A Wonderful Night Under Terrible Skies

1998 Apr 25

After nearly freezing to death last week at Freemont Peak, I returned on Saturday the 25th. fully prepared for the cold. And I mean "fully." I arrived about 4:30 pm  and after paying the toll headed straight for the south lot. Were I was happy to see fellow astronomy enthusiasts and members of TAC.

As the temperature dropped I would add another layer to fight back. The cold continued to build until I struck the final blow. I reached in my battle bag and pulled out and put on a insulated Ski Bib and my Down coat an suddenly the "Enemy" was vanquished.

As I sat and talked with various TAC members, I realized that one of the weapons against the cold was not to be found among the items I brought with me.

The warmth and friendship generated by TAC members did a awful lot to keep the cold a bay. You guys/gals are the best group of Amateur Astronomers I've had the pleasure of observing with. One of the most enjoyable nights I've had with my cloths on. :-) A special thanks to Allen, Rich, Richard and others whose names I have not yet committed to memory who were happy to help me get my bearings.

After several of us paid homage to the "Collimation god" ( Thanks Mark ) we got down to trying our hand at finding something in the terrible night skies we had at the Peak.

As darkness fell, I started out by searching for double stars with my 8" Dobs. Not looking for any pair in particular, I would just pick out a small section of sky and just hop from star to star in hopes of finding a very close pair or a pair with striking color differences. This is one of the few things I can do under San Franciscan skies, can be enjoyable and is also something that requires no skill. :-)

With Mark's help the first DSO I observed was M3. Because of my inexperience M3 at first glance it did not appear to me as having many individual or resolvable stars in it, Mark said that he was seeing many resolvable stars, I stayed with M3 for quit a long time. And then almost like magic the stars started popping into view. I could feel the fun creeping up my back as the photons were tickling my retinas. I then went from scope to scope to see what M3 looked like in some of the other scope that were set up, and was very happy to see that the views I was getting in my 8" were very good indeed. By staying on M3 for a long time I could tell that my skills were improving, more and more stars were coming into view.

Next up was M13. Because I stayed on M3 so long I felt better about my ability to see these wonderful objects and M13 did not disappoint. I sat there with my jaw hanging down, remembering a line from 2001 " My God it's full of stars " I think I may have even blurted out the phrase in my excitement. M13 was, even under poor conditions, a gorgeous site, to many resolvable stars to count.

With help I was able to find M92, M22, the Ring Nebula and a few more. I stayed up viewing maybe an hour after everyone had turned in, reacquiring all the objects I had been shown. And I was able to find all but one.

I have a great deal to learn but with the help and encouragement I get from the good folks of TAC I know that I will become a seasoned vet and be in a position to help others as they come onboard. Thanks allot guys. "TAC Rules."

Rashad Al-Mansour; 1998 Apr 27