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6/30/2010

XX14i Stiction

Well, I have received a couple of inquiries about stiction on the azmuith motion, so before I applied any mods to the 14, I had my 17 year old daughter Kendra who is all of 5' 1" in height and weights about 112 soaking wet, to come in and move the scope. Kendra so you know is highly intelligent (would make one heck of an engineer) and stated after I made the movie that the movement is easy and "Why dd you ask about the difference in altitude vs azmuith? Altitude here should be easier because there is less weight to move up and down while azmuith is harder because the lower tube has more weight on it and the base is holding all the weight on it." It was one of those duh dad moments as I call them.

Here's the video and my daughter wants you to realize that she is on summer vacation and is relaxing. No she does not have cancer, she has short hair (she likes it that way) and does this when her hair isn't washed. Yes, she'll do observing with me; yes, I don't mention her a lot because of a parental fear of the internet, and our observing sessions more often turn into me sitting back listening to her talk about all kinds of stuff and then looking at what she has found. To be honest, they are my favorite sessions not because of what I have seen, but because I just get to enjoy her for who she is. That is a lesson my father passed on to me and I know I have successful passed to each of my children. For me, it is the relationships in life that are the most critical, regardless if it is son or daughter to father or mother, friend to friend etc. Her favorite objects of Messier 45 and Messier 42 as Orion is her favorite constellation. Perhaps I should put my sixteen and seventeen on here a little more. Oh, yes, I am a proud father.


6/29/2010

Assembly and Review of Assembly of Orion XX14i

Please see that I have two updated reviews on my blog. Here is the link.

Well, tonight I did it. Steve Coe is still in town and he came over and together we built the XX14i I have. Steve was gracious and helpful as ever, and shared a homemade meal of meatloaf, hash browns and corn with us tonight. If your careful, you may steal an glimpse of him in the pictures posted.

First thing first. Assembly a dob is not an issue to me, the thing that made me a little nervous is the intelliscope. More of that later.

We began by unpacking everything. Let me state up front that the base is NOT, I repeat is NOT plywood or reinforce wood. It is press board with a good laminate on it. Does that change anything for me on this scope? Not at all. I am HIGHLY excited to use it. In assembling the two sides and the front, I really like the mechanism of using a knob, a spacer and a rubber washer to lock in the knobs so that they can release the sides to dissemble the base. Why someone hasn't followed suite on this model yet I am not sure. The knobs screw into metal pieces that are already built into each piece. The sides have 3 each and the front has six. It made me giddy to realize that I can dissemble the base.










































Sideways but I took the shot that way and you can begin to see the base coming together here with the round black knobs I am talking about. A key item though, it will be VERY important on this scope to undo the intelliscope cables if your dissembling the base. This will ensure they don't pull or get damage or the boards they connect to are not damaged.

Here's a close up of the knobs:






































Here's a close up of the metal screw are the knobs lock into:




















The side assembled:




















Another view of it completed:




















Total time to get this part done, well if you read the manual and do what it says, probably 20 to 30 minutes.

After building this part, you begin to build the intelliscope feature of the scope. The boards that operate these go on and I have to be critical here of Orion. To their credit, Orion provides you with great photos of all the pieces with their names. Their diagram isn't much help and it would have been nice had they put the letter that they use in the assembly next to the name of the object in the photo in parenthesis. In this photo you can see the washers that are needed to secure the bottom encoder to bottom of the base. It took Steve and I awhile to figure out which washers to use.




















The next part was easy as we simply installed the bolt to the base and then attached the encoder disc and other parts.




















Here is a better image of the Encoder disc and the brass azimuth bushing.


























Here is the altitude encoder jack which is part of the encoder connector board that faces out, with two on the other side. The encoder jack attaches to the inner side. This next picture is bad but shows the two jacks facing down so the cords and plug into them.




















We continued to attach all the intelliscope parts and then the cords. Here is a mix bag and I'll tell you what I decided to do after talking it over with Steve. The intelliscope comes with cable clips to hold the wires down. The manual recommends only using three because when/if you break down the two side bases and the front, you have to remove the cords to avoid damage during transport. Steve came up with a clever solution here and I'll share. We decided that for now we won't use the clips and instead, we used a black twisty tie and tied them to a knob so they don't flop around much. Problem solved! They are tied down on the left side by that knob in the rounded hole.





















