Just a note to let anyone who is searching for new stuff I just wanted to say it might be several days til I have some new posts. I have put together a very formal review of the XX14i that I'll be posting either this weekend or early next week. I also have the original sketches to finish putting up and I'll do that. I'm just working through some very personal issues right now that will require my time. I'll be back in full force for the wanning crescent phase and new moon phase as more than anything I need to spend time out in the wilderness observing and hiking, giving me time to reflect.

On the good side I had a "surprise" arrive about a month early so that was nice. I'll be transporting that to its new home (that got done last week! good timing) over the next several days and that will be a good, very good trip. I'll try to remember to post some pictures of that. The monsoon season has hit and hit hard with lots of large thunderstorms here and lots and lots of clouds. It's killed my double and lunar observing I had planned! Weird weather pattern for the last year. I am thinking of keeping a weather log from the NesoNet Weather stations here to record the conditions and to track them over time. Figure I might find a patter? Probably not. Clear skies and good viewing where you are.

Based on a funny thread at Cloudy Nights I thought I might provide some laughs on astronomical observing (warning, some might one offensive so remember my favorite quote: "Those who are offended when offense is not intended are fools, and those who are offended when offense is intended are great fools." So, don't get offended, just don't scroll down!

From, Big Dobs come in handy:

Wouldn't you love a poster like this when you do public outreach?

Another Public Outreach:

Why Astronauts have job satisfaction:

Finally, the destiny of all old astronomers . . . looks like fun.

An ending thought I saw from another blog:

"Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth.
--Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man who has ever lived, in this universe, there shines a star." (from Clarke's foreword in 2001, A Space Odyssey, 1968)


Full Moon Lift Rides near Salt Lake City

This is for the local people who watch my blog. I just wanted to share with you a rather fun and enjoyable thing to do that involves visual observing of the moon using the naked eye, AND can allow you to go on a date, or take the significant other/spouse or just you and some friends. I know that Sundance Ski Resort has Full Moon Lift rides available for $10.00 per adult (younger and older are cheaper, see the link), or two rides for $15.00. The lift ride up and back takes about 40 minutes so if your ambitious you should be able to get two rides in IF the person(s) your with wants to spend that much time for you. Enjoy the full moon as you head up and down the lift, and the wonderful lit up sites in the valley around you. I love seeing some of the falls in the distance in the moonlight. I don't get anything for sharing this, it is something I do once during the summer and then in September I always hit one since fall is my favorite season. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate or whatever warm drink appeals to you and enjoy the evening observing, watching and relaxing. Clear skies (not lately, thunderstorms from the summer monsoon are here).

Image of the lift during the daytime:

Some of the other ski resorts use to offer this but I cannot find it on their sites. Several do have great day time activities like the Alpine Coaster, the Alpine Slide, Zip Riders, a game like magnetic frizbee golf (much more enjoyable for everyone), orienteering (designed so kids beat the adults) and other activities so check them out for a way to get out of the heat! Oh, again, I am just posting up some things that can be done since we have the full moon right now.

I'll be posting up more sketches today also for the original vs digital comparison.


August Herschels (Catch Up now)

Well, here is the link to Google Docs to my Herschel targets for August:

August Herschel 400 Targets

You can see I have entered some notes here. I've marked some as viewed and the date I viewed them. I accepted awhile ago that with my goal of sketching each of these items this would mean at least a two year project. While, August holds 14 objects for me to capture so hopefully the monsoon is going to be done for the new moon cycle next month. That, and it gets harder since I go back to work. I approach my job this way as an educator. I am prepared to teach my students based on their learning styles and needs. I work very hard at what I do, and I feel that I am very good at it (and this is cocky but if I dedicate myself professionally, I am very good to outstanding at what I do). However, I leave work by 5:00p.m. each day committed to have a life. When I was in business I lived to work, and though I was rewarded handsomely for it, it wasn't worth what I lost. That is why I keep a picture of my daughter at age 8 on my desk. She changed that as daughters can at the airport one day when she asked if I loved my job more than her, with tears welling up in her bright blue eyes. That has haunted me since that day and though not perfect, I live my life now, and my job is that, my job, my profession. I work hard at it, dedicate myself to furthering my education and knowledge and applying it, and I know I make a difference. How does that relate to astronomy? Because observing even when I'm working is something I continue to do as it relaxes and rejuvenates me. See, if I stay out late one night because it is in the new moon area and conditions are great, I am (have always been able to) function the next day and then I can leave at around 3:45p.m., come home and take a nap. It means I have the best of all worlds for me. It also helps to live only 45 minutes from SQM 21.5 to 22.3 skies, blue to gray on the LP maps (the new ones).

