Burnham's Books Hardcover for $42.00

I saw a post from the Friends of the Trinity Library on CloudyNights where they were selling Burnham's Celestial Handbook, Volumes 1 to 3 for $30.00. I contacted them initially and someone had beat me to them. About a week or two later I was contacted by the Friends and asked if I still wanted them. Having Volumes I and II in paper, I jumped at a chance to get them in hardback. I sent a money order off for the amount of $42.00, happy to know I was supporting a library cause, happy to know I was getting a three volume set in hardback I wanted, and content with the price. I'm sure someone can let me know I can get these cheaper for new, but that's alright, I am content.

I have to admit I thought these were used library copies, but they were not. They are used, but the backs of each book is in excellent shape, the pages are firm in their binding and the covers have no tears. Volume I is a rich volume and one that I have enjoyed reading in paperback. This hard bound edition will last a lot longer if not used in the field and kept in my home library for use their. Here it is:

Volume 2 is the volume in paperback that I have not been able to find and I am anxious to devour this book. It also is in wonderful shape for its age, and is a tremendous asset to my collection of books.

Here is a face on and a edge on photo of Volume II:

Volume 3 is like Volume I for me. I have the paperback and am excited to own the hardback. This frees me up to take the paperbacks on travels and trips to read. I know that Burnham's needs to be updated, but it reads beautifully. I really do enjoy the descriptions and the information there. Perhaps someday it will be updated without impact Burnham's original work or writing style. If your an amateur, I highly recommend these book to you. Now to track down that paperback Volume II!

Here is Volume III's image:

So I guess I need to get that Wolf Creek Pass observation posted in the next day or two! This week I am planning on getting in the backyard on Tuesday night to do some observing of the objects I saw at Wolf Creek Pass in mid August from my light polluted home, and then I may sneak away Wednesday night to a dark site or just the backyard (I need to see when the sun sets and the wanning moon rises) and then I'll be out on Friday and Saturday night.


Pentax 14mm XW Eyepiece and 10mm

Here is my review of the Pentax 14mm XW and the 10mm XW. I did not pull the 10mm out because I left it with my new eyepiece case down at our cabin with the 20" Obsession we own now. It will be home tonight though as a friend is bringing that case back up. It has my digital also with my pictures of the cabin and the observatory but I'm not sure if I'll post pictures of that up, or just the scope.

I was very excited to get the 14mm and the 10mm Pentax XW. The 10mm Pentax has a clear, sharp field and all the stars are pinpoint from center to the edge. Its 70 degree FOV is just perfect for my taste, having cut my teeth with the 68 degree Stratus line. I suffer from astigmatism so I usually wear my glasses while observing and I went with this line because of the wonderful 20mm eye relief. The eyepiece comes with a bolt case to hold it, and caps to protect both ends of the eye piece. In today's world, 70 degrees may not seem like much anymore, but I never felt cramped in my views and I do feel fully saturated while looking in the EP. It also has an adjustable eye-cup. No complaints from me, and if you wear glasses while observing, and want a top end EP, the Pentax XW series are for you. The 10mm has no curvature that I could detect or others who have viewed through it. The 14mm has some field curvature. The 10mm worked perfectly with no paracorr needed in either the F5 20" Obsession or the f4.6 Orion XX14i.

I have an image of this EP so I'll post it. The Pentax 14mm XW eyepiece is also a wonderful eyepiece. The build on both is rock solid and it has the same features of the 10mm. This eyepiece does have some field curvature here, viewable looking at the moon or at a planet as it transits across the FOV, but not enough to honestly bother me. I've read of others not liking the 14mm and either returning it or selling it. I love the eye relief here and for DSO's it is a keeper (which is the majority of my viewing). It works well with a Paracorr which eliminates the curvature. I may just keep the Meade 28mm that I got and be done. We'll see. By the way, both the 10mm and the 14mm barlow quite well and I enjoyed their views.

I know many compare the Televue's to the Pentax and the Meade's, but since I own a Stratus 13mm I thought I would compare Apples to Oranges here.

