Breezanddijk, Netherlands, Tuesday June 9th, 2015
After the day started out overcast, skies clear up in the course of the afternoon. I am looking forward to another pleasant glob hunt and as I am driving home from work in the early evening I am not amused to see new clouds coming in. On the other hand I have quite some confidence in the steady east wind, and since recently I’d rather trust my own common sense than weather sites that have a tendency to contradict one another. The Go or No Go decision can’t help being based on lack of information. In the last occasion I nearly got dizzy from watching those weather sites, the sky and satellite images, and the Go/No Go dilemma. So this time I decided not to put up with dizziness anymore so when Caroline contacts me and the other participants to discuss the matter, my answer is a firm “Go”.
We decide to choose the Closure Dike as our observing location. The Closure Dike is a 20 miles long structure in the north of the country built in the 1930s to close up a large estuary and thus protect the inland from tidal influences and flooding. Our location is in the middle of this dam and therefore pretty much at mid sea, relatively far from the light polluted urban area that most of our country is.
Once I arrive home the clouds move away again and by nine the skies over Leiden are almost entirely clear. After another consultation with Caroline and Timothy we finally decide to take the chance and I start loading up. Note that Caroline and Timothy are actual persons but these are not their actual names. Since I won’t be dark until after midnight I can take it easy and before long my car is loaded with gun and ammo. My better half wishes me good luck and after kissing her and my four globs goodbye I hit the road.
This time I am missing no exits during the drive north. I must have learned by experience. Or did I miss exits because of Go/No Go dizziness the last few times? Before long I find myself quite a distance north of Amsterdam and the northwestern sky displays a cloud band that is coming closer. What I find worse is the fact that the clear skies over the estuary in the east is turning into a misty haze. By now I find myself right under the band of clouds, which is separated from the mist by just a narrow strip of clear sky. A few miles before reaching the Closure Dike I begin feeling real uncomfortable about my enthusiastic Go earlier this evening. Last time at Knardijk was quite a bummer for Caroline so I’d really feel sorry for her if she and Timothy would drive all the way here just to look at the down side of a cloudy sky. On the other hand, earlier this year I made the mistake of calling off too early. It remains a tricky dilemma. Ever since I heard about the game of Go I thought it was about strategy and sharp analysis. Now it turns out to be an ordinary gambling game after all.
As I am driving, I wonder what it must have been like for generals Bernard Montgomery and Dwight D. Eisenhower just before the Allied invasion in Normandy in 1944. Their window of opportunity was limited as much as ours is, although in their case they needed a full moon rather than a new one to serve as illumination for attack bomber pilots. Also, they needed high tide for the landing vessels. Since the invasion could not take place the 5th of June due to adverse weather conditions, the only opportunity left was the 6th. After that, the right conditions wouldn’t be present until two weeks later and since the troops were already in position, drawing them back would involve the risk of the Germans finding out about the plans. Therefore Montgomery and Eisenhower decided for a Go despite the unfavorable weather forecasts.
That makes me able to place my doubts in their proper perspective. In the case of these men, there was a lot more at stake.
With a doubtful mind I arrive at our location at the middle of the Closure Dike. Less than a minute later, Timothy arrives and fortunately I perceive no doubt about our choice on his side. In the northwest, Jupiter and Venus are glowing bright so at any rate, that gives us some hope.
Because of the northeast wind be decide to settle for a place next to a heap of basalt rock behind our strategically parked cars. After unloading our optics I climb the slope adjacent to the sea to take a snapshot of the reddish sky over the sea with Jupiter and Venus. A little later Timothy and I are witnesses of a pretty bright ISS pass. Before long car number three arrives bringing reinforcement in the form of Caroline. Like Timothy, she does not display the slightest doubt about our choice to go, and fortunately there seems to northeastern sky looks hopeful.
The southern horizon still doesn’t look too good. Now and then Saturn or Antares flare up between the clouds but it remains to be seen whether the clear strip below the clouds is actually clear. I am not convinced. When Saturn remains uncovered for a while I grab the opportunity. The image in the eyepiece is not too impressive, though, so seeing and transparency or both of them are likely to be pretty bad. Therefore we’ll have to be patient and see what de northeastern wind is going to bring.
After a while Antares shows itself again along with a few stars in the southern part of Ophiuchus. Time to resume the hunt for last time’s cliffhanger: M62. So does Caroline, who would like to see the glob a second time after bagging in April.
