Dancing Deer Ranch 17 Apr 2010:

We had a small group of 7 people  and 2 telescopes. Just a nice small informal group. We had a retired physicist who is a new member to the club along with one of Peter’s staff who live on the grounds. Along with Aurora we had a couple of us oldtimers (well -I’m an oldtimer to astronomy though still a “Rookie” in the club). And to round it off we had a couple of artists who brought their 8” Dob that they just bought used.

Unfortunately the sky had clouded up during the day with cirrus-thick enough to seriously affect the seeing but still thin enough to see constellation patterns.

Aurora started out the evening with the “Pop Quiz” question of the night. What is that bright object hanging there in the western sky? Venus – of course. Telescopically it is still  fairly small and as it is still on the far side of the sun relative to earth exhibited a gibbous phase.

I helped the couple with the 8” dob get their scope aligned with the finder.  I had a little bit of trouble with the finder-mainly due to fact that the finder bracket was mis-aligned with the optical tube just enough to hit the stop before an object could be centered in the crosshairs. But we got things centered enough to make it useable. Then with Aurora we  were able to get a reasonably good collimation.  This is a sweet little scope with very smooth bearings -far smoother than the bearings on my dob. Here’s hoping they bring it on out to Star Hill on the 8’th!

Once we started doing some observing we got some reasonable views of the Moon and Venus.  The sun shadow angles were still low enough that the line of craters Langrenus and Petavius were still easily discernable although I could not see the rillle in Petavius.

We spent some time in and around the Orion complex and one of us was able to see two stars inside the trapezium in spite of the high cirrus.We spent the next hour or so showing Polaris and giving the sky tour. We rounded out the evening with some some of the spring galaxies such as M65/66, M81/82 and M51 and M104 although with the seeing these were washed out.

I finished off the evening with some of my Mira variables. R Hya which is nearing minimum at 9.1, R Leo which is brightening at 9.8 and R Com which was fainter than last nights magnitude limit of 13.9 for my 12” Dob.

The dew monsters made their rounds about 11:30 PM when I decided to quit for the night.

Dave M.