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5/30/2010

Herschel List for June

Here is the link to Google Docs for the Herschel 400 items I am going after in June. June Herschel 400 Items. I really haven't gotten May's so I will have to decide based on the weather and conditions this month what to go after. I did not get out tonight as it was really cloudy, and now at 9:40p.m. MDT the skies have cleared pretty much but I only have an hour and a half to cool and observe. Perhaps tomorrow but the forecast isn't looking good.

Edit: The clouds came in, the clouds have stayed, and I'm still not observing. Feels more like and looks more like April than June.

What Scoped (Dobsonian) for a Begninner?

Well, the weather has been horrible and full moon so no observing lately. I could possibly have gone out last night but I got glutened on Friday and that kills me for 24 to 48 hours with digestive issues, joint aches, fatigue and not clear thinking. The weather is good today so I may head out but most likely will hit the backyard since the moon rises at 23:31, which is actually a little later since it has to rise or the Wasatch Mountains.

One question I see on forums and one I respond to is what telescope to get out of all the dobs? This question is usually centered around the Chinese made dobs so we'll start there. As most know, I own an Orion XT6, XT8 and XT10. I use my XT10 for most if not all of my Deep Sky Observing and the XT8 for my planetary and double star viewing. This post will review the options of a 8 inch or 10 inch dob, and then review the XT10 and the Z10 telescopes.

The first question to ask is what size of a dob do you want? I love my 8 inch dob. Why? I can easily carry it by myself, the tube or the base do not weight a lot and I have never asked if I wanted to carry it outside on a so-so night. The tube is 20.3 lbs and the base is 20.7 lbs or 41 lbs together (I never move my scopes in one piece though). The views are very good and a 8 inch dob will last you a very long time. I did all my Messier objects using my XT8, well all but 6 which were done in the XT10. I love how it shows planets, deep sky objects and double stars. The XT8 at F6 is easy to collimate and very forgiving.

In terms of mods, on my XT8 I added a Telrad, Bob's Knobs for collimation and Scope Gripps. I don't think the Scope Gripps were needed but I just don't like Orion's tension spring system. I wish they would upgrade that aspect of their classic line of dobs. Flocking is good and it decreases the stray light in the tube. My XT8 came with a 9x50 finder, the 10mm and 25mm Sirius Plossl. Today they come with no finder which is a disappointment and the EZ Finder. I got the EZ Finder on my XT6 and I don't like it. It works, but not like a Rigel Quickfinder or a Telrad which is my preferred method. A RA 9x50 finder will cost around $90 I believe and a Telrad is $40 so you'll have that cost to add on to either Orion's XT8 or XT10. I would like to see Orion go back to offering a 9x50 Finder again instead of the red dot EZ Finder.

My XT10 is perhaps my favorite scope. It is heavy, much heavier than the XT8 and you need to realize that. This scope's weight has made me have to think through going out on a questionable night. You'll feel the weight on the tube which comes in at 30.8 lbs. To make it easier to move I purchased Scope Totes which cost $60.00 but have been a life saver. If you search on Cloudynights.com people have made them which you could do also. I just like the completed product. These make carrying the tube much easier and saves my back. The base comes in at 22.6 lbs, is larger than the base of the 8 but easy to move around. My XT10 came with the same items my XT8 came with and I only had to buy the Telrad. You won't be so lucky. My finder though is from an XT10i as is the mirror (when I bought it they had a return for damage to the secondary and they let me swap out the primary mirror and the finder with the returned XT10i). The tubes are both the same length on the XT8 and XT10 at 1200mm. The XT10 makes it at F4.7 which is faster than the XT8. As a result you need good collimation. I love my combined Cheshire/Sight Tube and use that often to collimate. I recently ordered a Howie Glatter Tblug and laser so we'll see about that. I do have two Orion lasers that came with the XT8 and XT10. I do use them as they are collimated but only to check my Cheshire/Sight Tube combo.

The views in my XT10 are wonderful, though not significantly different than a XT8. Where I see the greatest is I do see some level of brightness and some more detail in the 10 vs the 8 inch. If I had had a choice, I would have gotten a 12 inch scope, but I didn't have a choice. I got the XT8 and XT10 for a good deal through an education program and thus the no choice. If I was choosing between the XT8 and the XT10, I would purchase the XT10 because of the views it offers and its portability.

Mods for the XT10 that I've made. Scope Totes were one, Scope-Gripps were another because the spring tension system did not work for me and the scope-gripps have been wonderful. I added a magnet that you can see in the picture below from Harbor Freight and some Ceramic Retangle Magnets from Lowes wrapped in black electrical tape. That has resolved the weight issue on the front of this scope and the alt. is just fine now. I also put a wood knob because in winter the gloves I use have it to where I can take the finger tips off and touching cold metal is an issue in the winter for me. The biggest issue was the asimuth motion. Here I put on milk jug washers that I made on the main bearing/screw and a CD, and then some virgin teflon next to the teflon pad Orion installed. This corrected the issue for me and my scope works like I want it to.




























