View of the Pony Express Trail in Utah and Simpson Springs viewing areas and campground

I found this video (see below) on YouTube and since it snowed 6 inches this a.m. and is now giving us another 8-10 inches, I thought I would get look around. This is a motorcyclist's trip on the Old Pony Express Trail. Most of my West Desert (most, but not all) are located off of here. I've posted pictures from Pit n Pole, but if you go to about 1:55 to 2:12 you'll see what my view is like from another elevated observing area that I go to (a little more Cedar Trees behind me my spot). During the week these are tremendous areas to go to, but weekends can be another issue with all the ATV and motorcyclists out there who RV it. Just have to know the spots to go.

Simpson Springs is another area that is good to go to for a couple of days. It is found at 3:48 to 4:31 shows this area. There is a campground and as mentioned, don't drink the water. I take my water so I am good. There are plenty of areas to put a scope that are away from the campground and you can set up your tent there if you want to stay night there. If your tenting it and sleep outside of a campground you do need a Special Recreation Permit from the BLM. It does cost $5.00 a night to camp. I like a tent with an air mattress if I am spending a couple of days at this or a site up in the mountains. Valut toilets are available which is nice, though smelly. Hopefully you get a sense of the vastness and how dark the skies are out here in this video on YouTube. It ties in a piece of U.S. History as well, the Pony Express.

Details can be found at the BLM site on Simpson Springs.

Here is a map showing the route of the Pony Express Route in Utah:

Finally, I found this wonderful post of the journey someone made of the entire Pony Express Route in Utah, and am going to post it here as there are some promising sites that I want to visit next summer and explore as observing sites (at least test them out). I think as amateurs looks for new observing sites, we should tie in with SUV people who do ventures like this. At the bottom is an overview map but the poster put on there his GPS makers at crossroads and interesting areas he photographed. These maps are really helpful. If your local and one to try a site out let me know come next spring or summer (I'm sticking to my winter sites this year). Enjoy, I did!


William Herschel's 20-foot telescope

I haven't lived or worked in the greater D.C. area for almost 8 years, and it was 2002 when I was last in the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. This last fall I had a couple who I have become friends with and who own a XX12i go back to the D.C. area for a family event. While there they very kindly thought of me and took some pictures while at the Air & Space Museum of William Herschel's 20 foot telescope which is on display there. Here is the image they shared with me:

The Twenty Foot Wooden Telescope is above. Here's an image from the Smithsonian's site looking down the wooden tube.

Information on William and his sister Caroline.

More information.

From the Smithsonian's Website is the following information on this telescope:

"This long wooden tube is from William Herschel's 20-foot telescope. He began observing with the telescope in 1783, and though he went on to build even larger ones, his 20-foot remained his favorite. In 1820 Herschel and his son John rebuilt the telescope, which had deteriorated after decades of use, salvaging what they could from the original. The tube displayed here is a product of that reconstruction."

So if your in the area, drop by and take a look at an instrument that one of the most famous visual observers used to catalog many of the objects he observed. You can also see the 100 foot Observing Cage from the Hooker Telescope from Mt. Wilson It is one of several interchangeable cages that were used and this one along with the camera attached to it was used by Hubble during his study of nebulae and galaxies. See this image to view the display.

They also have a copy of the backup mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope. The link above will take you to where you can get the initial information or you can view the mirror here.

On a personal note, it was clear and ready for observing last night, but I have become dreadfully ill. I haven't felt myself since Thanksgiving time, mid November and I am going in tomorrow for tests to determine what is going on. I fear it may impact my observing for awhile as I am greatly fatigued, become winded very easily from tasks I have done that just don't wind me (to the point I am gasping for breath), feel a tightness in my chest/lungs. Hopefully I can get over this and start taking advantage of some time off and get back to observing. Then again though, overall the clouds and weather have really hampered this area this year. I have recorded only 5 observable days in November and December and of those I have observed 2 of them.


