Here is my report from Area 51 from tonight:
I was at Area 51 (our Dark Site) tonight with my C11S-GT. I observed for 6 1/2-hours (from 7:30PM until 2AM). Tonight was very clear and the transparency was very good. The seeing was average, around a 5 to a 6.
Manuel was imaging with his Meade 12” LX200GPS as Mike K. was with his N11 and Paul P. with his Meade 8” LX200.
As it was getting dark, I took a quick peek at the crescent moon and then Saturn. Saturn looked very good, as usual, holding up at 311x (9mm Nagler). Cassini’s Division could be seen around the entire planet.
I viewed the following Messier Objects tonight: M1, M3, M4, M5, M13, M34, M35, M36, M37, M38, M41, M42, M43, M46, M47, M48, M50, M51, M60, M61, M64, M65, M66, M78, M79, M80, M81, M82, M93, M95, M96, M100, M103, and M104.
Some of the highlights include: I saw the spiral arms in M51. They were fairly easy to follow at 100x (28mm Meade Super Wide Angle). I also saw the dust lane in M104 (Sombrero Galaxy). The Black-Eye Galaxy (M64) was visible with its dark spot at the edge of the center. I was able to easily see all 6-stars in the Trapezium of M42 even though it was fairly low in the western sky. I also resolved NGC2158, the small open cluster inside M35, and saw the planetary nebula (NGC 2438) in M46. It had a very pretty bluish color to it. The Double Cluster was spectacular showing many, many stars and both clusters were fit into the FOV of my 41mm Panoptic at 68x. I also viewed NGC 2024 (Flame Nebula) and could see the flame shape. M3, M5, M13, and M92 were absolutely spectacular. An 11” scope sure resolves these globular clusters nicely.
There is a big difference in the appearance of globular clusters through this scope as compared to my prior 8” SCT. The Leo galaxies M65, M66, and NGC 3628 all fit nicely into the FOV my 41mm Panoptic. C77 (Centaurus-A galaxy) was split into its two halves.
The most spectacular sight of the evening was Caldwell 80 (NGC5139) – Omega Centauri. It looked absolutely spectacular and completely filled the FOV with stars at 200x. At lower powers it looked just as good as it’s large size makes it a treat to view. It is probably the best deep sky object I have ever viewed. If you never seen this object before, you are in for a treat when you do. ,
I split the following doubles tonight: Alnitak, Beta Mon, Rigel, and Antares (at the end of the night).
Jupiter was now pretty high in the sky so I decided to view Jupiter for the first time with this scope. I was very impressed with what I saw. At 175x (16mm Nagler), Jupiter looked super. There was a shadow of one of the moons on the planet and the moon was moving onto the edge of the planet. Detail in the North and South Equatorial Bands was very easy to see. There were two long swirls as well as many irregularities in the belts. There was a lot of detail to be seen and it just popped right out. Mike took a look and commented that this is the best he has seen Jupiter in quite a while. Jupiter still looked good at 200x but started to breakdown above that due to the only average seeing. The detail I saw on Jupiter tonight exceeded what I remember seeing in my prior 8” SCT as well as my prior 4” APOs.
I ended the night with a naked eye view of three of stars in the constellation Crux and a naked eye view of the star Alpha Centauri. All in all, tonight was very fun night with clear skies the entire time.