They said that it was the few times in MAS history that stargazing is conducted in snow. Nevertheless, it is a huge change from the usual greens and browns that greeted me when I was here last year, and oh boy how glorious it was.
In the backdrop is the newly-built Sylvia A.Casby Observatory, housing simultaneous a 12-inch f/3 Takahashi Mewlon (which I heard was a used telescope donated by someone), and a 8-inch TMB-APO both on an El Capitan Astro-Physics mount. Note that there is a pier extender too that allows observation at low horizons.
If you don’t know what these are, just note that these are good stuff. Really good stuff.
And there’s Comet PANSTARRS! Like usual, captured on the awesome live video feed connected to a Celestron C14. The upper pic is when the sky is still slightly bright, and the lower one is at about its maximum brightness when the Sun is down. Clouds appeared after and swallowed the comet before it got below the horizon.
This would be my very first observed comet ever. Although it is not as bright as expected, I managed to find it myself with the naked eye, and also by using a 10x50 binoculars courtesy of MAS President and my astornomy sifu Dave Falkner. Dave is very kind, allowing me to hitchhike from Minneapolis to Baylor Park for a few times already, and sharing lots of stories about his astronomy pursuits from Indianapolis to California to Minnesota where we are now. He has also published a book about constellations and the related Greek mythology, how cool is that?!
There is some news circulating around that Comet PANSTARRS may be breaking up into pieces. That would be interesting to view over the next few weeks. Unfortunately the next Onan Public Star Party lined up is two weeks later and by then the comet will dim to about magnitude 4-5, making it impossible to spot with the naked eye.
There are more stuff than we will be able to see in the winter sky – but the wind chill brought the temperature down to 0 Fahrenheit tonight so most of us left after the comet disappeared. Here are some pictures of the other observations we did – The Moon and the Horsehead Nebula. They are all quite awesome! :D