Test of Audio of Observation

This is a test to see if the audio observation of NGC 6517 can make it on here.

Edit: Ok, this method works. I had to create a movie using the same picture and then attach the video file to it. I think moving forward what I am going to do is put in the original sketch, then do a digital sketch of the original and put that in with the audio from the observation.

In listening forgive my pronunciation of Ophiuchus and realize in this observation I am still getting use to using the digital recorder. Not sure if I like hearing myself and such but would welcome comments on whether anyone finds this type of observation useful? I may just list some basics from the observation and then post the audio as I have done here. Or should I keep both? I do think it gives a different way of doing an observation but not sure if I'll keep it. We'll see. Then again, there are some expert observers that I will never observe with that I would LOVE to hear their observation of some objects.

WARNING; READ BEFORE CLICKING TO LISTEN: I have read though that since I used a Quicktime format this could crash your browser so beware. If it does please leave a comment so I know and can look at a couple of other methods. One is to post a link to Box.Com where I store the audio and then one can click on it and download the link. I like this method because there is nothing to download and no need to worry about a virus (which I use a MacBook Pro so they are rare).


Night of August 21st through the a.m. of August 22nd, 2009

I decided to get out tonight and do some observing at a dark site so I loaded up and went. I was glad I did. Skies tonight averaged about a 7 to 8 out of 10 and I found seeing wonderful. Then again, I am still trying to come to terms with that. At least the stars were steady this night. I'll be glad when September and October come as they usually bring calm skies, cooler evenings and tremendous seeing. Watch, now I've cursed myself and the weather for all who observe in northern Utah.

I set up and then pulled out my charts, my sketching materials and my EP case and took out my EP's to start the night. After setting up I just sat back in my observing chair and enjoyed the views. My favorite quote explains why I like this hobby. I sit back and look up and time stops for me. I know its an illusion but I seem to float right up into the stars and for a moment, touch something that is eternal in human terms because of the raw elements out in space.

Finally, I am hoping to have the sound up this week so don't laugh at my big, deep, booming voice. Also, as soon as I can scan the actual sketches in I will be posting them next to their digital companions.

NGC 6629 Planetary Nebula in Sagittarius
8/21/2009; 3:00 UT
Seeing 8/10
13mm Stratus @ 92x
Orion Ultrablock Filter

I wanted to start with this planetary since I missed it and Sagittarius is running into the west so quickly now. I used most of O'Meara's directions here, but modified them at the end. I used the Telrad to Kaus Borelias and then over to M22 in my finderscope. Next I went to a corner star that connects and goes north to NGC 6442. From NGC 6442 are two stars that are above it and I followed those two stars up to 23 Sagittarii. From 23 Sagittarii I went NW to the two stars that run north to south and then down as O'Meara says in his book to "star b." From "star b" I went SW and I ran right into the planetary.

The planetary is small and tight, yet bright enough to tell it is a planetary without a filter if your use to looking at them from the Messier and the Urban and Best of NGC. It is slightly less in brightness than the 11th magnitude star neighboring it, is round in its appearance, almost star like, and the edges are sharp at low magnification in my 21mm Stratus. At 92x in my 13mm Stratus it seems to be more diffused on the edge. No color is visible outside of the gray fuzz and the Ultrablock Narrowband Filter does help to bring this object out. I did not see a central star nor did I expect to see one. It would be easy to miss this if your not use to looking at planetary nebula. I sketched it, but really not much there.

From Digitized Sky Survey:

NGC 6568 Open Cluster in Sagittarius
04:00 UT
Seeing: 8/10; LM 8.6
XT10; 13mm Stratus @ 92x to sketch; 21mm Stratus as a finder @ 57x

I followed O'Meara's guide to the a T on this one. I realized that I have to be careful how much I reveal in star hopping as I could be violating copyright, but in another sense, I really hope I promote the book so that others will purchase it as a guide to the Herschel 400. He has done such a wonderful job with the book and for the most part, I find it very useful.