Why am I doing this comparison some may ask? I guess it goes back to a fundamental philosophy that the Pentax broke in me, that I don't think you have to spend huge dollars to be involved in this hobby and be satisfied. The 13mm Stratus in my Orion XX14i provides a magnification of 123x at 68 degrees FOV in my XX14i, while the 14mm Pentax provides a 114x at 70 degrees FOV. The Pentax in terms of contrast, field of view and holding the image wins hands down. The 13mm Stratus has about 25% coma and though not too bad, it does impact the view. For now I am keeping my Stratus and I'll be using it at Star Parties, perhaps. I may end up selling them, though right now I am leaning to keeping a couple for outreach. The bottom line in my opinion is this. The Stratus/Hyperion's give an okay view for $100.00. Does it equal the $300.00 Pentax EP's? No, absolutely no way. I've used the Stratus for 2 years now and have enjoyed them, and still use some of them. They are an alternative to owning to the more expensive EP's but they fail to compete head to head with the Pentax. Are they perfect? Nope. Are there better EP's that provide a wider FOV like the Meade UWA or SWA? Yes, and if I had had more experience I probably would have gone with the Meade EP's but I didn't and the Stratus/Hyperion's fill a niche and that is where the should fit in. For a new beginner, I really recommend the Meade first, then the Hyperion/Stratus. I will be keeping a couple of the five I have in my eyepiece case. Remember, you can get three of them or two Meade's for the price of one Pentax. A last thought? If you buy premium, you'll keep the premium longer and use them more. If not, you can sell most premium's off for a close used price to what you paid for them new. I'm glad I went with the Pentax XW's and they work for me.

Red Light, Night Vision and does it matter.

Not sure if I have posted this before, but Alice over at Alice's Astro Info has a wonderful article on Red Light and night vision. I recommend you head over and take a look. Basically she uses both primary and secondary sources (a few from the web so be careful) but the one from the U.S. Navy is quite interesting. She has links to her sources which helps immensely in following up with them. What does Alice find from going through these studies?

That red light is the best color to use. Specifically she states that it is the "rich ruby-red, not so much an orangey-red or pinky-red" that is the best. Also, that "you always need to be using the dimmest possible light to keep your night vision" and finally, that she, Alice, will "also probably only use them(her two red light sources) when I’m digging in my telescope bag or checking the site of my telescope set up to make sure I haven’t left anything behind. Don’t forget – humans have pretty good night vision – use it." Don't be afraid to get dark adapted and to use it . . . sometimes you just may not need a light to see that star chart, are only a very faint one at that. I recommend checking out Alice's site, especially if your in the Seattle area. She lists some good areas to view from up there. Also check out her table of contents, some decent articles are in there also. More to come shortly.


Star Party Guidelines Sept 3rd and 4th Observing

I've had a few requests on guidelines for Star Parties and thought I would do a post on that. I've gathered information from a few local people and a few books. Having stated that I am going observing next Friday and Saturday at either Wolf Creek Pass or Lakeside. Wolf Creek Pass will be in the low 70's by day and the low 30's by night. That means winter dressing for me; layers. I wear hunting under garments (like long johns but meant for hunting and very warm); then some sweat pants, then wool pants and then snow pants. Upper body is a hunting under garment/long john, followed by a LONG tee shirt that is tucked in and then a long sweat shirt, followed by a wool shirt followed by a hooded sweatshirt and then if needed a military outer sweater I have and then my coat. Also a camo or black balaclava is on my head, and either wool mittens that allow my fingertips and thumb tips out or a pair of gloves that do the same. I'll post up pictures and a post on winter gear later.
Lakeside is forecasted next Friday to be clear in the low 50's and that is sounding better temperature wise, but I love Wolf Creek. I'll post later in the week which site I am going to.

Back to etiquette. One, if you come with me, realize all my sites but SPOC have no restrooms. Well, Wolf Creek Pass Campgrounds are about 2 miles from the observing site and there are restrooms there but all others require a shovel, and about 6 to 10 inch hole dug before one does their business; number two that is. Number one is easy unless your female and then you just have to go out a ways from the observing site. So the first rule is find out about restrooms and the rules for them. It helps to know if you need a small shovel with you and toilet paper (I always bring both).

Next, though I am a celiac and have to eat gluten free, my food is tasty and I share drink and food if someone did not bring any. However, I have to admit, I have someone I share with and I always find the wrapper or the can on the ground after they have left and before I leave (I always check the area before I leave or tear down). Leave the area your observing in, in better condition than when you got there. Take a garbage bag to clear out your garbage and anyone else who is there and doesn't.