One question I commonly get is what about the Zhumell brand of dobsonian telescopes? I have a friend I observe with who has the Z12. I love the tension system of the Zhumell and I enjoy the motions it has. It is a little too loose for me but it is smoother on its azimuth motion. I have to give the nod to the Zhumell's on motion though I also think the asimuth motion needs some modifications but I think that is true of both the Zhumell and Orion telescopes. I like that the Zhumell comes with a 9mm EP and a 2 inch 30mm 68 degree FOV EP. However, the EP's aren't the issue because either the 25mm Sirrus Plossl that comes with the Orion's or the two EP's that come with the Zhumell are not the end all. You'll need some EP's and you'll get them moving forward. What I really like about the Zhumell is the dual speed Crayford focuser. The Orion's only come with a single speed Crayford focuser. If I was buying at full price today and not picking up locally, I would probably have to buy the Zhumell or at least really consider it. Zhumell also has a finder so you just need a Telrad or Rigel Quickfinder with it. The Zhumell needs a good collimator like the Orion does, especially if you buy at 10 inches or more.

The one thing to consider and I have to admit this, if I was paying full price I probably would take the XT10i now. Why? Understand I am a star hopper. I love star hopping, it is how I learned the sky and my scopes are XT classics and I had to hop, no choice. My skies are relatively ok, even at home, and my dark sites rock so star hopping is no issue. Yet on a night like tonight where I can start observing at 9:30 p.m. and have to stop between 11:30p.m. and 12:00a.m. with the rise of that waning gibbous moon, a intelliscope would increase the number of objects I could get to, observe and sketch before the moon comes up. Also, at Star Parties it would be nice to use, not necessary because I can hunt the brighter objects as quickly as those with computers (done it) but it would allow a conversation to continue well I go to the object using the intelliscope. Also, if I observe in a light polluted area, have the intelliscope would allow me to perhaps be more productive. I still think people need to learn to star hop, but the reality is the computer will draw more people in and if they enjoy the hobby, it is not my place to tell them how to enjoy or do the hobby.

Accesories to Purchase:

Whether you buy Orion or Zhumell I recommend the following items:

1. Telrad. You just need one, it helps star hopping. If you get the intelliscope and don't intend to star hop then don't buy this.

2. Finderscope. Just helps when you get started out but after 3 months or so you can use a wide EP like the 21mm or a 32mm as a finder eyepiece. You just need to adjust to the view in the EP vs an atlas (the view is inverted).

3. EP: Either the Hyperions or Stratus line is good. The Hyperion Zoom is excellent. I use the 5mm Hyperion, the 13mm Stratus, the 21mm Stratus and the 17mm Stratus.

4. Filters: I use the Orion Narrowband Ultrablock (purchased locally) and the Lumicron OIII Filter. Also an Orion Skyglow Filter for the moon. I also have a H Beta Filter which I love.

5. Sky Pocket Atlas. $15 See Barnes and Noble, Amazom or your favorite book store.

6. Lowes Task Force Case/Eyepiece Case This is what I use and its cheaper than the Orion. Use a bungi cord around it when it is locked so if it falls, it doesn't open and spill out your eyepieces.

7. Observing Chair. I have a Stardust chair which is the best, no slippage people say but I haven't been using it lately. I have been using for almost a year now the Starbound Chair . Why? Because a lot of people have said how bad the chair is, and how people fall when it slips. I got a deal on one though, brought it home and have been using it over the last year. I'm a large man, and this chair hasn't had an issues with me and I observe in the mountains of northern Utah or the West Desert of Utah and have to wipe the dust off of it after each time out. We'll see if I have problems.

8. Homemade Dew Shield for a Telrad. You can see this on my Telrad on my scope and since I have done this, I haven't had my Telrad's window dew up or ice up at all. I also took the same foam, cut some up and put it into a roll with some velcro to make a dew shield for my finder. It works great there also.


































9. Collimation Knobs. This make collimation so much easier. Not essential initially but you'll want them within 3 months of your purchase. You can get them from Tony at the Astronomy Shoppe (get the Orion ones for Orion, and call him for the Zhumell). Bob's Knobs also sells them.

There are many other purchases, and I welcome comments and suggestions on other things that can be added. Realize that 1. don't go into debt, buy what you can buy and there is no rush to get more. 2. Start with the scope and eyepieces and move from there.

In lieu of that it looks like I have reached a decision in my own aperture fever. I wanted a premium dob, and will still get one but it is delayed. We've had too much going on to buy a $5000 scope. So I am going with the Orion XX14i for now, and then either next spring or the following spring I am pretty confident I am going with either a 15 or 18 inch Rob Teetor Telescope. Rob has emailed me, got into details on his scopes and I have reached the decision that sometime in the next 18 to 24 months, a Teetor scope will be for me. Why not just keep the 10? I am going to keep my XT10 as a quick use scope but the 14 I will use and then sell when I am ready to upgrade to either a 15 or 18. I'm excited and will post as I get the scope here in a couple of weeks. I figure the weather sucks already so I might as well pull the trigger which I have done.

