Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah, West Desert, March 20-21, 2010

Well, I got in one other session before the moon interfered with driving 45 minutes to my local dark site in the West Desert of Utah.  If your interested in the views during the day time, if you go and search August of 2009 you'll find pictures and directions to this site. This site is a wonderful site. Dark Sky finder puts it in the Green because of glow from the north I would assume, but a club member told me on a reading the southeast, south, southwest and zenith come in as a gray to black reading. I'll have to get the actual reading (7.0 to 7.3 I believe but don't quote me on that right now).

All of my sketches in this entry are actual sketches with some enhancing in GIMP.  Yep, that freebie software. Why not use it and love it!

Edit: I am posting images for the Digital Sky Network for comparisons. Something I have done in the past but haven't.  Note,  based on input at from Jake Saloranta  I have gone back to my notes and updated NGC 3631.  I an issue at times with numbers and with items and flipping them. The arm in 3631 should be pointing eastward not westward. I have attempted to make the correction (and it is viewable on the original sketch). 

March 20th to 21st, 2010
Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah, West Desert
Conditions for the session remain the same so I will not quote them on each entry: Clear, cold, no wind, low humidity. Seeing 9/10, Transparency 5/5; Antoniadi Scale: I upon reflection.
Instrument on all observations: XT10
Eyepieces: 21mm Stratus as a finder, 13mm Stratus and 2x barlow. Magnifications, 57x, 92x, 184x.

Date: March 20th, 2010
Time: 03:57 UT or 08:57pm MST
Object: NGC 3184 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
RA 10h 18m 3s
Dec +41 25'
Mag: 9.4
Size: 7.5' x 7.0'
XT10, 13mm Stratus, 2x Barlow

I used my Sky Pocket Atlas to get to this object, foregoing O'Meara's charts and directions. Just easier for me tonight I guess.  There is a eleventh magnitude star to the north of the core, don't confuse it for the core. Averted vision shows with breathing technique (hyperventilating for a few seconds) a semi-bright core with a halo of diffusion around it.  There is a hint of an arm.  Averted vision also increases the size of this galaxy and brings out the eleventh magnitude star a little more.  Core is to the north of that star.  Good view at 92x.

Object: NGC 3198 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Ursa
Time: 05:44 UT; 10:44pm MST
RA 10h 19m 9s
Dec +45 33'
Mag 10.3
Size: 9.2'x3.5'
XT10, 13mm Stratus, 2x barlow, 92x & 184x

Easy to fnd from NGC 3184 using the Sky Pocket Atlas, which takes one right to this galaxy.  This is a beautiful, elongated galaxy, with an irregular shape.  Very diffused with the brightness at the center where the core should be but the core doesn't stick out.  Definitely seeing mottling along the edge. Averted vision shows a small and bright core, confirms the mottling.  Averted vision also shows an extended length to this galaxy. This is a fun object to tease to bring out more detail.  The galaxy runs north to south, and there are some smaller eleventh to twelfth magnitude stars nearby.

Date: 03/21/2010
Time: 12:17am MST/07:17 UT
Object: NGC 3310 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
Mag. 10.8
Size: 3.5'x3.2
RA 10h 18m 7s
Dec +53 30'
Instruments&Eyepieces: XT10, 13mm Stratus, 2x Barlow, 92x & 184x

The galaxy is just below a very bright star (sounds familiar eh?).  The galaxy appears similar to a bright planetary nebula. The core is very bright and stellar in its looks. The glow/halo around the core is like the nebulosity of a planetary nebula but is the actual galaxy as this one is face on.  The edges are diffused. Very round in shape, no other structure or detail is evident other than that which I have listed.

