Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Airshows, astronomy, oh my!

Work has been crazy lately. I had to present status for a mega-project I'm managing to our CEO last Friday. It went well but the fun continues - the clock keeps ticking and we still have a huge product to build. I'm still enjoying the job, though, and I get to deal with some very cool stuff and work with some immensely talented people. Never had so much fun at work before...

I went to Burnet on Saturday with the intention of hanging out at the local airshow, and then heading off to Canyon of the Eagles that night for some deep sky observing sessions. The wind was nuts, gusting up to about 45MPH at times. A few mates and I held firm and sat in our deck chairs next to the runway for five hours, being battered by the wind which really made the temperature drop quite dramtically at times. About 50% of the aircraft slated to fly did fly, and we saw some decent aerobatics despite the wind conditions. Unfortunately the MiG-17 that was there scratched from the show - pity! I also felt so battered and chilled by the wind that the thought of spending several more hours out in the country's cold, dark skies made me cringe. I'm usually tough (!) but had enough. My colleagues agreed and we all headed home once the flying display stopped. Before I left I did get to check out a gorgeous aircraft - a Diamond Star DA-40! The owner even let me in to the cockpit, which was great fun as this aircraft sports a "glass cockpit", meaning that it has two large color screen displays that replicate flight instrumentation, weather conditions, GPS etc. Picture above is of the cockpit itself. Sexy!!!

Sunday night conditions were MUCH better. So, scope gear still sitting in the car, I headed to the local observing spot. I hadn't been there for about a couple of months and sadly came to realize the light pollution there was really bad. Austin threw off a very large light dome, and the sky just was not dark. I set up anyway and enjoyed a nice three hour observing session. I observed some objects that I hadn't seen in a long time, including:

  • M33 (Very faint)
  • M36
  • M37 (my favourite cluster in this region - very dense and quite interesting)
  • M38
  • M42 (getting lower now, but lovely nonetheless)
  • M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy - very faint but I could make out the two central bulges)
  • M81 & M82 (I still think it's just fantastic to see both of these galaxies in a single eyepiece FOV, used the 30mm 1RPD eyepiece)
  • Saturn (seeing conditions were worse than predicted, so couldn't get a very steady image)
  • Venus (Immensely bright! (Need a filter) Definitive gibbous phase, some cloud detail observed)
Another very interesting object I observed was the planetary nebula called "Ghost of Jupiter", or NGC3242. It's an 8.3 magnitude nebula that quite frankly I hadn't heard of before until scouring over my star map on Sunday night. Quite good actually - very prominent and I can see why it got its name. Highly recommend hunting it down...

Overall, a good weekend despite trying weather. Again, my observing experience made me realize how much I miss when I spend too much time trying to image the heavens. So, thinking of sellin g the camera gear and maybe investing in some more eyepieces.

No comments: