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11/30/-1
    
Friday, June 18th, 2004
Tonight was the first of two nights at my first outing to dark skies. We went to the Indian Trail Spring (ITS) deep in the Ochoco National Forest. It was simply unbelievable. A comment from one of the other amateurs was, "You know it's a good night when the main source of light pollution is the Milky Way!" And how true that was. We could literally see our shadow being cast from the light of the Milky Way.

The night was about as pure as it can get. On a scale of 1 to 10, the transparency, seeing, and light pollution were all 9 (and only because I can't imagine what a 10 might be like!). The list of naked eye objects was incredible: Milky Way band, Andromeda Galaxy, Perseus Double Cluster and the Coma Berenices open cluster. Some said they could see the Coathanger Cluster, and even M13 with the unaided eye.

The binocular list is too long to go through. Virtually everything that is relatively big or bright could be seen easily in a set of 10x50 nocs.

Now... on to the good stuff. As you can imagine, in skies like this, everything we saw was spectacular. In the current sky, I have 30 objects memorized. So the first night I went through them all. I will not journal the entire list as many of the objects I have recently journaled. But there were a few significant highlights though.

M8 - Lagoon Nebula
What a sight. From my backyard this object looks incredible. From ITS, unbelievable. It looked great through the scope with no filter, but when I put on my Lumicon UHC filter... wow. It was not only much larger than I expected, but it had so much detail and variation in the cloud it was simply amazing. What a beautiful object.

M20 - Trifid Nebula
Another phenomenal nebula. Again, without the filter, the nebula was interesting looking as an obvious cloud, but with the UHC filter, bang! The famous dust lanes that give this nebula it's distinct look just pop out. To really see them clearly I used the 16mm eyepiece.

M13 - Globular Cluster
This has consistently been one of my favorite objects to look at from my backyard. And here at ITS... oh my goodness. Detailed points of light to the very core of the nucleus. There must be 2 or 3 times as many points of light in this globular here than I can see in my backyard.


M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy
This was the first galaxy I went for. Knowing that I can see minor detail in the spirals from my backyard, I was excited for what I was about to see here at ITS and it was not a let down either. Wonderful detailed spirals at medium power. The arm that reaches out to the companion NGC5195 was incredible.

M101
From my backyard, this galaxy only ever looks like a large fuzzy. But here, the spirals come forth! Averted vision is required, but the structure is there. Blotchy patches of lighter and darker spots, spiral arms and a bright nucleus. Simply amazing.

M104 - Sombrero Galaxy
The sombrero looked great. The dust lane was so distinct that it literally looked like the galaxy was cut in half. From my backyard, the dust lane just looks like a faint line in the fuzzy.


Of course, I looked at every object I knew the first night and just enjoyed the experience. Here is the list of my known, locate from memory objects that I saw that night in order of constellation:

Cygnus
Veil Nebula West
Veil Nebula East
North American Nebula
Pelican nebula
Crescent Nebula
Albireo

Vulpecula
M27 - Dumbbell Nebula

Sagitta
M71 - Globular Cluster

Lyra
M56 - Globular Cluster
M57 - Ring Nebula
Epsilon Lyrae - "Double-Double" Multiple Star

Hercules
M13 - Globular Cluster
M92 - Globular Cluster

Bootes
M3 - Globular Cluster

Coma Berenices
M53 - Globular Cluster
M64 - Black Eye Galaxy
Coma Berenices Open Cluster

Canes Venatici
M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy
M63 - Sunflower Galaxy
M94 - Cat's Eye Galaxy

Ursa Major
M101 - Pinwheel Galaxy
Mizar - Binary Star
M81 - Bode's galaxy
M82 - Cigar Galaxy
M108 - Galaxy
M109 - Galaxy
M97 - Owl Nebula

Draco
M102 - Spindle Galaxy

Leo
M65 - Leo trio 1
M66 - Leo trio 2


Wow! What an absolutely AMAZING evening. The difference between what I can see here at ITS and what I can see in my backyard is simply astounding.





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