This weekend I was serving my church in an area of California called Clearlake. The part of the lake we were on wasn't particularly clear (as it was chock full of algae) but the sky was clear as a bell and unlike some areas of California, the sky was indeed crystal clear.
Since we were ministering in the park from sun-up to sun-down (sheesh, what a loooong weekend it was!) I knew I wouldn't have time to use my telescope, but I did bring my pair of 10x50 Orion Savannah binoculars.
Saturday night I had a short bit of time to get some observing in. Since binoculars and naked eyes were the instruments at hand, I worked with what I had. This was the most extensive binocular observing session I'd ever done.
The sky was velvety black and looking over the lake to the south I could easily make out even faint portions of the Milky Way which stretched all the way from Sagittarius to Cassiopeia.
In my typical manner of going from constellation to constellation I started in the northeast with Cassiopeia and easily located M103, M52 and NGC 457. Moving down to Perseus where I never saw any straggler Perseids, I looked at M34, Melotte 20, and the double cluster of NGC 884 and 869. Since Ursa Major and Canes Venatici were setting, I popped over to see how well I could pick up M51 and M101. I was pleasantly surprised at the brightness of both of them.
Moving back across the sky I pulled up M3 in Bootes and M13 in Hercules. I should have tried to see M92 as I'm sure I would have, but I was already on to the Scorpius and Ophiuchus region where I saw M80, M4, the Pipe Dark Nebula, the dark streams from Antares/Rho Ophiuchi. The Mikly Way was so rich with stars that these dust lanes were easily visible.
Now I was on to climbing the Milky Way from the south to the north. M7 Ptolemy's Cluster, M6 the Butterfly Cluster, M8 the Lagoon Nebula, M20, M22 the massive globular, M24 the star cloud, M16, M17, M11, and Barnard's E. I should have kept going into Sagitta, Vulpecula and Cygnus, but I didn't. I did however try and find the North American Nebula and though it was faint, the dust lane in the "Gulf of Mexico" region made it fairly prominent.
Finally, turning to the brightest objects in the sky, M31 was very easy naked eye even in spite of the dozens of mercury vapor lamps all around the boat docks and in resident's yards. It was very nice in the binoculars. Ending te session with Jupiter, the Galilean Satellites were not all clear, but I could see 2 of them in my unsteady holding of the binoculars to my eyes.
It was a fascinating session. Short, but fun filled and the DSOs were really cool to see in the binoculars. It really got my jets pumped for OSP this week. As I'm writing this, I leave in two days. WOOT!
Here's to clear dark skies. Cheers.