 Date: 3/21/2010
Time: 07:36 UT; 12:36am MST
Object: NGC 3556 or M108, Barred Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
Mag: 10.0
Size: 8.1'x2.1'
RA 11h 11m 5s
Dec +55 40'
Instrument & Eyepieces: XT10, 13mm Stratus, &2x barlow; 92x & 184x

Been here before when doing the Messier and several others to just observe it.  Very long ellipse on this galaxy, lots and lots of mottling on this galaxy.  There are some dark patches going on. The core is stellar like and small, the galaxy is elongated with averted vision and more mottling are evident. There are also several dark patches around the core to observe.

M97 at this site is tremendous also. No filter is needed at all. The large round shape is brilliant with a hint of the eyes.

 Date: March 21st, 2010
Time: 08:30 UT, 1:30am MST
Object: NGC 3631 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
RA 11h 21m
Dec +53 10'
Mag: 10.4
Size: 5.5'x4.6'
Instrument & Eyepieces: XT10, 13mm Stratus, 2x Barlow, 92x & 184x

This is a faint galaxy with a very round halo, being face on I would assume.  Very bright core on this galaxy.  Core is really sharp and structure is evident.  The core is brighter than the halo surrounding it.  Possible arm to the north, curving around to the north, and it is small and tight. Some mottling is also evident. Very pretty galaxy to observe from a dark site.

I observed about 6 other objects this night, but they are not on the Herschel list (including M97) so I will post those sketches another time.  Cheers, may you have clear skies when you want them, and great seeing.

March 15, 2010 Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah

I have been fighting a nasty cold that turned into laryngitis and bronchitis and I had parent teacher conference this week so I haven't had a lot of time to get caught up here. Well, hopefully today resolves that. I almost went out in the backyard with my 8 inch reflector/dob but I still was feeling up to snuff. I want to get some live moon crater sketching in and some double observing. That will have to wait til the end of April though.

My observing location this night was a local place called Pit n Pole, found in the middle of the Rush Valley in Utah's West Desert.  It's about halfway to the Dugway Proving Grounds, not an area you want to go to and is on an old lake bed. It can get humid there, as in most places in Utah in the fall, winter and spring (freezing frost).  Tonight though I had no such issues, wonderful weather.

09:31 MST/04:31 UT
Seeing 9/10
Antoniadi Scale: II to I
Conditions: Clear, Cold/Brisk, no wind
NGC 2782 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Lynx
Mag: 11.6
Size: 3.8'x3.9'
RA 9hr 14m 1s
Dec +40 07
Eyepiece: 13mm Stratus @92x, 2x barlow providing 184x

Very dim galaxy requiring a dark site and dark adaptation to see.  O'Meara's finder directions are okay but I used my Sky Atlas 2000 on this object which served me better.
The galaxy is a face on mixed spiral with a small but bright inner core. Averted vision shows the bar and a diffused outer halo.  The bar appears to run SW to NW.

Date: 3/15/2010
Time: 10:14p.m. MST/05:14 UT
Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley UT
Seeing: 9/10 or II to I on Antoniadi Scale
LVM 7.0 Ursa Minor
NGC 2964 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Leo
Mag: 11.3
Size 3.2'x1.8'
RA 9h 42m 9s
Dec +31 51
Instrument: XT10
Eyepieces: 13 mm Stratus 2x barlow

NGC 2964 is a dim spiral galaxy. Another not to see at home in an urban sky or even in an orange bordering yellow zone. A dim core is visible which is brighter only slightly more than the halo around it. Using a rapid breathing technique does bring out more of the shape of the galaxy with a very faint hint of an arm.  The arm curves west to south-south-east.  Not an object I will spend a lot of time with or sketching. NGC 2968 another galaxy is also viewable in the FOV so I included it in the sketch.

NGC 2964

 NGC 2968

Date: 3/15/2010
Time: 11:35pm/06:36 UT
Conditions: Clear, Cold and brisk, no wind.
Seeing: 9/10 Antoniadi Scale II to I
LVM 7.0 Ursa Minor
Object: NGC 2613 Spiral Galaxy in Pyrix
RA 08h33m4s
Dec -22 58
Instrument: XT10
Eyepiece(s): 13mm Stratus @92x w/2x barlow @184x

This spiral galaxy is only viewable with averted vision at a dark site. NO way I could get this one at home I feel, maybe just a hint but that would be all.  It is a grayish blob with no details nor any core visible. Core is just a shade darker (not much then the halo.  Possible dark band on the west side of the galaxy as I study it more with time.

