TSP or bust!


I am heading for Texas again, this coming April. The 2012 Texas Star Party is being held from April 15 to 22 and I will be again doing what has become an every-other-year trip for me. I’ve already booked my flight to San Antonio (from Heathrow via Washington DC), where I’ll be meeting up with my good friends Robert and Mary Reeves again and driving out to West Texas with Robert. I booked the flight now because prices are currently pretty good and I got the cheapest return ticket I’ve yet managed to get – and, somewhat surprisingly, I got it cheaper from Thomas Cook than I could find online – and I also had the money available. I’ve not registered for the TSP itself yet – registration doesn’t open until November sometime – so  I hope my name comes up in the drawing, although that shouldn’t be a problem as I might be staying in Ft. Davis and not on the ranch itself.

I will be doing something a little different at the TSP this time. Instead of going armed with nothing more than a pair of 8×42 binoculars and hoping to mooch views through other people’s scopes, I will be using a (borrowed) 10 inch dob and doing my own stuff. I’ll take my Telrad, a spare Telrad base I’ve got and a few eyepieces with me. I am currently working my way through the Herschel 2500, a huge project, and I would like to observe the objects in Sagittarius and other low constellations that are awkward to get at from home. None of these things are impossible from here because William Herschel discovered all of them from southern England, around 80 miles north of where I live, but observing them from around 20° further south will make things easier.
So, weather permitting (2011 was rubbish by all accounts, and they had a fire, so I hope 2012 is better!), I hope to be able to make a considerable dent in a few constellations H2500-wise, also get a load of NGCs too far south to see from home and get one of Larry Mitchell’s Advanced Observing Pins, to add to the one I got in 2010. Added to which, if I can, I’d like to ask Larry if we can see Hanny’s Voorwerp (which is located next to spiral galaxy IC 2497 in Leo Minor) in the 36 inch. That little lot should be enough to be going on with, although I think I am going to need all six nights to be clear from dusk to dawn! I also want to take a lot more photos of scopes, people and the surroundings, too.
Under those skies, if they co-operate, the performance of the 10 inch will be like that of a 14 inch or even a 16 inch here in Britain, because the skies are quite a bit darker and a lot drier. Fingers crossed for warm, dry and cloud-free conditions!

When I’m in San Antonio, which I will be for a few days before and after TSP, I hope to visit the San Antonio Astronomical Association whose April 2012 meeting is on the 14th. I’ve been asked to do a mini-talk on my observing and show some pics of my scope and site.

I notice that NGC 5253 in Centaurus is also in the H2500; I have never tried to observe anything in Centaurus from here simply because it’s far too low and only the northernmost few stars are visible just above the southern horizon (actually, we don’t miss Omega Centauri by much, only around 7°). NGC 5253 is at -31°S and therefore observable from here because, theoretically, we can see down to -40°S which is where the horizon is. More practically, a galaxy – even a relatively bright mag 10 galaxy such as 5253 – would be very difficult to see through the murk at that altitude. Did William H really see NGC 5253 from England? On checking Mark Bratton’s excellent book ‘The Complete Guide to the Herschel Objects‘, it seems Herschel DID see it from here, in 1787! Hmmm. Interesting. I might have a go at NGC 5253 from here myself next spring.