Hubble Ultra Deep Field (subset)

Club Address:
65-1158 Mamalahoa Hwy.
Kamuela, HI 96743

An electronic publication of The West Hawaii Astronomy Club -

    Andrew Cooper

Vice President:
    Cliff Livermore



With Support From:
Canada-France Hawaii Telescope and
W. M. Keck Observatory

This website is currently maintained by

Keck Uranus AO image

WHAC logo

Spring Fling Star Party 2008

Spring Fling '08
Thanks to Dr. Mark for the nice photos!

Here's Doug's observing report from the Spring Fling Star Party, April 5, 2008:

This was arguably one of our best outings together. I was somewhat surprised after arriving early to open the gate to discover it already open with hunter vehicles inside. Is it really that time of year again? My how time flies. I get so used to having the place all to ourselves, and then we have to share it again! The site was very clean... I did a walkaround and found no trash at all. In addition, DLNR must have done a bit of their own weed control, because those obnoxious seed pod monsters I usually pull a few of were completely gone in the parking area. They were also mostly beaten back on the west side beyond the parking area. I think there's been some work done on the front (outside the gate) as well.

The cooks and dinner prep folks arrived soon after I did, and cooking commenced. Before long, quite a crew had arrived. I tried to write down everyone's name/face I could remember, and I made my own count of 25 easily, but I also remember seeing some folks I couldn't remember well enough to count correctly. I believe our actual number was 30 or better (not including at least one hunter that we convinced to stay for a moment and look at the Orion Nebula on his way out). I get a big kick out of mingling with hunters because everytime I've mingled, I discover how surprisingly nice these folks are (as opposed to just thinking about them with weapons!) They are usually a bit anxious but very happy to have a look in the eyepiece and share some laughs with us before heading home. I don't know if anyone else took the opportunity to invite hunters for a peek as they exited, but hopefully others had good experiences as well.

Everyone mingled nicely prior to dinner, and I got a chance to learn a bit more about astrophotography with John B. I'm finally stopped capitulating and have bought some tracking for my 22", and will begin my own learning curve for some astrophotography shortly. After hanging out with John a bit, I got a chance to meet many new faces before dark set in. Dinner was great. Everyone had their fill with food to spare. After dinner was over, cleanup progressed quickly and everyone started to get ready for observing. There was no rush this time around.... our timing and execution are definitely getting smoother for these dinner events. Thanks to Craig and Mark for cooking, and to everyone who brought potluck items and pitched in to make cleanup a breeze.

As for the observing setup, it was obvious on arrival (and way before) that the night would be clear from the start....the only concern was going to be for the bigger telescopes and wind a bit on the high side. I've viewed at the club site many times, so I was pretty confident that after sunset the winds would die....and thankfully they did right on cue. A bit of western cirrus right at sunset, and then stars everywhere immediately. A bit cool though....glad I had a jacket with me. We had quite a variety of telescopes this time around. Many 8-10" class telescopes, Tony's (can't remember if it's a 12 or 15"..performs like a great 15!), Neil's 20", another 18-20", and my 22". I never remember to do a good walkabout, so I apologize if I've missed any interesting setups. We even did a quick bit of solar observing before sunset ( sunspots at all). Right about sunset, we did some collimation exercises with a few folks explaining some tuning techniques on a couple of the "big guys". Then it was off to the races with everyone's observing as sunset turned to darkness.

My goal for the evening was to go through a "best of the best" list in rapid succession. I had 125 objects in my list, and a few folks hung out to judge objects with me. Simona and Andrei, Tony A and his mom, Carlton, and some occassional stragglers were our "judges". We started off comparing the best open clusters to each other, some colored doubles, then planetaries, Globs, and on to the realm of the galaxies. We mostly agreed about "showpieces", but there were also some objects we were less impressed with. We alternated between falling behind our target times (to keep us off the step stool), and then catching up (making the objects lower in the sky). We did try for the grand daddy of all quasars for visible observers, the twin quasar again....several folks successfully saw this object. It seemed easier than usual to me. We tried quickly with Tony A to see this, but without a star map, it was too difficult to describe the setup geometry. It never fails to amaze me that with the help of a lensing galaxy you can't even see, an object that's 9 Billion Light Years away is in reach of your eyeballs! The universe is only 13.7 Billion years old, so you're cutting deep into the age of the universe if you get some of these photons to your eye! Tony's time was short, so we agreed to try again another time. However, we did move over and look at Markarian 205 (a much easier quasar to recognize)....everyone saw this easily. Some particular highlights from lesser known objects were Thor's helmet, of course the best/easiest quasars, a few lesser known but nice colored double stars, Hubble's variable nebula, T-lyra (a blood red carbon star), and some comparisons of different objects. A particularly nice comparison of M35 with the fainter NGC2158 in the same wide field (40mm - 1 degree field). Of course, we viewed many of the higher quality Messier and Cauldwell's nice to see them in quick succession so you can get a feel of which ones are better and or compare favorably against the others.

There was lots of chatter through the group about all the great looks at Saturn....seeing definitely improved as the night progressed. Early, I saw at least 6-7 moons (4 right side, I left top, and one middle bottom), but I lost the left and bottom moons as Saturn dipped off the zenith and started down toward setting. I struggled to look at some of the best of the lowest southern objects (declination 60 and lower)....I managed to set up on a slight ground slant (bummer) that caused my truss poles to max out. I can get these objects at my house, but not where I set up. Most other telescopes got very nice views of these objects however. I was bummed I missed out on the Jewel Box and Carina Nebula, but I still managed exceptional views of Centaurus A and Omega Cen...always a treat.

By about midnight, the group I was observing with had gone through just over 60 objects. We took a break, and waited for more objects to get to better viewing geometry. Carlton took over the controls for a bit of serendipitious viewing as I mingled a bit and had some hot chocolate. Before long, folks were starting to wrap up for the night. I think by 2:30 or so, Neil and his wife left, and then Tony S and I finished up the night. I got a 2:30? call from Cliff to ask how it was holding up at the site.....still very nice but we were seeing some clouds in the north (which had just blocked Cliff's view at his house). We spent a last little bit of summer sky observing in Sagittarius and silent admiration of an awesome summer milky way rising. About 3am, we decided to close up shop ourselves in favor of sleep.

So, another one for the books. I hope everyone had as nice an experience as I did....I was both physically and emotionally tired afterwards. As is common with these events, I didn't end up finishing my list, but I thought about this and realized that it doesn't matter. I've looked at all these objects many times before. It's really the group dynamic that makes and breaks stargazing events. All the chatter, shared experiences, and newly discovered "gems" and tricks throught the night. The combination of so much early activity and excitement, followed at the end by silence and contemplation of both the earlier activity and the morning sky ....these are what good memories are all about. The fact is, we had a great turnout and a really fine night which showcased our group and the site. We're progressing well as a club. My hat is off to all of you who participated and shared liberally.
I hope everyone feels as well rewarded as I do for having attended.

Home | Event Calendar | Club Meeting Reports | Astronomy Links | Sky Chart this Month | Observing Reports
Club Resources | Photo Gallery | For Sale | Membership Form (MS word document)

West Hawaii Astronomy Club

Last updated