Date: 3/16/2010
Time: 1:05a.m. MST/ 08:05 UT
Conditions: Clear, Cold, frosted dew started to form on tube
Seeing: 8/10  Antoniadi II
LVM 6.8
Object: NGC 3226 Elliptical Galaxy and NGC 3227 Spiral Galaxy in Leo
Mag: 3226 is 11.4 and 3227 is 10.5
RA 10h 23m 5s
Dec +19 52'
Instrument: XT10
Eyepieces:  13mm Stratus
Size: NGC 3227 6.9'x5.4'; NGC 3226 2.5'x2.2'

NGC 3227  is a bright, elongated halo with a very bright core evident. Core is much brighter than the surrounding halo.  The halo is diffused. No mottling or details are evident to me.

NGC 3226 is just a bright diffused halo with no core visible.

Date: 3/16/10
Time: 1:14am MST/ 08:14 UT
Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, West Desert, Utah
Conditions: Clear, cold, humidity over 70%
Seeing: III-II Antoniadi Scale; 8/10
Object: NGC 3190 Spiral Galaxy; 
Mag: 11.2
Size: 4.1'x1.6'
RA 10h 18m 1s
Dec +21 50'
Instrument: XT10
Eyepiece: 13mm Stratus @ 92x, 2x barlow @ 184x

Object: NGC 3193 Elliptical Galaxy in Leo
Conditions, Seeing: See above for NGC 3190
RA 10h 18m 4s
Dec 21 54'
Instrument: XT10
Eyepiece: 13mm Stratus

This is a faint spiral galaxy that appears tilted but face on. It may be a dust or dark lane that is riding across it.  Core is SE and is bright and large sitting in the dust lanes.  The more I observe the object, the more detail comes out. The dust lane is disturbed with mottling showing a possible dark lane running through this galaxy.  I would confirm it visually as a dark lane and astro images confirm this as do my observing friends.  I do like how I captures this in the sketch.

NGC 3193 is a small elliptical galaxy just east-north-east of NGC 3190.  It is a rather bright at my viewing location here at Pit n Pole, and sits next to a ninth to tenth magnitude star.  It is a dull white with no discernible features at 92x. This elliptical does provide a nice contrast with NGC 3190 though. 

 Date: 3/16/2010
Time: 1:45am MST; 08:45 UT
Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah, West Desert
Conditions: Clear, Cold, humidity improving
Seeing: Antoniadi II; 8.5/10
LMV: 7.0
Object: NGC 2903 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Leo
RA 09h 32m 2s
Dec 21 30'
Instrument: XT10
Eyepiece: 13mm Stratus @ 92x, 2x barlow at 184X
Mag. 9.0
Size: 11.6' x5.7'

NGC 2903 has a bright inner core that is starlike with averted vision. Dust lanes are evident and there is a strong halo near the core that diffuses out. Two arms are evident. Excellent galaxy to examine, best object seen of the night. Messier overlooked this one in making his catalog though three of the comets he discovered were relatively close to it.  At the dark site I could easily discern the puff of smoke in the finder at 9x50.

After NGC 2903 I knew I had to leave since I had to get to work. The sky was too good that night not to go out and I have no regrets. I did have to take a nap the next afternoon after getting done with teaching but I can do that, observe on a night before work knowing I have prepared and planned and then go and teach, not stay late that day and head home and take a nap.


March 12, 2010 Pit n Pole Rush Valley

I decided to go out to the Pit n Pole site and introduce it to two friends. One is a friend from Cloudy Nights who I tend to observe with about once a month when the weather permits us to hook up. He has two brothers and I have a blast listening to them as they observe. A member of our local club also showed up, but he came later.