Track Santa at NORAD Incredible Jupiter Images by Damian Peach

Well, its cloudy still and its Christmas Eve so last minute preps are going on. I'm in the process of making Gluten Free Fudge (no different than regular fudge really) but thought I would post the link for tracking Santa at NORAD. If you go to the Santa link by Iraq, Santa visits the International Space Station with an astronaut's helmet on. Good of NASA to supply it but I wonder, don't reindeer require oxygen also so where are their helmets? In reality, it is a nice touch to mention the ISS in tracking Santa around the globe. Happy Holidays.

Edit: These came out over a Bad Astronomy and I wanted to get a link over to Damian Peach's images he took of Jupiter which is located at this link.

What I think is just incredible is the amount of detail in his images and in his movies that he put together. Look at Io, Ganymede and the moons and the details you can see on them. I have to admit, I have seen people sketch that detail and though I have had incredible views of Jupiter in my XX14i and 20" Obsession, I haven't seen details on the Galilean moons. I chalk that up to lack of experience and effort. That detail is highly evident in Mr. Peach's photos (see this photo) and I invite you to head over there and check out Jupiter and the Galilean moons that he captured. I haven't posted as I do not have his permission to post them up on the blog.

Two months have past and I have had only 2 sessions. This is what spring is like and it has me worried that 2011 may be a bust in terms of observing. However, I know that for every period of very wet and cloudy conditions, come periods of dry and clear because the weather pattern in the western U.S. changes due to jet stream modulations. It's not looking good for next week but I can hope that by next weekend it changes.


A Cello for Eli Potash

I'll admit up front, it your looking for something on Astronomy from this post, you may be disappointed. What you will find is a man, who has a passion, a passion for music and for the cello. His name is Eli Potash and he plays his cello most nights in Salt Lake City at the Broadway Theater. Because he plays on the street, he has been robbed, bullied, beat up and had altercations with those trying to harm him. He plays and plays mainly Renaissance and Baroque pieces for anyone and all, for the masses as he calls it. He plays for individuals, couples, families, Mormon families as he calls them, and just about anyone who will listen. His goal is to make a living playing music and to educate the masses. If your ever in Salt Lake City, take the time to see him one evening and to just enjoy him for some time. I said it isn't about astronomy, but Mr. Potash's efforts remind me of the need for outreach and for sidewalk astronomy by those who have a passion for the night sky.

To learn some more about him you can go to these links which are over on YouTube.

Link 1

Link 2

Now to the Christmas/Holiday message. A group known as the Daniel Day Trio that are located here in Salt Lake City and now Eli Potash, and as you'll see in the video, play with him from time to time, play Silent Night with him. Then as a thank you for all he does to educate the public and as a Christmas Present, they present him with a member's refurbished cello with a nice case that is lighter for him to carry when in public. I felt touch and moved in observing this. I know some may say the group had ulterior motives (publicity) but I don't think so. The gift was given by those who know him out of love and it made a impression on the receiptant. I think if we were all this way, more often with each other, the world indeed would be a better place. Happy Holidays. Hopefully my skies clear soon!

Eli Potash Receives a Gift


Snow, Clouds, Fog and NO Eclipse!!!!

The title of this entry summarizes what has become an all too familiar pattern this fall and now winter. Literally 2 observing nights a month if I have been lucky. My hope is that come the week between Christmas and New Years (closer to New Years) as the waning crescent moon sinks quickly into the west, that the skies clear for some good observing sessions.

I missed the lunar eclipse last night because of the weather, and I woke up with about 10 inches of new snow on the ground and cars. Man, I hate snow. As soon as I can I am moving to either southern Utah, Arizona or New Mexico I think for the warmer weather (though my selected spot in New Mexico will have snow since it is up in elevation. Utah was named the 3rd fastest growing state and I think with the lack of foresight in preserving dark skies, this state will become harder and harder to observe from in the future. Probably the real reason is that though I am a huge extrovert in public, and though I do enjoy people, when at home, I like my peace and quiet, my solitude interrupted only by those I love. I like having access to a nice size city, where there is a symphony, arts, rock concerts, and other outlets, but I like to live in a smaller town, more likely on the outskirts of that town. I don't mind the challenges that come with a small town, and there are some. My two teens are almost done with high school, one more year so living in an area that is not large is not an issue for them. They are moving forwards with their lives as they need to. I've raised two really decent, moral, and caring individuals. What they accomplish with the gifts given to them are soon to be up to them. I won't need to offer advice, they will figure it out as I have, though I hope to be around to ask questions to make them think if they ask for that. I can't live their life for them and my experience is too many parents try to do that. Asking them questions as adults will help them to figure out what it is they need to do.

