Last night, my observing pal and I went to our local club’s (Friends Of The (Cincinnati) Observatory) monthly star party to our regular spot for such events, a State Park about 25miles out of town. It’s a semi-darkish spot (Magnitude 5 stars and Milky Way visible to the naked eye). I took my +25 y.o. TeleVue Genesis SDF and my box containing eight 2” eyepieces (38mm to 7mm) a 2” barlow, and a couple of nebular filters. It was to be a night of DSO observing with no moon, nice clear skies, lowish humidity, pleasant temperatures, and no clouds or dew. It turned out to be perfect. The best night I have seen there in a number of years. My scope was on my TV Gibralter Mount and i was using my GLP finder which I have found to be the perfect device with this scope and setup. Especially when used in conjunction with my 20 y.o. Oberwerk 12x60 binoculars.
It was a fun time to be out because right after dark the late Spring sky was still defined by Leo, Virgo, Corvus, and Cancer (low in the western sky). As the night progressed, the Spring Sky transitioned to that of early summer. Vega was already up and the Summer Triangle gradually came into view over the next several hours as Deneb and Altair rose above the trees; and at this time Antares was also slowly coming up in the southeast. At the beginning of the evening Lyra, Hercules, Leo, and Virgo were all at comfortable viewing positions, and by the end of the night around 1 AM, the Big Dipper was moving down a bit, Ophiuchus, the Scorpion, and Sagittarius were availing their treats. So over the five hours of darkness that we were set up there was much to see.
As far as doubles, I only checked out a few, the usual suspects for this time of year: I started with beautiful Alberio in Cygnus- my absolute favorite looked like lovely topaz and emerald jewels, also Cor Coroli, were like a pair of lovely diamonds in the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici) chasing after the lion, reminiscent of Castor in Gemini which was low to the southwest. Then there was of course the Double-Double E1 and E2 in Lyra, which split cleanly at 100X, and toward the end of the night Mizar and Alcor, the Double-within-a-Double in the Big Dipper.
I visited a few nice open clusters. The first by necessity was the Beehive (M44) as it was dropping fast toward the horizon- I always enjoy this Springtime cluster. Then Berenice’s Hair (Coma Berenices (really an asterism). And then it was on toward the east where there were M29 and M39 in Cygnus and at the very end of the night the Wild Duck Cluster (M11) in Scutum was just clearing the trees. Also NGC 133, NGC 225, and NGC 281 gradually became visible in the north. My 38mm Erfle yields 14X with a 4.6° FOV in the F5.4 Genesis SDF which is perfect for the more expansive subjects.
For Globular Clusters I observed M13 in Hercules which is always amazing. It was stunningly beautiful with many stars resolved at ~75X to ~150X. Then there was the huge, dim and diffuse M4 near Antares in Scorpio, and a host of Globulars on parade in Ophiuchus, three or four which were fun to look at. The evening’s Planetary Nebulae consisted of two of my favorites, which were well displayed- The Ring (M57) in Lyra and the Dumbbell in Vulpecula, both of which were just gorgeous, (a UHC filter really bringing out fine detail in the Dumbbell. Whilst in that part of the sky, I paused to insert my 38mm Erfle and enjoy the cute little Coathanger asterism.
Not forgetting galaxies, late in the evening I observed M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici, close to the Big Dipper, and M101, diametrically opposed to M51 on the other side of the Dipper’s handle. (I had intended to search out the Virgo Cluster of galaxies earlier in the evening but the sky wasn’t dark enough then and I got sidetracked looking at other things.) Finally, after midnight, Sagittarius was clearing the trees and the Steam from the Teapots Spout coming into view. Again, the 38mm Erfle went into the diagonal and the Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (M20) were stunning in the same field. I’m leaving out some others items we viewed but the aforementioned were the highlights of the session. By a little after 1AM we packed up and headed home. All in all, it was a great night. (Also saw three or four satellites and a couple of nice meteors!)