Greetings again all,
Fellow Ancient City Astronomy Club (St. Augustine, Florida) member Jeffrey Corder and I met down at Matanzas Inlet, Florida, about 18 miles south of St. Augustine this morning for an amazing and very memorable 3 ½ hour session of combined deep sky observing and meteor watching. It was some of the best all-around amateur astronomy I have done in quite a long while, maybe ever!
We set up just after 2:00 a.m. EDT under full 360 degree skies that were spectacularly clear, crisp and dark to say the least. Our intention was to go to dawn’s early light and we had no problem whatsoever meeting that goal! Jeffrey set up his photomultiplier-enhanced Celestron 8 scope and I got out my Celestron 16 x 70 binoculars and the subsequent views we had through both instruments while we waited for the eta Aquarid radiant to rise simply were to die for.
Jeffrey started us out at Polaris and cautioned me that looking at the star through his scope might tend to impact my night vision and he was right! His self-made, photomultiplier set-up enhances the scope’s capability by some three full magnitudes, effectively making it roughly the equivalent of a 24 inch telescope!!! The views we had were the amazing proof to the pudding. We toured several well-known Messier objects with each one looking like the pictures from huge observatory scopes. I was dumbfounded. Every globular cluster we looked at was resolved to the core! M13 was mindblowing… I also glimpsed the North American nebula near Deneb in Cygnus with my 16 x 70s and the star clouds in the Sagittarius area were magnificent.
I signed on for meteors at 3:00 a.m. EDT, while Jeffrey went on a deep sky hunt for super faint deep sky objects, we each had plenty to keep us busy!! I saw my first ETA at 3:18 a.m. and ended up with 7 total ETAs for the first hour with the radiant still very low in the SE. Here is my meteor data from this morning:
May 5/6, 2016 Observer: Paul Jones, Location: North Bank of Matanzas Inlet, Florida, Lat: 29.75N, Log: 81.24W (approximately 18 miles south of St. Augustine, Florida).

0300 – 0400 EDT (0700 – 0800 UT) Teff: 1.0 hour, No breaks, LM: 6.8, Clear, except for some very slight haze near the southern horizon
7 ETA: -1, 0, +2, +3(2), +4, +5,
1 ANT: +2
1 ELY: +3
11 SPO: +1, +3(3), +4(3), +5(3), +6
20 total meteors

0400 – 0500 EDT (0800 – 0900 UT) Teff: 1.0 hour, No breaks, LM: 6.8, Clear, except for some very slight haze near the southern horizon
16 ETA: -1, 0, +1, +2(4), +3(4), +4(3), +5(2)
1 GAQ: +3
1 ANT: +3
12 SPO: +1, +2(3), +3(5), +4, +5, +6
30 total meteors
0500 – 0530 EDT (0900 – 0930 UT) Teff: .5 hour, No breaks, LM: 6.2 (twilight), Clear
11 ETA: -2, -1, +1, +2, +3(3), +4(2), +5(2)
5 SPO: +1(2), +3, +4, +6
16 total meteors
22 of the 34 ETAs left trains, a couple lasting several seconds on the sky, same colors as before
It was quite a mixed bag of ETAs this morning as bright ones would be intermingled with fainter ones with no real pattern to establish. Occasionally, there would be short bursts of ETAs or two in quick succession, but for the most part, they were pretty evenly spread out. One thing I did notice in particular about this morning’s ETAs was that on average their individual path lengths on the sky were shorter than the two previous mornings. There really were less 30 to 40 degree long tracks, but the meteors themselves were somewhat brighter.
Both Jeffrey and I were not very happy to see dawn come! We wanted to keep going! We knew it was a rare and crystal morning we were having and did not want to see it end… I’m pretty sure that had I been able to put in a third full dark hour, I would have had close to 25 ETAs. One thing we both noticed was the large number of artificial satellites that were visible. At one point in the second hour, there was a group of four of them all traveling near one another going west to east all within about 20 degrees on the sky of each other. Neither Jeffrey nor I had ever seen anything like that before!
I would like to thank Jeffrey for his “home run” suggestion of the Matanzas Inlet observing site and for showing me so many unforgettable views of deep sky objects I had seen before, but never like I did this morning!! I’ll be back out at it in the morning as the sky today is so blue, it hurts…;o).
More later, clear skies all, Paul J in St. Augustine