxy, fuzzy thing; brighter on W side than E. Or is it maybe N than S? Edges indistinct.
M39 Open cluster N of Deneb: couple dozen stars. Nice.
Veil Nebula (supernova remnant): faint vertical stripe across star field, kind of like a wrinkle across space.
M11 Wild Duck Cluster (open cluster): almost like a globular! Really beautiful. Looks a lot like…
M22 (globular cluster) in Sagittarius: large, bright, evenly grainy.
M29 (globular): small glob, also in Sagittarius. Bright core with scattered stars around the edges.
M69 (globular): pretty much the same as M29
M6 Butterfly Cluster (open cluster): big, bright, about 3 dozen stars
M7 Jewel Box Cluster (open cluster): much the same as M6.
M8 Lagoon Nebula: looked great w/ SkyGlow light pollution filter! Really helped the contrast, even with pretty dark skies. Dust lanes and nebulosity stand out more.
M20 Triffid Neb: also great w/ filter. Could see dust lanes!
M17 Swan Neb: beautiful w/ filter. Appears upside down with feathery “body” at top, then the arch of the “neck” with two stars upon it. Can’t make out the “bill” so much at this mag.
Then at 01:00-01:15 it went from clear to covered! Clouds smoothly closed the show.
Got to bed @ 01:30. Woke up at 06:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, so up and showered at 07:00 or so. Which is pressing me toward a nap, now that it’s afternoon.
This is a great first stop for the sabbatical tour!