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Observing Through a Real Classic

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#1 Geo31

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Posted 25 June 2024 - 11:16 PM

I haven’t been around much in a long while.  First 2.5 years of working an hour away with a boss who liked to keep odd hours.  Then 2 years trying to launch a start-up and now in the middle of actually launching a second one, not to mention my skies have gone to you know where.  I just haven’t had the motivation.

 

Well… I’m headed to SoCal in 36 hours, so I reached out to my oldest friend in the world and first Astronomy friend (50 years now).  He’s been active at Mt. Wilson for years, but especially so since retiring a couple of years ago.  He was on the team that recently recoated the 100” mirror.

 

Turns out Friday night he is the Session Director for the 60” telescope!  And I’m going!  I cannot wait!  I feel like a little kid.  Last time I saw him in SoCal we ended up observing from his backyard (at the base of the mountain) with his 6” refractor (TMC, TMD?).  It was like being in HS again, only with better equipment. So Friday is going to REALLY be a cool treat.  No way 50 years ago would we have thought we’d be doing this.

 

So, this post is the teaser.  AAR (After Action Review) to come on both the observing session and one of the most classic telescopes in this country (largest in the world when completed IIRC).


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#2 therealdmt

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 01:22 AM

… No way 50 years ago would we have thought we’d be doing this…

smile.gif


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#3 deSitter

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 07:15 AM

Do you have an observing list?

 

First thing I'd want to see - M27 in color! Then M57, hopefully also in color. Then M8. Well I could go on and on.

 

Have a ball!

 

-drl



#4 starman876

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 09:00 AM

OMG I wish I could be there.  Sound like an awesome time coming your way



#5 Geo31

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 09:25 AM

Do you have an observing list?

 

First thing I'd want to see - M27 in color! Then M57, hopefully also in color. Then M8. Well I could go on and on.

 

Have a ball!

 

-drl

I don’t yet.  But as I know the Session Director, I might have some influence.  I wish Orion were up.  I still want to see the Horsehead so badly.

 

Im pretty sure M57 will make the cut.  David recently posted a photo from either the 60” or the 100” taken a focal with his phone camera!  I’ll ask about M27.  I agree that would be SO cool to see in color.

 

That’s one think about looking through large professional scopes….  You actually do see color.  A number of years back I spent an evening looking through the 82” at McDonald.  The color was astounding. 


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#6 CHASLX200

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 09:30 AM

Jupiter at 1800x should be bright.


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#7 Geo31

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 12:33 PM

Jupiter at 1800x should be bright.

Unfortunately I think our session ends before Jupiter comes up high enough.  I did see it through the 82” Otto Struve at McDonald and it was simply amazing.  God, it’s so sad that professional astronomy is no longer visual.  Buts it’s so great that so many instruments have either become dedicated to public use (60” & 100” at Mt Wilson, 40” at Yerkes) or even available to the public as outreach (107” and 82” at McDonald).  I’m sure there are others.

The ticket prices are definitely worth it.  Especially so if you’ve spent your lifetime looking at the sky through a telescope. 


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#8 jgraham

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 12:39 PM

The Blinking Planetary in Cygnus would be interesting. The size might be a good match for the field and the color should be excellent. Small planetaries in general show good color even in small scopes.
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#9 davidmcgo

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Posted 26 June 2024 - 07:22 PM

If the 60” is set up for the Coude focus, you will be best off with small targets.  NGC6210, 6572, 6543, 6826, and M92 would be good.  If you want to go for off the wall stuff, Campbell’s Hydrogen Star, the Cygnus Egg, Minkowski’s Footprint would all be pretty cool targets.

 

Dave


Edited by davidmcgo, 26 June 2024 - 07:23 PM.

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#10 icomet

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Posted 27 June 2024 - 08:50 AM

Do you have an observing list?

 

First thing I'd want to see - M27 in color! Then M57, hopefully also in color. Then M8. Well I could go on and on.

 

Have a ball!

