Sky and Telescope - September 2018 - 84

FOCAL POINT by Jerry Oltion

Star
Struck
A rare chance to observe through
a 2-meter scope atop Maui
leaves the author gobsmacked.
IT PAYS TO KNOW PEOPLE in high

84

S E P TE M B E R 2 018 * SK Y & TELESCOPE

NGC 2392 as the author's group saw it that night on Maui through the 2-meter scope

and as Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote
in 2001: A Space Odyssey, "My God, it's
full of stars!" The E and F stars, those
two extras that prove elusive in 8- or
10-inch scopes, were obvious and steady
as rocks, and I would have run out of
alphabet trying to label the rest.
We looked at a globular cluster,
NGC 1049, which was kind of "meh"
after the Trapezium - until I realized it
was in another galaxy 486,000 lightyears away. And we were busting it into
individual stars!
From there we moved on to NGC 2392.
The fi rst person to look through the
eyepiece said, "Oh, holy ****!" and
every one of us afterward said something
similar. The nebula was spectacular! It

Faulkes Telescope North at sunset

was by far the most impressive view of
any planetary nebula I've ever seen. I
could see the flattened oval of the "face,"
the "double chin," and filamentary detail
in both the inner and outer rings. The
central star was intensely bright and
blue. There was too much detail to soak
in during my turn at the eyepiece, but
Cindy sketched it later from our collective memory. What you see here is what it
actually looked like through the eyepiece
that night.
Our observing time was over before
we knew it, but I think another object
like that would have made my head
explode anyway. It was all I could think
about for days afterward.
My deepest thanks to Rob and Cindy
for setting this up, to Observatory Manager Mark Elphick and his assistant, JD
Armstrong, for running the big scope,
and to the Las Cumbres Observatory,
parent organization for the Faulkes Telescope North, for making that amazing
f/10 Ritchey-Chrétien available for our
group of observers. I will remember that
night for the rest of my life.
¢ Contributing Editor JERRY OLTION
now thinks of his 20-inch tri-Dob as "the
little scope."

SK E TCH: CINDY K R ACH, COORDIN ATOR OF ASTRONO MICA L LE AGUE
SK E TCHING OBSERVING AWA RD; SCOPE: JERRY OLTION

places. My wife Kathy and I know two
people who regularly observe on Haleakala
¯, the highest mountain on Maui,
Hawai'i. One, Rob Ratkowski, works
at Science City, the observatory on the
summit, and the other, Cindy Krach,
belongs to the Haleakala
¯ Amateur
Astronomers, who have a clubhouse
there. (Yes, they have a clubhouse at
10,000 feet. With heat. And plumbing.
Yes, I am envious.)
We had hoped for a night observing
with Cindy's and Rob's 12-inch scopes
in the shadow of the gigantic scientific
instruments at the summit. But we had
no idea that Rob was working behind
the scenes to present us (and other
HAA club members) with an even more
amazing treat: time on the 2-meter
Faulkes Telescope North. And not just
research time, but actual observing
time with an eyepiece.
It was windy and freezing up there
at 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), so we felt
cold even in our coats, ski pants, hats,
and gloves. But it was totally worth it.
The scope itself is stunning. It's housed
in a clamshell-style building that folds
back and away, so at sunset it emerges
like Botticelli's Venus on her half shell.
Inside, its enormous bulk, supported by
steel tubes the size of my body, reaches
high overhead against the darkening sky.
The scope collects 64 times more
light than my 10-inch trackball.
A 31-mm Tele Vue Nagler eyepiece
produces 645× and gave us a true field
of view of about 7.6 arcminutes. My
first look through the eyepiece left
me speechless. We had aimed at the
Trapezium Cluster in the Orion Nebula,



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky and Telescope - September 2018

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