Anyway, I went to Mu Sagittarius and then to 14 Sagittarii. From 14 I then noticed a star to the SW and another to the NE that are relatively bright. Next to that star to the NE is the cluster. Listed as an 8th magnitude, I believe I saw stars much fainter than that here. It has a definite bowl shape or crown shape of stars and is a small not so rich cluster. I did not sketch it so I will just post the digitized sky survey image. You can see the crown or bowl in the top left portion of the image, just off center.

NGC 6645 Open Cluster
8/21/2009 04:42 UT
LM 8.5
Seeing 8/10
XT10; 21mm Stratus @ 57x and 13mm Stratus @ 92x

I followed O'Meara's instructions again except for one deviation. I went to Mu Sagittarii and then to what he calls Star B. I veered from him by skipping his Star C and star hopping directly to his Star D for this object. From D I sent over to the left using the finder scope pass two sets of 2 stars that are close to each other. At the last star of the second set I went SE barely and the open cluster is there and visible. Don't expect M25 which you'll pass and look at on the way here, because this OC is not even in that class. This is a small open cluster that after observing and sketching it, I found O'Meara saying it had over 50 stars. I only counted around 40 or slightly less so it is not a rich cluster in my book. There are pretty chains of stars in the cluster, one chain running from the corner NW star to the SE and the other is a curving chain going SW to NE. Not bad, for a Herschel.

Digitized Sky Survey of NGC 6645:

NGC 6664 Open Cluster in Scutum
8/22/2009; 06:00 UT
LM 7.8
Seeing 8/10
XT10; 13mm Stratus @ 92x

I used my Telrad to go to 12 Aguilae. I then went to M11 and visited that old friend and realized that I need to visit that Open Cluster soon and re-sketch it as my original was one of my first sketches and I am VERY unhappy with it. From M11 I followed four stars to Alpha Scuti. NGC 6664 is next to Alpha Scuti. O'Meara's directions were spot on yet again. I just made a couple of modifications for me that worked. The cluster is small and has a loose background of stars. There is some brighter stars here and the cluster I would rate as poor. No glow of unresolved stars were seen by this observer. This is an object I would recommend to do in late July after the full moon and wanning stages in early July and before the waxing occurs near the first of the month. I have a sketch but forgot to upload it. I will do so tomorrow as its late. Disregard that statement after I post the sketch.

Digitized Sky Survey Image:

NGC 6905 Blue Flash Planetary Nebula in Dolphinus
8/22/2009 @ 08:05 UT
Seeing 8/10
LM 11.1 (seems brighter)
XT10; 13mm Stratus @ 92x and 5mm Hyperion @ 200x
Orion Ultrablock Narrowband Filter

This was fun and a great way to end this session of Herschels. I have had a comment at Cloudy Nights to the fact that I seem to be able to find 7 to 8 a session. Tonight I only got to 5 and partof that is sketching. I know O'Meara says mark the chart in the book on which items to come back and though I may not be able to sketch all of them (not practical either) I am going to sketch the ones that interest me. I'm in no rush to finish this since for me it is the experience that matters.

The PN as stated was fun to get to and fun to observe and is one of my favorite PN's now. I followed O'Meara's directions going from 52 Cygni and hopped to 32, 31, 30, 28 and 29 Vulercula. From 28 V. I followed three stars down at an angle and that seem to curved. From the bottom star I differed from O'Meara and jumped to a third star straight across and that formed the bottom of the left part of an isosceles triangle (this jump is where I differed). In the finder that bottom left star was faint and I used the 21mm Stratus to do it. The PN is next to that bottom left star and stands out easily with no filter. I observed that at 92x and at 200x that the planetary was irregular in shape; a ball on the left and irregularities on the SE and southern portion of the PN. I can confirm that I saw the central star (friend who has done the Herschels already twice). The central star is not visible in the filter and comes and goes in and out of the picture when observing the PN. It was mainly gray in color thought I did have hints of a grayish blue and have included that in the sketch. Rather large in size. I sketched it at 92x and at 200x and have included the 200x here.

Digitized Sky Survey of Object:

If you haven't seen this PN I highly recommend it and if you have and its been awhile, why not go back and look at an old friend. It's worth it I think.