 

-drl

Which one of those shows "deSitter Blue"? yay.gif grin.gif

 

Clear Skies. 


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#11 deSitter

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Posted 27 June 2024 - 08:55 AM

Which one of those shows "deSitter Blue"? yay.gif grin.gif

 

Clear Skies. 

I am painting some tripod parts and the choices were charcoal grey and deSitter blue. Modesty guided my choice of grey. I thought using my own paint a bit too boastful. I leave it to others to continue my legacy.

 

But that planetary in Hercules - the perfect deSitter blue sphere - there's a target worthy of my legacy! What's it called again? It is in the southern parts of Hercules near the border with Corona Borealis - ah Abell 39.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abell_39

 

-drl


Edited by deSitter, 27 June 2024 - 09:02 AM.


#12 deSitter

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Posted 27 June 2024 - 11:47 AM

Which one of those shows "deSitter Blue"? yay.gif grin.gif

 

Clear Skies. 

I found that planetary on Uranometria 2000.0 (Willman-Bell 1st corrected edition) chart 156. It is notated PK47+42.1, upper right corner near CrB border.

 

-drl


Edited by deSitter, 27 June 2024 - 11:48 AM.


#13 Geo31

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Posted 30 June 2024 - 01:43 AM

Just a brief update (today was rough - in bed at 4 am, woke to random phone call 7:30 , nap in the afternoon , beat).

 

I showed up early for the evening session.  Got a tour of the 100”.  The guys running that program invited me to come over after their group left at 10:30.

 

The first thing that struck me is the sky is never dark unless the marine layer socks in LA.  The sky was brighter than at my house.  It makes some objects more difficult to see, especially galaxies.  My friend said M51 looks better in his 18” Dob under dark skies.  Session ended with probably to coolest object I’ve ever seen in a telescope.

 

Had a great time.  Have a few pics.  Getting sleep now.  Full report tomorrow. 


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#14 Geo31

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Posted 30 June 2024 - 01:50 AM

Teaser pic, taken after session ended.

 

ZyrHos3.jpeg


Edited by Geo31, 30 June 2024 - 01:50 AM.

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#15 Tiredeyes

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Posted 30 June 2024 - 10:50 AM

I’m glad to see that the 60” is the same lovely blue that it was 50 years ago when I went into the dome many times to get dry ice for the PMT at the 24”. The sky was bright then too with a nightly plea for a nice thick cloud layer over the basin.
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#16 Geo31

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Posted 30 June 2024 - 10:51 AM

OK, before the day carries me off...

I'll lead with the fact this was just SO cool.  It was a something I only dreamed about 50 years ago when I began my interest in astronomy.  A dream I never ever thought could come true.  All through the session, I couldn't help but think that when I began my pursuit of astronomy, professionals were standing on that very same observing floor doing real science.  To stand on that floor, the floor that the giants of astrophysics stood on, was humbling.  And exciting.


As many of you know (who've been here a number of years), when I was in Jr. High and High School, I used to sign out the key to the observatory on the roof of the Strasenburgh Planetarium in my hometown or Rochester, NY and observe all night long using the 12.5" Cave Observatory model scope.  I used to think how cool it was to have access so such an amazing scope (in 1975 it was indeed a VERY amazing scope).  In 1974 I made my first "astronomy friend" who I am still friends with today.  He was the session director for the 60" telescope Friday night.  About 4 or 5 years ago I met up with him when I was in SoCal and  we ended up observing with his Astrophysics 6" refractor.  I wrote about it here and commented that it was like we were in HS again but with much better equipment.  We had so much fun.  During the last hour of the session, it was just me, Dave, and John (the telescope operator).  It was, again, like being in HS again, but with MUCH better equipment!  It's amazing how many things we could look at when it was just us (the last of the group, except me, left at midnight).