Edit: Well, things might be changing. I have read online at CloudyNights that the XX14i has very poor azimuth controls and though it might be possible to resolve that issue, the jury is still out. So know I am totally rethinking what I might be doing. I would still probably prefer a Discovery 15 inch Truss as my choice now, but I emailed them several days ago and got no response. My question was about the continue issue they seem to have with delivering product on time while requiring money upfront. That and their poor rating by their local Better Business Bureau. They have 3 complaints that have gone unanswered and based on their information I would need them to have the telescope on order and place the money in a third party account that would hold the payment until the scope actually arrived, and then would release the payment. I really like their scopes, but I'm not sure they can be trusted.

So am I back to a premium scope now? Maybe. I don't like the idea of the Lightbridge 16 inch, too many mods and I am not an overly crafty person and I only own a jig-saw and a drill so not sure how the wife would respond if I wanted to build a rocker box. Sigh. Just when you think something will work and get you by, it fails to do so. Ideas?

5/21/2010

Crater Romer Observation and Sketch and Limiting Magnitude

Well last night the clouds departed for a few hours and I took the XT8 out to do some lunar observing. I cooled the scope and put in the 13mm Stratus to get some bearings on where I was. I pulled out my Sky & Telescope's Mirror-Image Field Map of the Moon laminated since I was using my reflector/dob. I quickly got my bearings and then moved to using the 5mm Hyperion to view Romer and Romer A. I teased with using the 5mm Hyperion with a 2x barlow but the image moved out of the field of view too quickly. However, detail was okay but heat from my house was rising and interfering with the view at 480x. Magnification at 240x was the best so I used this to conduct my sketch.

To begin I formed an outline of the general area, and formed each crater and four craters right above Romer A. The rilles just to the south of Romer were clearly evident. After sketching the outline I attempted to bring in detail on the crater wall. I really failed at this and I know why after completing the sketch. I was trying to sketch to big an area instead of just focusing on one or two craters. As a result my craters were too little in the end, impacting the amount of detail. Beginner's mistake and one I will learn from. I then used a 4H pencil to darken in the craters while leaving a crescent.

Next I used a H pencil to sketch in roughly a gray color in the background and then used a blending stump to even out the color. Moving back to the craters I use another blending stump to even out the tones in the craters. I realized in doing this that I need to buy a few blending stumps just for lunar sketching that are different than those I use for DSO's. Next, I went to the 2H and HB pencils to sketch in details, and then used the blending stump yet again and here I made another mistake. I over blended on the details and as a result, the sketch is lacking in a 3D appearance.

So though I am displeased with the end product, the learning experience was incredible and I feel I have opened up a whole new area of observing that I have been neglecting, lunar observing. Instead of taking two weeks off each month, I have something besides double stars (which I love and enjoy viewing) to do. The sketch won't be here until I can scan it later. I had a minor surgical procedure done and am still recovering. My scanner again is not top notch, and though unhappy with the sketch, I think it is important that I post it so others can have a laugh, and then hopefully learn with me or watch my learning curve on this. If nothing else, I should learn from looking back on old sketches and observing sessions.

Last thing I learned, is on the many cloudy and rainy nights of late, I need to take even more time practicing on this. Overall though I have enjoyed the process.



























Here is a rough digital enhancement of the sketch above:




Part II Limiting Magnitude:

Though I am not a huge proponent of limiting magnitude because it varies by observer, if you remember that and don't compare your view to an observing partner, since your eyes vary, it can help you to determine the viewing conditions that you are seeing. I prefer my Sky Quality Meter or SQM now that I have been using it. So here are some links if your interested in Limiting Magnitude to read and use:

Limiting Magnitude by Constellation

Saguaro Astronomy Club Determining Limited Magnitude

International Meteor Organization (IMO) Limiting Magnitude

Telescope Limiting Magnitude Calculator

I threw the last one in for fun, realizing that conditions vary greatly in different parts of the country. Enjoy.

5/17/2010

NGC 3675, NGC 3521, NGC 3640, NGC 3810 Lakeside Observing

To go along with the pictures, I've processed some of my sketches so here they are with their reports. Something new I think I'll start is an object of the month and it is included below.

NGC 3675 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
5/15/2010
10:25p.m. MDT/04:25 UT
Lakeside Utah, West Desert
Seeing: I Antoniadi Scale, clear, brisk temperature, slight wind.
LVM: 6.9
RA 11h 26m 1s
Dec. +43 35m
Mag. 10.2
Size: 6.2' x 3.2'
Orion XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

Faint core with direct vision, and with averted vision slightly off the core, the core shows a more stellar core. Halo is evident around the core with direct vision. Averted vision shows more of the halo's size. Halo is diffused on the edge. Very, very faint star just above and to the west, taking averted vision to see it. Very evident face on with more time observing it, the core sticks out and the core is slightly brighter than the surrounding halo. Shape is round.






































NGC 3521 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Leo
5/15/2010
11:55p.m. MDT/05:55 UT
Lakeside, Utah, West Desert
Seeing: I Antoniadi Scale, clear, crisp, no wind.
RA 11h 05m 8s
Dec. -00 02m
Mag. 9.1
Size 11.7' x 6.5'
Orion XT10
13mm Stratus @92x, 5mm Hyperion @ 240x (sketches at 240x)

Beautiful galaxy, one that I bet is often overlooked by observers. Very bright core, clear and crisp with an oval halo surrounding it. At 92x an arm on the SE side is evident, hinted at. Mottling on the NW to NE side also. Arm is seen best with averted vision and the size is shown best with averted vision also. 240x brings out the shape of the halo and the core shines really bright, much brighter than the halo and a possible dark lane (?) is evident wrapping under the core to the SW. Please see this while Leo is positioned so well for this object. My object of the month!






































