After carefully monitoring the weather conditions and checking Kerry's reports, we decided to open up Binbrook. On the way up, I was getting worried when I saw the sky covered in high level clouds. Fortunately I needn't fret as the clouds disappated for a clear night.
When I arrived, Jackie had just packed up her 80mm Nexstar after spending several hours of solar observing, and was in the process of setting up the 80mm apo for the night session.
Eventually John G showed up with his 5" Dob, Kerry brought her 6" Schmidt, Tim H had his 80mm apo on a table mount (wasn't it a little cool sitting on the ground?). Jim W arrived with his 8" Celestron and of course I had my 7" Mak. Around 10:30 Steve G appeared with his 4" loaner Newtonian and his parallelogram binocular mount. (Surprisingly no one set up any imaging equipment - it was going to be strictly an observing night.) We had a great variety of scopes set up and we had clear skies. On the shortest night of the year, we were going to make the best of it.
Early we had a great view of Venus, Saturn, Regulus and the waxing cresent moon all lined up in a row. We really enjoyed looking at the terminator on the moon, especially with the various binoviewers that were present. Between breaks in some mild unsettled air near the horizon, we could see many bands and colours on Jupiter and its 4 moons lined up equally on both sides of the planet. Coincidentally, there was a star of about equal magnitude in perfect alignment with the moons and it looked like Jupiter had gained a 5th Galilean moon.
John G had come prepared and notified us of the scheduled passing of the ISS and shuttle. Right on time they went by and we all had a chance to watch the two of them fly by, separated by about 35 degrees. While we couldn't track with the scopes, we trained the binoculars we had on them. Regrettably we couldn't make out much detail due to the low angle of their passing. But it was still a nice treat.
With all the equipment present, we spent a fair amount of time swapping pieces to see what we liked. Jackie had her Celestron binoviewer, I had my Antares and Kerry was trying out some Lomo's she had borrowed. Everyone agreed that viewing with BV's was a real joy. We trained them on the moon, globulars and nebulaes. The images were slightly less bright than with a single eyepiece, but the comfort of using 2 eyes and the increased perceived depth perception made up for the lack of brightness. After attempting to do a careful evaluation of trying each on different scopes and using the same eyepieces, I think the consensus was that the Celestrons and Antares were nearly identical. The surprise was the Lomo's. Most felt they weren't quite as bright or crisp as the other two. They were nice, but just not quite as appealing as the others. This was quite baffling since they have a very good reputation. Several hypotheses were debated, but we agreed we didn't have enough knowledge to explain the difference.
In addition to trying out the various BV's, we also swapped eyepieces around. Without exception, everyone agreed the best was John G's Pentax WX EP's. They were amazingly brighter and crisper than any of the stock eyepieces that most of us were using. Even on his 5" Dob, M13 was as bright and clear (when we could get the scope to stay on the cluster) as on my 7" Mak with a regular eyepiece. While great eyepieces, they were a little heavy for his small Dob. The rest of us were drooling and green with envy. (I think I know what I want for Christmas.)
Just as Kerry predicted, the clouds started to roll in around 1am so we decided to pack it in which was just as well. Since some of us had to work in the morning and if the good conditions had persisted, we might have stayed all night. A few of us stopped off at Tim's afterwards for a nightcap.
It was an excellent night. We hit a lot of objects, each of us calling them out so others could come take a look. We had a lot of fun trying out equipment and enjoying each others company. What a great way to spend a summer evening with a bunch of active and enthusiastic HAA club members. Can't wait to do it again. (How's the weather this weekend Kerry?) And again our thanks to Binbrook Conservation Area for letting us make use of such a great location for our observing.
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