It was cloudy that Friday evening when we headed out, but I've learned that sometimes one has to chance heading out when there are clouds. Sometimes the clouds win and you have to pack it in and retire, yet sometimes we as amateur astronomers win and the clouds give way. This night, the clouds gave way after we had set up and took some pictures.  I'll include a few shots of the location here:

Here is the XT10 cooling. That table had to act as my observing chair as I forgot to bring my observing chair and boy, did it remind me how important it is to have an observing chair.

Another view of the setup sans my observing chair . . .

The wide open sky at this dark location in the western Utah Desert gives great views except to the northeast when the Provo-Orem and Salt Lake County light domes are evident. The views to the east, south-east, south, south-west, west, are fantastic and to the north-west and north are pretty good also. One can see both the Zodiac Light fading into the west after sunset and the winter Milky Way. The summer Milky Way is tremendous from here. The bad part of the site? In the fall and spring in Utah frosty dew can be an issue and in the desert floor, humidity rises fast since they are really ancient lake beds. I have also included in my update to this post the DSS images which are to compare the sketch. Overall I am happy with the results. I couldn't figure out how to get B33 from the DSS so I found a different shot that I liked and feel my sketch reflects not only what I saw, but that my friend and I saw the Horsehead that night.

I did not jump into the Herschel 400 tonight first off. My first object was NGC 2359, Thor's Helmet (see the sketch at the bottom; I'm not happy with it but it is the best I can do until I get a much improved scanner). I had tried this from home a couple of years ago but found that I was too inexperience and probably had the wrong conditions to nail this. It took me a several minutes to find it using my star charts. After finding it, NGC 2359 stood out visually without a filter and was very evident. My OIII filter brought out even more detail. I have studied Scandinavia a lot and wanted to pursue an advance degree but reality burned that one up. So I have trouble with horned Viking helmets since they did not have them. This looks more like an duck with hockey sticks to me. Wonderful view. I have sketched it but am refining that in the digital process and when I am done I will add it to the observation here.

My next object was something I have tried for at home but the sky conditions just won't allow for it, B33, The Horsehead Nebula. Tonight I put in the HB filter and the 13mm Stratus and went to work. I missed it several times and then had my friend look and his much younger eyes saw it right off. He described it and I went back in, and sure enough, there it was! It looks like a C to us but the shape was very evident. Here is the sketch of that object. The cloud is lighter than the eyepiece but that is what I needed to attempt to show what it is we saw.

EDIT: July 14th, 2012.  Steve,  please feel free to use my image as you see fit.  I have all your comments, I'm just not publishing them since they are more like an email to me.  On this image I reviewed my notes and found that I indeed use the 13mm Stratus with the filter.  The attempt with the 5mm Hyperion was a failure, as I could not make out anything due to the contrast.  So this sketch is done using a Orion XT10 with a 13mm Stratus with the HB filter.  If you get this Steve, Please leave me a note or a comment or feel free to email me at JayLEadsATGmaildotcom.  For the AT please use the @ and for the dot please use a .  

Now I started into my Herschel 400 items.

NGC 2683 Spiral Galaxy in Lynx
Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT
Time: 05:49 UT
Mag: 9.7
Seeing: III
Clear, low humidity, cold;
LVM: 7.0-7.2
 Very bright edge on galaxy with a very bright core. The galaxy is thin, long and like a sliver of light.  Averted vision shows the core in the disc and some mottling is evident on the eastern edge.  Beautiful galaxy missed by Charles Messier.

NGC 2859 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Leo Minor
Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT
05:20 UT
Seeing III
LMV 7.0-7.2
Mag: 10.9
Size: 4.6'x4.1'
XT10, 13mm Stratus, 2x Barlow

Barred Spiral Galaxy that is face on to us.  Direct vision shows a very bright, almost star like core. Averted vision shows the halo around the core.  Next to a trapezoid shape of stars that are slightly open on the western side of the view.  No way I could see this one in my LP/orange zone at home.  There is also a hint of an arm with averted vision. In some ways looks like a PN.

