M3 and the Queen of the Skies (4/3/2016)

M3 and the Queen of the Skies (4/3/2016)

t was pretty clear tonight. Looked at the star charts and decided to shoot for M3, a star cluster I’d never seen. It would be rising above Arcturus tonight, above the line formed between this and the dipper handle. Like, how hard could it be? Messier found it – his first one.

My view east sucks (remember how we learned that watching OA-6? The oaks get in the way). Anyway, squidged over to the corner of the garden on the path and got as much east as I could. Saw Jupiter shimming in ascent and took an early shot – she was up with all four moons visible; pretty neat. Still,  Arcturus was not due up until 9pm and probably not much for viewing until 10pm. Tossed a shower curtain over the scope and went in to Hulu with the wife.

After confirming my opinions of why teens should never be in charge (i.e. The 100) I came back out. Arcturus was further north than I’d thought, pretty much in the oak. That would put M3 pretty much behind it. Walked about and found a better angle between tress. Always a joy, to lug a carefully sited telescope (with counterweight) to a new location. Lined and leveled, then moved the base camp over. And then I started hunting for M3.

Looked here. Looked there. Swung the scope in free mode back and fourth. Couldn’t find the damn thing. Came in and checked my astronomy program again. Carefully noted where it would be – From Arcturus, shift up to the star Muphrid, then hang left and a touch up. Tried again and again. Nothing. The program noted that it was visible with nocks and I got mine out, tracked the path and bang – there it was, a hazy cloud. Did it a couple of times. Easy. But the scope – it took twice more (with a little scrolling) and suddenly I had it.

It was pretty cool, not only looking at a 500,000 stars 35,000 light years away, but having located the damn thing in the first place. What a nice feeling of satisfaction that gave. After looking it over for a quarter hour, I thought I’d better be getting in, but not before doing a straight-overhead shot at Jupiter again. Now that it was darker, I could hit it clear with maximum magnification and get a spectacular view. Just sat there and marveled at the equatorial banding, nudging out to check out the pinpoint moons. Wow.

Anyway, I’m still trying to check out Mars in it close approach. Hopefully I can find a morning where I can get out there and shoot south.