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Observation Report
Blue Canyon - HGO, Saturday, May 19, 2001

by: Jim Ster

As long as I was going to Blue Canyon for some dark sky observing anyway, I invited a few nice people we'd met at the Astronomy Day festivities to join us and several other SVAS Observatory Members for the evening. Margaret Temple and I arrived at HGO around 6:00pm. We'd of been there a few minutes earlier, but had to stop about 8 miles before to offer Joe Riddle some assistance. He was having a bit of difficulty with an overheating problem and I told him if we didn't see him by 7:00 that I'd come back and bring him some water. Fortunately, he and Kyle arrived shortly thereafter.

When we arrived, we found Gene Kahn already there, setting up for the evening. After we introduced ourselves, Mags and I proceeded to open and inspect the facilities in preparation for the evenings activities. First, we checked out the rest room facilities. They were still inoperative, so Mags and I braved the basement of the old weather station to get the water supply system back up and running for the season. There were a lot of cobwebs to deal with and as I walked down the stairs to the basement, was having second thoughts about going down there. Lets just say spiders and I don't get along too well. After a few minutes of studying the plumbing and electrical systems, I turned a few knobs in the right direction, threw a few switches and bingo, it was on! We then went back to the rest rooms to put the final pieces of the puzzle together. We all owe Mags a big thank you for taking care of making the rest rooms acceptable for public use this season. It was no easy chore I assure you. As a final touch, she had me cut a few bows of lilacs for her which she placed in the rest rooms as a natural air freshener. Very well done indeed! Thanks Mags!

Next, I opened up HGO and made an entry in the log book about the water system and rest rooms. When I went into the observing chamber, I noticed a few little twigs, pine needles and such about the floor. As I pushed the roof back, I found that we had a couple of those dreaded timber tigers (AKA chipmunks) had taken up residency. They were just as surprised as I was when the roof moved and they scattered about. They ended up running over by the tool closet and down between the boards underneath the bench seat. I didn't see or hear them after that. I pushed the broom around a bit and picked up a little (but it still needs more). The guests for the evening began to arrive so I went outside to greet them. Andy Mauck arrived first and I gave him the nickel tour of the place while it was still daylight. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the crowd showed up and it was time for me to set up my equipment as well.

The evening started out looking pretty promising. The skies were 99% clear and the north wind was blowing the smog south. A few wispy clouds to the west were heading south and the northern sky was clear. Unfortunately, this wasn't to be a spectacular evening like Randy had last Sunday. There was a bit of high moisture that plagued the seeing the entire evening. Unless something was near zenith, it was a pretty mediocre view. It's a good thing that most of us were photon deprived and grateful for any of the ancient relics that struck our retinas. For a few of the guests, this was their first trip to HGO, so it was a glorious night. For the seasoned observers, it was slim pickings. One of my high points was while I was viewing M51 through Jane's new 12.5" Starmaster with my 31 mm Nagler and a satellite slowly passed through the FOV (5 seconds) and split M51 and it's nearby neighbor right down the middle! That's one thing about Blue Canyon, the satellites pollute the skies. We were also treated to quite a display of meteors. We must have seen 50 - 60 over the course of the evening and one particular one around 11:40 cause most of us to get pretty excited.

Around midnight, Mags, Jane and I took a walk out on the Tarmac to the western edge. When we got there and turned around, the view was absolutely spectacular. The milky way was stretching from north to south, just above the horizon with Mars, about 20 degrees above the horizon just south of Sagittarius and Cassiopeia anchoring the northern end. It was breathtaking. Without a doubt, it was the best view of the evening. We ended up having a nice chat out there and a few of the other guests ended up walking out and joining us after hearing our excitement. With all the visual aids in the heavens, we discussed the ecliptic plane and our solar systems relative angle to the galaxy and universe. We must have stayed there for a half hour just talking and enjoying the views. Who says you need a telescope! As a matter of fact, once Sagittarius came up, bino's were the "King" of the evening. I really love those Stellarvue 12 x 60's!!!

Around 2:00am, most were calling it quits and Mags and I weren't far behind. After I made my entry to the HGO logbook and locked up the building, we left around 3:30, just after Jane. While it wasn't the best night for viewing, it certainly was another great night at HGO with our old friends and some new ones.

The list of the evenings attendee's included:

Andy Mauck (new member, 1st trip to HGO)
Jane Smith
Brad Freeman
Art Freeman
Gene Kahn
Francis Lau (soon to be member?)
Alvin Huey
Al Petterson (et. al)
Randy "The King" Muller
Allan Keller
Joe Riddle (Total Aperture King)
Kyle Riddle
Tom Noel (soon to be new member, apps in the mail) & his friend Sue
Mike Conley (new member, 1st trip to HGO)
Margaret Temple
Jim Ster

Clear Skies,
Jim Ster

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