NGC 3640 Elliptical Galaxy in Leo
5/16/2010
12:25p.m. MDT/06:25 UT
Seeing: I Antoniadi Scale, clear and cold, humidity rising.
RA 11h 21m 1 s
Dec +03 14m
Mag. 10.4
Size: 4.6' x 4.1'
Orion XT10
13mm Stratus

Dark adaptation is a must along with excellent transparency and averted vision to make out this galaxy. Averted vision reveals a faint stellar core that disappears with direct vision. The galaxy is roundish in shape with a faint outer halo that surrounds the core. The edges of the halo are diffused. The core seems only viewable during times when the seeing improves, much like viewing a planet. Luckily it is great seeing and decent transparency tonight, well until that humidity builds.





































NGC 3810 Spiral Galaxy in Leo
5/16/2010
12:52a.m. MDT/06:52 UT
Lakeside Utah, West Desert
Seeing: I on Antoniadi Scale, clear, cold and humidity is really rising.
RA 11h 41m 00s
Dec. 11 28m
Mag. 10.8
Size 3.8' x 2.6'
Orion XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

The galaxy appears at first to be a round, diffused blob. With patience that changes as the core is viewable. The core is just slightly brighter than the surrounding halo around it. With even more patience the core grows and the galaxy takes on an irregular shape. It is a faint object best seen at a dark site.






































I've debated lately whether to continue with the Herschel 400. In some ways I grow tired of viewing these faint objects with no real opportunity to sketch in detail. Then this last time out I realized how much more detail my eyes are picking up in this quest and I'm going to stick with it. I wonder if others reached that point with this list?

5/16/2010

Locations, Lakeside site and Light Pollution

Well, I have plenty of sketches to process from last night, but as I stated that will take this week to get done. I have grades I need to enter in today and I would like to get out again tonight, but locally.

Last night I drove about an hour and twenty minutes to a Bortle 3 site called Lakeside. My SQM gave it a slightly better reading than the Rush Valley site I use but not by much. The north-east, east and south-east are totally impacted by the sky glow coming from the Wasatch front; basically the Ogden to Salt Lake Co. areas (more like Davis Co. and Salt Lake Co. if you know the area). You can see the area I was observing at here with a map of the Wasatch Front here. If this will link correctly, perhaps the best view to see how LP affects this site is from the Dark Sky Finder located here. On the Dark Sky Finder you can at least see how the LP to the east impacts this site even if the color codes are off.

I have to say that I used my Sky Quality Meter or SQM over the last two observing sites and I have to state that the Dark Sky Finder is ONLY a guide to the sky. Pit n Pole which is on that map which is a site in the green that I use is fantastic at zenith (almost matching a site like Lakeside with a difference of only 0.08 in the SQM, with its south-eastern, south and south-west skies just gorgeous with no major LP in the field of view. My standard was the Milky Way, and in this case Pit n Pole in Rush Valley had a much better view of the summer Milky Way this weekend then the Lakeside site. The Milky Way had to get over 35 to 40 degrees in the sky before it showed up at Lakeside. At Pit n Pole, it was viewable with details at around 30 degrees. Light Pollution made all the difference. The major difference was humidity. Humidity hits the Pit n Pole site earlier than it does at the Lakeside site. In a month, that won't matter. So I need to find a site that is higher up near Pit n Pole which is closer to my home and that allows me to view without the humidity reaching sixty percent and climbing up to ninety percent. I don't know how someone in the Mid-West or East Coast observes with humidity starting around seventy or eighty percent and climbing higher. Humidity doesn't impact my mirrors or my eyepieces (last night it did kinda of) but it sure doesn't help a field book, paper or sketching. Hats off to those who sketch in high humidity areas also!

So besides getting a bunch of objects observed and sketched, what did I learn last night? I learned to look for a new observing location closer to home for when humidity is up but that is near my one location at Pit n Pole. Next, always have a small shovel with you in case there aren't facilities . . . I made it work with a hatchet and luckily the ground was soft, but in all seriousness, spend $10 and get a small portable shovel in case you need to dig a hole. I had the tissue paper, luckily a hatchet worked with a piece of broken ATV windshield to move the dirt back, but I bought a small shovel today. Last, don't assume because Dark Sky Finder says a sky is in a certain zone that it is in a certain zone or that the views aren't better in a green vs a gray zone. Usually not the case, but light pollution can factor and in my case did factor into it. I'll process my sketches later this week but here are some images I took.


























XT10 Cooling down; Utah West Desert in the background.


























Looking west from my setup.



























Looking South . . . I-80 is in the far distance, not enough to even notice at night.



























Waxing Crescent (gave some great views) with Venus up and to the left (can you spot Venus?).






































