Frontyard Observing

Last night, I had the pleasure of observing in my front yard. Now my front yard is not even close to being an ideal observing spot. A street light blazes its light across my front lawn. I would not let that stop me. I pulled out the 12.5″ ballscope and set it up to see what I could do.

My expectations were not very high. I know that objects such as Venus are not hampered by light pollution so I collimated my scope until it was dead on and placed the 24mm Panoptic into the focuser. I guided my telescope to the brilliant orb of Venus.

A nice crescent image formed in the eyepiece. What a pleasure to see! Venus is well on its way to be inside of Earth’s orbit which allows it to present itself in such a phase. I placed the 12.5mm Orthoscopic eyepiece in the focuser to get a closer view, wonderful. Venus as a cresent is breathtaking when you see it. Many first time observers note this.

I called my observing companion, and good friend, Jim, on the cell phone to share the excitement of how well Venus looked. I rudely interrupted Jim studying the Virgo galaxy cluster (actually, he did not mind). He suggested finding some clusters that I was unable to see (NGC7789, my favorite, was one of them). I knew I was able to find M37 in Auriga (my second favorite cluster), so I pointed the telescope towards the zenith. In spite of the light pollution, the hundreds of suns illuminated my retina. I then decided to move the telescope towards the double cluster.

After hanging up with Jim, I decided to look at some planetary nebulas. The Eskimo nebula is a good one. Using the 12.5mm Orthoscopic eyepiece with the OIII filter, I placed the nebula into the heart of Gemini. I quickly located my destination. It looked great! It was time to see the little Dumbell, M76. My mentor, the late Ron Ravneberg, introduced me to the art of star hopping by guiding me to this object. Using the lessons learned from Ron, I zeroed in on this planetary. I saw the bright areas on the wings of this nebula. Whatever planets orbited that star, they must be gone now by the ancient stellar atmosphere shed from its former host.

I ended the night with a favorite target: M42, the great Orion Nebula. The detail! I easily saw the right wing off of the core of the nebula. The Trapezium blazed. I saw 6 stars in my handmade mirror. I ended the night with Orion’s sword in my memory as it was a good stopping point.

After packing up, I made some mental notes about the 12.5″ ballscope. I need to find a way to make the stiction better. Not totally going overboard (which could be bad) but just enough to make the scope’s movement easier. It is not that bad, but it could be a little more. I felt good about my scope knowing that it provides adequate views being only my second mirror. I look forward to getting myself under some darker skies, but this evening provided the best views I had in a while from my own front yard.

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~ by jhissong on 2009/02/26.

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