A possible meteor shower, a dark. moonless night, the beautiful skies of Mauna Kea… Why not plan for a trip up the mountain? We all hoped that the new meteor shower would produce a show for us. If not, it would be a dark night with a late rising crescent moon. As I would be working the holiday on Monday, I took Friday off, did some chores around the house and packed my gear.
I brought two bit of kits with which to enjoy the night. First was my old Losmandy mount to be used as a camera platform. Using a tracking mount would allow longer exposures and nice starfields against which to capture any possible meteors. I had along a long plate with five camera ball mounts, something Chris lent me. As expected, as soon as the others saw this there were plenty of volunteers looking for a spot on one of the mounts. Four cameras rode the mount for the evening, hoping to catch a few meteors.
The second bit of kit was Deep Violet, my 18″ telescope. As usual, setting up the big scope quickly gathered a crowd. The line did not dissipate until well after 10pm, a steady flow of visitors hoping to check out the view in the largest telescope present.
The prediction had been for plenty of meteors, up to hundreds per hours. The result was somewhat less than that. We did see a few, but nowhere near a the level of a major meteor shower. The predictions were honest, everyone knew that a poor showing was a possibility, there were just too many unknowns involving this new shower. It is impressive that we managed to predict a new shower at all. This is the first time anyone had realized that a new meteor shower was possible in advance of the event. Reports from across the hemisphere indicated that the shower did materialize, with a rate of perhaps 5-10 ZHR.
I did see two meteors that were probably Camelopardalids, both reasonably bright. A bit of a surprise I saw that many. The line of viewers at the eyepiece of the 18″ was long indeed. Once it was dark enough I set globular clusters like Omega Centauri for the folks at the eyepiece. Later it was M51 and NGC4565, a pair of objects that looked pretty good in the big mirror.
While we watched the skies for meteors the cameras clicked away with little attention. Hundreds of frames on my camera alone. The results from my photographic effort were not exciting, in agreement with our visual results. One example can be seen at the left, a dim meteor and a satellite. There may be others undiscovered in the photographs, but they will be even fainter. The others cameras caught much of the same, a couple faint meteors but otherwise hundreds of frames of stars. After the chance of Camelopardalids receded I turned the camera to the Milky Way sitting high overhead.
It was great talking to all my friends who made it up. Truth be told, I did more socializing than observing during the first half of the night. I lent Violet to a fellow amateur astronomer from Canada for a while, allowing him to check out some southern objects unreachable from his home latitude.
B93 A very dark void in the northern margin of the M24 star cloud, about 20′ x 15′ larger north to south, very few stars (<12) punctuate the darkest region, edges indistinct with a gradual darkening, a contrast to the surrounding rich starfield of M24, B92 is seen 20' west B92Large, about 20′ in diameter, les dark and less defined compared to the nearby B93 just 20′ east, quite a few stars sprinkled across an area devoid of the glow of faint stars that surrounds
NGC6603 A rich star cluster about 5′ in diameter, resolved, notably richer than the already rich starfields of M24, about 20′ southeast of B93, a notable bar of stars runs northwest to southeast across the center of the cluster
In the wee hours of the morning I did get some observing done, wandering through eastern Sagittarius. I toured past a few dark nebulae, globular and open clusters. The skies remained perfect all night long. At 2:40 the Moon rose, a pretty 20% crescent. Following the Moon a bright Venus rose, punctuating a pretty dawn.
Trumpler 33A sparse object about 10′ in diameter, a half dozen brighter stars (mag. 9-10) arranged in an arc running north to south on the west side of the cluster, a couple dozen dim members fill the area, a bright star at the center (HD 169274 V=7.56) is notably orange
M22 Big, beautiful, 20′ in diameter, fully resolved, round, core not notably condensed, a stunning mass of stars filling much of the field of view
M25 Large, bright, a sparse cluster with stars spread across 20′ of sky
NGC6717A faint globular cluster almost lost in the glare of the 5th magnitude yellow star Nu2 Sgr (HD 175190 V=4.98), about 5′ in diameter, not resolved
A few folks trickled by in the night, arriving and departing the visitor center. Latecomers hoping to see meteors who had not read the predictions and got the time wrong. Adventurous local kids heading up to the summit in the night. The groups of Japanese tourists that appear before dawn always seem a bit rude to me, perhaps just a cultural thing. They gawk at the ‘scope but do not approach. The island boys came up with a cheerful hello, dousing their lights on request. They got a quick tour of a few showpiece objects in the telescope before heading up the road.
As usual I was the only one left when the first glow of dawn appeared over the shoulder of the mountain. Breakdown went smoothly, allowing me pretty views of the Moon and Venus above a golden dawn as I drove down the mountain. I arrived home in Waikoloa just as the first rays of sunlight crept over the landscape. It may have been a letdown for meteors, but it was a beautiful night under the stars.