Waxing Crescent Moon with Venus to the upper left. The hills/mountains I guess some would call them you can drive into and observe from there. I do that if I think the humidity is going to go up. I didn't last night and the humidity came up around 2:30a.m. more than I thought it would. Still, the pictures show the views that are to be had out there.

5/15/2010

NGC 3877, 3893 and 3949, Rush Valley Utah May 14, 2010





















Last night was a magical night. I set up at Pit n Pole and waited for the cool down. What had started as a cloudy and rainy day, turned into a wonderful evening. The new crescent moon was very low and hanging between two mountains in the lull between them that is, and was just tremendous. Too dark for a picture. Here are some images from cool down.

























It doesn't get much better than that, open skies, open and wide view. Love this site except when the humidity gets up which it did last night.

NGC 3877 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
May 14, 2010
11:19p.m. MDT 06:19 UT
Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah
Seeing: II Antoniadi Scale, Clear and Mild
RA 11 h 46m 1s
Dec. +47 30m
Mag. 11.0
Size: 5.1' x 1.1'
XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

Good object for a dark site. I think in a LP zone it could be detected but details would be lost. This is a spiral galaxy on its side. At 92x I show a very stellar core with a elongated halo around it. Some hint of mottling or a dust lane underneath the core. A nice galaxy to go after at a dark site for a Herschel 400 item. I rather liked it.





































NGC 3893 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
May 14, 2010
11:55 p.m. MDT, 06:55 UT
Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah
Seeing II Antoniadi Scale, clear, mild, dew starting to creep up.
RA 11h 48m 6s
Dec +48 42m
Mag. 10.5
Size: 4.2' x 2/3'
XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

Small bright galaxy. The inner core is clearly seen, though it will appear stellar at first and then comes into view with direct vision. Hint of two arms, no, two arms are obvious as seeing clears. The two arms form a nice small and compact S shape rather going north and south respectively. A 11th mag star to the north and a 12th to 13th mag. star to the west. Very fun object to observe and in the right conditions takes magnification pretty decent. I will be coming back to this one to study it.





































NGC 3949 Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
May 15, 2010
12:18a.m. MDT; 07:18 UT
Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah
Seeing: I to II Antoniadi Scale, clear, cold, humidity really rising now. Summer Milky Way is clearly evident to the south-east laying sideways right now as it begins to rise. Awesome looking.
RA 11h 53m 7s
Dec 47 52m
Mag 11.1
Size: 2.6' x 1.6'
XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

Faint galaxy when compared to the other two I just viewed. Core is stellar and surrounded by a diffused halo. Seems to have an irregular shape to the west, a possible arm? I need to check that out.




































I had a few other objects that I returned to that I had viewed from home to compare them at a dark site vs a LP site. That was a fun exercise. Overall, an ok night. Skies are good today and excellent tonight, less humidity so I am definitely heading back out. I should have several days over the next couple to get out so it may not be til next weekend before I post. Life is rather crazy right now, with other demands taking precedent so posting will occur, it just may have to wait for full moon!! Clear skies to you.

5/09/2010

Refresher Training on the 200mm Clark/Brandt Refractor and Quick Observing Session

























On Saturday I got out to SPOC, the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex, the home of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society for a refresher training on the 200mm/8 inch Clark/Brandt Refractor (seen above). As you may recall, I finished training on the 16 inch Ealing Reflector. The only scope there that I need to train on is the 32 inch Reflector called the Grim. That I will do next year after giving the Ealing a good go this year and the Clark/Brandt. I set up to cool down before the training and went through the refresher training in about 40 minutes. I have to say that using the 200mm/8inch, the 16 inch and the 32 inch Reflector is a wonderful addition to one's membership in SLAS.

I then finished setting up and waited for dark. Venus was the first object and in the atmosphere was dancing around. I then turned to Saturn and the viewing wasn't that good at 240x. Finally, I just laid back on the sleeping bag pad I have to kneel and lay on, and propped the head and let myself dark adapt. I focused on seeing Leo Minor as that was the object tonight, and I wanted to go as soon as possible as the forecast was for clouds to move in.

NGC 3294 Spiral Galaxy in Leo Minor
5/8/2010
9:37pm.
Seeing III Antoniadi Scale; Mostly Clear, Cirrus clouds building
Mag. 11.7
Size: 3.5' x 3.7'
RA 10h 26m 3s
Dec +37 20'
XT10
13mm Stratus

This is a very, very faint galaxy. It is brighter on the inner halo or portion than on the outer shell or halo. The outer edges are diffused. No core is discernible though I do get a hint of some possible dark/dust(?) lanes. The sketch tries to really make how faint this galaxy is, I hope I succeeded in that somewhat.





































NGC 3395 (and NGC 3396) Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Leo Minor
5/8/2010
10:12p.m.
SPOC, Stansbury Park, Utah
Seeing: III Antoniadi Scale; Fair, Cool, some cirrus clouds building
Mag.: 12.1
Size: 1.6' x 0.9'
RA: 10h 49m 8 s
Dec: +32 59'
XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

This is a very faint galaxy that is paired with NGC 3996 which is also visible. It took averted vision to see it at first, then with patience both galaxies came into view. My home is close to the conditions at SPOC and it is the outer limits of viewing for this object. The galaxies are less than 1 degree apart. Averted vision as I have mentioned are needed and using breathing really helps to make out shapes and details. The core in NGC 3995 is stellar,though no actual center is visible; the halo is much dimmer and without breathing the halo is brighter than the core region, with the core visible only through averted vision. Breathing makes the core brighter also. A fun object to hunt down, I would like to see it from one of my darker sites. No core is evident in NGC 3396. This was confirmed by a fellow club member.






