Take your time if viewing in someone else's scope so you can compare. I want to hear what others say when they are done. A quick view doesn't do the owner justice. Also ask, but don't be afraid to focus the viewer. My eyes are not your eyes, and I expect you to focus. Unsure, I'll tell you how otherwise I assume you know how.

Brought music? Ask before you blare it or bring an iPod or MP3 and use headphones to respect others in the area viewing. By yourself, blare away if you want.

Don't bring pets if your observing with others. If someone brings a pet I'm more worried about my equipment then about viewing. Want your fido/dog with you, observing alone.

Driving in be aware others may already be there so when you get close on a dirt road, slow down and minimize your dust impact. No one wants a cloud of dust when you show up so just be careful.

Bring your own food, be willing to share, but bring food and water or a drink (no alcohol, I don't like observing with drunks), or save it for after the session. Your body need the energy and the liquid while your observing.

A chair. I recommend an observing chair and one to just sit in and relax and talk in.

Smoking. Ask before smoking or if you must, move down wind and be away from the observing area so your light and smoke does not interfere with those observing or their equipment. I don't mind if someone is a smoker, I just don't want to breathe it, have it near my optics or equipment or clothing. Please just go down wind and out of the sight of those observing.

Respect those who may be astro-imaging. There are times they are heavily engaged and times when they are not. Offer to share views but if they ignore you, don't take it personally.

Arrive 1 hour before dark if at all possible. It gets hard to find a site after dark and scopes are up. Also, people don't like headlights coming down on them after setting up and observing for awhile.

Tell several people where your going and how to get there. Just in case something happens in terms of health, a run in with someone or something it is just common sense to do this. I do this with camping and with hiking and it can save your life.

I teach this to my students, and it is good here. Be respectful, be courteous and be kind. There is far too much anger; far too much hate; far too much hurt feelings in this world. Saying "Please" and "Thank You" really are not out of style, at least in my world. If we each would commit to being a little kinder and understanding, I personally feel the world could slowly become a better place to be in.

There are others, and feel free in comments to add some, but I felt these are a good start. My skies tonight are partly cloudy with winds around 30mph with gusts to 50mph so no observing for me. Perhaps tomorrow night. I will post up my other posts tomorrow I've been talking about.


3 more posts. . . and then . . . that's all ?

Ok, I have three more posts to get up. One, I need to film my XX14i with the intelliscope darkened out completely and working. Yes, it can be done and I've been doing it for some time now. Next, a review of the Pentax 10mm and 14mm lenses. Finally, my posts from my last observing trip up to Wolf Creek Pass in mid August.

After that, I am not sure what I want to do. I have some Herschel 400 left to post up, and that was the original purpose of this blog. So, I may just stick to the Herschel 400 and let it go at that and then start a new blog or a new website. Or I may just keep this one as it does contain a lot of information on it about me and my observing.

I did start a new project that I am excited about. I am sketching some of the brighter objects or better known objects in dark zones and then doing the same from a light polluted zone. The objective is show how LP impacts the view of objects in different zones so that someone can get on and see that impact in two contrasting sketches. I'll include both the digital observations with them in both audio and written form so a full comparison can be made. Ultimately this is a project that I want to do for the fun of it, knowing that I'll see the contrast and knowing it will be great.

Another project will be to view a bunch of planetary nebula, since they are one of my favorite deep sky objects. Finally, I may start the H-400 II . Let me know if you have a thought on whether to keep the site to only the H-400 or to include my other projects.


Okay, after several emails and a few phone calls locally that people were afraid I was deleting the blog that is not going to happen. I was thinking of only moving it but based on input I will leave it up and going. I'm not going to specialize the blog but will leave it the way it is. Now that the work schedule is more secure I'll get back to posting some stuff this weekend. Thanks for the input.


