San Simeon December 2011

I set up my Nexstar 11 early in the evening to let it get acclimated. The evening was warm, for December (about 50 deg.) The stars were twinkling franticly. There was no moisture in the air and no dew. The air felt like a spring evening.

About 9:00pm Butch and I began our observing session. During the alignment process, of the scope, I noticed that the stars only focused to fuzz balls. I knew the air turbulence was not going to let us see any fine detail and magnification was going to be limited.

I pointed the scope to some easy targets. My first target was Jupiter. I had my 34mm eyepiece in the scope, which gives me a magnification of about 80X. I could see two tiny moons barely touching the edge of the planet. I wondered if I was going to see them transit Jupiter. I had never seen two moons in that configuration before. I could not see any planet detail. Then I turned the scope to M110, M31 & M32.  We also looked at the Sculpture Galaxy, M103, M33, NGC 891, the Hubble Variable Nebula and Rosette Nebula. The sky was very dark and everything looked good.

Our goal for the night was to look for the Horsehead Nebula. We have never seen this object before. We were inspired by Sue French’s article in Sky and Telescope to try. She said that she had seen it before in a 10” scope, at a star party without a filter. We aimed the scope at the Horsehead and could see nothing at first glance. We could see the Flame Nebula and I was surprised at how big it was. We slewed the scope all around and still couldn’t see the Horsehead. We tried different eyepieces with and without a nebula filter. The filter worked best with the 34mm eyepiece. I think the best view was with the 25mm eyepiece and no filter. We kept checking our charts and the chart in the magazine. We thought we could see a dark spot running sideways through the nebula. We were not sure of minds were tricking us or if it was the Horsehead.  If we were seeing it, it was bigger than I expected. We decided that we had to be looking right at the Horsehead but not sure if we were really seeing it. We will try again next month in the desert.

To finish the night we looked at Jupiter again to see how the moons had moved. They were pulling away from the planet, so there was no transit. We shut the scope down and went to bed.

It was fun trying to find the Horsehead, even though we couldn’t positively say that we saw it. All in all it was a pleasant evening under the stars.

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Greg Eckes


I am a retired music teacher. I make custom violins and violas. I play violin in the Tulare County Symphony and fiddle in the Tule River Bluegrass Band. I like camping and astronomy.


None at this time

2 thoughts on “San Simeon December 2011

  1. Butch
    Butch January 2, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Greg and I had a great time trying to find the Horsehead. If it can be seen as Sue French says, we should have been able to spot it. I’m not convinced that it’s available in a 10 inch glass, but who am I to say. We plan to keep trying. What a beautiful night though; the stars were soooo bright!

  2. Butch
    Butch January 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Gonna’ try the Horsehead this weekend under darker skies of the Mojave. This object has eluded us so far, but we will persevere in our efforts. Does anyone have a suggestion to improve our chances? I will report on our success, if there’s something to report 🙂

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