So taking my teens to smaller area isn't the issue. I probably am 6 years from moving because I will assist them in gaining their college education (they must pay for some of it themselves). Where will I end up when it is all done and over with? I'm not sure. As I stated, hopefully a small town in southern Utah, or Arizona or perhaps that nice site in New Mexico. If you have a suggestion, please feel free to drop a comment.

Finally, I am not sure if I will have time as family becomes a major priority starting tomorrow so I with a Happy Holiday, Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or a Happy Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, even if it is nothing this weekend. May you find the time to be a happy one because of who your with and may you have, and make very Merry on the New Year. So Happy Holidays and Merry New Year! Oh, and may your equipment work flawlessly, the scopes provide outstanding views and your skies be dark, clear, and glorious to view. Cheers to each of you.


Simeis 147 Observing Target

Simeis 147 is a Supernova Remnant that is about 7 degrees north of the Crab Nebula, and is similar in size to the Veil Nebula in Cygnus but much fainter as it is much older, about 90000 to 100,000 light years old.

Here is an excerpt from Cosmic Challenges that discusses this wonderful but hard target. I ordered a copy from Amazon this evening.

This site shows the brighter regions of Simeis 147.

It looks best to divide the this very faint object into 4 parts and to attack it that way. I will use the 20" Obsession (if the weather in Utah ever clears) and try the object in the XX14i. I'll report what I find IF I ever get to observe this winter. It does take dark skies and an OIII filter. Should be a fun and very challenging object to go after!

It doesn't look like we will be seeing the Lunar Eclipse as the forecast is for rain and snow. This is a bummer and was something I was really looking forward to. I hope some of you can see it.


Stratus and Hyperion Eyepieces for Sale

Well, I am not sure I want to do this, because I like how these eyepieces work in my 10 inch scope, and they are great eyepieces for my two teens to use when they observe with me. However, I am finding that I am not using these that often, if at all, and I don't mind if my teens use my premium eyepieces (my Pentax XW's) so I am going to post these here, on my club's (SLAS) website and if that doesn't generate interest, on Cloudy Nights. I do get somewhat emotionally attached to eyepieces but I am going to use the sale of these eyepieces to try and fund a couple of more Pentax purchases as I really like those EP's. These are for sale in the Continental U.S. only please. No over seas shipping. I reserve the right to change my mind on selling these.

I'm putting this here in case someone local wants to view it. If someone else is interested, leave me a comment and an email, I will send you an email and not publish the comment unless you request that I do so.

1. Orion 2 inch DeepView 35mm eyepiece. This came with the XX14i, and it is a fair eyepiece, having some seagull affects near the edge in a fast scope. I have used it once to compare it to a couple of other pieces. I still have the box, both end caps. I do not see any major scratches on the barrel or on the eyepiece itself. Asking price: $65.00

2. Hyperion 5mm Modular Eyepiece, 68 degrees FOV. This eyepiece I have used from time to time on planets when the observing allows, which hasn't been too often over the last year. It gets pulled out probably once a session to confirm what magnification the seeing is allowing. I love this eyepiece, though it hasn't been used that much (40x over the last year). I am going to go with the Pentax XW 7mm to replace this one. The barrel is pretty free of any scratches, might have one or two from when I did not use a brass tuning holder and I used screws on the XT8 and XT10. Glass is good. Asking Price: $85.00 Includes both top eyepiece covers, the cover for the bottom barrel, the bag, and the box. I also have the original plastic that held all of the items. On the bottom of the black EP bag, I did write in silver sharpie the 5mm so I could tell what each EP was when observing.

