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An electronic publication of The West Hawaii Astronomy Club
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Canada-France Hawaii Telescope and
W. M. Keck Observatory
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Observing Report for
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I thought WHAC members might like a report of this past
Saturday night observing session. There was quite a large crowd at
the 9,300-ft site "across the street" from Hale Pohaku. Attendees
included both Craig's, Bob (Keck's interim Public Affairs wizard),
Dr. Mark and his young'uns, Kyle, Carlton, and Donn. I think I'm
forgetting someone? We had quite a collection of telescopes on-hand
to go with the crowd. Sunset was just after 7pm and it was dark by a
bit after 8pm. We had an impromptu hotdog cookout before sunset…
dinner for the early arrivals! For me, it was a memorable evening as
it was "First Light" for the 10" telescope I've been working on the
past ~6 months. Recall that I spoke about this telescope, and
traveling to Delaware to make the mirror, in our June club meeting.
The write-up below will be primarily of the 10", as I didn't pay
attention to much of anything else. Perhaps others can report on
what they saw.
The night was very dark and the winds were light to
nonexistent. The temperatures were quite seasonable, even for 9,300-
ft. It was yet another one of those Mauna Kea nights --- the Milky
Way has that "reach out and touch it" view we are spoiled with on a
regular basis up there. Yawn!...just another day in paradise...
First Light for the telescope was an observation of Omega
Centauri, the largest globular cluster in the Milky Way. You have to
see it to believe it. This was followed by a view of the galaxy
Centaurus A. Its broad dust band was obvious. Next, M-51, the
Whirlpool Galaxy was observed; the spiral arms visible as well as
the "false supernova". But, there was an even grander galaxy to
The remainder of the evening was spent looking at Milky Way
treasures. This was pure, shameless sky tourism! The Lagoon and
Trifid Nebulas were observed early and often. We saw the dark rift
across the Lagoon, the adjoining star cluster NGC-6530, and the
works. The Trifid revealed its four dust lanes ("Quadfid"?) and the
double star near the center. Craig Combes had a 2" nebular filter.
I had brought a 2"/36mm Panoptic. We joined the two and had some
outstanding views of…well, every nebula thereafter. I had thought
that my 2" eyepiece was too big for a 10" telescope. I had intended
to observe with my 1.25" TV eyepieces. But, the views with the 2"
were so stunning that we kept the 2" on the telescope for most of the
night. We saw the Omega Nebula, the Veil Nebula, the Dumbbell
planetary, the Ring Nebula, M22 globular, and more that I'm
forgetting. For grins I began to aim the telescope at bright patches
of Milky Way between Cygnus and Ara and sweep around to see what was
there through the telescope. We came across all sorts of interesting
star fields, clusters, nebulas, and the like. Along the way we
happened across a fascinating, jet-back blob appearing to be
suspended in front of a rich Milky Way star field in Sagittarius. I
think others who saw it would agree that the object was amazing; I
was spellbound by it. Next day I found out that the object is
Barnard 86, a notorious dark nebula. By 11pm the Moon rose to claim
I was delighted with the performance of the 10". It seemed
like a much bigger upgrade than I expected compared to my trusty
(but, alas, now retired) 8" f/6. I apologize to those that had to
stretch tippy-toes to get to the eyepiece to see objects that were
high in the sky. I plan to reduce the rocker box slightly as a
result. For me, I enjoyed being flat footed on the ground (no
kneeling and no ladder) for most every object.
Can't wait for this coming Saturday night!