Observing Report – 08.19.2004

Excerpt from a report posted on the Cloudy Nights forum:
Second light was last night. The clouds haven’t been clearing out until after 11 pm. So the kids were in bed again, and I didn’t get to share the Next-Amazing-Sightâ„¢ with them. I took the time to install the drives before going out. The declination drive gears didn’t seem as nicely aligned as the RA was. It’s not that they’re cockeyed, they’re just not exactly centered over each other. Still, it seems they should work fine. I say ‘seems’, because I didn’t have a chance to test them, what with a little thing we call ‘batteries not included’…and I wasn’t in the mood to go on safari, dumping half-dead batteries out of flashlights.
So I stepped out the front door, shielded my eyes from the kleig light travesty down the road and pondered whether I need to invest in a dracula cape for my front yard activities. My first trip out was a reconnoissance mission. I checked for a constellation or star I could reference to the Sky program Orion sent with the scope. I settled on Altair, went back inside and scrolled around looking for a likely DSO the Aquila constellation would point me to. I decided I’d hunt for M11 and NGC6712 since they’re pretty close to each other and the little hook at the bottom of Aquila would point toward them.
I drew a hasty little map and went back out. By now a smear of clouds had covered Aquila and Scutum, because, you know, that’s what’s supposed to happen, right? Fortunately, the Pleiades had risen and I spent some time gandering at those two little stars in the middle some more. The Sky program gave me their designations and I only found one site via google that had anything to say about them. In a cryptic way, it alluded that they’re actually part of a triple star system. I couldn’t pull a third star out though.
Once the clouds to the south blew by, I rotated the telescope and started hunting for the clusters through the spotting scope, and in less than a couple minutes, I saw a little fluff in the spotter. I was getting a rush as I centered on it, and when I looked through the 25 mm eyepiece, poof there it was. Wow. (That’s what I was thinking, “wow”.) I put the 10 mm eyepiece in, and it did a great job bringing out the detail in this spectacular city of stars. Now, I know M11 is like the Big Dipper of DSOs, but I wasn’t sure if that was indeed what I was looking at. So I picked up my notepad and started sketching the shape, and the position of some of the brighter stars. After I got done grinning over it, and then doing some window shopping toward the setting ‘teapot’, I came in and compared the sketch to a Googled image of M11. The giveaway was the bright star in the center, and a couple of close, bright, outlyer stars. That was it. I had visited M11. And so now, I’m thinking of starting a Messier list. So what’s that….4 down, 396 to go? Sounds like fun. [note: this was before I became better acquainted with the Messier list, which actually spans 110 objects.]

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