DelMarva's Fall Stargaze
DASers gathered at Tuckahoe State Park, MD for the Fall No Frills Stargaze of the DelMarva Stargazers held from September 18 to 21, 2014. Arriving Thursday afternoon about 3PM, I had my tent set up within the hour and Greg Lee followed shortly thereafter. My 18" scope was ready to go well before sunset under skies that I can describe only as totally cloudy from horizon to horizon at all cardinal points. Oh well, anyway it was time for clam chowder and hotdogs in the break room.
Patience has its rewards. By nightfall conditions substantially improved. At 11:30PM skies were at 6+ naked eye limiting magnitude that made the appealing edge-on galaxy NGC 891, the spiral galaxy NGC 1023 and the Double Cluster the showpieces that lesser skies cannot support well. M27 had stars coming through the nebula. The Milky Way was spread nicely but faded in and out as the night wore on even though for the most part the zenith was relatively clear as well as the eastern sky. For example, NGC 40 had the shell structure around its central star well defined and NGC 7331 with the Deer Lick Group of galaxies were looking very good but then slowly dissipated within seconds while observing it due to a clouding event. Ground fog hampered some of our efforts but the scopes punched through the low lying fog enabling Greg and I to get more observing in than we thought we would considering the early evening cloud-out. Highlights were M31 with its satellite galaxies M32 and NGC 205 (M110) as standouts, with obvious dark lanes in M31 and I think I might have caught NGC206, the bright star cloud inside M31. When Orion got high enough we observed all six stars in the Trapezium very easily. The many dark lanes within the outer reaches of M42, snake-like in architecture, could be followed as easily as good road maps to the Trap’s proto-stars.
Friday afternoon, Rob Lancaster and Bill Hanagan joined us in time for a lunch trip to Shell's BBQ just outside the park. Peter Huesmann arrived Friday evening for just that night. Sharing mostly clear skies during the night I set up my SkyWatcher f/7.5 120mm ED Apo refractor for alternate views to compliment what I was observing through the 18”.
Saturday was the DMSG's famous tasty Fish Fry followed by what turned into a cloud-out by midnight so I packed up my scope equipment early and left the field around 10:15AM Sunday.