2012-01-05 Sight Report, second first light for Ava


2012-01-05 19:00 – 20:00 CST
93d36 ‘W 41d44’N
 ~45 F, clear, 3/4 moon
Trans: 3/5, Seeing: 3/5
Equipment used: Zhumell Z10 10″ Newtonian reflector

Tonight was my 6-year-old daughter Ava’s real first light with the Z10 that was not just a quick peek at the moon. Seeing was OK, not great, but not bad. Unfortunately we had a high bright moon ruining the view of many of the start clusters, but she still liked them.

What we saw

NGC 457, open cluster, Owl Cluster, Cas.
30mm EP w/wo 2x Barlow, 41x and 82x

It took a few looks for Ava to see the owl figure in the cluster, but after I pointed out the two bright “eyes” and the fact that it was upside down, she quickly exclaimed “Oh! I see it, I see it!” I then knew she really did because she started pointing out the feet, body, and wings. She probably had about 5 full minutes of eyepiece time on this subject. I told her the longer she looked at it the more dim stars she would start to see, and she did.

M103, open cluster, Cas.
30mm EP with 2x Barlow, 82x

M103 is unfortunately pretty lackluster (in general) but even more so with a 3/4 moon high in the sky. The only reason we looked at this was because Ava was chanting “Messier! Messier!” and wanted to check some more off her list. I can’t wait to show her some of the better ones on the next clear and moonless night.

NGC 884 / NGC 869, open clusters, Double Cluster, Pers.
30mm EP w/wo 2x Barlow, 41x and 82x

Coupled with NGC 457, I think these two are what won Ava over to really loving star clusters. She asked several times to see more “big bunches of stars.” Personally, I thought they were pretty washed out and enjoy the view much more when there is little to no moon ruining the sky. Again, I can’t wait to show her what things look like in a darker sky!

6mm EP w/wo 2x Barlow, 208x and 416x

Jupiter was a the downer tonight…she was really excited and almost teared up a little and said “I thought Jupiter would be cooler. It just looks like a white ball.” It made me sad that her first real night out had a bad moment like that. I should have known better and not bothered to show her Jupiter at high magnification when seeing wasn’t great. She, like everyone else, was expecting higher resolution like what we see in books. I should have tried a polarizer filter to dim the view a bit, as her young eyes may have been blinded by the bright planetary disc. Next time…

6mm EP, 208x

Luckily, we recovered from the Jupiter mishap by ending the night looking at the moon. There were a few nice spots where shadows showed some neat “moon mountains” inside craters on the edge. She really got a kick out of counting the craters she saw and watching the moon quickly move through the FOV at 208x. Luckily the moon looks great even during times of poor/average seeing!

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