As Gary already has posted, we had a very nice session last night at West Delray Regional Park. We had 6
people and as many busy telescopes observing double and multiple stars, nebulas, open clusters, a planet
and moons, a supernova remnant, a globular cluster, and galaxies. We did very well.
Yes, we saw quite a few different objects, and I recall quite a long list of them even now, but thinking
about the time we spent together, the relatively dry (for Florida) air allowed us to hone our observing
skills. For instance, consider the following.
Limiting magnitude:
Bob G was able to record video of Jupiter and moons and due to the fairly dry air, some fainter field
stars were intermittently visible on the camera screen. Isn't it nice when the limiting magnitude is fainter
than usual?
Careful focusing:
Several of us got practice in very careful focusing as we examined some comparatively close double stars
in Mike S's scope and in mineCastor,
Algeiba in Leo, Polaris, and others. We also enjoyed the color
differences of H3945 in Canis Major, the blue and gold pair resembling Almach or Albireo, and in Cor
Caroli (thanks, Mike).
Framing an object attractively:
We discovered that "framing is everything" as one scope after another was turned to the Double Cluster
in Perseus, and Diana was rewarded with being able to find the ruby gemstone between the two
clusters. You need to see both clusters at once to be really impressed.

Using nebula filters:
The use of nebula filters was apparent in giving not only a memorable view of the Orion nebula, but also
in bringing out the faint planetary visible in the field of M46
in Hydra. Now you see it, now you don't.
Seeing conditions and atmospheric absorption:
Although the low altitude and turbulent air near the southern horizon made M79,
(the globular in
Lepus) show poorly, we all thrilled at seeing hints of reddish color in my 10inch
reflector, and then in
Gary W's 18incher.
There's no substitute for aperture in seeing spectacular views.
Planetary details versus magnification and aperture:
All of us looked at Jupiter and were able to note the effects of seeing conditions; the planet appeared to
"swim" at times, and different telescopes showed different views because of resolution of moving air cells.
Learning to see very subtle contrasts:
The relatively low humidity levels made it possible to use the skills of "tapping" or moving the telescope
tube to bring out very faint nebulosity; more than a couple of delighted observers got to see the glow
surrounding the "stepladder" star cluster NGC2244
in Monoceros, the glow being better known as the
Rosette Nebula.
Looking northward it was apparent that galaxies do have different shapes; the pair of M81
and M82
Ursa Major was enjoyed.
The telescope and electronics interface:
Larry H spent the session with the computer and telescope doing imaging; at one point I overheard
some enjoyment of the Crab Nebula where he was located a bit east of me.
Of course, the usual gremlins of clouds affected all of us eventually, and both Gary and I were visited by
the gremlins of wayward electronics.
If we could only have such an evening again! No problems with dew, fewer biting insects than usual, and
lots of nice winter sky objects!
Even the locking of the park gates when we left was a lot easierit
can be done by the strength of just
one person now! There's a new physical mechanism in place to secure the park.