Day Fifty-four, Date Thursday, April 23, 2009
Time in Saddle: n/a
Distance for the Day: n/a miles (still at the TSP)
Accumulated Trip Distance: n/a
Altitudes: Starting/Ending n/a, Highest: n/a, Accumulated: n/a
Speeds: Avg: n/a mph, Max: n/a mph
Weather: Partly cloudy with a rain shower, but clearing in the evening, and totally clear by 2am
I woke up around 11am after staying up into the wee hours blogging, and put a third patch on my now-dry air mattress to fix that third, tiny, leak. Bill and I decided to go visit the McDonald Observatory, which was only a few miles up the road from the TSP site, Prude Ranch. We went to the visitor’s center, and Bill noticed that the description of the workings of the sundial out front was wrong! We couldn’t stay for their tour/presentations, so instead went further up the mountain to to take a peek at the actual observatories up there. We found a door to the 22-inch observatory open, so we poked our heads in, and Bill got to chatting technical stuff with one of the engineers. This progressed into a very nice mini-tour of their 22-inch and 107-inch telescopes, and insight into life on the mountain – what it takes to not only keep the telescopes maintained, but how to raise a family in such a remote location. Bill is such a handy guy! Afterwards, we went into town to get dinner at the local pizzeria ($25) where they kind of forgot us for a while, but got to us, eventually. While we were waiting, it rained, briefly, but the ClearSky Clock promised clear skies by 2am, so we were still hopeful. Back at the Ranch, darkness fell, and it was still partly cloudy, so we went to listen to a speaker on the subject of the possibility of life in the universe. His laser pointer died on him, so I let him use my 35mw green LP, and it caused quite a bit of amused “shock and awe” in the audience each time he used it, it being a bit too bright for normal presentation purposes. Afterwards, we went outside to find the sky still partly cloudy, but getting better. I went back to blogging, and Bill went out to the telescope field to begin setting up his equipment. Using David Moody’s 18” dob, Don White’s 30” dob, and Bernie’s 20” Starmaster, we looked at an entire laundry list of deep-sky objects (galaxies, nebulae [clouds in space], star clusters, and other objects. They called them, “eye candy” – the brighter, more easily seen objects. Meanwhile, others were looking for lists of objects much fainter, that were more difficult or nearly impossible to find. Oddly, we did not look at, and I didn’t think to ask to see, the planet Saturn, though it was up. These deep-sky junkies are all alike, and I’m afraid I caught that “deep-sky fervor,” myself. While we were traipsing about the universe, Bill D used his 4” refracting telescope to automatically image the Lagoon Nebula (M8). At around midnight, we went over to the concession booth to get snacks and drinks ($5), and chatted with Bill and Oscar, again, who said we’d just missed seeing the local skunk, Floyd, who came by regularly to try and get food. We were not sorry to have missed him. As near as Bill and I can recall, here’s the list of objects we saw thru the various telescopes mentioned above: M104 the Sombrero Galaxy, the two galaxy trios in Leo, Beta Centauri, Centaurus A (NGC 5128), the Markarian’s Chain and Galaxy Cluster in Virgo, Hercules globular cluster M13, Whirlpool Galaxy M51, M4, M101, Ring Nebula M57, Dumbell Nebula, M24, The Inkspot, Witches’ Broom and Waterfall in the Veil, galaxies M81 and M82, and the False Comet, which was a part of the constellation, Scorpio – you have to go further south than California (such as Texas) to see it. We stayed up all night viewing! I went to bed probably a half-hour before sunrise, while Bill stayed a bit longer to wrap up his equipment.