WEST DELRAY REGIONAL PARK OBSERVING REPORT

Saturday, August 23, 2014 was a remarkable night to remember for ASPB members in South Florida. The sky was mostly clear and the ever-present summer haze was not thick enough to obliterate everything but the very brightest stars and planets. It was hot to be sure, 86 degrees in fact, and the humidity was up there too at 66%. Nevertheless, 4th magnitude stars could be seen near the zenith along with a hint of the Milky Way in Cygnus. Even the mosquitoes weren't as bad as usual thanks to the Thermo Cell units and bug repellant with deet. With me at West Delray were president Steve Schiff, West Delray coordinator Sam Storch, Lon Anderson, Bob Guzauskas, new members Shri Shenbagamootthy, Mark Baratta, Joe Brink with his 7 year old granddaughter Angelica and Quin and Sherry Travers. We had 7 telescopes, the largest of which was Joe's C14.

The seeing was very steady, affording detailed views of Saturn at 311x in my C11. Even Saturn's faint C Ring could be seen and Cassini's Division was prominent. A bit of the shadow of Saturn's disk could be seen on the rear portion of the rings and there was some nice detail on the disk.

Deep sky viewing was better than usual for the South Florida summer. Unlike last month's West Delray session, this time I was able to observe the globular clusters M4 in Scorpius and M22 in Sagittarius. The latter was particularly good in the Meade Super-Wide Field 18mm eyepiece for 156x in my C11. I was unable to see either at last month's session. We were also treated to a pass of the International Space Station which reached magnitude -2 or better around 9:30. We enjoyed good views of the bright Scorpius open clusters M6 and the larger M7, the latter in the 80mm finder piggy-backed on the C11. When I initially observed the emission nebula M8 in Sagittarius (the "Lagoon"), the associated open cluster showed bright and clear, but the nebula was quite faint with only the bright center clearly visible. I was able to increase the contrast and visibility of the nebula by adding a Lumicon Deep Sky Filter. When I exchanged that filter for my OIII filter, the contrast improved considerably and the nebula became quite large and extensive. Turning to the nearby emission/reflection nebula M20 (the "Trifid"), I was disappointed to find it only partially visible with averted vision. The filters wouldn't have helped here because much of the nebula is the reflection type, i.e., cold gas lit up by nearby starlight which would only have been further dimmed by the filters. M17, called the "Swan" or "Omega" Nebula because of its distinctive shape, was far better. The nebula could be seen at 70x without filters and the OIII filter really made it stand out beautifully. I closed with the attractive open cluster M25 in Sagittarius, sometimes called the "Butterfly". Upon observing this cluster, Angelica decided that she also saw it as a flying horse and renamed the cluster accordingly.

We observed until about 10:30, by which time the haze started to thicken and we had some dew forming on our telescopes. We packed up and left well before 11:00pm.

Jay Albert, 8/24/14