Here are the images of the altitude encoder assembly (on left) and the Encoder Connector Cord on the right (better image then above).





























No build is perfect, and yes, I made a simple mistake and I'll show it here. In this picture the front panel is reversed. The place to put in the Vertical Stop Knob I put on the outside, instead of on the inside. Whew! This is a XX14i and by simply undoing six knobs, I took the front out, after removing the handle, and flipped it, reinstalled everything and no sweat!































Here is the front assembled correctly (if you've done this and see an error ANYWHERE, please leave me a comment!).






From the front:





















From the back and you can now see the vertical stop knob.




























Now came the time to change this up. The base is together and before I go on I want to give input into it. First, the intelliscope assembly for one who has never done it was unique. I'm still not sure if we did it right and that it will work. I'm hoping tomorrow or Thursday (weather again) will let me know. Orion needs to clean up its instructions on the intelliscope. Providing an XTi directions and a note saying to not use them or not use certain parts results in a waste of time. For the money, Orion should centralized the intelliscope instructions into the XX14i manual in my opinion.

Overall though, the base is easy to assembly and once we figured out what washers when where we were able to move forward pretty quickly. Time, 45 minutes because of the reading and guessing (per my first critical comment, labeling the parts pictures with the right letter next to the identification would make this easier).

Next came taking out the mirror. The mirror was very well protected and I checked the center spot and the collimation ring was dead center. Nice. The mirror looked great (not for long, he he) and after taking off the rear end ring, and attaching the bolts to hold the counter weights, we flipped the mirror over on a clean surface and attached the mirror cell. We put on the collimation springs, put on the collimation knobs. adjusted the bolts as directed, and the mirror was attached! Easy process and probably the most fun so far. Can I also say that the weight of the mirror at first surprised me . . . it was heavy, much heavier than the XT10 I have. However once back in the lower QTA assembly it wasn't bad at all. Who is that man in blue? Hint, it's not me.

























After assembling the mirror into the telescope, the counter weights screwed right on and the lower tube was completed.























We then put the lower part into the base, as for me, I don't think it makes sense to assembly the scope and put it into the base. At this point the meat loaf dinner was done so off we went to eat. I came back, finishing assembling the poles and the upper tube section together. This was also very easy and very quick. You can see the poles after being connected to the lower tube and then to the upper tube. Quick, easy and painless.


















































Here is the upper tube. I have to say that I really like the Orion dual speed focuser. Perfect, nope. A premium system? Nope. Highly effective, feels like it will be. The only other thing I think Orion should have included was a brass ring 1 1/4 inch holder for the two inch eye piece holder. I have one already, so no big deal but it would be a nice addition.


























Well, here is the completed with my XT10 covered up behind it:




























My thoughts on this? It is tall, it is much bigger than a 10 inch, and the 14 seems to feel like a good step up from the 10. I am six foot and the XX14i is only 3 inches shorter than me. If the scope is at Zenith I can stand and view easily, or extend either my Starbound or Stardust and see just fine, as long as I am sitting close to the scope. Someone 5"9 or less may struggle to sit at zenith and observe in their chair. The azimuth motion is fine on my XX14i. I do not have an issue with this and though it is not a premium dob in its azimuth motion, mine moves easily for me, and I don't see an issue in using it in any way. Does that mean it is really smooth? No, but it is smooth enough for me and since I have to use it, that is good enough for me. The thread at Cloudy Nights has helped me as I have finished putting mine together. A little spray as mentioned in that thread helps. The base is around 27 to 28 inches, measured roughly and estimated and will fit through a door, but I can say I will be taking the base apart to move this scope be it to the backyard or to a dark site. Optics look to be really good and I did order the shroud and the bags to hold it and in the bags came a bag for the secondary which was nice. Not sure if I'll use that or a zip lock bag yet. Finally, did I say it was big? Much bigger than the XX12i or the Z12. I look forward to many a great nights with this scope, especially at some dark sites and more importantly, the many memories that will come with it.

As I get first light, I will post and let you know what my further impressions are. My fear, I did not set up the intelliscope correctly. Guess I'll find out and tomorrow I'll be stopping to pick up a level. Lets hope I can get it outside tomorrow for a test run. Do I have any regrets in purchasing this product? None at all and if the intelliscope works as does its manual use, I'll have a good scope to use. Clear skies to you.

