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1278 Observing Report from SC

Started by Joplin Motisher-Chittenden, 11/16/2003 08:54AM
Posted 11/16/2003 08:54AM Opening Post
I had the 1278 out last night for a multi-club dark sky observing session in the Sumter National Forest. The conditions were good to excellent with high, thin clouds drifting by at times. First target was Vega, which was a bit obove the trees in the west. I used it to adjust the finderscope then inserted a 7mm Pentax XL eyepiece for 142x magnification. Vega appeared as a brilliant white orb surrounded by a dim violet halo. I headed over to the Ring Nebula and was surprized by the contrast of the image. The ring structure was very clearly defined as well as some irregularities in it (no filter was used). The Dumbell Nebula was also quite nice and revealed a hint of texture/ structure. I couldn't wait any longer at this point - I had to check out Mars. I raised the power to 220x (9mm ortho, 2x barlow) and observed some well defined albedo features and the minisicule polar cap. I ran the power up to 275x (3.6mm Apogee Easy View) and was very impressed. The image was only beginning to break down under seeing conditions that were only average. I decided to drop the power down to 33x and hunt down some clusters, etc. with my 30mm 1rpd 80deg. eyepiece. First was the double cluster, always a favorite of mine the two clusters were stunning and well framed within the 2.37deg. field of view. Again, the contrast of the image was startling and the colorful stars in and between the clusters were quite beautiful. Next was the Veil Nebula (same eyepiece and an Orion Ultrablock filter) which was quite nice despite some thin clouds in that area of the sky. I also gave M31 in Andromeda, M36 and M38 in Auriga, the Pleiades, and M42 in Orion a good look. I needed a good dose of globular cluster at this point so I set the scope on M15 in Pegasus with the 7mm (142x) it was quite nice with a few individual stars resolved. I also had a look at it with a nearby Takahashi 250mm Mewlon Dall-Kirkham which of course blew the 1278 away, but that is to be expected when you compare a scope to one with twice the aperture and 20x the price. Next was the double star Zeta Aquarii, which was nicely split at 142x. I had the Mewlon beat here since the seeing conditions had deteriorated a bit and the image in it was a mess :-)
At this point Saturn was rising above the trees in the East. The image was a mess at first due to the seeing but gradually settled down as Saturn rose in the sky. Saturn showed only a hint of a Violet halo and revealed some nice ring structure and a couple cloud bands on the disk at 220x. Last object observed was the last quarter moon which was obscured at times by the clouds that were moving in. The image was nice at 50x but the seeing was terrible down low in the sky. The moon showed the characteristic thin violet or green halo on either side of focus one would expect from an achromat.