Friday, 14 May 2010

TSP Day 4 - Thunderheads and the Skunk Nebula

The evening didn't start out too promising as, during the late afternoon huge thunderheads built up, dominating the eastern and north-eastern sky. At one point, there was one huge and evil-looking cloud that looked unpleasantly like a mushroom cloud, prompting people to make jokes that someone had dropped a nuclear bomb nearby. The effect of late sunlight on the cloud enhanced its hideous appearance and people were pleased when it began to lose its shape. No thunderstorm materialised, although there was some lightning on the horizon.

The skies weren't too great for observing, although useable, and by three a.m. we decided to pack up for the night which was a shame because we were just on halfway through another of Larry's Lists, this time the 2000 list 'Rings Over Texas'. Last night's observing was a mix of the frustrating (clouds right where you want to look, bad seeing, not being able to find things) and the hilarious - a visitation from a skunk who was on the lookout for dropped food items. Unfortunately the little cutie came far too close for comfort and we spent ten minutes keeping an eye out for him and, at one point, abandoned Dennis' 18" and retreated to a safe distance while Mr. Skunk pottered around. He investigated people's tents and my bag (and I was thinking 'please don't spray it, please don't spray it!') before wandering off somewhere into the darkness. We had to use dim red torches and averted vision to keep track of the Skunk Nebula but, luckily, he didn't deploy his chemical warfare on us so the area around us and, more importantly, our possessions remained Eau de Skunk free.

Back to the observing and before being 'skunked' (ha ha) by the clouds and deteriorating sky we managed to observe about 14 of the objects on the list:  NGC 2685, NGC 5122, NGC 2793, AM 1358-221,  MCG-4-33-27, Arp 87, NGC 3681, Minkowski 1-64, 2H24, NGC 4650A, the central star in M57 and Mayall's Object.

I also whipped quickly through the TSP Binocular list and added to my pin collection.

Going to bed at three a.m. at least meant I was able to get up early enough to go birding this morning and I saw some nice species, especially Blue Grosbeaks. I went up to Indian Lodge State Park with Keith Taggart of El Paso, TX and I got some (hopefully good) photos of different species at feeding areas specially set up. Unfortunately Vermilion Flycatchers, a species I'd particularly like to see are still eluding me at present. I am told they're common but to me that seems they're common when I am not about. That's the story of my life when birding!

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