NGC 3432 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Leo Minor
5/8/2010
Location: SPOC, Stansbury Park, Utah
Seeing: III, Mostly clear cool.
RA 10h 52m 5s
Dec +36 37'
Mag: 11.2
Size: 6.9' x 1.9'
XT10
13mm Stratus @ 92x

Relatively bright galaxy after the last two. It is elongated and diffused patch of light. If your patient and use averted vision with some brightening toward the core is evident. No discernable core is viewable. Two faint field stars seem to be embedded in the diffused halo. The clouds really came in on this object and it was the last object of the night. After packing up we went to "advance training" at a local Denny's to socialize (I just had a diet coke due to my celiac disease).

5/08/2010

Missed Opportunity or a Good Night Out

The skies were pretty clear, and I knew they would clear more as we got into the evening hours. A star party at a school that was on the route toward one of my dark sites was occurring that night. I had signed up to participate and had taken my 16 year old son with me. We drove around trying to follow the directions and got lost. After about a half an hour, we both were about to give up and go to the dark site to observe on our own when we found the street. When we got to the school, there was no one there. One guy was walking around, and after waiting for 30 minutes we found approached him and he said this was the location. Based on this and conducting a star party once a month for my own program I offer the follow suggestions for schools hosting a star party. These are only suggestions and they are mine, so feel free to disregard or adapt what you want.

1. Provide a map with clear directions. People will support the star party but not if they can't get there.
2. Have a list of what time to arrive at. Since some will have dobs, please give them 1 hour to cool down. You as a school worker need to be there to direct them where to set up.
3. Have a designated area picked out, and have the parking lot lights shut off for the event AND if on grass during watering months, have the sprinklers turned off for that night.
4. Let observers and viewers know the time frame. Often after viewers leave the astronomers may want to stay to try out equipment, compare views etc. A closing time allows them to do this, and gives those who want to leave a time to pack and drive away.

Anyway, it was fun to watch my son show off Saturn, Mars, Regulus , M13 and a few other items. He only needed help one time and that was with finding the keystone.

I showed Mars, M66 and M65 and M97 that with the Ultrablock Filter, popped right off (an experience eye could see it without though rather easily). The cool thing this night is as twilight evolved into the night, I was on M66 and M65 and NGC 3628 popped out just like stars. It was a cool experience to watch the detail emerge from them.

So I traded a night of observing and sketching for a night of outreach. Was this a missed opportunity? Probably in the sense there just haven't been too many clear nights and may not be for a while. Was it a good night out? Definetly as the students, teachers, and the members of the club there all enjoyed ourselves and each other's company. Also, I got to look through some really good eyepieces, Nagler etc. and formed some opinions on them versus other eyepieces. That will be for another post. Hope the skies are clear for me and you tonight! No sketches though and I forgot my digital camera.

Edit: I guess I should mention what scopes I saw there. There was a Skywatcher 12 inch, an Orion 8 inch Reflector F4.0 on a mount, a 18 inch Obsession and two more SCT scopes that I didn't view through, then my 8 and 10 inch dobs. I looked through the SkyWatcher and liked the view and how the scope works. It was very interesting. The Obsession I mentioned, love the mirror and the setup, very good view.

If your new to astronomy, the editors over at TheOneMinuteAstronomer have a page for beginners. It is the Crash Course in Basic Night Time Observ
Publish Post
ing. The link above will take you there. They cover Day 1: What can you see up there. Day 2 How the Sky Moves Day 3: How to Read a Star Char and Mini Tour of the Night Sky. Day 4: Binoculars and Telescopes. Day 5: How to See Faint Celestial Objects/What to do Next. If your new I invite you to take a look at their site, they have some good information on it and this is a pretty good site for information. If your experience, but know a beginner, you may want to pass the link to them. Or you may choose to ignore. By the way, the weather isn't looking too good right now here. Sigh. I'm tired of clouds (first verse).

5/07/2010

May 6, 2010 Quick Session; Saturn, NGC 3486, NGC 3405

Well the skies were clear though the jet stream was right above. I knew I needed to take advantage of the sky so I went out tonight. Over the last several days I have done some mods to my XT10. I added the milk jug washers to improve my azimuth motion and since then I just haven't been happy with the readjustment. So tonight I played around with it some more and think I got the scope finally where I want it. I'll take pictures when I do this to the XT8 and post them here this weekend, unless I'm observing.

After tweaking that mod, I am grateful I haven't flocked my tube yet. I have the material, just not the time to do that mod, though the weather has been more than favorable.. I will take pictures of that process and post them here. So after cooling ad playing around, I zeroed in on my first target, Saturn. I was able to barlow and go to 480x tonight and I sketched the gas giant, but won't be posting it here quite yet. My sketches look like nothing I have seen others as I haven't seen the bands on Saturn yet. Jupiter is easy for me, for Saturn, I have just seen an adjustment in color at three different locations. I'll post that sketch up tomorrow.