Well, that's all for now and outside of the audio and the actual sketches, I am caught up here (so by the end of the week I'll be caught up). Weather is looking good for Friday and Saturday so I should get in sessions after midnight. Then I fear I'll be back to double stars which I truly enjoy and that will have to keep you entertained until the waning crescent moon (maybe last quarter) returns and I can go deep again. Until then clear skies to you and harmony between you and your loved ones.



Herschel 400 August 16 and 17th 2009

Well I got out the night of August 16 and 17th and had a relatively good session. Seeing was pretty constant at around 6/10 that night and I was observing from my backyard.

I used O'Meara's guide and (I have another observation to put up for the 22nd of August) I find that his main maps are relatively useless as I use my Sky Atlas 2000 to a better affect. Having said that I have to say that often his detail maps do help in locating objects. I really, REALLY wish the publisher had put the book into a spiral bound version for the field as I am worried about the back making it over this adventure.

My other recommendation on the book, is probably based on the moon cycle. Right now near the first of the month the moon is full so I really recommend in that circumstance that you hunt down the next month's DSO's in the new moon cycle. So for example, I am finding that in August, Sagittarius is a focus constellation. For me at 41 degrees north Sagittarius in mid to late August is only up from 10:00p.m. until around 12:30a.m. After that it is too low for me to observe because of these mountains to the SW. It would have been better for me to observe August items in mid to late July and then September over the last two weeks. This just means I will have to get the objects I miss next year. That's fine since I am giving myself two years to complete the list.

All observations were made using an XT10. Limited Magnitude (LM) from O'Meara's H 400 Guide. Check my UT time as I am adding 5 hours to my local time (Mountain Standard) and placing it in military time.

NGC 6440 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus
August 16, 2009
21mm Stratus at 57x
Sketched at 13mm Stratus at 92x
Seeing 6/10
03:39p.m. UT
LM 9.2

My first object that night was NGC 6440. I had recently observed NGC 6445 so getting here was easy. I simply started at Kaus Borealis and using M8, M11 and M23 as my hopping points and followed the four curving stars down from M23 to NGC 6445 and then went south down to NGC 6440 which sits in a chain of 4 stars, separating the bottom two from the top two. Averted vision really helps here bringing out a star like inner core with a halo around it. At 200x the halo increased while taking away the core.

From the Digital Sky Survey:

I included NGC 6445 in the sketch. I will post the actual sketch here after I get them scanned.

NGC 6638 Globular Cluster in Sagittarius
August 16, 2009
13mm Stratus @ 92x
5mm Hyperion @ 200x
Seeing 6/10
04:15 UT
LM 9.0

Easy target to find. I used the Telrad to Kaus Borealis and went to Lamoda Sagittari. I went east and down and you can't miss it. It is a faint fuzzy object and I could not resolve any stars at 200x as conditions wouldn't allow more than that. I did detect hints of a faint core and a stronger light to the west of this object.

From the Digital Sky Survey:

NGC 6642 Globular Cluster in Sagittarius
August 16, 2009
13mm Stratus @ 92x
5mm Hyperion @ 200x
Seeing 6/10
04:55 UT
LM 9.1

O'Meara's guide worked just fine on this object, and easy to find. I've been here and viewed this before but never recorded the observation. At 92x there was a hint of a strong star like core surrounding by a halo with the halo making up 80% of the view. At 200x the core really shines with averted vision and when seeing permits and clears. Nothing fanciful here as no stars are resolved, no tendrils seen, just a sharp halo ball of fuzz! I sketched it at 92x to include the field though I did consider 200x because I saw more detail on the object. Seeing seemed to improve.

From the Digital Sky Survey

Error in the sketch. Another switch of numbers!!! Argggggghhhh. I'll have to watch that.

