[AZ-Observing] March 28 report from Hovatter Norte

  • From: L Knauth <Knauth@xxxxxxx>
  • To: <az-observing@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 22:18:43 -0700

Although the Moon set late and the clouds came in at 2 am, I and the coyotes 
had a few great hours to experience the universe from one of the world?s 
dwindling dark sky sites at Hovatter Norte last Saturday night. 
There are always a few views through the 25" that specially jolt me and stick 
in my mind for days afterward.  The latest are:  1) NGC 3395/96:  the curved 
wings on 3395 stunned me when I saw and felt the gravitational wrenching going 
on during this interaction. I've seen lots of other interacting galaxies 
visually but none that impart such a visceral realization of gravity at work on 
a cosmic scale! Don't know what's so special about this pair, but I'm still 
thinking about and feeling that view two nights later. 2)NGC 4656: A half of a 
galaxy! There is the bright core at one end (!) and an arm streaming out and 
curving sharply at the tip.  A litle averted vision and the vastly fainter arm 
on the other side comes into view, but without any curved tip. Not really a 
"half galaxy", after all.  The strange appearance of this one is gravity again, 
they say--the effect of nearby NGC 4631. OK, let's look at that one: 3) Gasp! 
An enormous edge-on rich in glowing detail.  Goes wall to wall in a 13mm Ethos. 
Could stare transfixed at this all night. Forget photos, you can see and feel 
this one blazing away. Amazing. The wrenching of 3395 makes visible sense you 
can feel.  But how this big galaxy induced 4656 to look the way it does 
probably requires the usual not-so-apparent and probably speculative 
astrophysics. I surmise a big wave of star formation was somehow triggered in 
that "half a galaxy" by the tug of this wall to wall wonder? How, I puzzle, 
does that work in this case?  All these things rummaging around in my mind 
tonight when I should be working on other things. Ah, well, screw the other 
things; those views were a treasure!

Videmus stellae,

Paul Knauth

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