Rock Springs Parking Lot on Mt Tam
Weather: clear and warm, didn't need a jacket until 11pm. Also around 11pm a light cloud cover started to roll in from the West, off the ocean.
Arrived pretty early, around 6, so I could get a lay of the land in the light and also enjoy a mellow dinner on the lookout point above the parking lot. The view of The City with the fog coming in was pretty spectacular.
The way the public viewing nights on Mt. Tam go is that there is a public lecture at the Mountain Theatre that starts at sundown which is open to the public. The public are then invited down to the parking lot where members of the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers have setup our telescopes. The public are then welcomed to wonder from scope to scope checking out whatever object that particular observer has chosen. I had my scope trained on the Andromeda Galaxy and others were focused on M13, M57, Uranus, the moon as well as some that were moving from object to object. I found it easier to stay trained on one object and give people a bit of a background on the object, which most people seemed to enjoy. The public is allowed to stay on premises until 10pm when they are asked to leave. At that point SFAA members are allowed to stay until 2am or so.
The objects I viewed this night included:
- M31 - again, I used this for my public viewing and was able to concentrate on it a bit more once the public had left. If was definitely a bit smudgy this night, but the bright central region was quite distinct.
- M13 - My first real viewing of the great Hercules Globular Cluster and it did not disappoint. The sheer magnitude and size of it were jaw-dropping with many individual stars very clearly visible. I will return to M13 again in the near future :)
- M92 - again, very clear although not as magnificent as M13, it was still an awesome sight and left me wondering, as all good viewings do, about what is going on there. Are there beings there in a parking lot gazing back at us?
- M57 - always a fun one to see and never disappoints. The ring had a very blue tint to it this night and was even a more intense view through the local 14" Dobs that had setup nearby. I love the Ring Nebula and would image that most people who gaze at it must feel the same way.
- Albireo - checked this out on the recommendation of a guy, Jessie, that I had just met and was not disappointed. The two stars were clear and bright with the yellow and blue of the pairing distinct and beautiful.
- Uranus - on this night Uranus was less than 4 degrees from 44 Piscium and together they created a sight similar to Albireo with Uranus taking on it's natural blue-ish color and 44 Piscium more of a yellow star. The sight was quite pretty and at higher magnifications (17x using a 2x Barlow) Uranus resolved itself to being truly globular in shape and appearance.
- Kemble's Cascade - pointed out to me by a member using binoculars, this beautiful grouping of unrelated stars was another jaw-dropper for me. I couldn't take my eyes away from the beauty. I tried to check it our in the scope, but the sheer size of the entire grouping didn't allow and it was getting late, so I will check it out next time, in particular I will try to find NGC-1502 cluster that resides in it.
All in all a great first night on the Mountain with the SFAA and my still new-ish scope. I'm eagerly looking forward to the October viewing parties.