Since my Dob is in a virtually horizontal position I grab a basalt rock to sit on. A kid of cat and mouse game with passing clouds unfolds but at a certain point I manage to point the finder at a clear spot south of Sabik. I am delighted to find the reverse kite-shaped asterism ξ-o-θ-b-Oph. From 36 Oph at the lower right I switch from the finder to my 24 eyepiece to continue the star hop that I remember well from last time. Soon enough I find M19 from which place I continue downward n my search for M62. That afternoon I practiced the star hop on Stellarium to that should be no problem. Passing clouds are, however. This time I don’t run into treetops like last time at Knardijk. Neither do I run into an office building or a construction crane like I did from home last Saturday. This time I run into, well, nothing. Or don’t I? For a split second I imagine seeing a very faint smudge under the binary star that marks the end of the star hop. But no, a maybe does not count. I would really hate having to leave this place and failing to find my nemesis a third time.
Despite the frustration of not finding objects like these sometimes, I increasingly enjoy these hunting sessions. Apart from enjoying beautiful objects the process of star hopping is something I have learned to enjoy, and ever more so now. Even if I fail to find the desired object, I actually enjoy the trip. For example, when I hunted down quasar 3C273 in April, it was more about the journey than the object itself. The quasar looks like an ordinary faint background star but the star hop was a good bone to put my teeth into.
In the meantime, Caroline is intently hunting for M62 like I am, while Timothy is on a bear hunt for galaxies in Ursa Major. Conversation has ceased, all of us are completely focused on the hunt. The only sound in this serenity is the rolling of the waves in the background.
Then Timothy reports success. Despite the light summer sky the bear hunter manages to bag M108 and M109 in his 8” Newton. When I take a look in Timothy’s eyepiece I can see M109 faintly but clearly. Even though it does not stand out as it would under a really dark sky, there it is. A good achievement and whatever one may think of observing galaxies during summer nights, I think the effort deserves respect, especially when it works out.
As I explore the southern horizon I notice Aquila is well visible. Therefore I decide to take a shot of eye candy in the form of M11. The Wild Duck cluster is already visible in the finder scope but at 156x magnification, and especially at 312x, it is a wonderful patch of razor fine stars. A swarm, a cloud, or both at once. In fact, the Duck cluster makes me think of a globular cluster deformed by the wind. I take my time to enjoy the view.
Lower down to the horizon Antares shows up again so I am aiming a second shot at M62. On my way there I pass by M4 which stars faintly but unmistakably in the eyepiece.
M19 is found easily again and with renewed courage I take the exit Ophiuchus South once more. Transparency is good now. M19-star-star-star-binary- … and there it is. I know a glob when I see one.
With extreme caution I change eyepieces for higher magnification. Gone. Nerts. Back in goes my wide field eyepiece and I repeat the star hop from M19. Nothing to be sees, clouds have come in again. But yes, I found M62 after all.
After a while I make another attempt and the road appears to be clear again. Soon enough M62 is back in view with its adjacent binary below. Eyepiece swap, gone. But at third attempt the dodgy southern fluffy is finally caught at 156x. At this magnification, is still is not resolved but its slightly irregular shape is visible. Mission complete, although it took three star parties to get here.
In the meantime, Caroline appears to have been on her knees all the time in front of her Meade Lightbridge which is in almost vertical position. Judging from the southern horizon which has cleared up during that time, her prayers have been quite effective. Observing is more successful though in a somewhat more comfortable position and here the abundance of basalt rocks comes in handy. Soon enough, M62 shines in the Mistress’ eyepiece as well as mine.
By now, it is well over 1 pm and Sagittarius’ Tea Pot should be visible at this time. Due to its low position and the bright horizon I have some trouble recognizing the asterism, though. User her laser pen Caroline indicates the Tea Spoon. I did not know that one but it turns out to be the asterism at the upper left of the Tea Pot. A man is never too old to learn. I wonder if there are any more tea-related asterisms in those parts. The Tea Cup, Tea Bag, Tea Bone, Tea Rex? I aim the tealescope at what should be Kaus Media, which is turns out to be, in an attempt to track down the even dodgier southern fluffies M69, M70, M54 and M55. To make a long story short, it’s not going to work out. The objects are still too low over the bright horizon. That does not really bother me, though, since is offers me an opportunity to practice the star hop from Kaus Media, crossing the lozenge to the southeast zig zag to M69. And then, a well-aimed swing by way of M70 to M54. When in Southern France this summer, I hope to actually see these globs, since the horizons is a healthy eight degrees lower there.
As always, time flies when having fun as it is well over 2 pm by now. Caroline has begun to disassemble her truss Dob and Timothy and I decide to call it quits as well. As it is, the sky is too bright now for hard core deep sky observation anyway but we did manage to bag a few stubborn objects. It was worth the drive. We won the game of Go after all.
On my way back the moon shows itself now and then, partly covered by a small wisp of cloud that gives our neighbor a rather mysterious appearance. After a swift drive I arrive at my destination at a decent time. It is even before 4 pm, which enables me to have three healthy hours’ worth of sleep.
Relieved by the fact that our Go was not in vain I lie down and sleep.