As I mentioned before, about 10:15 I wandered over to the 100" Hooker telescope.  That group had left about 20 minutes before and there was just about 5 of us on the observing floor.  My GOD, I got to look through the 100" telescope.  I still cannot believe it.  It was (and is) almost surreal to me.  After viewing 3 or 4 items, I wandered back to the 60" where I belonged.  smile.gif


Before talking about what we observed, I have to say that simply observing through these scopes transcends anything we observed (with perhaps one exception).  As I previously mentioned, the sky above the observatory is SO light polluted, it's heart breaking.  It's worse than the sky above my house (which in the last 7 years has gone from outstanding to terrible).  The light pollution really kills any observing of galaxies.  Well, we can observe them, but they are not impressive, even with these scopes that were once the largest on the planet.  Did I mention that it's heart breaking (and not for me per se)?

I'll start with the mundane.  The session started off with observing a red star (I don't even remember which one because I didn't need to see it - it would look no different from my C8).  We also observed some double stars, including epsilon Lyra.  That was pretty cool.  Very clear and distinct separation.  OK, a lot of good amateur instruments can show this as well, but now we're starting to get interesting.  I observed M5 through both scopes.  That was an interesting comparison.  The image scale through the two scopes is rather different, as could be expected.  The 100" giving a larger, tighter view.  In that regard, I think M5 looked better through the 60" simply because the image scale gave a little more perspective (at least to me).  No denying though, the tight view of the globular cluster that was impressive unto itself.  In the 100" we viewed an interesting planetary nebula.  I didn't catch which one, but it was interesting.  It was rectangular in shape and a bright blue.  No central start, but a very bright star off to the side (whether connected or not, I cannot say).  The other observations through the 100" I don't remember.  I guess they just didn't make a big impressions.


Back to the 60", I missed M13 while I was at the 100".  I think they looked at another double star as well, but that's not my thing anyway.  The one object I took a pic of was the Cat's Eye nebula.  I took this with my iPhone using the night vision setting, 10 second exposure, afocal.  Yeah.  It might be a crummy pic, but given how I took it, OMG...

 

av3UTKx.jpg

 

We looked at another rectangular blue planetary nebula.  I cannot remember the NGC number, but once I get the observing notes, I'll update this.  This one had a very clearly visible central star.  Yet another planetary nebula, we looked at M57.  I honestly was surprised how unimpressive it looked.  I think this was totally due to the light polluted skies and the large magnification.  With a little lower magnification I think it would have looked better and popped more to the eye.  Putting an OIII filter over the eyepiece really made the nebula pop however.  Speaking of which, we looked at yet another planetary that was a ring and the OIII filter revealed some wispy nebulosity that was not visible without the filter.  Kinda cool.

Lastly, we looked at a planetary that had to be about the coolest object I've ever seen through a telescope.  And this object really requires something like the 60" (or bigger) scope to truly appreciate it.  Dave can find it in his 18" Dob, but it's hard to pick out, both due to image scale and the highly populated star field.  The object is ARO 11.  It has a very red ring with either a yellow central start or yellow inner color to the ring.  It was smallish, even at 480x.  I just tried to find a photo of it on the web and cannot find one.  This object elicited a BIG wow from me.  Very impressive.  I've seen nothing like it before.  I know it's listed in Sky Safari, as Dave had Sky Safari active on his tablet so people could see and learn about what we were looking at.


Again, I'll update when Dave sends out the observing log.  I know I'm forgetting things.

I highly recommend doing this.  The cost was $110 and it was money well spent.  While it would have been even better if the sky were darker, the simple fact that you can observe through an instrument that was not long ago used by professionals, and was the first telescope designed specifically for astrophysics, well, few things are cooler (at least to me).  To stand where giants in the field expanded our knowledge of the universe is awesome in the truest sense of the word.  It also helps keep these instruments operating and available to the public.  The Carnegie Institute washed their hands of the legacy instruments and the site long ago.  In fact, they tried to GIVE AWAY the instruments to anyone who wanted them.  An outcry in the scientific community (both professional and amateur) led to these instruments being preserved and dedicated to public use.  Not only can you buy a ticket for a public viewing night, you can also rent either scope for a half night or a night (last I looked, the 100" was $5,000 per full night).  Just get a bunch of friends together and bring your cash and your list of objects and you're on your way.  smile.gif  Seriously, just the simple fact of attending one of these opportunities allows the observatory to remain not only open but available to the public.