Observations of August 10th through the 11th 2010; NGC 6633, 6712, 6553; 7000, 6756, 6583, 6544, 6540, 6520, 6569, 6528 & 6522, 6118, 6624, 6445

Long time, and I'm sorry. Life has caught up to me in many ways but that's not for here. Happy times here. These are two days of observations, some done in my backyard, the Herriman, Utah ones, and some done at one of my dark sites, Pit~n~Pole in Rush Valley, Utah. I won't put them in any specific order, I'm tired and 6:00a.m. comes early. I have a review of the Pentax EP's to put up, some pictures of my 20 inch scope and my observations at Wolf Creek. I have a new idea I am pursuing as I am caught up on my Herschels until December (I'll hit them in September or October I hope) and it is a fun project. I'll share more later in another post when I can on that. So, material is there, so keep track of the blog because this is the week of updates with the full moon hitting and the monsoon is back here in northern Utah.

My sketches here will be originals and digital sketches unless I only did one or the other. I did not do sketches on all the items listed and I will post my observations for the ones I did not sketch sometime this week. Again, I'm back so here we go!

NGC 6118 Spiral Galaxy

NGC 6445

NGC 6520 Open Cluster!!!!! Yes, it was fun to view an OC again and this was a very pretty one. See it if you can before summer is gone! The original was on the observation paper and I did not scan that.

NGC 6522 and NGC 6528; two globular clusters in the same field of view and it presents a nice image and I recommend this as another one to view, observe and sketch before summer is gone.

NGC 6569 Globular Cluster:

NGC 6553 Globular Cluster

NGC 6544 Globular Cluster

NGC 6569 Globular Cluster

NGC 6624 Globular Cluster

NGC 6569 Globular Cluster

NGC 6712 Globular Cluster

NGC 6633 Open Cluster: Another to go view while summer is still available.


XX14i Update, info and Observing

Well, I am processing my sketches digitally and the originals so I'll have those up soon. I also want to talk about testing a mirror, and what that all means. I spent five days last week observing, from home, from Pit n Pole in Rush Valley in the Utah West Desert and up at Wolf Creek Pass. Wolf Creek Pass is at 9879 feet as measured by a GPS unit and the SQM gave me a reading of 22.2 that night up there. Nice and dark! Pit n Pole gave me a SQM of 21.7 that same week so it was a good week of observing. Skies were average at best in terms of seeing, but it was clear and just after a new moon so it was good to be observing!

I want to talk about mirrors and why its important to try to get the best mirror possible for the instrument that you use. A lot of my information is going to be taken from Royce Optical Please check out their site as it is quite informational. I recently had my mirror tested to determine the quality of the mirror and its flaws. My mirror was tested by two people who have complete trust in their ability to determine the quality of the mirror. I do not have permission to share their names though at this time. Each tested the mirror separately. The mirror according to them tested out quite nicely, in the low to mid 90's on the Strehl ratio. To understand more of that I recommend the Royce's article called A Better Way for Measuring Optical Performance. A few quotes from the article may entice you to read the article:

"As a final note, the Strehl ratio derived from an interferometric measurement of the RMS wavefront error represents a ceiling on the attainable performance. In use, a mirror will never attain this performance, mostly because of seeing, but also because of collimation errors and errors from the other optical elements in the path. Even the steadiest nights at the best sites do not allow a system to achieve this performance, but it can come quite close."

What does it mean? Though I got lucky (because with a mass produce scope I believe it is luck) and got an excellent mirror in my XX14i, it doesn't mean that I will be able to always maximize my mirror to the fullest of its capabilites because of collimation errors, the sky/atmosphere conditions, an average secondary etc.

However, since SO many are visual learners, I wanted to share from the Royce site what the impact on the wave error is to viewing. A computer simulation of Jupiter was used to show the impact. You can see it frame by frame here or see all the images at one time here; this surely shows the impact of wavelength error or Strehl ratios on the views your telescope will provide to you.

What is the take away from this? First, I realize not everyone is going to have their mirrors tested on mass marketed scopes. I did for the sake of knowing what the quality of the mirror is in the XX14i. In the end, I know what my star tests shows me, a very good to excellent mirror and one that does quite well in both light polluted and dark skies. If you want to do a basic star test to gauge the quality of your mirror use this link from Starizona's site. If your interested in conducting a test of your mirror see this link on the knife edge method. One of the testers has his own setup and the other had this one from Edmund's Scientific that was used to test my mirror.

