OR: D.A.R.C. Observatory, 4/25: Ride Like the Wind

When I left San Jose, I knew there was a decent chance the wind could entirely ruin the evening. After a quick and uneventful drive, I arrived at the D.A.R.C. Observatory. The wind was indeed blowing very hard from the west. Around sunset, the wind started dying down and I decided to set up my equipment in the west dome, alongside Lee’s 16″ Meade SCT, just in case the wind would decide to make a late come back.

Shortly after, we were treated with a nice view of a day-old moon, followed by planet Mercury and the Pleiades. What a nice way to start the evening! Later on, as the sky grew progessively darker, the zodiacal light was readily visible, although not as impressive as it was last weekend. The transparency was good, just not excellent…

The wind picked up again, and most of us found refuge inside the building for the next hour or so, watching a fantastic documentary retracing the history of George Ellery Hale: Journey to Palomar (PBS) I warmly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it yet.

Right after the movie was over, the wind died down again. It remained low for the rest of the night. Overall, the seeing was very soft all night, and the transparency was just average (although average transparency at D.A.R.C. means LMT of 6.5 upward!)

My observing list had a lot of small galaxies in Coma Berenices. At some point early on, I became frustrated because I had a terrible time matching what I was seeing in the finder scope and at the eyepiece with Uranometria, probably due to the lack of conspicuous field stars.

Around 1am, I started getting pretty cold. Around 2am, I decided to call it a night. I logged a disappointingly low number of new objects from the Herschel 400 list, but it was still a good night, and it always feels good to be out and surrounded by such great people! Below is my log for the night. Cheers!

Update: Peter Natscher reports:

I did two NELM tests within transiting Leo at 11pm (between Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma Leo) and another one in Corona as it was transiting later on in better seeing. They were 7.0 and 7.2 respectively. OTOH, my observations of Hickson groups and Abell planetaries at 250x with my 24 in. Starmaster appeared sub-par because of inferior sky transparency. After midnight, the rising Milky Way didn’t have the expected brightness. I believe the high winds from the Pacific lowered the transparency along with the seeing last night. We got two decent hours of observing by 2 am but it was cold for this time of year. I hope GSSP will be warmer.

Location: D.A.R.C. Observatory [Elevation 1400ft]
Telescope: Meade Lightbridge 12″ F/5
Eyepieces used:
- Televue Panoptic 27mm (56x - 1.2° TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 16mm type 5 (95x - 52′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 9mm type 6 (169x - 29′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 7mm type 6 (217x - 22′ TFOV)
- Televue Nagler 5mm type 6 (305x - 16′ TFOV)
(All times are PST)

NGC 4147 GC Com 12h10m36.5s +18°29’15″ 10.4 mag 10:40p
Fairly small and dim. The outside of this cluster was partially resolved at 169x.

NGC 4150 GX Com 12h11m04.2s +30°20’54″ 12.5 mag 10:55p
Small, faint, with a tiny core surrounded by a very faint halo elongated 2×1 NNW-SSE.

NGC 4203 GX Com 12h15m35.3s +33°08’43″ 11.7 mag 11:00p
Fairly small, fairly faint, with a small and fairly bright core and a very faint halo that appears round. Faint superimposed star about 1′ W.

NGC 4274 GX Com 12h20m20.7s +29°33’39″ 11.3 mag 12:00a
Fairly large and bright, elongated 3×1 almost E-W. Fairly large and diffuse central concentration. Faint superimposed stars about 2′ W and 3′E.

NGC 4278 GX Com 12h20m37.2s +29°13’41″ 11.0 mag 12:00a
Fairly bright and compact, round, with a relatively large core. Forms an interesting trio with slightly fainter and smaller NGC 4283 located about 4′ ENE, and much fainter NGC 4286, located about 10′ ENE.

NGC 4245 GX Com 12h18m07.1s +29°33’17″ 12.3 mag 12:20a
Fairly small and bright with a relativelt large core. Elongated 2×1 NNW-SSE.

NGC 4251 GX Com 12h18m38.6s +28°07’19″ 11.6 mag 12:50a
Fairly bright and moderately large, with a fairly small compact core surrounded by a halo elongated 2×1 E-W.

NGC 4293 GX Com 12h21m43.1s +18°19’43″ 11.1 mag 12:55a
Fairly large and moderately bright. Elongated 4×1 almost E-W. Weak central condensation.

NGC 4350 GX Com 12h24m28.0s +16°38’18″ 11.9 mag 01:10a
Fairly small. Elongated 3×1 NW-SE. Fairly bright non central core. Forms a nice tight couple with NGC 4340.

NGC 4394 GX Com 12h26m25.8s +18°09’36″ 11.6 mag 01:15a
Fairly bright with a non stellar core surrounded by a faint halo slightly elongated NNW-SSE. Forms a nice couple with M85.

NGC 4448 GX Com 12h28m45.2s +28°34’04″ 12.0 mag 01:20a
Elongated 3×1. Fairly bright and large core.

NGC 4419 GX Com 12h27m26.8s +14°59’34″ 12.0 mag 01:35a
Elongated 4×1 NW-SE. Fairly bright non stellar core.