by David Kingsley
Very nice night up at Montebello Monday evening.
No clouds, temps in upper 30s, no wind, low humidity. And no shoveling required to get into the parking lot, despite various snow reports from area hilltops this weekend.
Five observers, including
me (Starmaster 14.5)
James T. (C8),
Phil T (imaging with TAK refractor),
Albert H. (binoculars),
and a first time Montebello visitor (Ben (?), sorry I'm bad with names, but we all enjoyed meeting you , seeing your AP traveler imaging the comet, and trading eyepieces around).
A group of four deer standing at attention and silhouetted against the horizon at sunset made a great start to the evening
The comet became a naked eye object in the west, and a spectacular object in the eyepiece.
Seeing was steady enough to give very nice views of Jupiter and Saturn at magnifications from 250 to 500X.
I looked at a bunch of other stuff, but the other highlight of the night was a supernova discovered 3/9/02 in galaxy NGC 3190 in Leo. 3190 is the brightest of a group of four galaxies all visible last night within a 0.5 degree field, each with different brightnesses and morphology. This is a spectacular field worth visiting completely on its own. However, the added interest of a beautiful supernova in the brightest most interesting galaxy in the field made it especially memorable last night. Unlike the recent supernova in M74, SN 2002bo actually LOOKED like a supernova, close enough to the bright elongated core of 3190 to obviously be associated, and yet just offset enough visually to clearly be a stellar point blazing away in its island universe.
I made some magnitude estimates based on field stars, and when I later checked them at home, came up with a current visual magnitude around 13.9. It was discovered around mag 15.5 about ten days ago, and will probably start fading before too much longer. Visit this one soon (before the moon gets much higher)!
Great image of the field and supernova available here,
http://www.tisd.net/~jng3/stars/n3190.jpg (color version)
and magnitude comparison chart is available at American Association of Variable Star Observers.