FOR THE WITCH HEAD By
Bill Beers, W.A.S Treasurer
Bill Beers, W.A.S Treasurer
The first annual Halloween Star Party got
off to a cloudy start. The party
was located at my cabin fifteen miles west of
John Lines and
Friday afternoon more people started to arrive:
Dennis Schmalzel with his traveling house with Joe VanPoucker riding
shot gun, Vic Singh and his family, Jim Hubert, Jim Shedlowsky,
Phil Sailor, and Bob Cuberly from
With the cloud cover still up on us, and
everyone being depressed, I was able to phone home and get an Internet
weather report. When my girlfriend
fired up her computer and got a satellite view that shows cloud tracking,
she said, “You boys might be in luck.
It’s clear over
Joe VanPoucker, V.P. of Meridian Telescopes, (just kidding Steve) put together a very nice list of Halloween objects to observe, complete with sky charts, and enough copies for everyone. We looked them over and decided that the Witch Head Nebula was the main object to find this weekend. With it being Halloween, the Witch Head seemed very appropriate. For those of you who have never seen pictures of the Witch Head, October Astronomy Magazine has a beautiful photo of it by Gary Stevens. The nebula looks just like the profile of a witch’s head complete with the big nose, mouth and neck. After doing some research a few months ago, I recalled that the Witch Head is very large, about three degrees, very faint, and extremely difficult to find, making it all the more of a challenge for us. So, I passed around the astro photo of it in the magazine, and everyone agreed that this was one we wanted to see. Doug and John, the computer gurus, were able to locate the Witch Head nebula on the “Sky” program on the laptops. It is IC 2118, located in the constellation Eridanus, near the bright star of Rigel in Orion. Armed with all kinds of information on where to look, we were ready for the hunt. So, who would be the first to find the elusive Witch Head nebula??????
and still cloudy. The only thing to do is sit around, talk astronomy and listen to Doug play more “blow up games”. Then Jim Shedlowsky walked inside with a guitar case, unbeknown to me, we have a few musicians in our club. Jim proceeded to play some tunes and started singing. Then most of us joined in. Dennis Schmalzel grabbed the guitar and started playing his own collection of songs, one from his old “hippie” days, “Ina Godda Da Vida”. Then Vic “Jimmy Page” Singh took over and played some Led Zeppelin. It was very entertaining for the next couple of hours. The music even drowned out the sound of the “blow up games”!
People were in and out all night checking the sky for stars. The “sucker holes” started to appear, so we all commenced outside to the yard. We observed the best that we could through the holes. It’s amazing what one shining star will do to a bunch of astronomers cooped up inside all night. When rolled around the clouds parted, it was an act of God. Someone mentioned the reason for the clear sky was from Larry Kalinowski doing his Indian clear sky dance back home. It would stay clear for the next three hours. Even though the sky was not as dark as it normally is, probably due to a thin layer of transparent clouds, we still had plenty of stars. The sound of slewing “go-to” scopes meant the observing night had begun!
I then wandered over to check out Cliff’s new 11” Celestron GPS. Since I might be in the market for a bigger go-to scope, Cliff let me run it through the alignment process and play around with finding different objects. Although I had set up my 8” go-to scope earlier in the day, I never got the chance to take the cover off because there were too many larger scopes to work with.
The temperature outside was about 30 degrees
with no wind. You couldn’t tell
it by looking at
The Witch Head Nebula, IC 2118 by Gary Stevens