3. Orion Stratus 17mm Eyepiece, 68 degrees FOV. This was a gift and I haven't really used it, maybe 8 times personally, though I did loan it to a friend while observing together a couple of times to use. The barrel is free from scratches (like the Hyperion 5mm, may have one or two that I am not seeing). The glass is good. This eyepiece delivers wonderful views I if I hadn't had the 13mm, it would have been my workhorse. Includes both the upper and lower caps, the black bag, the box, the plastic that came with the eyepiece. Again, I marked the bottom of the black bag with a silver sharpie with a 17 so I knew what EP it was in the case at a dark site. Asking Price: $90.00

4. Orion Stratus 13mm 68 degree Field of View. Okay, here's the deal. I am going to keep either the 13mm or the 17mm Stratus for Star Party use. I don't want the public messing with my Pentax XW's. So which ever one sells first, I will take the other off the market. This was my workhorse eyepiece when I was observing with my XT8 and my XT10. The barrel is scratched up pretty heavily, because my holder had screws, and then I find out about the brass compression ring and that saved most of the other EP's. The glass is still fine on this EP. This eyepiece provided me with some really wonderful views and of all the ones on here, if I sell this one, I will miss it the most. It comes with its box, plastic wrap, black bag with strings (all of them have their strings btw), and both end caps. Again, I marked the bottom of the black bag with a silver sharpie 13 so I know what EP is which at a dark site. Cost: $80.00.


A delicately violent celestial shell game

A delicately violent celestial shell game

Another article with that explores nebula bubbles and compares planetary nebula and SNR (Super Nova Remnant). I am (and have been for about a month now) feeling under the weather so though the sky was clear tonight, all I could do was take a nap, grade some school work, and then do somethings on the computer. I visit the doctor next week so hopefully I get some answers. I need to get my pep back. I love my age (45) but sometimes it sucks to realize your not 25 anymore . . . Enjoy the link to Bad Astronomy.

Here is the link to the Chandra info and images on SNR 0509:

Here is the Hubble information:

Here is the Hubble Image:

Now, I think the image from Hubble is fantastic but what I really enjoy is the movie that NASA put together which you can see over at this link.


Observing Session December 12th, 2010 Messier 1, The Crab Nebula

Here is the next object that I sketched on December 12th, the Crab Nebula or Messier 1. Though not a grab and get your attention object for many the first time they observe it, it is what it represents that is so wonderful! This is a Supernova remnant that exploded in 1054 CE and seen by Arab and Chinese Astronomers of their day. It is 11 ly across and has a neutron star/pulsar near its center that spins at about 30.2 times per second, sending out pulses of radiation in many forms.


Observing December 12th 2010

Well I got out to a dark site last night, and though I only spent about 5 hours there, and though I didn't do anything with the Herschel 400, I did get some observations of some new and old objects in. I'll post up what I observed later today (I have a root canal and dental surgery today in about an hour so it will depend on how I feel after that). My favorite object though was NGC 1360, which I observed after visiting NGC 1535 again. Here is my sketch and observation of that image:

I did this sketch with the Ultrablock Narrowband Filter to give a comparison of what I first saw vs. what I saw with the OIII filter and using averted vision.


AMAZING wide-angle time lapse night sky video!

This is really, and I mean REALLY cool! This is from St├ęphane Guisard's website and was taken on December 5 in Chile at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. Check it out!!!!

AMAZING wide-angle time lapse night sky video!

YouTube of the Video above (see it here, max the screen, it is the best view)

The following links are from the bottom of the post at Bad Astronomy. These are also from Stephane's site also:

Star Trail from the Equator

The Darkest Sky

Check these out! They are really interesting, at least to me.


Lunas Eclipse on December 20th and 21st, 2010 Viewing Together in Salt Lake City area

This post is meant more for local people in the Salt Lake City area. Sorry if your outside of that but I encourage you to do something similar where you live if you can see this event on December 20th and 21st.

So I am just wondering if anyone is wanting to meet locally to view this lunar eclipse, weather permitting? Naked eye is probably best but I think I may just bring my 10inch scope out to see what the view is like on some craters as the eclipse moves across the moon. If your interested please reply so I can gauge interest and perhaps pick a good spot in the Salt Lake Valley to view this. Your can see from this table from Wiki (we are the MST -7 UTC or second column from the left) that it will be a late night if you want to view this. You can see the beginning stages from 10:27p.m. til 12:40a.m. with totality starting at 12:40a.m. and lasting until 1:17a.m. That's about as late as I'll go because I have to work the next day. Anyone interested?