Now, after all of this, I want to share an article and some quotes from an article on mirror quality that I really enjoyed reading. It is called
What's Important in Optical Quality to Amateur Observers (And what's not) by John Lightholder. Mr Lightholder states in the article:

"Actually, the user of the scope has the most influence over how his mirror performs, more so than the mirror's limitations expressed by its absolute error. I'd even go so far as to state that a well-collimated 1/2-wave peak-to-valley wavefront (pvwf) mirror/system will perform better than a casually collimated one with a 1/20-wave peak-to-valley-wavefront (pvwf) primary mirror. I've known people who were absolutely amazed at how well their system performed when they got serious about their collimation. If you consider how slight a component misplacement or optical path difference results in a 1-wave error (which is only about .2 ten-thousandths of an inch), then you realize how quickly poor collimation can ruin your fine mirror's images. And if you have a lesser quality mirror, it suffers even more from de-collimation. Having an good-to-excellent mirror gives a slight but significant advantage when seeing is marginal but not quite "over the edge."

He actually says a lot here I believe. You may have a poor or only good mirror, but much of what you see is in your control. A great mirror poorly collimated will show less than a so so mirror that is greatly collimated by its owner. His point on 1-wave error in collimation is significant too. So being able to be fully collimated is critical to improving the image of the objects your viewing. Of course, an excellent mirror in poor seeing conditions will show more and perform better, if collimated, but in the end it is the user that determines who well the mirror performs on the object they see. To summarize Mr. Lightholder:

"The most fundamental aspect of observing, the FUN of it, is an observer looking through the telescope at an object. (And, hopefully, the telescope won't get in the way!) A telescope that gets used provides limitless hours of in-depth, four-dimensional observing experience."

Here's hoping the quality of your telescope is good, that it doesn't get in your way, and that it provides you many hours of in depth enjoyment. I'll get those observations up shortly.


New Light Pollution Maps

I just wanted to take a moment and point everyone to two sites that discuss the development of new light pollution maps for the United States. Dave, did a review of satellite data from 2001 that results in darker skies in much of the U.S. vs the old maps which included snow on the ground, and that probably increased the light being reflected upward towards the satellites. This link takes you to Dave's new LP maps and a comparison of the old one with the new one. This link takes you to a wonderful presentation by Dave on CloudyNights in the Light Pollution thread about it.

I do have to say that though the colored zones don't match up exactly with my SQM data, sites can actually be darker than the colored listed from my findings, they are much closer to what I observe and record data in from my SQM than before. So go ahead, click on the links, read up and then see if your observing sites here in the U.S. have improved. Sorry, I don't think this has gone outside of the U.S. yet. :(


This Week and New Observing Ideas

Well, Monday I did the backyard and yesterday, I was at a dark site and got over 20 items. I have completed O'Meara's August targets and moved on to some of my own lists. I should get out one or two more times so I will be posting my observations and sketches soon. I'm going to post my original sketches and then add in the digital ones later. So be patient, I have a full review of the XX14i coming, my observations, reviews of some new equipment and I have the Pentax XW SMC eyepieces (the 7mm, the 14mm and the 20mm). So plenty of stuff coming on the blog. Plus, a new feature since I am currently just trying to finish the Herschel 400 list that I didn't get last year due to weather I have a new project. I am going to makes lists of objects of the more popular and sketch them from my backyard, and then go to a dark site and re-observe and sketch them. I'll then publish the copyrighted material here along with my digital recordings, and put together a Venn Diagram (yep, the educator coming out . . . it is two interlocking circles where you put in the area where the circles share the things they have in common, and in the space they don't share the things that are unique to them). It should make for a good compare and contrast, while hopefully encouraging some to get to a dark site or at least to identify a difference in what they are seeing.

Edit: WOW!!!!! I just went through my records and I nailed all of the Herschel 400's by month that O'Meara has in his book for September, October and November except for an open cluster and galaxy for November!!!!! That means I need to come up with something more to do for the fall!!!!!

1. I like my compare and contrast idea and am going to move ahead with that. If you have ideas of objects please let me know. My idea here and it is copyrighted now, is to sketch and describe some of the targets in the Messier and NGC that people at 1 year or so of observing (or less) may observe by season, and then sketch them in a LP zone and at a dark site and describe the differences. Looking for about 12 to 15 objects per season (Summer: June, July August; Fall: September, October, November; Winter: December, January, February; Spring: March, April, May).

2. Planetary List. Love Planetary Nebula and I'm going after a bunch.

3. Pick a constellation and start at the bottom of it and work my way up and look at the items in the constellation, make a sketch of some good but perhaps not so well known objects.