I spent a good hour on Saturn and really enjoyed myself there. If you can't tell, I am trying to expand beyond just a DSO observer, though DSO's have my heart.

NGC 3486 Mixed Sprial Galaxy in Leo Minor
May 6, 2010
Herriman UT
Seeing III Antoniadi Scale
RA 11h 00m 4s
Dec: +28 58
Mag: 10.5
Size: 6.6' x 4.7'
XT10 w/13mm Stratus @ 92x

I have to say that I took this one up to 240x, and at 240x I could see more of the size of the galaxy, but details fell off. So back down to 133x and the same thing. 92x showed the best view for me. The galaxy at 92x was dim at first, with a faint stellar core. Averted vision shows a halo around the corethat has some brightening to the west, perhaps a hint of an arm(?). I checked my star positions on both sketches here, and the first one for NGC 3486 is close, but not perfect. The second galaxy, NGC 3405 and surrounding stars was much closer to the mark.




































NGC 3504 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Leo Minor
May 6, 2010
Seeing: III Antoniadi Scale
RA 11h 03m 2s
Dec +27 58
Mag. 10.9
Size 2.3' x 2.3'

O'Meara's reference directions are spot on. I'll get into specifics of my way later this weekend. I'm really hoping to let the blog go for a few days while I get some great observing time in. I need it to get caught up on my Herschel list. At 92x this is a dim galaxy that has a medium size core that is stellar in the middle. The galaxy is positioned NW to SE with a diffused halo around the core. No hints of structure for me in the halo. Averted vision reveals a bright inner core with a roundish and large outer halo. In March of 1998 a supernova was discovered in NGC 3504. This infra red image shows the galaxy before and when the supernova exploded. We always hear or read that this mighty explosions are as bright if not brighter than the galaxy they reside in. This image really shows this in the infra red. I thought it would be a nice tidbit to include on this object.




































One of the things I hate about my 13mm Stratus is that if my coat bumps it, the rubber eye guard comes flying off. It happened tonight and I noticed the EP Lens needed to be cleaned. I keep a rubber bulb in my eyepiece case and I learned a valuable lesson tonight. It was frozen! I need to keep it inside my jacket on these long and cold spring (and winter nights). I came inside with an eye patch on and got my backup bulb and blew some dust off the inner edge of the eyepiece. Then I carefully put the guard back on. This took about 30 minutes and at that time I decided to come in after just a couple of hours and 3 objects. Not a productive night in terms of objects, but I got the base worked out, and cleaned up my eyepieces after coming in so that made me ready for the weekend!

So not a lot tonight, but I finished up that portion of Leo Minor and am heading out to finish Leo this weekend (I hope) and head into Virgo! Clear skies to you.

5/02/2010

Planetary Nebula, shapes and other info, Pease 1 next fall?

Well go figure. I go back to work after two weeks off and what happens tonight? The storms of the last 7 days end, and the skies clear. I spent the evening getting ready to go back . . . . :''o(

Go figure. My entry tonight and I am going to expand upon it tomorrow (or on the next cloudy night as I hope to get some scope time tomorrow evening) is on Planetary Nebula. A Planetary Nebula or PN is my personal favorite object to chase down, though galaxies come a close second. Ninety-five percent of all stars in the universe will end their lives as a Planetary Nebula or PN as I call them. The other five percent, while they just go out with a "big bang" so to speak. In classifying PN's they have often been typized based on their appearance, using the Vorontsov-Velyaminov scheme which is as follows:

1. Stellar Image
2. Smooth Disk (a: brighter toward the center; b: uniform brightness; c: traces of a ring structure)
3. Irregular Disk (a: very irregular brightness distribution; b: traces of ring structure)
4. Ring Structure
5. Irregular form, similar to a diffused nebula.
6. Anomalous form

Now there seems to be additional classification being added with the addition of such wonderful instruments as the Hubble Telescope. There seems to more classification being added to PN's.

Bipolar Planetary Nebulae
Elliptical and Round Planetary Nebulae
The Cat's Eye Nebula

An interesting side note is that per the quote below, many of the PN's have rings and other shapes embedded in them.
I guess I need to find out if there is an updated classification to PN's? Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed

that many planetary nebulae have
multiple layers, and these are labeled as “shells”
“crowns” and “haloes." These
multiple shell structures are the dynamical consequence of
interacting winds and of changing photoionization effects of the evolving central star. Other
minor morphological structures include arcs, rings, jets, ansaes, and multiple lobes and they
probably reflect the episodic and/or direction-changing nature of the stellar winds.



Are you interested in the above informaiton? I am sure some of you are more than aware of this, but others may not be. Here is a link to follow to learn or see more:

Planetary Nebula Overview

Hubble News Releases and PN's
Not all are PN's but many are. Check out the 2008 number 4, a white dwarf with a ring around it . . . see above.

Hungry for more, and more cool Hubble images of these objects? Here's one last good site. Just remember, in our scopes visually, we'll never see these objects like this.

