Report - BAS Messier Marathon and Eclipse watch session at CREST, Hosakote
By p6; Published 24 Apr 2007
It was a big gathering at CREST, Hosakote on Sunday, 18th Mar 2007. The primary agenda was the Messier Marathon and the eclipse in the morning. The session was attended by Hemant, Amar, Shashank, Gautam, Sathya, Dr Jagannath, Dr Balaji and Mrs Balaji, Dr B C Bhatt, Chandrika, Akanksha, Kshama, Pavan Kumar, Sanjiv Gorka and I. Our equipment included an 8" f/6 equatorial, a 6" f/8 equatoril and a 12" f/4.5 Dob.
After much of a tussle with the Bangalore roads, the lot of us finally gathered at CREST by about 7PM. The marathoners made an immideate start but were unable to capitalise on the low-western objects in Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopeia due to the light pollution around the area. Things at the zenith were far better and offered crisp views for our Telescopes. There were hints of the Gemini Milky way at the zenith.
The first objects to be observed were the mandatory open clusters, Orion Nebula and Saturn. The views were extremely pleasing. Fainter objects of the like of M81, 82 however were disappointing and below-par compared to views from a darker sky. At about 8:30PM, we retired for dinner and got back after about 45 minutes or so.
Then was the time for the globulars - Observed were M4, M80, Omega Centauri, M5, M13, M92... and many more. The sight of the tightly bound tiny fuzzies at low power unto the completely resolved ones like in the photographs at higher power bewildered not only the first timers but ourselves too. M5 at 270X with the 12" was an especially enthralling sight.
Jupiter proved to be the second pick of the night - atleast amongst the planets.. towards late mignight and morning. Atleast about 10 cloud bands on Jupiter could be made out despite the not-excellent seeing conditions. The 4 Jovian moons were all in view too. The GRS wasn't visible until much later. Earlier saturn had been the jaw dropping sight - with atleast 3 moons, the cassini division clearly resolved, 5 surface bands which were further enhanced by an orange filter which also provided an interesting insight into the intricacies of the rings. Both the solar system giants offered picturesque views.
Come morning and it was all Saggitarius. The most populous of all constellations in terms of DSOs was barely there when at the horizon but slowly basked into it's usaul glory whilst on the way up. The central milky way regions of Scutum, Saggitarius and Scorpius slowly came into their own and soon stood out despite an extemely displeasing background. The saggitarius opens and globulars offered magnificent views for quite a while before we retired for a Tea break.
Lagoon nebula was up next. M8 which is synonymous to just a cluster for most people who would've observed it from the city sported nebulosity aplenty ! Much as we had abnegated the skies in here, We did get to appreciate it as the nebula appeared in great contrast and shone almost as bright as the Orion nebula although not as big. Many of us initially mistook it for Trifid (M20) since we'd been under the misconception that the latter was the brighter of the two. After a reference with the Cambridge star atlas, We gathered our wits to look for Trifid but in vain. The trifid region seemed to void of any nebulosity much as we'd thought it would be. The great mystery however solved itself a few minutes later - Coming into view with the 12" Dob. Size does indeed mater !
Extremely faint and nearly absent.. We used a UHC filter on Trifid which created something of a Miracle ! The nebulosity popped out ever so suddenly and along with the dark lanes too. Trifid proved to be the object of the night and definetely matched a HST image only but in grayscale. Minutes later.. we also got stunning views of M18 - The Swan nebula and much more..
Up next were Dumbbell and the Ring. Again, the UHC worked it's magic around both these. Some actually managed to feel the presence of the 14th magntidue central star of the ring nebula though it might've been a hallucination. By now, it was pretty much twilight and gradually, the objects that has entertained us for the night started disappearing. Jupiter however seemed nowhere into getting washed out by the twilight.. On the contrary, The sky contrast with the twilight actually improved the views of Jupiter a hundred fold ! and it wasn't just Jupiter and the background sky contrast.. For the surface features on Jupiter stood out a thousand fold better than before too.. Miraculous and co incidental it seemed and that Jupiter had reached the zenithal zone was probably the only explanation to this bewildering happening.
Since there were no webcams and such astro paraphernalia around.. The last resort came to the digicam (Nikon coolpix series) one of the people present posessed and it served the purpose. We managed to get atleast a few minutes of Jupiter basking in full glory along with the Great red spot and much more. It was just a poster in the LCD screen. Stacked up results are awaited.
And finally, dawn broke - much as we'd awaited the eclipse. At around 6:25AM, the sight we'd wanted to see rose up the horizon and past the haze. The sun was blood red in colour and the circle was chopped off at about 11 O Clock. Amongst the most unique sun rises that can ever be captured and we promptly clicked away. We observed the sun naked eye until it got too fiery to be seen naked eye any more. Resorts used included the full aperture solar filter on the 6" f/8 and an X-ray film which fared surprisingly well. Maximum eclpise occured at around 6:55AM as the almost a quarter of the sun's disc was obscured. The eclipse was tantalising towards the end as the umbra moved out ever so slowly and the sun shone in full glory again at 7:20AM.
The event was finally over. 12 Hours of fun, exitement, Messier Marathon and Eclipse watch. We owe sincere gratefullness to Sathya and Dr B C Bhatt who were instrumental in organising the event. Messier Marathon concluded with Shashank finishing at 72, Pavan(I) at 44. Amar Sharma, Akarsh Simha, Naveen L N and Chetan reddy had earlier finished at 101(100 on day 2), 97, 68 and 56 respectively, Marathoning from Hosahalli Village.
Eclipse and event-photos in general will come into the gallery shortly. Please check it regularly for all updations. You can also view Sanjeev Gorka's Flickr Album.