6/27/2010

Building XX14i

Well, is now 5:00p.m. and I am tired. Had to do a bunch of honey do's today around the new home to get it up and running and now I am very tired and fearing I don't have enough time to assembly the scope. I am off tomorrow at 3:30p.m. and once I get home will see how I feel. If I'm not too tired I'll do it then, and if not then on Tuesday. Man, I have never had this much trouble finding time to build a scope. Here's an image of the boxes . . . I did get the shroud, the three portable bags for transport, an Orion Lasermate Pro (their new model with the Cheshire, I want to compare to my Glatter and my passive tools), a RA Finder, I don't like straight on, a Telrad and the collimation knobs for the secondary, and a 4 inch Telrad Riser (tried of bending over and cranking myself into un-natural positions. Sorry, my Astronomy books are to the right corner behind the image so your seeing my educational books, my Tolkien library minus a couple of items and some other personal items on that book shelf. Man, I have to cook steaks for dinner tonight . . . I want this thing together like yyesterday! I think no matter what, it gets put together tomorrow so I can give it a test run several times this week.

Oh, by the way, we inheirited a hot tub from my mother-in-law that is a nice one and its on our back deck. Were about 3 weeks from getting it setup and working but we realized last night that there is a second use for my light shields! Yep, if we want privacy we simply put them around us and no one, and I mean no one will be viewing in!
















Still Here New Scopes

Okay, just wanted those who read this to know I'm almost back in the saddle. Our move to the new home went well, and without major mishaps or injuries, i.e. the back is fine (knock on wood) and I got in the first of two new scopes, this one being the Orion XX14i. Star hoping is my preferred method of observing and will remain so, but for a star party etc. I think have the intelliscope will be really nice. The boxes are in my office and I am hoping to assembly it today (Sunday) during the afternoon. I will be taking pictures of the assembly process and will probably make a movie of several aspects of it as I get the scope built. I used one at a star party and was impressed with the motions and the quality of the optics. Certainly this is not a premium dob (like I have on order now) but it is not a basic dob either. Bottom line the 14 will serve a nice niche between the 10 and the 20 I have coming later.

The 20 inch I'll talk more of when it arrives with pictures but it is going to be for an observatory I am having built at a family cabin in southern Utah up around 8000 feet that we are inheriting. I'll leave the scope down there during the summer where I plan to spend some of my time off and then bring it back here in the fall for the fall, winter and spring viewing. I figure the 20 won't get a ton of use here in the north because of size while in the south, in the observatory that is secure it can be left up. Thus the 14 will become my main scope and my XT10 will become the scope I use for those nights when I don't want to set up the 14. Now the question becomes do I keep my XT8? I sold a XT6 recently for $200 that included the 25mm and the 10mm Plossl; the 6x30 finder scope and a EZ Finder. I used that money to order the collimation knobs for the XX14i, a Telrad a 4 inch Telrad riser and a Astro-Tech coma corrector. We'll see how all this comes about. I am leaning towards keeping the XT8 because it was my first scope (sentiment) and because it is so light and easy to set up and use. Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject of keeping it or selling it. Hopefully pictures tomorrow!

6/19/2010

Great Skies but . . .

Well, the last two nights have been great nights in terms of the transparency and very low humidity (which is how it should be right now!). However, I got glutened and that means I've been sicker than a dog. Very upset stomach (I'll spare you those details), fatigue, aches, very foggy thinking etc. Sometimes having Celiac disease isn't much fun. I don't miss most foods as once one learns to cook gluten free, and the freedom/improvement in one's health it brings, it truly is liberating. However, when one gets glutened it is not fun.

Also, we are moving right now. We went over there last night and I have figured that I am going to have to go back to deploying a few lights shields depending on neighbors, well one in particular. No biggie as the sky itself was darker than where we currently live. There are two trees, one acts as a natural shield to a street light that is viewable through a park behind the house. That is nice. The other really doesn't impact anything as the views are at about 10 to 15 degrees and that is too low for good observing anyway in my opinion. If I need to see that sky, I'll just have to move the scope.

