7/13 Observation Log – Fremont Peak


7/13 Observation Log, Fremont Peak Observatory, Fremont Peak State Park, CA

Time Object Notes
18:30 Arrival Arrived early today. Today is the day we have the big scope all to ourselves. The observatory was very hot, so we opened the doors to the conference room, the side door on the observatory, and rolled down the shutters, but didn’t roll back the roof. Warm day today (about 88F) and lots of small black flies around the observatory.
18:45 Sun While we were waiting for the observatory to cool off, I pulled out one of the observatory’s smaller telescopes, the TeleVue Solaris. This is a small 1750mm solar telescope with a DayStar filter attached. We set it up on the pad to the West of the observatory building, and we were able to watch sunspot region 963 for a while.
19:15 Visitors! While we were killing time waiting for the observatory to cool down, I heard cars coming up the driveway. I looked out and three vehicles had pulled up around the observatory. The occupants got out and introduced themselves as amateurs from the San Mateo Astronomical Society. I made introductions, and gave them a brief tour.
20:00 Rollback We rolled the roof off of the Challenger at 8:00 PM and Hannah and I began setting it up for the evening’s observations.
20:30 Venus I managed to locate Venus in the evening sun, and put the Challenger on it. A waxing crescent, it was about 20% illuminated, but still very, very bright. About this time some people wandered up from the state park campsite to see what we were doing, so we showed them Venus, and invited them to the program on Saturday. I kept looking for Saturn, but by the time it was out, it was too low in the sky to get the Challenger on it.
21:00 Jupiter Wow! What can I say except WOW! Even at this early hour, with sunlight still in the sky, and a boiling atmosphere, Jupiter was impressive. The visitors from SMAS were also impressed. We continued to watch Jupiter throughout the night, returning to it several times.
21:30 M4, M80, M7, various others Since the telescope was pointed in the direction of Scorpius and Sagittarius, we spent some time hopping between the various Messier objects in this rich section of sky. The girls were impressed, but disappointed that we couldn’t see the colors that they were used to from the Hubble photographs.
22:00 M104 Before we moved on to the very rich Virgo/Coma Berenices border, I swung over to catch the Sombrero Galaxy. At first the girls couldn’t see it, and then they couldn’t see the dark dust lane, but I taught them how to look about 1/2 way out of the center of the field of view, and then they both could see the dust lanes.
22:15 Virgo / Coma Berenices border It was a busy night in this area. I opened up my Mag 7 Star Atlas (Thanks Andrew!) to page 11a, and went for it. Every time I would get the telescope lined up, I’d call the girls up, they’d look, “ooh” and “ah” and then I’d move to the next one. I was most impressed by the Markarian Chain but I think the girls liked the things like the Pinwheel Galaxy the most.
00:15 Departure We finally stopped observing at about 11:45 PM and then began closing down the observatory. By the time everything was put away and buttoned up, it was about 15 minutes past midnight. I called my wife’s cell phone and left a message, in case she woke up and wondered where we were, and then began the drive home.

Other notes: I’m feeling pretty good the last few days.  The doctor has me on oral cortical steroids to reduce the inflammation in my neck.  However, this is really just a test to see if I’ll respond well to it, and to see if I’m a candidate for cortisone shots.  Not that I relish having someone stick a needle in my spine, but the idea of actually sleeping through the night once in a while appeals to me.

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