So back to the topic. Sorry, I'm in a reflected mood of late. You can see that I'll start having months where about half of the objects or more have been viewed. Then April and May AND June will come when I only got five or six objects in due to the weather. Ughh . . . I hope the weather cooperates more this year.

I will be posing over the next several days my original sketches so people can compare and contrast them. In the future I'll still make my digital sketch but will post the original next to it. That is probably more for me as I realized that this will allow me to see what I like and dislike about each, and what techniques I can transfer from one skill to another. I also hope to get some double star work in and perhaps some lunar before heading back the the Herschels and the DSO's! Clears skies and good working equipment to all of you!


Observations, July 15th through July 16th, 2010; NGC 5689, 5557, 6543, 5322, 6144, 5897, 6171, 6356, 6342, 6369, 6401, M 27

Edit: I've decided to start adding my original sketches next to the digital. I will openly admit I like many of the originals but in most cases of galaxies etc. I prefer the digital as it conveys to me what I saw. In the end each person must decide. Remember I don't claim to be a world class sketcher, just someone who does it to record what my experience and what I saw. Star placements will most likely be off. If you see a correction on the digital from the original, it is because I probably checked the star field and attempted to correct it. I hope you enjoy both and that someone besides me learns from this experience. It is a worthwhile one taking up cloudy nights.

Well back to a "normal" entry I guess. I have wanted to do some lunar observing but tonight is the first night I've had and there are relatives in town. I believe the moon is almost 90% of full so it may not have been good seeing. You'll find in this post that I open up some more about me and this hobby. Hope you don't mind, its part of who I am. You can always ignore it.

Here are my observations from three nights. By the way, I almost have completed the July observing list for O'Meara's book this month. Just one or two objects which I hope to get in a week or so. It has been a LONG time since I have been able to do that type of observing. Spring was not good for observing this year in Utah. As always, the observation details are included in the sketch if you wish to observe them.

1. NGC 5689 Barred Spiral Galaxy. I like the digital sketch I did of this one, a lot.

2. NGC 5557 Elliptical Galaxy

3. NGC 6543 Planetary Nebula Cat's Eye Nebula; The color reflects how my friend Daniel and I observed it that night. It was a great night for viewing and this sketch captures what I saw. Central star is there, as it was that night. You just have to focus on it.

The original sketch:

4. Messier 27, The Dumb-bell nebula. Two sketches that I've posted, I'm posting the one I like the best . . . It brings up a point I constantly go back and forth on. I really enjoy making my digital sketches yet I also like enhancing my actual sketches. I just don't share my actual sketches too much so I may start posting both so people can decide which they like and why. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to the question . . . Which do I prefer, the actual sketch inverted and cleaned up or a digital rendering of the sketch? I will say this sketch means a lot to me, because it was for that moment that I re-captured the thrill of seeing things for the first time, things that really stood out, that my experience and learning have brought out to me. It reminded me of why I drive miles and observe, for moments like this. They are those magic moments I speak of; of the times when I become absorbed in what I am viewing, in what I am recording. I have to remember to breathe, to not jump around the scope and to get on with the business of capturing that moment via a sketch. I guess that night on this object, I realized that yes, sketching has vastly improved me as a visual observer and that is one reason that I sketch. Yet for me, it is not THE reason why I sketch. I sketch because I want to recall the experience, to recapture the emotions, the intellectual thought process, and thus strengthen my memory of the event. So I post my sketches for me, to have a place where they are (one of several sites) so I can see my improvement as a visual observer and as a sketcher, and to show others that if I can do it, so can you.

5. NGC 5322 Elliptical Galaxy:

The original sketch:

6. NGC 6144 Globular Cluster

and the original:

7. NGC 5897 Globular Cluster

and the original:

8. NGC 6171 or Messier 107 Globular Gluster

I observed this but did not sketch it because of time. I've observed it over 5 times over the last several years, and it takes magnification wonderfully. The globular sits at the bottom of an equilateral triangle. Even at low power a bright inner core is evident with individual stars clearly visible. Inner core is 1/4 the size of the entire globular which the remaining 3/4 is the outer halo with individual stars. Summarize this one as small, tight and bright.