I am finding though that I am spending more time at dark sites than in the backyard now. I will probably head out again tonight to a dark site (club has a star party at SPOC but I need some observing time; we'll see). I guess it depends on how I feel after moving a bunch of stuff today (moving my astronomy stuff, some boxes and clothes and packing up some stuff I may be too tired. So I apologize if of late I haven't had my usual amount of observing posts up, but the weather has been the number cause and then moving and being gluten will probably mean I'm out of business til after the 1st of July except for some double stars. Oh, I did purchase an Orion XX14i that will be here between today and Monday. I am putting a down payment on a 20inch Premium Dob. I have it down to two makers and will be emailing them to decide on which one. the 20 inch will go into an observatory that we will be building next to a family cabin in the mountains of southern Utah. It will stay packed in the cabin or if I bring it home in the winter at home where I will use it from time to time of course . . . . Exciting times!

6/15/2010

Observing June 15, 2010

Well last night I had the honor to take Steve Coe out to the Stansbury Park Observator Complex or SPOC. Our club president was there along with some wonderful members. We opened up all three bays, the 8 inch refractor, the 16 inch Ealing Reflector and the 32 inch Reflector. I was using the refractor tonight and we began by looking at different objects. I brought Venus up and its gibbous state was obivous but no details on the clouds could be observed. Next, I went after Saturn and we noticed that at 9:00 to 9:30p.m. that conditions were not good for viewing Saturn at high power. One of the problems with the observatories are that they absorb the heat of the sun during the day, so when they are opened up, that same heat radiates out causing thermals. At 10:00p.m. Saturn looked stunning, with a band visible, five moons and the rings being what they are right now. Still, a very lovely sight with excellent contrast.

Next came some doubles. I went to Arcturus to hop over to M3 but our club president took the scope and went to Izar. What a lovely view in the 8 inch refractor! The main star was a yellowish/orange color with the companion showing off turquoise or a greenish/bluish hue. Very easy to split using the 17mm Stratus. I now went to Delta Bootis and enjoyed the view of this double also. I did meander over to M3 and as always, this obscure globular wasn't too hard to find. From here we went to Porrima in Virgo and the main star here was a whitish/yellowish also, with its companion also looking whitish with a tint(?) of blue. This is a very hard star to split in smaller scopes since the binary have come closer to each other.

I then split Theta Virginis which was also a nice split to do. From here I left Virgo and went to Scorpius which was just over the roof of the observatory in viewing range. I went to Graffius and split Graffius which was colorful and fun. From here I went down to M4 and viewed M4. The dark lane was very evident along with the wonderful curving of the stars on the outer portion of the globular. Next I went back to Graffius and then down to M80 which just shown wonderfully in the 17mm EP in the 8 inch refractor. Next I star hopped, and realize there is no telrad etc on the refractor, it is sight tube and finderscope to get to the object, and went to M107. Steve Coe helped me on the ending of this as I was just too tired. Wonderful light globular. After this I shut down the refractor and closed up the observatory with the assistance of our youngest club member.

Over on the 32 inch as mentioned, we spent time with some planetary nebula and galaxies. Thought I didn't sketch, and though I didn't get any Herschel items done, it was an enjoyable night of observing. I'm tired tonight and will be napping tomorrow. By the way, I ordered a new scope today . . . .

6/13/2010

Audio Recording of Observations

No observing (I AM SO SICK OF STORMS AND CLOUDS AT NEW MOON and temps in the 50's in mid June!), but tomorrow looks very promising as does Tuesday. I had a great visit with Steve Coe yesterday and in all of our discussions we of coursed talked about observing. One of the things I learned from him is that he took a page and for each object he was observing he completely filled out that page on observing the object. In listening to my own observations on the Herschel 400, I find I am betting away from the enjoyment of viewing to get through the list. So, I am adjusting my observing. I will strive to get in 5 to 7 Herschel 400 objects on a session and then I will spend some high quality time on other objects that I will adapt Steve's observing technique on. I'm hoping on Tuesday to get some time out in the desert.