NGC 6517 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus
August 17, 2009
05:37 UT
13mm Stratus @ 92x
LM 10.1

I wanted to try for NGC 6629 a planetary by NGC 6642 but it was too low and I would have had to remove my light shield and at that point would have lost all details. So I moved onward. Followed O'Meara's instructions here again and they worked well with the Sky Atlas 2000. Went to Tau Ophiuchus using my Telrad and by the star is a triangle asterism of a triangle point at Tau, well, really just off of it. I went to the tip of the triangle which is also part of three stars from the right bottom I angled downward and to the right and I saw 2 faint stars and then a brighter one. The globular lies right above the bright star and to the right of the second faint star.

I could discern a bright core with direct vison and a halo around it. The core seemed to come and go during the observation though. Averted vision just off the object brings the core back. I found being dark adapted really helped here. No stars could be resolved.

From the Digital Sky Survey

NGC 6781 Planetary Nebula in Aguila
August 17, 2009
05:55 UT
Seeing 7/10
LM 11.4
13mm Stratus @ 92x
5mm Hyperion @ 200x
Orion Ultrablock NB Filter

Well, the southern constellations were fading into the west like on of Tolkien's Elves so I moved on in O'Meara's book. I decided to go for the planetary before the open clusters because of my fondness of planetary nebula.

NGC 6781 is a rather LARGE planetary, one of the largest I've seen. I went to Delta Aguilae, the top of the tail of the eagle, and followed O'Meara's directions. From Delta Aq. I moved over to 222 Aquilae. Between 22 and 19 Aguilae are three stars that are north to south. Follow those three stars up to the third one on the top and the PN is up and to the left in my reflectors EP. I spotted it first without a filter as dark adaptation helped.

The PN seems to have an irregular shape; it appears to be a ball but then I get moments where I see it more egg shape. The edge is diffused and only a grayish or grayish white color is present. Using my Orion Ultrablock Filter brought out the details I listed above (irregular size and the slight brightness on one side) and makes this PN really stick out. A nice object to view in the summer time. No central star is visible.

From the Digital Sky Survey:

NGC 6755 Open Cluster in Aquila
August 17, 2009
07:20 UT
Seeing 7/10
LM 7.5
13mm Stratus @ 92x
21mm Stratus @ 57x

I followed O'Meara's directions on this until I got to Delta Aquilae. That is where it got hard using his directions for me, and in this case his finder chart did not help me. I finally got to the cluster after thirty minutes of searching and re-reading my Sky Atlas 2000. Very scattered cluster that has a wedge shape to it. I felt at times I could detect a glow around it, though I haven't confirmed that yet. The chains of stars are nice. I did not sketch this item though I did make a note to come back and sketch it. I have to be at work/school tomorrow for a meeting at 11:00a.m. so I couldn't stay out that much longer.

From Digital Sky Survey:

NGC 6756 Open Cluster in Aquila
07:40 UT
Seeing 7/10
LM 10.6
13mm Stratus @ 92x

This and NGC 6755 are relatively close together and could be a close double cluster I guess. Not much to this one, its small, compact and elongated. I counted about 12 to 13 members present. No sketch of this one.

From the Digital Sky Survey:

That was it, as it was that night, so it is now, I'm tired, and need to go to bed. I'll post Friday's session tomorrow, then I would like to add the scans of these two sessions and their audio this week if I have time . . . . key word, if I have time. I will add the audio by next weekend though since I have had several requests for it. I may get it sooner since the skies are bad the next two days. Clear skies to you.


Pit n Pole Directions

I've wanted to do this for awhile and when I can, I would like to put up a link to some of the dark sites around Salt Lake and take pictures to help others get there. I'm sure some will welcome this and others will curse me but I promise only to do the ones that are already available at the three society sites in Salt Lake and Utah County. I'd just like to see more people observe. Pit n Pole is the first because it is the one I use the most often. Here are the directions from the Utah Valley Astronomical Society (that's where I first saw them) and have modified them. I've added links to pictures but know that you can click on the first link and then click next to go through the album if you don't want to keep clicking links. Just realize I have more pictures there than I posted here.

From I-15 get off at the Lehi exit by the Lehi Roller Mills. That is exit #282 or the UT-73 exit. Go west through Lehi on State Road 73.

Continue west on SR 73 across the Jordan River, straight through the intersection of Redwood Road (1700 W.) by Smith's, up the hill past Eagle Mountain and out to Cedar Fort.

