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The uncharted skies of Manitoulin


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About an hour out of St. Catharines on my trip, I realized that I hadn't brought along my copy of Nightwatch, my planisphere, or any star maps of any kind, hence the title of this post. I did look into a couple of bookstores while waiting for the ferry in Tobermory, but didn't come up with anything worthwhile, so I decided I would have to wing it when I got to my destination. I set up the scope on Friday afternoon, pointing the scope north based on my memory of where Polaris appeared the previous night, and as it happened, when the stars came out I didn't have to move the scope a lot to polar-align it.

Looked first at Jupiter, but without seeing a lot of detail, and decided that Jupiter's glory days for this year are over. I could only faintly see any markings on the disk. Turned next to M81/82, which I found immediately. They were a little greyer than they appeared at the star party in Pennsylvania in June, but quite distinct. Went to look for M97 next, but as it turns out, I wasn't looking in quite the right place, and didn't come up with it. Went looking for some of the clusters around Cassiopeia, but couldn't come up with anything definite, although I did see lots and lots of stars that may or may not have been clusters.

I moved over to M31 next, and found it easily in the finder, and gawked at it for a while, until I finally realized that the oval smudge below it was also a galaxy, and now know it is M110, never before seen by Warthog eyes. Searched Triangulum next, as I was pretty sure there were galaxies to be had, but there weren't.

Now I moved up to Cygnus, and tried to find the Dumbbell, unsuccessfully, until my eyes just about fell out of my head. Looked at Albireo for a while, then came up by way of the Cygnus star chain to M29, and tried unsuccessfully for the North America nebula. Tried for the ring, but couldn't come up with it, and went for a look at M13, which was easy. Then I went back over to Cassiopeia, where I looked at a part of the Milky way which looked interesting, and came up with the Double Cluster which I had never pulled out of my home skies. Took a look at the Pleiades just before I covered the scope and headed in to bed.

During this time, a pack of wolves decided to hold a Grand Howl somewhere in the woods, probably less than a kilometre away. I listened for as long as it lasted, about two minutes. It was pretty weird. Then I went back to the scope and cruised around for a while, looking towards Sagittarius, again coming up with lots of stars, but nothing I could classify definitely without help. Saw a lot of very pretty doubles, again without the ability to identify them. Sagittarius was about half hidden by trees, as there was forest to the south.

Saturday it rained through most of the day, but cleared wonderfully by evening.I had to move my scope closer to the cottage because it had been sitting in an extensive puddle about an inch deep when I got back in the afternoon. Saturday night was pretty much a repeat of Friday, although I looked at M11 awhile. There was also a brief but unspectacular display of Northern lIghts, being mostly a bright bar of light along the horizon, with vertical streamers rising from it, all in green. I brought my wife out to look, but she was singularly unimpressed. The display lasted about an hour. I also came up with a nice globular in Sagittarius, but can't say for sure whether it was M28 or M22. I suspect the latter, as it was quite bright.

Sunday I came up with M27, finally. I had been looking a degree or two northeast of where I should have, and tried a little farther away this time. I moved the scope a little, and it just drifted into view, and I said a word you didn't even think the Warthog knew, but I looked at the Dumb thing for about 15 minutes, afraid to let it go in case I never see it again. Then I put my 8mm ep in, and went for the Ring, finding it almost immediately, after all the trouble I've had on other nights.

Lesson learned: Never forget your star maps, you'll do much better. Still and all, a very nice three nights.

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