6/06/2010

Observing/Outreach June 5, 2010 NGC 4594, NGC 5054, NGC 4856, NGC 4559 Galaxies in Como Bernices or Virgo

Well the skies in Utah actually were clear last night! I debated whether to go to the SLAS Star Party or to go out on my own to the Western Desert. Humidity was foretasted by Clear Sky Clock to rise up high starting around 1:00a.m. to 2:00a.m. The best location for humidity was Stansbury Park where the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex is located, and where the Public Star Party was being held. I decided to go there. I set up the XT10 after arriving and enjoyed the evening talking to one of our newer members waiting for the sky to darken. Collimating the scope with the Eye and Cheshire combo was easy since I got there with plenty of light. I verified it with the laser and both were spot on.

As Venus grew brighter I check out Venus and then taught a newer member, a college student, how to use the Telrad, the finder-scope and eyepiece to locate objects. He found his first object, Venus, doing this on his own. Next, I went to Saturn and checked out Saturn at 240x. The seeing was good at 8:40p.m. MDT, and several people came by to view Saturn. Next I had the new member go to Mars and Regulas and using the Orion Q70 32mm I showed them the contrast in Regulas and Mars. By now it was getting dark. The new member left to go see other sights and no one was with me so I started seeing if I could hunt down a few missed Herschels from May. Suddenly a boy came by and wanted to see M9. So I pulled the scope out of Ursa Major and went over to M9. It was low and wasn't looking to good. An alternative was M4 and I showed some people from Japan M4. M4 was viewable, but being relatively low and with the sky still in astronomical twilight it was nothing like the next object!

My next object just blew me away. I had an interesting conversation using green lasers on constellations and their shapes. For example, Leo doesn't look like a lion to me, it looks more like a mouse. Denebola would be the mouses nose for example with Chertan Chort making up the bottom of the head and Zosma being where the ear would be. While doing that we discussed Hercules and I noticed as we traced the constellation that M13 was readily visible. I pulled the 10 over and showed the two guests M13 in the 13mm Stratus at 97x. The globular was spectacular at the time that we viewed it so I decided to try the 5mm Hyperion at 240x magnification. The sky responded and showed us an incredible view of M13. Tendrils were easily viewable and literally hundreds if not thousands of stars were viewable. It is perhaps one of the best views I have had of M13. I was going to sketch it when the son (who is a member of SLAS also) of one of our members wanted to try sketching. So I pulled out an extra set of pencils, giving him a 2H, 2B and an HB and explained some basic techniques. I also provided him with paper, a clipboard and a blending stump and he went to work.

The young man (I don't have permission to use their names so I won't be unless they okay it; that's the educator in me) proceeded to sketch M9, M84, M86 and M87 (I believe, he had 3 galaxies from Virgo if I recall correctly) and then he said he was going to try M51. I lost my sketch on M13 that night, perhaps the on great night this year I'll see it and I do believe it would have taken even more magnification but 240x was just right. Instead after showing his father and our club president and a few others he would bring it over show me, and then compare it to what I had sketched. I think that was worth more than that great chance at M13. I'll have another chance at M13, no doubt as the mountains here open up for observing. Hopefully I will have opened the world of sketching to a young man which will increase the details he is seeing.

After missing out on M13, it was rather late for the Star Party crowd, being around 10:45p.m. I decided at this time it was Jay's time; time for me to personal observe. Before I did that they asked if anyone wants to view M51 and it's companion NGC 5195 in the 16 inch Ealing Refector. Sure, lets go. I have to say that was the object that as soon as the weather clears, I am going back to use personally with another club member who also wants to hone their skill on the scope. I saw perhaps a truly wondrous site as M51's two arms were easily viewable, separate from the halo and the bridge was also evident as the seeing allowed. I'll take three or four hours with three or four objects to sketch and be happy if I get two objects done! What a view!

So here are my meager Herschel observations. They are low in the sky and I realized after viewing them that I will have to give up on April and May's list as they are sinking too low in the sky. I started on the Herschels one year ago this month I believe and so now I have to begin to check what objects I have already seen when making my lists. Oops. I forgot to do that with this months list. Having said that, I want the monthly list so if anyone else wants them, they can have them.

