South Regional Star Gaze
Space on the observing field begins to fill up on Thursday evening and by Saturday night it's "wall-to-wall" telescopes.
The main observing field runs approximately north and south; providing maximum observing anywhere on the field.
The Alabama Gang
Standing: Rod Mollise, Russell Whigham, PatRochford, Kent Clark, Robert Rock, and Greg Thompson
DSRSG '96 : Reflections by Russell Whigham
I always get a little nervous when we have perfect, deep blue skies the first part of a week before a star party. This usually guarantees clouds by the weekend. But, the weather gods were smiling on us this time. We're just not accustomed to weather patterns like this any other time of the year, here in the southeast, but it happened the week of the annual Deep South Regional Star Gaze last month.
The drive to McComb was pleasant. Because of the somewhat earlier than usual date of the DSRSG this year, the hardwood foliage color was not at its peak, but the cotton fields were ripe for harvest. The new speed limits for divided highways and interstates put me in McComb almost an hour earlier than in past years. I staked out my spot on the "Alabama" area on the observing field at Percy Quin State Park. Moments later, Dave Halupowski, then the members of the Moblie Astronomical Society arrived. After everyone had set-up their gear, we all adjourned to "Mr. Whiskers", the all-you-can-eat catfish restaurant just down the road from the park, for what has become a Thursday evening tradition at DSRSG. Later in the evening, Robert Rock arrived, followed the next evening by Mike Fulmer. Ken Poshedley (AAC) and Dave Halupowski (EAAA) were absorbed into our little group as the sole representatives from the states of Georgia and Floridia, respectively.
We had a pretty full observing agenda for the first part of the evening. During twilight, we were treated to passes of Mir and HST within minutes of each other. We had re-runs of this show on Friday and Saturday nights as well. Next, we wanted to catch comet Hale-Bopp before it slipped behind the trees. We did, and it still seems to be living up to expectations. Jupiter had a Io's shadow transiting its disk. Later, I picked up where I left off last year on my Herschel List, but found myself lost in Camelopardolis with no naked-eye stars within ten degrees of my targets. "To heck with this, I'm here to have fun", I thought to myself, and began revisiting some of the objects which I had written "good" next to, on my charts. Eventually, Rod Mollise (MAS), and I began comparing views of the "Helix" nebula. The Helix is the nearest planetary nebula to us, but has very low surface brightness. We found the best combination to be with a 26mm Plossl eyepiece and the O-III filter, using his 8 inch Celestron Ulitma and my C-11. We decided to see if it looked any better in Pat Rochford's (MAS) 24 inch. It did! The last object observed on Saturday night/Sunday morning was NGC 246, another planetary nebula, in Cetus, which appears as a broken ring in my scope, but in Pat's, it was a perfect disk. A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.