HST Archives Hubble Images PN's

I really like the image of M27 in there.

Interested in how they transform an image our eye would see at NASA into a colorful wonder? This article shows how they took images of Pease 1 or
Planetary Nebula K648 in Messier 15 and transformed it.

PN K648 in M15 Image Process

As Pegasus comes up, if your up for a very difficult challenge in viewing a DSO, then PN K648 or Pease 1 can provide that for you.

Here is a Finder Chart for Pease 1

Observation Reports of Pease 1

Note some of these individuals have a ton of experience in the deep sky and there are a few reports using ten inch scopes, and I believe one using an 8 inch scope but most were using 14 inch or higher I believe (been awhile since I have read all the reports).

There's a greater challenge for much larger scopes but that can wait for one more month and if you have access to a very large telescope.

If you can't wait to see more, here is a list of the best seasonal planetary nebula by season for both hemispheres:

Seasonal Planetary Nebula

Clear skies I hope to you.

5/01/2010

Secret Treasure or Just Junk? Tasco 10x to 25x Astronaut Zoom Spotting Telescope

I think if those of us who are 30 or older, maybe 40 or older actually go through our closets we can find a lot of junk that we have held on to. There are old models I purchased to build, and haven't done anything with them. Coins I bought or were given that may or may not be valuable; old shoes, clothes, jewelry (thinking a few watches I either need to buy a battery for or donate to the Good Will) etc. Then there are those items of junk that connect us to our past, to people or events in our past that have impacted us for our lives. So, because the weather here is still cloudy, rainy and some snow falling every now and then, and I can't observe, I thought I would share a quick story about a secret treasure I have that some may consider junk.

I was born in 1965, so yep, I'm 45, just turned that age in April, within the last two weeks. In 1968 I was 3 when my Dad bought a Tasco Astronaut Zoom Telescope with a 10x to 25x zoom. You can see it in this 1968 Tasco Telescope Ad in the bottom right corner where the name of the scope, the Tasco 10x to 25x Astronaut Zoom 30mm Spotting Telescope for $14.95 is for sale. Now my father, who was in the Navy Reserve at the time, and had served actively in the Air Force, was a shooter and this telescope served as a spotting scope for him to see where he had hit the target while target shooting.

Here is an image. My father-in-law who is living with us, and suffers from moderately severe Alzheimer disease uses it to watch the famous Cooperton/Bingham Mine.


















In 1974 I was nine, and I can remember the moon being out, what I recognize now as just past first quarter and my Dad taking me out in the backyard with this telescope on his camera tripod to show me the moon through it. Now I grew up with the Apollo program and have memories of watching the Apollo landings on the moon, just bits and pieces. My Dad knew this and so on this night, he showed me the moon and a new world opened up to me. My Dad was pretty good about doing that, exposing me and my two sisters to new things, encouraging us to pursue what we were interested in knowing it could become a passion.

The scope on a camera tripod:






















Sadly, on June 22, 1982, as I was going into the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, my father passed away. No need for details, but it was from a heart attack, and he was only 45. At 17 people told me how young 45 is, but at 17 45 doesn't sound young. Now at 45, I realize probably more than ever before how young 45 is. How grateful I am though, that this 40 year old little telescope has survived, is still usable and though not a grand treasure, does act as a connection of me to my father.

On a local email message board, the question was asked, "What dirty little astronomy secret do you have?" I don't think mine is dirty, nor does it embarrass me. There are a few nights each year, that right around first quarter I take out this little gem, and really look at the moon and enjoy the views it has to offer. Magically, sometimes, I can reflect and still hear my father's voice as he pointed out some of the highlights on the moon. I'll even admit, being the sentimental type of guy at times, that a tear in remembrance of my father comes to my eyes, they mist, and for a moment, I truly desire to be able to hold a private star party with my father as we could examine the universe together now as adults.

I don't have my father, but I do have a wife, a son and a daughter. My daughter in the summer comes out and talks while I observe and I often find those conversations the most magical. She shares what is going on in my life, I share a view or two, but most likely in the end, I still on my observing chair and just listen and watch as this 17 year old girl is becoming a young woman. How awesome the views of the universe are, but how much more awesome is it to have been involved in raising my daughter and watching her grow and become her own person. Not always easy, as hunting down some objects aren't easy, but so worth it. My son, my summer observing partner, my star party assistant, will go with me and share in these views. In those moments we bond, and it reminds me to take time to be with him in the things that he values and treasures. My wife, she supports the hobby and takes a view once or twice a year and that's it. She never interferes and she communicates if there is something I need to be at so I don't plan a session or a trip on a certain day. Other than that, 99% of the time, she is fine with me doing my thing. Can't ask for anything better than that eh?

What's the purpose then of this post? I would hope that as you observe, and search and find the treasured objects of our universe, that each of you remember those you love, who mean something to you, and share both your obsessions with them, but also remember to share in their obsessions so that they may have a treasured moment with you after you have sailed forward into the great unknown. May your skies be cleared and the seeing good.

Original Box (the box is sitting on my wife's hobby . . . see why she doesn't complain! Yes, it's a baby grand):