NGC 4594 or Messier 104, The Sombrero Galaxy; Spiral Galaxy in Virgo;
Date: June 5, 2010
Time: 11:01 p.m. MDT/05:01 UT
Location: Stansbury Park, UT, SPOC
Conditions: Clear, Mild
Seeing: Antoniadi Scale: II; Transparency 4/5
Mag. 8.0
Size: 7.1' x 4.4'
RA: 12h 40m
Dec: -11 37m
Instruments: XT10, 13mm Stratus @ 92x, 5mm Hyperion @ 240x

I used both 92x and 240x on this object as it took 240x pretty well tonight. 92x shows a bright inner core, and a galaxy that is edge on. Averted vision elongates the galaxy that is surrounded by the halo. Halo is evident also. Dust lane goes the length of the galaxy and is just under the core. The dust lane is viewable with averted vision the best at 92x. 240x shows a larger size and brighter core. Dust lane is prominent and is easily viewable. Wonderful object as always.







































STSci Image:























NGC 5054 Sprial Galaxy in Virgo
Date: June 6 ,2010
Time: 12:05a.m. MDT/06:05UT
Conditions: Mild, Clear
Seeing: Antoniadi Scale: II (maybe heading towards a III); Transparency starting to degrade.
RA: 13h 17m
Dec. -16 38
Mag: 10.9
Size: 4.8' x 2.8'
Instruments: XT10, 13mm Stratus

The transparency is starting to degrade as the humidity in the air rises. Averted vision shows a faint fuzzy, perhaps a hint of a core, but not sure I want to commit on the core. Galaxy is running north to south and with patience I could make out a faint core with averted vision. The halo is very faint and diffused.






































NGC/IC Project Image from STScI Digitized Image






















Object: NGC 4856 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Virgo
Date: June 6, 2010
Time: 12:35p.m. MDT/06:35 UT
Seeing: Fair, some clouds, humidity rising; Antoniadi Scale: III/ transparency 2.5/5
RA 12h 59.3m
Dec -15 22
Mag. 10.5
Size 3.1' x 0.9'
Instrument: XT10, 13mm Stratus

Transparency continues to degrade with this session just as the Clear Sky Clock said it would. This BSG is next to two bright stars. In the sketch west is at the 10:00 position on the clock. The galaxy has a bright inner core, with a halo seen around the core. Averted vision shows the size of the halo the best, and direct vision shows the core the best while decreasing the size of the halo. Small Herschel object.






































STScI Image




























Object: NGC 4559 Mixed Spiral Galaxy in Coma Bernices
Date: June 6. 2010
Time: 1:03a.m. MDT/ 07:03 UT
Seeing: Some clouds, mild, humidity high; Antoniadi Scale: III; Transparency 2.5/5
RA 12h 36m
Dec +27 58
Mag. 10. 0
Size: 11.3' x 5.0'
Instrument: XT10; 13mm Stratus

At 92x this MSG has a stellar core. There is a elongated halo running north-west to south-east. The core is just brighter than the surrounding diffused halo that surrounds it. No other detailed noted.






































STScI Image























I cleaned up and packed up after this observation as conditions were making it difficult to see details on the galaxies. After packing up I was invited to view in what is called the Grim Reflector (named after a club member who played a major role in the creation of SPOC) which is a 32 inch reflector. The view was on M57, the Ring Nebula and the central star was visible. One person was looking when I came into the bay, and then I took two steps up, leaned into the ladder and put my eye to the eyepiece. M57 was there alright, and looked better than I had seen it. The ring was oval in the view here and sure enough, even with not terrific conditions anymore, the central star popped into view, held for several seconds and popped back out. I waited and sure enough it popped back into view. Wonderful to see the central star in the Ring which as a planetary nebula is my favorite DSO to observe. You can see what I saw (it was turned more on its side I believe) by looking at this link and scrolling to the black and white image in the middle; the third image down I believe: LINK to M57 Central Star Image. Looking at a PN reminds me that all that we think is important, in the end, isn't and will come to naught so the important thing is to live and learn and love in the current day!

6/03/2010

Anthony Wesley Another Impact on Jupiter Recorded

Seems that Anthony Wesley has recorded another impact on Jupiter. You can find it discussed in this blog and at this forum/thread at IceinSpace where Anthony goes by the name of bird. You can see the movie here .

An early hypothesis that I would put forward is that Anthony seems to focus on Jupiter a lot and because of that, he is able to capture strikes on Jupiter. I think what is very important is that Anthony is confirming something most astronomers know, that Jupiter is the vacuum cleaner of solar system. No matter what, it is great work by Anthony and shows how an amateur can have such a major impact on professional astronomy.

Clouds here so still no observing.