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Observation Report
Fiddletown, Saturday, March 17, 2001

by: Art Freeman

Well, Brad and I finally made it up to Fiddletown for our first outing with Tac-Sac. In our first visit, I was somewhat surprised that Fiddletown was just about as good of an observation site as Blue Canyon, but at a lower elevation. We first met James Ster at the Pokerville Market and drove up to the site where we stopped just prior and removed our backup light fuses. Randy Muller guided us in with his red light and Jim and I started unpacking for a pretty good night of observations.

To start off the night, I was having problems with my collimation of my 16" Dob. and Randy lent me a hand by collimating it for me. It appears that the "Secondary Mirror Spider" was out of spec. and had to reposition it a bit. Got it collimated and was viewing Jupiter by 9:00 pm. This was really a great time to view Jupiter as IO was just coming out of transition from in front of Jupiter and was casting its shadow on its massive cloud surface. What also made this pretty nice was that Callisto was also making a near pass of this giant.

Then I swung my white canon over to focus on the Orion Nebula, M42. Normally, when viewing the Orion Nebula, I have only been able to see four stars in the Trapezium, but thanks to Randy's excellent collimating work, I could see all six in the Trapezium. Funny, until this point, I only thought there were just four stars in the Trapezium. Well, this told me I was in for an excellent night of viewing the heavens.

Following this and as a real novice, I really depended on Shneor Sherman and Jim to locate the more difficult objects viewed this night. Most of the earlier evening was spent in conversation and getting aquatinted with fellow astronomers I have yet to meet until tonight, of which Gary Manning introduced me to what seems to be a set of books that will really help me in future observations. I ordered the set the very next morning.

About 1:00 am, Shneor located NGC 4762, an edge on galaxy that was really spectacular. It was completely vertical and had an almost razor edge center with a nice glow to both sides of the center. Thanks Shneor! Unfortunately, the accompanying photo I found of it is poor.

About 1:30, Jim told me where the Pinwheel Galaxy, M51 was located and while he was tracking it, I got the barring's for it through his RelRad and was able to find it with little problems. Spectacular, I could faintly see the arms of the galaxy and clearly see its bright ball at the tip end of the longest arm. This is a side on galaxy which filled my 12mm lens by about 70%.

This was followed by the sight of the ever popular Globular Cluster, M13. What can I say about this cluster that everyone already knows, other then "BEAUTIFUL!"

About 2:00 am, Shneor came over and told Jim that the Hamburger Galaxy, NGC 5128, also known as "Centaurus A," was above the southern horizon. At this point in time, NGC 5128 was behind the trees for Shneor and behind an observatory building for Jim, though Jim had already put in the location and was tracking a yet not emerged galaxy. On the other hand, my 16"er was in the clear for this galaxy and I had to make four (4) trips over to Jim's TelRad on his 12" Meade in order to locate NGC 5128. I was ecstatic that I could even find it and was the first to do so as my scope was the only one that had a clear view of that area of the sky at this point in time. You could see the top and bottom glow of the galaxy with the center dust lane acting like an invisable layer in the center. "BEAUTIFUL!"

Shortly after, Shneor announced that there was a Globular Cluster called Omega Centaury just below the Hamburger Galaxy (sorry, no photo) and almost on the horizon, so we all met at my white cannon. After searching for it, we determined the horizon was too light to be able to see it and all went our ways to other scopes. Brad, my 17 year old son walked up to my scope and just dropped it a little and accidentally found the cluster we had just been looking for. LOL

Well, the moon would be up soon, about 3:00 am and we all were getting pretty tired. It was a pretty good night for viewing and visiting with old and new friends. Time to put the fuses back into their holders and head for home. Thanks all, Brad and I had a great time.

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