4. Your ideas. Let me know if you have a visual tour that you really enjoy. I counted up the Herschels and I now have over 280 (283) of them and I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, though it is still far away!

Anyone use my monthly Herschel list that I post in Google Docs? Just wondering if I should not add the last 3 months of the year to it and let that go or not. I'm tired, clear but extremely windy and I go to work at 7:00a.m. tomorrow (yep, summer is ending for this educator) so off to bed I go. May your skies be clear.


Observing Tonight and Possible Aurora Again

I am heading out to the Rush Valley/Pit n Pole observing site tonight and anyone is welcome to come along. Directions can be found in this link or in this link from my blog that has links to pictures. I'll be leaving at 6:30p.m. tonight to get out there and to set up since the sun sets at 20:32 or 8:32p.m. (YEAH, it's starting to getting earlier!!!!).

Your welcome to come out. If someone wants to follow me you can call me if your a member of SLAS or email me and I can arrange to meet you at the Walmart Parking Lot on Highway 73 around 7:00p.m. I got out in the backyard last night and had just a wonderful night, got 4 Herschels and just enjoyed viewing some old friends. More on that later. I should finish the other 9 Herschels I have and then its time for some Planetary Nebula hunting!!!! is hinting at the possibility of another aurora tonight (don't have high hopes) so I'll be watching for that and looking for some Perseids Meteroids which should be viewable quite nicely out there. So if your bored on a Tuesday night, come out to Rush Valley and hang out at the Pit n Pole.


Lakeside Postponed

The Clear Sky Clock forecast has changed and conditions today are not looking favorable for Lakeside. As a result we are postponing observing as a group til next weekend. SLAS has some star parties but I am still going to head out to either Wolf Creek or Lakeside next weekend. I'll keep this posted. Sorry, I can't control the weather and if you can, please let me know!


Saturday is Lakeside, Your Invited, and Lakeside Directions

A small group of us, about 3-4, depending who shows up, and more are welcome, are taking our telescopes out to the West Desert Saturday to the Lakeside Site to do some personal observing. If you have a telescope, binoculars and would like to join us, you are welcome to do so (or if you want to come see what we do when we are not doing public star parties or public events come out).

Edit: I forgot to mention, it gets COLD out here, even in the summer so dress in or bring layers. I wouldn't do shorts. If your layered you can always take items off or put them on. If your in shorts and a tee shirt your going to get cold, maybe even really cold. So layer up, I wear a pair of long-johns and sweats min. at this time of the year and usually I wear another layer of non-cotton pants over that since cotton doesn't hold body heat well. I have a under shirt, followed by a long tee shirt, and then a nice warm long sleeve shirt, a hooded sweatshirt and a jacket. I wear the tee shirt first, then put items on as it cools. I'll do a write up on cold weather clothing in about a month.

Review guidelines. First, once we are there, please make sure if you think you'll leave before those observing that your car is pointed away from us and toward the exit area. Please no headlights until AFTER you leave the parking area, have turned left on the road to go to the main road and are past the 5 foot dirt ramp. That helps those who are observing to stay dark adapted and is truly appreciated. No problem leaving early, and I'll show you how to get out and where to turn your lights on (parking lights would be okay). Last, red lights only in the area please. I use one to sketch so if that bothers you, please don't set up next to me.

I will be at the Flying J off exit 99 off of I-80 Westbound tomorrow at 6:30p.m. If you want to follow me out, that is fine. I drive a blackpathfinder. I'll probably bring the 14 inch scope but I may, just may, bring the 20 inch Obsession that I brought back to do some work on it (mods) but it is in the basement apart and I don't think I'll have time to put it back into working condition before transporting it back to my observatory in southern Utah at our cabin.

If you cannot make it, then here is a link to a map of how to get out there:

SLAS Map to Lakeside

Here is the map:

Here is the link to my SLAS Gallery that has the pictures showing how to get there using this map:

Here are the pictures:

I-80 West Bound to exit 62:

Exit the freeway, go right and then at this sign stay to the left on the paved road, well kinda of paved at that point, it goes back to nice pavement in a second and you'll see that on the next picture:

You wind around and then follow this road out to a sign that has thee posts, on being Big Canyon and says turn left . . .

