A Foggy Night at Kaʻohe

Foggy? Well? Mostly the skies were the beautiful dark Mauna Kea skies we enjoy. Mostly. The fog did flirt with us much of the night, rolling over hard for about half an hour, blotting out the stars for a while.

The Phelps family enjoys the skies at Kaʻohe
The Phelps family enjoys the skies at Kaʻohe

Despite a dire forecast for moisture on the mauna, the weather at Kaʻohe was quite nice aside from a bit of fog. The big telescopes atop the mauna were closed for much of the night in fog and even a little light snow, while we were enjoying the stars in the eyepiece.

There were ten folks who drove up the mauna to enjoy the night… Maureen, Cathy, Andrew, John, Cliff, and myself. Plus all four members of the Phelps family with their own telescope.

The view after sunset was stunning, Jupiter and Venus in a close pair over the summit of Hualālai deep in the bright zodiacal light. The Milky Way arched over the northern sky from Sagittarius to Cassiopeia.

The ‘scopes jumped about, as usual starting with old favorites and sharing the views with everyone. We stopped by Andromeda, the Double Cluster, the Wild Duck Cluster, and of course the planets. Saturn is still high enough to be beautiful in the ‘scope.

It was about nine when the fog rolled over us from the north, coming around the mauna. It swallowed the stars until only the few brightest could be seen, then nothing. I put the covers on the ‘scope and threw a blanket over it to keep the mist off and joined the others to chat.

The fog lasted over half an hour… No problem. The group gathered around Maureen’s scope to talk story and exchange snacks. There were crackers and cheese, home made chocolate chip cookies, macadamias and cashews, everything just gathered on the table to share.

Observers break down the telescopes at the end of the evening
Observers break down the telescopes at the end of the evening

Eventually the fog did clear to leave clear starry skies above. The mists remained in the area, a layer below us in the valley towards Hualālai, a large mass in the Saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The fog never came again, just hovered, visible in the starlight.

When the fog cleared I started observing seriously, finding and making notes on galaxies in Pisces.

NGC7428 Small 2′, round, bright nucleus

NGC7451 Good sized 3’x1′, elongated southeast-northwest, no obvious core, NGC7537 visible 3′ southwest

NGC7537 Small, bright, no core visible

R Lep Bright, coppery orange not red, near maximum?

Around midnight flashes of lightning could be seen over Hualālai, thunderstorm out to sea past Kona illuminated by the flashes. I kept on, making notes on another dozen galaxies in Cetus…

NGC596 Good sized 3′, bright, bright core, the 5.8 magnitude star HR448 at the edge of the field 7′ east

NGC600 Very faint, a low surface brightness object, no notable core

NGC871 Quite faint, small, elongated north-south, the 8.6 magnitude star HD14108 is 5′ south, cannot see NGC870 2′ southwest

It was nearly one am when I decided to call it, the others having left well before. As I put away the gear I heard pigs nearby. Something moving through the grass with small hooves, with a couple grunts to confirm the unseen intruders. Neither pig nor human seemed inclined to meet as we went our separate ways into the night.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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