9. NGC 6356 Globular Cluster

10. NGC 6342 Globular Cluster

11. NGC 6369 Planetary Nebula and I feel, my best sketch of all my sketches in this set. I really like how I captured what I saw in this sketch. The central star is very close to how I saw it with its outer ring around it.

12. NGC 6401 Globular Cluster

13. NGC 6284 Globular Cluster

Clear skies and good luck in your observing.


David Knisely's Useful Targets for the H-Beta Filter List

I received via PM over at, permission from David to post this list as long as I acknowledge and give him credit for it which I hope I am doing here. If you have a H-Beta filter (I do! See my March 12th, 2010 report where I saw the Horsehead Nebula in Orion with it) note that some of the objects are viewable now, while in July and August with the H-Beta up in Cygnus. So give them a try, I will when I am back to DSO's and leaving the Lunar landscape and double stars alone!

Useful Targets For The H-Beta Filter by David Knisely

While the H-Beta is probably one of the less-used nebula filters, the commonly expressed idea that it works only on a handful of objects is not necessarily true. Here is a list of some of the more prominent objects that the H-Beta may be at least somewhat useful on. Some may require larger apertures, but a few have been seen from a dark sky site by just holding the filter up to the unaided eye and looking at the sky. Some of these will also be helped by a narrow-band filter like the Lumicon UHC.

2. NGC 1499 (CALIFORNIA NEBULA, naked eye and RFT)
3. M43 (part of the Great Orion Nebula)
4. IC 5146 (COCOON NEBULA in Cygnus)
5. M20 (TRIFID NEBULA, main section)
6. NGC 2327 (diffuse nebula in Monoceros)
7. IC 405 (the FLAMING STAR NEBULA in Auriga)
8. IC 417 (diffuse Nebula in Auriga)
9. IC 1283 (diffuse Nebula in Sagittarius)
10. IC 1318 GAMMA CYGNI NEBULA (diffuse nebula in Cygnus)
11. IC 2177: (Diffuse Nebula, Monoceros)
12. IC 5076 (diffuse nebula, Cygnus)
13. PK64+5.1 "CAMPBELL'S HYDROGEN STAR" Cygnus (PNG 64.7+5.0)
14. Sh2-157a (small round nebula inside larger Sh2-157, Cassiopeia)
15. Sh2-235 (diffuse nebula in Auriga).
16. Sh2-276 "BARNARD'S LOOP" (diffuse nebula in Orion, naked eye)
17. IC 2162 (diffuse nebula in northern Orion)
18 Sh2-254 (diffuse nebula in northern Orion near IC 2162)
19. Sh2-256-7 (diffuse nebula in northern Orion near IC 2162)
20. vdB93 (Gum-1) (diffuse nebula in Monoceros near IC 2177)
21. Lambda Orionis nebular complex (very large, naked-eye)

In addition, a number of the brighter nebulae like NGC 7000 or M42 will respond to H-Beta use for revealing certain specific detail, although other filters may provide a somewhat better view overall.

Making a Digital Sketch

Here is another way that I recreate a sketch I've made to be viewed on line. I take my notes. draft and final sketch and then combine them in a digital format using GIMP. My favorite way I cannot do, which is to have the lap top out with me in the field which I do frequently, and create the digital sketch as I am observing it.

Here is NGC 6543 which you can see here. Hope it helps and someone can gain something from this format. The process for doing it in the field is basically the same as what I do here, sans the sketch. I often do a live sketch even with the digital sketch. I like having both. I would like comments if something needs to be clarified, re-shot, more details on something etc. Would someone like me to do each of the objects I show, a PN (done) a Globular, a Galaxy (each of the types, sprial, face on, edge on, tilted, and an elliptical (the easiest)? I'll be doing some open cluster work soon also. Anyway, if I don't hear then I won't post anymore of these.

There will be A LOT of little movies here. I tried to upload just 4 segments of about 8 minutes each and Blogger cannot handle that so I am now going to do much shorter segments. Some may say this isn't sketching, some may say it is. That's up to the individual I figure and what they feel conveys the best image of what they have seen. I have had several requests for a tutorial and I hope this shows those who asked how to create a digital sketch in GIMP either based on a live sketch or based on doing it at the eyepiece.

You may need to turn the volume up on each individual movie to hear it and it is faint.