I still cannot believe I was able to do this (and you can too).  I read about these telescopes before I pursued astronomy starting at 13 (50 years ago).  I remember soaking in as much as I could about them.  Some years back Trudy and I took the tour of the observatory and I was awestruck.  And now I've observed through both (did I mention you can too? wink.gif ).  Lastly, Dave mentioned to the group that an old friend from HS that shared his love of astronomy was in attending the session.  It allowed me a chance to talk with a couple of people who had more questions than would be possible for Dave to answer during the session, including one who was asking how big an amateur telescope would be required to enjoy the night sky and what kind to get.  I share the same love Dave does for bringing astronomy to those who are new to it.

Should any of you decide to attend one of these sessions, PM me and I'll give you Dave's full name and reach out to him in case he's session director that night.


Lastly, I got to meet Tim Thompson.  I know that's a name at least of few of you know.  I didn't have time to talk with him much, but an interesting guy.  When I initially met him, it was before others were showing up and I told him "I know who you are."  It was kinda cool.  Life has kept me from being under the stars the last few years, but I still love amateur astronomy, and nights like this one keep me interested and in awe.  I'm hoping life will settle down soon and I'll get to enjoy more time under the stars.  I'm thinking of at least dropping a post in my yard to permanently align my C8 with celestial north so I can enjoy short observing sessions without having to spend more time setting up and tearing down than observing.

 

IjPRGnw.jpg

 

The 60" dome open before it got dark:

 

jBwG1y1.jpg


Edited by Geo31, 30 June 2024 - 10:53 AM.

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#17 Geo31

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Posted 30 June 2024 - 10:56 AM

Oh, another cool thing about the 100"....

 

The outer platform I'm standing on rotates with the dome.  You can stand on that and rotate the dome and it looks like the telescope is moving instead.  Apparently when Einstein was shown this he mentioned it was the best example of relativity he'd ever seen.


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#18 calskywatcher

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Posted 01 July 2024 - 01:38 AM

George, it was fantastic to see you and host you at the Observatory.   If anyone else is planning a trip to LA, you can reserve either scope with a group, and we do have individual ticket sessions, which is what George did. Visit mtwilson.edu. With our sadly light polluted skies and very long EFL (60" f/16 is about 24,400-mm -  this is the Cassegrain configuration, the scope is no longer use in the f/5 Newtonian or f/30 Coude configurations), our best objects have high surface brightness and are compact.   This includes the Moon (OK, not so compact but you can slew!), planets and their satellites (e.g., Phobos & Deimos are easy); globular star clusters, planetary nebulae, and interesting stellar objects such as double stars & extremely red carbon stars.  

 

Here was the observing list for the session that George attended (including a picture of Campbell's Hydrogen Star, which impressed George the most (and me too, I love looking at this unique planetary).    List:   Arcturus (alpha Bootis); Izar (Epsilon Bootis); T CrB (sadly, it did not decide to "blow" while we were looking); M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy); M5; Rasalgethi (alpha Her); M13 (Great Cluster in Hercules); NGC 6210 (Turtle Nebula); NGC 6543 (the Cat's Eye, George's pic); Double-Double (Epsilon Lyrae); M57; T Lyrae (super red carbon star); M11 (Wild Duck cluster); NGC 6309 (Box Nebula); NGC 6572 (Blue Racquetball Nebula); M17 (Omega Nebula) & Campbell's Hydrogen Star (PK 064+5.1 & ARO 11).    

 

PN PK64 5p1 CampbellsHydrogenStar 092023 2219PDT

Edited by calskywatcher, 01 July 2024 - 01:49 AM.

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