Weekend at Plett Stone

1998 May 24

I had a fantastic trip observing and otherwise observing in the Sierra foothills Friday and Saturday. My first road trip with my 14.5" named Barnacle. We rode into Plett Stone about 5pm to a beautiful carpet of deep purple Larksppur and Michelle on the side of the hill tweaking her collimation on the Obsession. After setting up the scope for cool down, I found a spot for my sleeping bag and took in the beauty of the place. I've always liked driving through the foothills but I never have had time enough on my trips to stop. What a great excuse. Aside from the observing, the beauty of Plett Stone and the graciousness of the hosts (thanks Michelle and Paul) made this a spectacular weekend.

Friday night the seeing and transparency were fair to good, maybe a little better than an average night at the Peak. Poking around in the newly rising Hercules - Cygnus - Ophicius area highlights included M92 with tons of resolution and a bit more character than it's well known neighbor. NGC 6764 a mag 13 galaxy in the westerly wing of Cygnus which was in a field full of over 200 stars quite a bit different view than the Canes Venatici galaxies I've been chasing lately. Using the correct image finder helped reduce my star hoping time and frustration considerably. I rounded off the night learning a bit about astrophotography, guiding and drives from Michelle in the observatory. As we were waiting for Sag. to rise higher and Jupiter to appear clouds from the east cut our night a bit shorter than we would have liked.

Saturday Michelle's pictures from the night before arrived and looked great. I especially liked M104 and M5. Bruce Prickett and family arrived Saturday and Paul and the boys hung out a while Saturday night and we had a real star party. As the sky darkened I showed off M44 and Algieba which were both looking sharp and colorful. These indicators held true through the night as we were treated to a very clear night with steady seeing. Michelle showed us the Supernova in Leo M?? it seemed to be brighter than last Sunday but I was also viewing with 3 " more aperture. Last Sunday Archer told me about a galaxy hiding near M13, I took a peak ind it was clearly obvious, sort of a ghost and the machine view at 90x in the 21mm pentax. In the HB atlas I noticed another galaxy near by starhoping I found NGC 6496. faint and small I decided to check out Skiff to see if I should be looking for any kind of structure. In the entry was a finder chart for 2 other galaxies in the same FOV IC 4614 and 4616 (I'm not positive on the numbers as my notes are still packed) both estimated at 15.5 visual mag., with chart they were definitely there, and confirmed by Michelle. My faintest galaxies yet with Barnacle. The rest of the night I split between ohh and ahhing and old favorites in the big mirror with dark skies - the Whirlpool just about drowned me for over half an hour and the Lagoon dark lane was big enough to drive an intergalactic truck through, the Veil was much more obvious without the filter than Friday and with it was full of strands and swirls, M24 was interesting and I made a noter to go back and really pick it a part this summer, - and sitting back in my rocker tripping out on the Milky Way naked eye. With clear skies and a clear horizon it was stupendous. I could really picture myself within the galaxy looking out, the rift and various protrusions from the disk made me giggle. Finally Jupiter made it over the trees and Michelle's refractor reminded me that size isn't everything :-). Surprisingly enough this was my first night ever observing dusk to dawn. One to remember.

Jeff Blanchard; 1998 May 26