A line of big telescopes greeted the crowd. Mike had his 20″, Cliff his 24″, my 18″ Deep Violet, later in the evening Olivier set up his 18″ Priscilla. All of this large glass was open to the public, we each had long line of folks waiting a turn at the eyepiece. It was a huge Saturday night crowd, several hundred people awaited darkness. Yes, I had made the decision to observe from the VIS, knowing that there would be a crowd, but wow!
Lots of folks wondered why there were so many telescopes. Over and over we explained that they were lucky, having chosen the right night to visit the mountain. A Saturday night close to the new moon, with local amateurs bringing their own telescopes to share.
Showpiece objects, the Andromeda Galaxy, The Pleiades and Jupiter were available for viewing. I was stuck on the Orion Nebula all evening long. I changed targets once, to meet a chorus of request to move back to the nebula. I have to admit it was a pretty view, even to me, who has seen this sight more times than I remember. I put the 35mm eyepiece in place, creating a bright low power view that had visitors waiting through line a few times for second and third looks.
In addition to the big dobs there were quite a few smaller ‘scopes present. Maureen had her C-11 setup, Larry brought his nice Stellarvue 102mm refractor, Mike had an 8″ SCT beside his 20″ for use by a friend. Dan didn’t bring a ‘scope, but he did bring pizza! We met Woody, an Alaskan Airlines pilot flying the Anchorage to Kona run. Out of a couple carry-on sized bags he produced more telescope than we would have thought fit in airline luggage…. A neat collapsible pier arrangement with an alt-az mount and a very nice WO 110mm APO.
Conditions were what we climb Mauna Kea for, beautifully transparent skies. The temperatures were cool, hovering a bit above freezing for the night, but there was no wind, making conditions quite pleasant for those prepared for the cold. The seeing was a little fuzzy in the evening, steadied out for the latter part of the night, the degraded again near dawn. The culprit most likely being the usual cool down-slope air currents. Views of Saturn in the wee hours were quite nice.
I managed less personal observing than I had planned on. Public observing for the first few hours, followed by too much socializing with other observers and sharing the views in other ‘scopes left little time for hunting faint fuzzies. I did work through many of the deep sky objects in Vela, completing much of the chapter in the Night Sky Guide.
NGC3132 A big, bright planetary, a brilliant central star in the center of a 2′ halo, the outer edge notably brighter, the bright central star creating an illusion of a darker center, slightly green in color
NGC2818 A miniature version of M46, a modest cluster with a planetary NGC2818A embedded in the western margin, a uniform cluster of 13 and 14th magnitude stars about 5′ across
NGC2818A Small, about 1′ diameter, no central star visible, embedded in the western margin of the open cluster NGC2818
NGC3201 Large at about 15′ across, a dense region of 14-15 magnitude stars without a notably compact core, can be mistaken for a rich open cluster
NGC3261 Small, a bright nucleus, a 14th magnitude star sharing the halo 20″ north of the core, a line of 12th magnitude stars straddle the galaxy
About 2am Cliff gave up his telescope. The big 24″ dob was loaded into Dan’s trailer for a trip to Hilo. Dan is again making badly needed repairs to this heavily used telescope. Not that the lack of a telescope stopped Cliff from observing, he moved in with me to share Violet. Come dawn we were that last observers remaining to greet the Sun.