Part I


Part II


Part III


Part IV


Part V


Part VI


Part VII




Part IX


Part X


Part XI


Part XII




Part XIV


Part XV


Part XVI



Review of XX14i vs XX12i and Using GIMP to digitize your Sketch

I had thought that my uploading of a digital process did not work but it did, so they are below. It shows how I take a sketch, in this case M-27 that I made up at Wolf Creek, and how I take it through the digital process. I rather rushed my process as I usually take about an hour per sketch but put more time into it. I'll be redoing the sketch in a way that I am comfortable but wanted to post this up for good or bad. It isn't the only way to do this, and I would LOVE to see how others who sketch and refine in a digital process do it via a series of video clips on their blogs or websites. Seeing it first hand is one way that I feel is superior to reading it, though as an educator I realize that there are a variety of learning styles, and the more I can incorporate, the more people I can reach and thus that many more people can blow my style out and perhaps I can learn from them (see, there is a selfish reason for doing it, to improve myself). I have one more tutorial that I'll share also and that is taking a sketch and making it into a purely digital record.

Please feel free to review, I hope the videos are in the right order as I quickly went through them. If not, let me know and I can adjust them quite easily in the edit mode. I do hope this helps someone.

I'll also get my observations and sketches from last week up this week.

XX14i vs XX12i

Saturday was our clubs Star Party, and in terms of comparing the XX12i to the XX14i directly I did not get that opportunity as the little brother did not show up on Saturday. I did have our club President view through the XX14i and he said as he would expect the XX14i has a little bit more contrast and light, more detail is seen. I have looked in the 12 and would agree, that I can see somewhat better details, better contrast and I prefer the view in the 14 over the 12. That doesn't mean the XX12i isn't a great scope, I think it is. The 14 is just for me.

Our club president cannot lift the 14 though due to being injured and cannot lift I believe it is over 20lbs for the rest of his life, but don't quote me on the actual weight. Another club officer thought the 14 was wonderful and that at 62, it just might fit with his SCT he has for doing the visual he wants. He felt the weight of the bottom tube and the base were less than his 12 inch SCT in each piece, and had no problem lifting them either. In the end, your not going to go wrong with either scope. I did the 14 because it was a logical step for me from the 10 and I knew a 14 or 15 was at my limits for use and I was right. I have no problem, despite a bad L5/S1 disc with moving the unit. Having lost and continuing to lose weight and doing some weight lifting again has helped a lot though (not heavy weights, just light weights with many reps) as well as doing my daily lap swimming. The only true issue I have now with my 14 is the base and getting it in and out of my office door if I don't want to take it apart. I have it figured out but I scuffed it in a couple of places the first couple of times.

In terms of mirrors our club president felt that the mirrors were of a very good quality, better than those in the standard XT and XTi classic models and that the truss designed nailed the mobility factor. At the Bryce Canyon Festival he talked with several people from Arizona who said they have been testing these mirrors and they come in around 92% to 95%. I'm sure that has to do with the enhanced coatings but I did not get a full explanation of that comment as viewers were coming by.

Tear down time for each is about the same. I can now tear down my XX14i in about 10 to 12 minutes while he can tear down the XX12i in about the same time. He's glad the club purchased the XX12i since it is more portable for most folks, but the views he loved in the XX14i. Intelliscope is the same, mine worked like a charm with a 0.1 warp last night, and all objects in the 68 degree field of the 21mm Stratus, the 13mm Stratus or the FOV of the Ethos 13mm. The eyepieces the scopes come with are the weakest link for both though. Also, if your new to the hobby, you may want support from someone when you build yours to make it working the best out of the box. Both scopes are a work in progress and one must realize that (took me two weeks of fidgeting to get it where I want it which it is now and I LOVE mine).

Would I change and get the 12 over the 14? Nope. The collapsible base, the increase in contrast and in details, and the fun the scope brings is worth the extra size. I pulled in M3 on Saturday in twilight with the sun just under the horizon. There is enough light bucket in the 14 to give it a slight edge over the 12 in my opinion. If you want portability, with less weight and not much of a diminished view, then go for the 12. If you can handle the weight, then go for the 14.

The final thought is that if you compared them to a Starmaster, an Obsession, a Teeter, these will do ok, but the premium dobs will blow them away in motions and in views. However, the question that the purchaser must ask, is the additional cost worth it to them? In the end only those who are spending purchasing can make that decision.

How to take a Sketch and use the freeware program GIMP to make it into a digital record:



















Here's the quick and dirty completed sketch of M-27 from the above tutorial in case you want to view. It will be posted per above (with more time and care given to it) in my observing report sometime this week:

Here is a quick digital version I did up (I see I left off a star) but you can decide which you prefer.


