Fremont Peak May 31, 1997
I stopped in San Juan Bautista for a sandwich and a very large drink. I ran into John Kuklewicz doing the same. I finished off the drink on the way up.
I arrived at the peak shortly before 3 PM. I decided to check out the area behind the ranger residence first primarily because it has flush toilets...
There were folk already set up there from the night before. After chatting with them a few moments, I shot off to the SW site. I had been looking forward to setting up there because I'm still chasing galaxies and I'm not quite ready for the summer constellations.
There were four of us there, John (kukl), Jim (shadow), Ken (iibears), and me at first. I mention this.. because we were also the last to shut down the next morning. The wind was brisk and the high cloud cover was a bit discouraging. But we got out the magic stuff, did a few cloud dances, and decided that we would have a good night regardless.
We waited for the wind to die down a bit before setting up. John has an 18" Sky Designs, Jim has a 16" blue-green stained piece of art of his own design and construction, Ken has a Celestron 2000, and I have an Obsession 18". Setting up early gives a chance to really take our time and do a good job of laying out our gear, collimating, and letting the mirrors adjust to ambient temperature.
As nightfall approached, several other astronomers arrived. We were very happy to see many new faces come. It's funny how we associate astronomers by the telescopes that they carry... besides that I am terrible with new names ;). Jay showed up with his Brandon and a Meade 50mm. Others came with a variety of other instruments including a 13" Coulter, 10" Orion, a 6" AP (ga ga), an Orion short tube refractor, and some other assorted dobs.
A couple of cars came in after sunset which means they had to undo the gate to come in. The park volunteer has taken a very personal interest in helping us have good viewing experiences. She told these folk that they shouldn't be coming up after sunset to the observing site and she asked them to leave. After some very uncomfortable moments shared by all, she asked all of us if they could stay... YES! of course!
I suppose that if you want to drive up to the viewing sites this summer, it will be a good idea to get there before sunset.
The clouds, thanks to our cloud dance, opened enough sucker holes for us to get started. Leonard's 9 year old son, Alex, was itching to get a look through my scope at M13. He had been told by his father that it was a spectacle to behold. And it was.. even in the early dusk lit sky. Alex was very enthusiastic about my quest to find all of the objects on my list (a combination of the Herschel list and everyone elses favorites I have been able to find). Together, we chased down 15 or so galaxies in Leo and in Ursa Major. 2 of them weren't even on my list but I bagged them anyways. Every once in a while, I will recompile my list and insert the extras.
I played cat and mouse with good sucker holes in the clouds prior to midnight. I was having lots of fun showing visitors whatever favorite objects were visible. I suppose that I had at least 30 people stop by off and on until midnite. I truly enjoy sharing the sky with them.
Some time after midnight, the clouds cleared and I resumed my hunt for stuff on my list. Jay Freeman was finishing up his Messier hunt with his Meade special.
After Jupiter got high enough in the sky for me to turn my dob on, I discovered a moon's shadow crossing the center belt. We watched this shadow move from the middle of Jupiter to the edge for some time. Ken had noticed the moon prior to the crossing. I have since learned that this moon was IO.
Well it was about 2:30 and there were only 4 of us left observing with a beautifully clear sky. John asked if any of us had seen Stephan's quintet and before we knew it, we were all focusing our scopes on NGC7331 in Pegasus and searching the area for the quintet of FOUR galaxies. I could find NGC7420 but was having a very difficult time finding the "quintet". Finally John discovered it. After seeing where it was we all focused the remaining scopes on the treasure. We watched for a few minutes until all of the galaxies were clear.
After that, the lack of sleep simultaneously caught up with us. I drank another can of cola to compensate. After I finished, everyone decided it was time to pack it in. The caffine had given me an extra spurt of "awakeness" and I decided to pack it in and drive home.
Normally, this is where I would end my report...but not this time. On my way down the hill, I was uncommonly carefull with my driving. I normally drive just a bit faster but this time, the Bejorin prophets were with me. A doe jumped out in the road right in front of the car and stopped and stared at me. This happened to me years before when I kissed a buck at 60 MPH with my Pontiac. Fortunately I was able to stop in time but all of my precious cargo in back came flying forward. I stopped briefly and discovered that everything looked okay. I could see Ken's headlights coming down the hill and so I decided to get going. We sorta followed each other until my exit in Cupertino.
This night was truly an odd night. The weather wasn't great but the observing was down right fun. I would rate this night as one of the best for me ever. I truly had a great time.