Session Names: 20060127.2110
Location: TotL, Central Park, NYC
Site Classification: Urban
Dates/times: 27 Jan. 2006, 9:10pm ~ Midnight; 27 Jan. 2006, 9:10pm ~ 12:15am
Handheld Binos: Fuji 7x50
Tripod-mounted Binos: Takahashi 22x60, fov - 2.1°
Tripod-mounted RFT: Coulter CT-100, F/4 4¼" reflector
Transparency/Seeing (1 worst - 5 best): 2/3
NELM: Zenith - m4.66 (gamma Cancri)
Conditions: Moonless, clear night, cold, gusty winds early
Observing party: Kin L, and myself
Passersby: Carol, Gregory, a few other persons
Finally! After a seemingly long hiatus, I returned to TotL with a light observing pack to get some time beneath the stars. I traveled lightly with a backpack of bins and tripod, carrying the Coulter scope in its case thrown over my shoulder. Compared to the Teleport and Tak FS102, this is easy going! Setup is as quick as the Teleport.
Friday was a cold and surprisingly windy night. I thought for sure that Ben, Charlie, and Kin would be out because it was clear skies, but Kin & I were the only ones that showed. Even the passerby traffic was thin with occasional dogwalkers and some kids passing through. My skills seemed real rusty, too. I had to get some oil on the joints and eye-hand-coordination abck into swing. It felt that long!
Over the past month, I literally fell out of astronomy. The weather, holidays, work, and preoccupations pulled me away from anything astronomy, including blog reading, planetarium software, or just looking up. On Friday night I setup the bins pretty fast and threw them on Saturn to get them in focus. I was floored to see M44 and Saturn in the same field of view. Where have I been!! It was a total surprise to see this amazing sight. I left the bins on them for about an hour just soaking up that view, sharing it with the others, and softly scan the sky with naked eye.
In the Taks, M44 had three levels of stars: 30+ bright obvious stars; about dozen dimmer stars which required some effort; and, lastly the a background of unresolved glow. M44 is large, easily half the fov through the bins. Below was resolved Saturn floating magnificently with Titan and Rhea to the East. In contrast to the bins, the reflector CT100 with a 12.5mm EP, lost the background glow of M44. At least, I couldn't detect that same sensation. It did pull in Rhea much brighter and more obvious than the bins.
Afterward I hopped to Acubens, alpha Cnc, on my way to the other Cancri open cluster, M67, one of the oldest which exhibits nonconformity, as open clusters go. M67 was very, very faint and unresolved. No shape was discerned, just a soft low surface brightness glow against the background sky. 2 ~ 3 stars would blink, marking its location relative to other stars in the field.
Kin showed up and we chatted and observed Saturn through the RFT with different EPs. It was getting cold, so we packed up and left after Gregory visited at his typical witching hour on his way to work. We spoke of showing up at Carl Schurz Park the follwoing morning. Charlie had suggested we meet on Saturday morning to observe the old crescent Moon and sunrise. Turns out I slept until 9:30am and the sky was not the clearest.
As far as number of objects observed, it was awfully small - 3. I did abort an attempt to observe NGC 2841 with CT-100, but that would wait until the following night. The number of passersby was equally small. A great refreshing feeling to return to the night sky and meet up with friends and regulars I missed over the holidays.