The road will turn south for 5 miles to Fairfield. When you get to Fairfield note the turn off to Camp Floyd but don’t get on it just stay on SR 73. From the Camp Floyd turn off check your mileage and follow the highway around the bend and go 4.7 miles from the Camp Floyd turn off up the hill. If it is dark when you are following these directions, you may not notice it is a long gentle hill.

At 5-mile pass you should see motorcycles and 4-wheelers having a good time (if it's light, in the dark you won’t see anything). There are message boards on both sides and bathrooms. These are the nearest bathrooms to Pit n Pole (sometimes there is a portable near the site). As you top the hill at 5-mile pass you will see the a sign marking the county line between Utah County and Tooele county. The road then slopes down and curves to the North (right). As you approach the hill you'll see two towers on the left; mesonet weather towers and a county line sign; from the county line/sign go 3/10ths of a mile and turn left onto a paved road , right before it you'll see a sign for the Old Pony Express Route, Faust and Vernon.

As you turn onto the road look at your odometer and figure out what it will be in 4.2 miles. Go west for 4.2 - 4.3 miles. On both sides you'll see PR brown Markers that start around 19 or 18 and you'll go until you find PR 3 on the left. You will know that you are almost there when the road turns slightly to the left (about 4 miles) and then there is a small rise in the road. After the rise, the road dips and about 100 yards or so later is another rise. Turn left (South) on the road that takes off at the top of that second rise where the PR 3 sign is. The road is dirt/gravel and is nicely done
Go south 4/10ths of a mile and as the road bends to the right .there will be another dirt road, obscured by sage brush and turn right until you are on this new path, going to the west (right). Take that road west 3/10ths of a mile until you see a pole sticking out of the ground with a pit near by. You have arrived.
The Pit:

Directions are relative. I did not take a compass and estimated them. Here are some links to what the horizons look like. They are pretty good during a cloudless, moonless night.

Looking N to NE:

Looking E:

Looking SE:

Looking SE to S:

Looking SW to W:

Looking W:

Looking W to NW at the Pole:

Partly cloudy today so no observing but it was fun to go out and do this. Hope it helps anyone looking for a semi good dark site. Watch humidity in the fall.


Some videos to share

Since the weather has been horrible the last two nights I decided to share something that a local member of a local board shared with all of us. I thought it was cool so I'll share it here. It is on YouTube.

Here is a 3D movie of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field:

I enjoyed it. Hope you do also.

Hopefully next time I post it will be because I've observed!


Bad Back

Well, I have a good plan of what I want to do now I just needed my back to heal. I fell down about three stairs at home one night a couple of weeks ago and my bad back (L5/S1) really acted up. Its improved and I am ready to observe but guess what is out there now? Yep, clouds from the summer monsoon. Hopefully in the next couple of days I can get some sessions in as I start teaching next Tuesday. So stay tune! Hope you enjoyed the Perseids!


I know its about a week late etc. but here is my first digital moon sketch based on a live sketch. Rendered in GIMP.

Living in Utah has its challenges and its wonders. One of them is when the weather is good up north, you can actually get some really good seeing. Another is your only 4 to 6 hours from some of the darkest skies in the country. Now I grew up near the ocean and love it, yet in Utah there are no oceans but the mountains are beautiful! When the full moon was out I was out with the family one night working with my 16 and 15 year old on their night driving (they are learning to drive and in Utah they have to have 40 hours with 10 being at night). I had taken them out near a spot where I observe sometimes and stopped at one point and took some time to let them get their nerves back and I sketched the following image. I finally got time today to render it in GIMP.

The finally triangle things are suppose to be Cyprus bushes/trees with the moon rising in a mostly to partly cloudy sky. It's ok, close to the original but I think I like the original better, same with the moon. Once I figured out the clouds they were much easier to render digitally though.