Event PST
(-8 UTC)
(-7 UTC)
(-6 UTC)
(-5 UTC)
Start penumbral (P1) 9:27 pm (*) 10:27 pm (*) 11:27 pm (*) 12:27 am
Start umbral (U1) 10:32 pm (*) 11:32 pm (*) 12:32 am 1:32 am
Start total (U2) 11:40 pm (*) 12:40 am 1:40 am 2:40 am
Greatest eclipse 12:17 am 1:17 am 2:17 am 3:17 am
End total (U3) 12:53 am 1:53 am 2:53 am 3:53 am
End umbra (U4) 2:02 am 3:02 am 4:02 am 5:02 am
End penumbral (P4) 3:06 am 4:06 am 5:06 am 6:06 am
(*) before midnight on Monday night, December 20

November 2010 Observation and Sketch of Messier 31

I guess I need to find more material to post because I just am not having any luck with the weather. I had planned on doing some observing on Sunday night from my backyard but instead of clear weather, we had a very thick fog that came and went. Now the inversion but what is really smaug is settling into the valley and the pollutants are not good for any mirror. So my mountain sites just aren't coming around for observing yet for the winter, so not much else has happen. I did get down to the family cabin as we had yet another member of the family pass away (two in a month). So I got some time in and here is what I produced. Not much, and I am not happy with it. I can tell how far I've come from sketching large objects like Messier 42, or the Double Double or Messier 31. Yet when I sketch these and other large objects it tells me how far I have to go to being a really good sketcher and that is a FAR way away. That's okay because I really do enjoy doing it.

Messier 31, The Andromeda Galaxy and a few companions. As mentioned I used a wide field view and then the 14mm and 10mm Pentax for this sketch.

I did a further update of the sketch tonight and think I like the version below a little better. You can decide and leave a comment if you want.

Sigh, as soon as the weather pattern changes I'll be out, even if it is with a waxing moon since I need about 20 open clusters. Anyone else getting out this winter?


Findercharts for December and January Targets

Still working on making my list to start the Herschel 400 II and other NGC items in the same constellation. That is going to take a few more weeks. This weekend was one of just constant go. Wednesday I had to snow blow and then I took in one of our cars to get the snow tires put on it. I also ran errands that day. Thursday was Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I hope that each of you who celebrate it had a wonderful time. Friday was semi clear with clouds increasing so I chose not to go out as we went and saw the new Harry Potter film and did some shopping (disappointed in the film, very much follows the book but that made for a boring experience in some ways). Saturday was Christmas setting up in the house and then time for some tubing (here is a link if you don't know what it is; yes, we do go to Solider Hollow between Christmas and New Years as a tradition, the teens love it but you can go other places if you know where). Anyway, it snowed yet again today and the forecast is not good for the next week. Saturday I may be able to get out and get a session in, I hope.

So here are some of my findercharts from Starry Night Pro for objects that I need to go after. I missed more than I thought so here are some open clusters that hopefully will glow in the night sky, clear and crisp. Simply click on the chart to make it larger or to make it to where you can print it off. Sorry that the XX14i and the 13mm Stratus are labeled, I thought I had taken it off but it came back on, and I don't want to wast the paper to correct it.


Andromeda: born out of a massive collision?

Andromeda: born out of a massive collision?

A study that shows that M 31 was created by a merger with another spiral galaxy. Link shows a model and allows you to explore. A second part of the study shows tha Magellanic galaxies may have formed from the tidal tail that was created when the galaxies were merging six billion years ago. I thought this is a very interesting study and was glad to find it. Enjoy! By the way, can you tell I'm under cloudy and snowy skies?

New Observing List Coming

Well, I'm finding that I am starting to wind down on the Herschel 400, well at least until April when the spring objects come back. I'll probably try to nab some come February as they rise late in the night.

So I posted over at CloudyNights about starting the Herschel II list and got some really good feedback. I have decided to do the Herschel II list but to supplement it with NGC items that are not on either the Herschel 400 or II list and to supplement my planetary nebula viewing with some Abell viewing. I am going to work on a list this week so that come new moon in December, I am ready to observe. I'll be going by constellation and listing my objects that way. So by this weekend I'll have a new list up with findercharts in case anyone is interested.

