The Orion Nebula was AWESOME

Fremont Peak

1997 Jan 31

Hi Everyone--

As you read, I went to the Peak last night with the 18" Obsession to get a look at the Nebulas in Orion near the meridian. I got the telescope on 30 Oct 95, just one month after I started my current job which has required 60% or more overseas travel. I had seen M-42/43 low on the horizon on several occasions but I really wanted to get a good view for the last 15 months. Whenever I've been in town it has been bad weather, and I've just managed to miss observing sessions where you all have gotten great looks (like Friday nite a few weeks back.) And this fall I've been playing with the refractor Rich N. made me buy. Here's the report...

I arrived at 4:45pm after looking at the clouds drifting over Santa Cruz all day. I finally decided about 2:30 to load up and go. As I approached the Peak, the sky looked better and better. When I arrived there were a few small clouds low in the SE and a few streaks which stayed near the northern horizon all evening. I set up the telescope along the rail between Rick's and the Workshop. I knew I was in for good luck, when I put the laser collimator in and could not see the return spot on the base of the collimator. I thought it was either perfect or way off. It needed NO adjustment whatever!!! This just doesn't happen.

At about 6:45 the sky was dark enough to start looking around. The seeing was poor but steadied out later. I put the 20mm Nagler (100x) in without a filter and took a look. WOW!! It was worth the anticipation. The detail near the Trapezium (all 6 easy) was so complex I don't have words to describe it. Part of the Nebula looked circular and the circle lay just within the edge of the 0.8 degree field. I put in a 2" UHC filter and had another 'eyegasm' as it's been called. There was detail everywhere I look all around the main part of M-42. There were 'wings' out from the Trapezium in all directions. The detail in the Trapezium was enhanced as well. I spent 30 minutes+ looking at the fine structure that was visible in that area and another 20 minutes examining the areas within a couple of degrees of the Trapezium. M-43 was incredible as well.

I then put a 9mm with UHC (225x) in to examine the Trapezium detail. Again there were more small ~circular darkenings than I ever recall seeing before. I just could not believe how nice an object this really is. I now have a new favorite object. The summer nebulas have been replaced.

Years ago, when I was an astronomy student at University of Arizona (1973-77) I got the chance to see the Trapezium area with the 90" on Kitt Peak. The Trapezium's faint 16th mag stars were all visible in the 5" focal length Erfle permanently mounted for aiming the telescope's equipment. The nebula was very green in color, but the Trapezium just about filled the field. I thought that was as good as I would ever have, but I honestly feel the last night's view with the 20mm Nagler + UHC was much more impressive because I could see the entire environment of the nebula and its subtleties of shading and structure. We sure are lucky to have access to the modern amateur equipment one can get if they spend ALL their cash on optics!!!!!

[ I am under 'orders' not to buy anything else this year no matter what! ]

Sooo... I put the H-beta filter on the 20mm Nagler and went after the Horsehead. It was completely obvious. I almost thought I saw the shape of the head and neck, but I think I was imagining it. It was better to me than the view some of us had with the 30" in October. It was even clearly visible to 2 folks who came up about 8pm who were not dark adapted. I've heard of these two guys and their radio and noise and the rumors were all true. I left about 9pm to get ready for my trip to Brazil tomorrow.

Yesterday was even more special for me. My friend Kris and I took the 102mm Takahashi out in the yard in the morning for a quick look at the Sun (with my DayStar 0.6mm filter and 20mm Plossl, of course!). All summer and fall there has been very little action on the Sun, but yesterday morning there was a large prominence near the limb AND the dark area where the prominence originated. We could trace it from the surface origin up to a couple of minutes of arc beyond the limb. It was the biggest prominence I have seen since getting the DayStar in July. Of course, the Sun has been dead lately anyway, in a record setting manner on number of consecutive days of inactivity, I heard.

I am going to Brazil tomorrow and will return on the 8th of February. I hope to see all of you at the Peak or wherever then. I wish I could have shared the experience with each of you.

Rod Norden; last updated: 1997 Jan 31