Viewing Report 4th May 2019 (Night 2) – La Palma

Viewing time period – 22:00 – 03:00

So once again it was cloudy at both Athos star camp and also at Hacienda. Although it should be noted that Athos was below the cloud layer and Hacienda was in the cloud. So Alan and I headed up the mountain to the Visitors Centre whilst Bob stayed at Athos to see if it cleared.

When we arrived it was in time to see Orion starting to set in the West. Given it is now May it seemed strange to see this remnant of Winter, but good to see an old friend. I took a few images with the 6D MKII and then proceeded to look at the Orion Nebula through the bins.

@ 23:00 I was scanning the Virgo region of sky to start to view more of the Markarian’s Chain, when I came across an orange streak across the sky. Immediately I remembered a news article I had read stating that in October 2016 they were starting tests of the sodium laser for the ELT on both the WHT and INT on La Palma. Amazingly if you looked in the sky with naked eyes it was almost impossible to see, however I could just make it out, but through the binos it was clear as day!

Alan and I then followed the laser back to its source confirming that it was indeed the sodium laser called WLGSU emanating near both the WHT and INT and then both with the binoculars and cameras traced the laser to a region in Leo around the star Regulus, the laser reaching some 80km high in the sodium layer of the atmosphere.

@ 23:43 I got back to visual astronomy and the Markarian’s Chain. This time M58 was my target and I spent 20 minutes or so drawing the tiny galaxy through my binos. I noted straight away I could make out the Siamese Twins set of interacting galaxies to the South of M58 and these could be seen with Direct Vision but clearer with Averted Vision.

@ 00:11 on the morning of the 5th May I star hoped my way to M3, a lovely globular cluster in Canes Venatici. The tight ball of stars could be easily resolved and presented a pleasing view. I decided to draw the cluster and surrounding stars which was easier said than done.

Soon enough it was time to head down the mountain back to what transpired to be a clear Hacienda after dropping Alan back at Athos star camp. I then setup the binos and camera for some more viewing.

I took a lovely skyscape of what transpired to be Omega Centauri over the top of the house. Unfortunately I found later the camera had focused on the house rather than the stars. A chat with Alan later the following day, informed me that I needed to stop down the camera get a better depth of field and focus on both the house and the stars, something I did much better in the nights ahead.

By 3am I was tired and went in to write up the notes from that night in front of a roaring fire, a glass of wine and some nibbles. A good night indeed.


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