Other than that, it is just snow, snow, and more snow here. Nothing much to do. Work is fine, family life is fine so hopefully things just stay that way. Here's hoping you have some clear skies where you are. Happy Thanksgiving!


Observing Cassipeia A Information

Not a good weekend for me. I started itching yesterday and having pain and so I went in to the local clinic at the hospital that is run by my insurance company. Looks like shingles. I have to follow up tomorrow with my primary care physician. So I haven't done any more with the digitalizing of my sketches, but will as I feel better. Instead, I can surf the net and look things up and I have picked up another target that I want to go after next new moon cycle IF the local weather cooperates. It is Cassiopeia A.

Yeah, right Jay, I may hear some say. In higher scopes like a 18" or a 20" it is viewable so in the 20" Obsession I will be able to see it. Well, I've read about a 16" scope seeing it so I figure I'll also try the 14" and even my XT10. I really want to compare views on this one between the three scopes. Each scope will get its own sketch (if the object or part of the object is viewable in the aperture). I believe the 20" will show it without a problem and I believe the 14" will also show it. The 10" will be the one that I am not sure of.

So, to provide the information I have found on visually observing Cassiopeia A, I am going to link to the various sources I have found.

The first is by Steve Gottlieb (he made the observations over at the NGC/IC Project) which he posted over at Cloudy Nights. I really admire Steve and his years of observing and since I get to the Bay Area from time to time since I have family there, I hope perhaps to someday meet him. Here is the link to his post on visually seeing Cassiopeia A over at Cloudy Nights.

Please note the post by Uwe from Germany who states
in answer to a question about seeing it in a 10 inch scope if that is possible: "Yes it is. A few nights after I could observe the SNR with 16" I tried it with 10". With UHC and 143x a friend and I could hold a faint glow with averted vision. We could not see the longish shape." So in the right conditions in a dark site with good seeing, my XT10 should detect it.

Here is Reiner Vogel's site from Germany's post on viewing a couple of SN remnants including Cassiopeia A I recommend looking at his ATM scopes, they are very cool (go to home and then look at his scopes).

Here is a link to a sketch of Cassiopeia A done in a 16" scope. I'm surprised by the brightness and detail in the sketch, but all reports show this is not a super hard object. It will be interesting to see for myself.

Please see the finder charts listed in thread over at Cloudy Nights. Here are the images:

These are the charts that John T. from Austin Texas posted over at Cloudy Nights.

So give it a try, as stated in the thread, you'll never know if you can see it in your scope unless you try. Remember that the OIII filter helps as did the UHC filter. Please post a comment if you see it in your scope or part of it. It would be interesting to keep track of observations on this one I think.


Digital Sketch of NGC 7354 and NGC 7479

Here are the digital sketches of these two items. More to come.

NGC 7479 Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus

NGC 7354 Planetary Nebula in Cepheus

NGC 1535 Planetary Nebula in Eridanus, "Cleopatra's Eye"

NGC 7635 Emission Nebula in Cassiopeia

NGC 281 Pacman Nebula. I like the original sketch of this one better.

NGC 1407 & NGC 1400. This is really close to the EP view in my opinion. I like this version.

NGC 908 Spiral Galaxy in Cetus:

NGC 1232; I need to return to this galaxy and give it more time. I was begin to speed and rush on this object to get the Herschel 400 items in I wanted/needed. I did not show the original sketch on this item. It was done in black ink.

NGC 1055 Edge on Spiral Galaxy in Cetus

NGC 1022 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Cetus

Of all my digital sketches this one seems to be a break through. By playing with the curves and other items I really feel that this image really, and I mean really matches my vision of what I saw when looking at NGC 1022 through the 14mm Pentax XW. I invite you to click this image to really take a view of it.

NGC 1052 and NGC 1035 Galaxies in Cetus

NGC 1084 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Eridanus

Again, I think I have a breakthrough for me and I really like how the last 3 galaxy digital renditions came out. Hope you enjoy viewing them.