To show you how the skies can be out in this area here is a April 1996 image taken by one of the local members of our club of Comet 1996 B2 Hyakutake:


August Observing Sessions

I spent some of my time today thinking about what I am going to observe. I still have some Messier Objects to sketch to finish sketching all 109 of them (about 14 left) and I am working on the following lists:

The Urban Club
RASC Best of the NGC
Herschel 400
Double Star List (Astronomical League)

So, as usual for me over the next week instead of taking it off, I am going to go after some of the summer doubles on my list. I'll start with Bootis which is position well for me right now for seeing as soon as astronomical twlight ends. Here are the stars I'm going after:
Kappa Bootis, Iota Bootis, Pi Bootis, Epsilon Bootis, Xi Bootis, Delta Bootis, and Mu Bootis.

Next I will go after Delta Serpentis, Zeta Corona Borealis, Struve 1999, Beta Scorpii, Kappa Herculis, Nu Scorpii, Sigma Corona Borealis, 16/17 Draconis, Mu Draconis, Alpha Herculis, Delta Herculis, 36 Ophiuchi, Omicron Ophiuchi, Rho Herculis, Nu Craconis, Psi Craconis, 40/1 Draconis, 95 Herculis, 70 Phiuchi, Epsilon Lyrae, Zeta Lyrae, Beta Lyrae, Struve 2404, Otto Struve 525. Quite a few stars but spread out over two or three sessions this week I should be able to get most of these.

Once I'm done with doubles and the full moon, and back to DSO's, I'll be working on Best of the NGC Summer portion. Objects that will be focused on are NGC 6633, 6712, 6781, 6819, 6445, 6520, 6802, 6940. The ones in Cephus I will probably leave for September/Fall.

The Best of the NGC are for when sky conditions may make it hard to go after Herschel conditions. September through early November (depending when the winter storms start arriving) can give excellent to outstanding skies.

My final observation for DSO's is my primary focus when skies are good and that is the Herschel 400.. I also think this will be the primary focus (not the only, but the primary focus) for my blog. I own Steve O'Meara's Herschel 400 Observing Guide and will use that as what I'm going to blog on. So after the full moon and the waning gibbous moon are gone, I will be starting with the first night for August from Mr. O'Meara's guide. Objects for the first night include NGC 6118 a spiral galaxy, NGC 6517 a dim and tiny globular cluster, NGC 6426 which is another small and dim globular cluster; NGC 6633 a wonderful open cluster according to the guide. Then after finding those four items I'll either move to night two or move into the Best of the NGC.

Night two in the guide is from pages 233 to 235 and includes NGC 6445 (I've already observed) NGC 6440 a globular cluster; NGC 6638 and 6642 both globular clusters and NGC 6629 a PN.

Night three is NGC 6624, 6528, 6522and 6569 all globular clusters.

The fourth night for August focuses on NGC 6520 OC, NGC 6540, 6544 and 6553 all GC.

The fifth night will focus on NGC 6514 (which is the Trifed Nebula but NOT M20 which is the open cluster discovered by Messier. O'Meara points out it is William Herschel that noticed the "true nebulosity" in this object. It is Herschel who saw the three patches of nebulosity and for the Herschel list that is what has to be seen (which I have done). Next is NGC 6568 OC, NGC 6583 OC, and NGC 6645 an OC.

The sixth night is NGC 6818 (observed and that is a key point. This is on the Best of the NGC and often one can observe an item and record it correctly for multiple lists if one is organized); NGC 6644 OC; NGC 6712 GC,

The seventh night is NGC 6755 OC, NGC 6756 OC, NGC 6781 PN and that will end August's part of Steve O'Meara's guide.

There are some other objects that I want to go after NGC 6803, 6852, 6790, 6741, all PN's in Aquila and I need to visit M27 since I haven't taken a view of that.

So there is what I'll be doing. I think it will be fun to use O'Meara's guide and blog about using it, perhaps providing some insight online for others to follow. At one point I wanted to sketch the entire 400 and that is still a goal but on the objects that are not very promising I'll do an observation and a quick sketch on the form I'll use to document. I'll probably combine a few of ther Herschel's nights together since after the 21st I'll be teaching and that means I get out about once during the work week and then the weekends. Clear skies wherever you are!