May 30, 2009: Sierra Nevada
After several bad weather days, and what it is much worse, loads and loads of work (congresses, end of the academic year...) the Friday evening look promising to go out and enjoy the sky. Both Antonio and myself wanted to go for a visual observation session in Sierra Nevada for a long time. La Azotea is a great place to learn astrophotography, but for visual observations it has lots of drawbacks.
The evening was quite complicated because I had to go to Cullar Vega to finish the preparations for the photography exposition Cosmos: Vistas desde la Nave Tierra of the S.A.G.. It took more time that we initially planned and we finished it at 8PM. After that I went to Armilla where we loaded Antonio's Pequeñín in the van. Around 10PM we went to Granada to pick up more gadgets, supplies and, of course, some additional winter clothes. Finally, we began our trip to Sierra Nevada around 11PM.
That was going to be a quite unusual night because, appart from the two usual crazy astronomers we were going to have some guests: Antonio's neighbours (we have talked about them previously) and some of their friends.
We arrived to the Dornajo Square around 12PM and inmediately Antonio began to prepare his Pequeñín. I went with our guests to show them the surroundings, including the lights of Granada and one of the abysses that you can find over there. By the way, we have to mention a curious detail: one of our guests is an ex-student of Antono Jesús Gil, another of the members of the Astronomical Society of Granada. As he told us, it seems that Antonio Jesús has been able to transmit his passion for astronomy to his students :-) Congratulations Antonio Jesús!
The first part of the night took place without any hassle. While Zerjillo was preparing the SW ED80 with the EQ6 mount, Antonio began showing Sturn and the Moon to our guests. Due to the spectacular sights that both object usually provide we didn't stop to hear exclamations like "aaaah!", "ooooh!" and some "I don't see anything" (when the scope was misaligned).
Later on we saw other spectacular objects (they look amazing through Pequeñín) as M57 (which was renamed as the "Filipino Nebula", the Swan Nebula (also renamed as the "Fish Nebula") which, by the way, looked quite spectacular and M13 which showed great punctuality in the stars and quite a nice resolution.
After watching several objects with Pequeñín we also began to use the SW ED80. This small telescope is giving us some satisfactions with the Moon and big planets. The sight of the Moon, which occupied almost all the eyepiece was really spectacular. Other curiosity of the night which was observed with the small refractor was the Blinking Nebula [NGC 6826], a small planetary nebula that seems to dissapear when it is directly looked at and that reappears if we do not look directly at it. This effect occurs due to the difference in intensity of the nebula (which can only be seen by the rods of our retina) and its central star (which is seen by the cones in the center of our retina).
Other objects that we observed and compared using both telescopes were M51 and M82 galaxies and the Veil Nebula.
Around 3AM our guests left and several clouds appeared in the sky. We could only have a fast look to Jupiter. Even being quite low on the horizon it look quite spectacular and had quite a high definition in its bands and main satellites.
At this point we decided to take a nap and wait to see if the clouds would go away. They didn't, and after a 2 hours sleep we tried to see Jupiter again. As it was higher over the horizon it looked quite amazing. We easily distinguished the big red spot and many more details that were not visible earlier.
We packed everything up and we went down to Granada. Around 8AM, after unloading every single piece of telescope we have some churros for breakfast. We could take a single astronomical photo that night because of the bad weather conditions (clouds) but we had a really good time observing some of the sky highlights. It is clear to us that this visual observation sessions are as important as taking great photos.