After this I went off the Herschels and went Messier looking and had an enjoyable time. One more to post and I'll do that this weekend (I'm heading back out Saturday night!).

Another object I observed that night was NGC 2359, Thor's Helmet. I used the XT10 with both the 13mm Stratus and the 5mm Hyperion for 92X & 240x. I also used the OIII filter which just enhanced the shape of the item as I could see it without it just fine.  Seeing was a II at the time.  I have tried this in the LP and thought I got a hint of it last year, but wasn't sure. No doubt this time. Info is on the sketch if you want details


Quick Session March 5, 2010

Well on March 5, 2010 I was able to squeeze in a quick session before I was overtaken by clouds. I checked out M42 and that area for fun, and then went to start on some Herschel items.

NGC 2204
Open Cluster in Canis Major
RA 06 h 15m
Dec -18 degrees, 10 sec
Mag: 8.6
Size: 10.0'
 03:55 UT
Seeing: II Antoniadi Scale;
LVM: 5.9
13 & 21 Stratus @ 92x & 57x
Notes: See bottom of the sketch: 

NGC 2360
Open Cluster in Canis Major
LVM: 5.9
RA 07 h 17 m 7 sec
Dec: -15 38 min
Mag: 7.2
Size: 14.0'
13mm Stratus @ 92x
03:28 UT

 Very easy to find open cluster from Sirius using the Sky Pocket Atlas, go from Sirisu to Iota Canis Majoris, then over to Muliphein. East of Muliphein is an equilateral triangle asterism. Go past that and then over to HIP 31580 which is the corner star of an inverted L asterism; the cluster is just to the east of that star.This is an easy and obvious open cluster.  There are 8th magnitude stars and possible a 7th visible with hints of stars all around wanting to come out.  There is a very bright orange star at the eastern end of the cluster. By the time I got to the end of the sketch clouds came out of no where ending this session.  The shape of the cluster is wedge shape.

Stay tune, I have more to post as I went to dark skies twice in two days and had some firsts!


Cloudy, Overcast and No New Views Yet

Just cloudy and last night was clear but a full moon so I haven't been out. I grow tired of the weather here and need to have my nights out. March 14th looms every increasing and I know then that my opportunity to come home and observe during the week from 6:00p.m. until 10:00 p.m. is ending. Soon it won't be dark until 8:00p.m. and that means observing from 8:00p.m. to 10:30p.m. then time to get in and get to bed for work. Here in Utah, our legislature refused to pass out of committee a bill that would have put Utah off daylight savings time like Arizona. I am hopeful in the future it will pass. 

Also, though I don't speak of my family much here, much of my time lately is taken up by supporting my wife as her father has dementia and more than likely Alzheimer disease. We will know on Thursday. My father-in-law, though having opinions, is very humble and quiet on them. He'll do anything for anyone and was a master carpenter. I would have loved to have made a scope with him building the wooden parts. He will do anything for his wife and for his family.  I will always think of him as a silent pillar, standing firm for his family. Now he is beginning the slow degrade where his memory will be taken and he doesn't know why.  I don't have much to offer him, but in my search and sketches I intend to dedicate an open cluster or a wonderful planetary nebula and sketch it in dedication to him.  Not sure which object I will choose, and would welcome suggestions based on the description. When visiting, he will always come out to look at what I am doing and take a peak at the objects. So I think I've learned something new about this hobby. As I am middle age and death will continue to creep and take those I know, love and associate with, I need to think and ponder on them as I gaze into the wonders of the universe knowing that everything cycles, and in those cycles, we can view our own, and thus should never take for granted a day in which we live. May we, each of us, regardless of our challenges maximize each day by being the best that we can be that day, no matter what that best is. Take a moment and appreciate those in your lives.  Spend time with them. Lift them up, love them and let them know and feel your love. May clear skies come to each of us and may we relish the memories of those not with us as we marvel at the wonders we look at.