At this sign turn left on to the dirt road for Big Canyon and Well No. 78 . . . hmmm . . . do I tell you about Well No. 78 yet? Nah, you have to come out to hear that story.

This is the dirt road you turn left on and it will go to those hills/mountains to the west and that is good if it is humid, as it gets you up and out of it. Right after you turn here (and you can see it in the picture) there is a bump and then a place to drive into like a large dirt parking area.

THIS IS WHERE YOU TURN RIGHT to get to where we set up and observe:

There is the dirt embankment to the east and it buffers the one or two cars from the main road that come out there sometimes so their light doesn't kill your eyes too bad:

If you have followed my blog you've seen my images of being out here. Beautiful and dark! So if you want to get some observing time in this weekend, or enjoy the stars and the outdoors, please come out!


Aurora Borealis Outing in Salt Lake Area

On Sunday the Sun let out a major burst of energy that should cause some Aurora's tonight. See this site. I know some are not members of the Utah Astronomy Mailing group or of SLAS but watch my blog. This is for local observers sorry. at 10:00p.m. at the Flying J off exit 99 (the exit you take to go to Tooele exit and Stansbury Park) and depart at 10:00p.m. from the Flying J to go out to the West Desert to try and see the Aurora. I may have to have a lease signed and IF I do I'll be doing that but if not I'm joining in and heading out with some binoculars with me. So if your local and looking for something to do tonight, this may be it. I'd join Utah-Astronomy and read the email postings on this so you can stay on top of it or in case it is canceled. I won't be able to post more on this until tomorrow.

Here's the latest plan:

We will meet at the Flying J just off of I-80 exit #99 at 10:00 tonight and then proceed west on I-80 to the Grantsville exit #84 and then north a short piece to get away from the freeway lights and the light of the nearby salt plant."

Well, I ended up not being able to go as I went to Cabelo's with my son to get him stuff for a backpacking trip he is taking this weekend. He should have a blast. By the time we got back it was 9:40p.m. or so and too late for the drive. It looks like no Aurora was seen as it was too far north.

Looks like Wolf Creek Pass for me this weekend. If your in the Salt Lake Area and would like to spend time observing come on up. I'm camping so it should be fun. Observe if the weather is good and then sleep in during the day and check out the equipment and sleep some more or more likely visit and get to know people, or read that summer book.


Limiting Magnitude Sky Features

First of a couple of posts today. I came upon this some time ago from another web site and I did not write or keep a link so I cannot give proper credit to the site outside of acknowledging this.
So I post it here hoping it will give some of you some guidelines for Limiting Magnitude.

LM Sky Features
4.5 - 5.0 Milky Way and Zodiacal light are invisible. Typical conditions found in suburbs of
major cities. Passing clouds are easily seen due to being lighted up from surrounding

5.1 - 5.5 The indistinct Milky Way is faintly visible only near zenith. Zodiacal light is still
invisible. M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is barely discernible.

5.6 - 6.0 The Milky Way is now more easily seen, but lacks detail. M13, the Great Hercules
globular star cluster can now be just glimpsed when near zenith. The Zodiacal light
is still invisible. The winter Milky Way from Auriga through Orion is still invisible.

6.1 - 6.5 The Milky Way is now obvious and some detail can be glimpsed. The Zodiacal light is
now barely visible, but not obvious. The winter Milky Way from Auriga through
Orion is faintly visible. There is still noticeable skyglow along the horizon due to
distant towns and cities.

6.6 - 7.0 Much sructure is visible in the Milky Way above. The Zodiacal light is an obvious
cone of light. The major constellations are less obvious due to "noise" caused by the
large number of faint stars now visible. Passing clouds appear as dark moving
masses as they block the natural skyglow from the Milky Way. A few sources of
skyglow are still visible along the horizon.

7.1 + INCREDIBLE! The Milky Way contains enormous amount of structure all the way to
the horizon and you can easily see your way around by its light. The Zodiacal light
now encircles the entire ecliptic. There are no sources of skyglow along any part of
the horizon. Meteors are easily visible.

It's rough, I'm not sure I agree with it all but it is a guideline and I guess if taken that way, it can help to evaluate sky conditions. I prefer actual weather conditions and the SQM or Sky Quality Meter (google it if your not sure what a SQM is).