Wolf Creek Utah Observing Site

I went to Wolf Creek last night, observing til 4:00a.m., packing up and going to sleep in the sleeping bag and my two person tent and had a blast! Lots of things happen. I observed 12 Herschels with sketches; 4 more galaxy pairs, several planetary nebula, and M-27 where I observed the central star and according to my sketch I made, there were 8 observable stars within the nebula. That was the first time I have observed the central star in M-27, so though not exciting for many, it was for me. More on that in a coming post.

I wanted to post some pictures I took of the site and share what it looks like, which is vastly different from the West Desert of Utah. I will be processing my sketches this weekend from my observations of the last three days and then get them up by Sunday night.

Here are the images of Wolf Creek:

Coming down Highway 35 from Francis near the pass you'll turn right at this sign.

After turning here, you'll see the bathrooms in the group camping area but you'll turn another immediate right onto the dirt road that winds around and through a campground area. This is the last stop of Forest Service potties so if you don't like using nature, get out here and use them. The road comes out of the campground area to the image below and it is rough in places (see below) so pay attention. If you want to view, and it is beautiful, have a friend or family member drive, or stop and look around! Also, watch out for wildlife, they are around.

Yes, the road is rough in stops. Here a wash out has exposed rocks (was there last year also). I've taken a Nissan Altima up there with no problem.

Eventually as you go out about 2 miles on this dirt forest service road, you'll come to a Y or some call it a T fork. You'll be going left here. Make sure you go left, not right.

After turning you'll see this forest service road marker:

Here is a closer image of the forest service road marker:

This is how you know you're on the right way. Right after the turning left and the forest service road marker, you'll see this shot up "Dead End" sign. Your heading in the right direction (the Dead End sign may or may not be there anymore).

Coming down this road you are at about 10,000 feet in elevation or 3048 meters for this outside of the United States. That is an open ridge to the right and forest to the left. The forest on the left has unimproved campsites where you can park a camper, set up a tent etc. for spending the night. This is what I did last night and often when I come here as it is 1 1/2 hour drive home and when finishing a session at 4:00a.m., I'm on a Rocky Mountain high from observing but that fades as I tear down and the sleeping bag or cot, depending on what I bring is looking good.

You can following this road for 0.8 miles or 1.29 kilometers, you'll come to a wide open meadow and a wide ridge (its to the right of the road) with plenty of sage bush this year because of our very wet spring. Usually it isn't so covered and there are some wonderful places to set up. Yes, just simply turn on to the ridge and drive out. Watch out though, sheep like this area and there is usually plenty of sheep poo reminders around (dried usually).  Actually, there isn't a bad spot unless you set up in an unimproved camp site and only have zenith.

A famous grove of trees that are out near the edge of the ridge line.

Once in a while I don't set up on the ridge, and for  this night I chose to set up not out on the ridge, or open area, but right before it. There was a unimproved campsite behind me and it provides outstanding views to the east, south and west, while the north is only impacted up to 20 degrees by the trees. It worked for me this night.

Duchesene Ridge. Scopes by the many can set up here if they want.

Here you can get a feel for the views of the sky I had from my set up. I'm not one to get into a mode that I have to setup on the same spot as I like to mix things up and try new things. Results in growth in life I believe. Anyway, I do get to the point though that I will have four or five spots I like to set up and this is one of them. This pictures is looking east.

Looking south included SE to S to SW:

Looking west to north-west

Looking north. Like I said, your blocked from about 20 degrees down but I don't want to look at anything in the north that low anyway . . . it is either getting to low, or it is rising and will come up in the sky later. The cap is on because someone was driving by and the road is about 20 yards to the south and I didn't want dust on the equipment . . . yeah, who am I kidding about no dust. Isn't that a known impact from going to a dark site?

Looking SE, S to SW with the Belt of Venus (dedicated to Jeremy Perez for his wonderful site and inspiration).

Looking east to south-east with the Belt of Venus visible.

Looking south to south-west.

I love to hike, and I don't mention it to most outside of my family, but my biology/forestry days made me learn over 300 native plants, native to the Western United States and about 100 wildflowers. It's a hobby that has grown and remains with me and I think I may get into sketching them as well. Here are some images as I tend to take pictures instead of sketching them.

Magic time. I can feel the peace and calm of being alone and up in the high country. More on the session coming up and a review of the views between the XX12i and the XX14i. The images are different than the desert ones but both are very beautiful in their own way. May the skies be clear where you are.