Today I sold my guitar to buy another eyepiece. Sorry music world, you'll have to forego my SUPERB musical talent for now... I headed down to the local astronomy store, where an Orion Stratus 8mm had been put away for me. Upon examining the eyepiece, I noticed a blemish within the lenses. I confirmed this by placing the eyepiece into a telescope at the store and pointing it up into the blue sky. Yep, large black mark. Dang it! The store owner happily offered to order another one in, so by Thursday I'll have another one to check out and hopefully take home. I had read that some people had the same experiences, but Orion was very good with their return policy. This must be the result of mass produced eyepieces, but still the quality of the other two I have is really first class, so I have no dount the same will be true for the 8mm when I finally get to use it.
After spending some time with the family watching Shrek 2 (brilliant!), I went out into the front yard and examined the skies above. The sun was starting to set, and there were very few high level clouds around. The Sky Clock indicated really bad conditions for the night, but something tugged at me deep down inside, probably the result of not being able to get out for the last three months. I decided to head pack the car with my gear real quick and head out, just in case. Of course, I had to help my wife get at least one kid to bed so I chose the older, easier one!! ;-)
A few other folks had arrived at the local observing spot and were already set up by the time I got there. The sun had well and truly set and the brighter stars of the constellations were starting to appear. A young cresent moon hung in the sky to the west, promising to set within an hour or two and provide for some nice dark skies. Those high level clouds had moved off to the north, and the sky was looking pretty good. After a quick setup of my own gear I walked around and said hello to the folks there. It had been a long time since I had been with them so it was nice to catch up and relay what I had seen in the Southern Hemisphere.
It got dark by about 9:30 or so, and I stayed until midnight. Yet again the scope was up to its summer tricks. Goto was so-so, but close enough for me to be able to get the desired object in the finderscope and slew to it for eyepiece use. Summer viewing is okay, I don't think there's much of excitement to view, in all honesty.
Jupiter was beautiful, as always. Straight off the bat I noticed a transit of one of its moons, Ganymede. I love watching these! Anyway, it didn't last long but was interesting to watch as the moon made its way across the northern polar region, casting a very noticeable black round shadow on Jupiter's surface. I also viewed Mars tonight, which is nowhere as big as some fake emails would have people believe right now. Still, I could make out the typical red disc that makes Mars so interesting. It was too low in the horizon to really make significant detail.
I then toured some deep space objects. M57, the Ring Nebula, was very nice tonight. The Stratus 13 displayed it rather nicely. I also viewed M13, the massive globular cluster in Hercules. This time was the first time I could utilize the Stratus 13mm on this object, and it was fantastic. Nice resolution of the individual stars within the cluster, and it was just hursting with life. Other targets included the M27 (Dumbell Nebula), the famous double cluster (NGC 869 & NGC 884), M22 globular cluster and M4 globular cluster, and finally the bright double star Albireo.
Maybe the neatest part of the evening was when one chap pulled out a grill and started cooking hot dogs for everyone. Talk about observing in style! The skies remained clear and relatively stable until about midnight. Anyway, a decent night and I'm glad I took a chance and headed out. Sometimes despite all the advanced weather prediciton systems out there, you just have to go with your gut!