After much deliberation, and some lobbying by Sharahm, I decided that the best site for our efforts would be Locatelli Meadow in Bonny Doon. We set up along a long turnout with a nice view to the south and southwest. About the only place in Bonny Doon accessible to the public where you can see the sky instead of redwoods. Jeff Jolin and his kids, Jay Friedland and family, Shahram and family, Allen G and myself all converged at 8:30pm and got set up fairly efficiently. First up was to get some pictures of a nice conjunction between Venus and Mercury inside the Beehive Star Cluster in Cancer. This happened in late twilight and although our 10x70 bino's showed some of the Beehive stars, I'm not sure my photos here do it justice. I took a couple of film shots too. Maybe they'll get scanned and posted at some point. But all agreed it was a beautiful sight, setting over Eagle Rock ridge.

The main event was the impact of the Deep Impact mission on Comet Temple I at 10:52pm, with the comet 20 degrees up in the southwest. Skies were perfect, and so was the seeing. I planned to image with our new Meade Deep Sky Imager using the new Meade 8" f/4 Schmidt-Newtonian. And also, with the new ST2000xcm on the Megrez APO and GM8 mount. Allen planned to watch with his 10" LX200 and webcam. Jay had his 8" f/10 and planned to use the pc164c video camera to get an hour or more of digital data. Sharahm had his 10" Meade Schmidt-Newtonian and modified webcam with K3CCDTools software to get images. He had the best shot at success, being experienced with this set up.

Results: Photographically, it was a total and complete BUST! First, the 8" f/4 Schmidt-Newtonian was unpacked only to find it had two loose bolts rattling around inside the sealed OTA. Back to Meade it goes! So, I had just the Megrez, which turned out to be too underpowered to see the very faint comet. Then, the Meade DSI gave problems; first crashing the laptop with the original CD's drivers, and then after getting the latest drivers, it still gave very slow performance which ended in freezing up the laptop. We gave up on it. Shahram forgot to change a setting in his software until way too late, and so he got no images either, although he got some nice shots of the Lagoon nebula after the comet had set and he figured out what went wrong. Jay never could find the comet in his 8", and so the PC 164c record didn't happen either. Visually, though, it was another story. Shahram was first to find the comet, in his 10" f/4 (the best instrument for finding a faint fuzzy). It was VERY faint and without a nucleus; very diffuse, several arcminutes across and barely above the very dark sky level. I think it was a good thing we chose the very darkest sky location we could, since the comet surface brightness was even then, just barely above the background. Allen, in fact, never could see it, until after the impact and it started brightening. 10:52pm came, and no one saw any flash of impact, although NASA's image from the spacecraft clearly shows clearly shows a bright impact. And even for 10-15 minutes after the impact, we couldn't see much change. But then the fuzzy glow got brighter, and I was first to spot it in Allen's 10" LX200 f/10 with a 35mm Televue eyepiece at 71x. Didn't record the time, but it was around 11:20pm (06:20 UT) I'd guess. Still just a glow. But the glow got easier and easier to see, and more centrally condensed, until a starlike nucleus became visible, and even Allen could see it fairly well. I would estimate it got 2 - 2.5 magnitudes brighter during that hour after the impact. It'd say it got almost a magnitude brighter in just one 10 minute interval around 30-40 minutes after the impact, with the nucleus becoming brighter and brighter. Then the low altitude began to take it's toll, and it then set into the distant hillside.

Most of the gang packed up and left, but Shahram and I stayed till almost 3am taking more photos; me with film and 100mm lens on the GM8, and Shahram with his webcam and 10". I also tried to record the scene and cast of characters, which you can enjoy below. The people shots were taken at ISO 800 and 30 seconds without dark frame software, so they're very noisy. Sorry!...

Venus and Mercury, with stars of the crab's carapace on either side

If you use your averted imagination, you can just make out a few of the Beehive stars betwen and below the Mercury-Venus line

Our Crew. Jupiter and Beta Vir to the upper Right, and Spica near Center. C/Temple I (invisible) is just above Spica

Jeff's kids test fate by meteor watching on the road

Allen; trying valiantly to find the comet

Shahram has his 10" and webcam fired up...

...and he and I watch as stack/accumulate images of the Lagoon Nebula come in

A Kitt Peak Observatory montage of photos during the impact and brightening. Here's some REALLY cool close-ups of the impact from the spacecraft itself.