Sketches of Previous Sketches

While I've been sick, I spent some time re-sketching a few items from the last year using the new method I learned from Alex based on Scott Mellish. So I thought I would include these here.

ARP 319 or Stephen's Quintent from last September, 2010.

NGC 7479 in Pegasus

Review of The Cambridge Double StarAtlas and The Cambridge Atlas of Herschel Objects

Well, I am beginning to feel much better (finished my double dose of antibiotics; yep, two at once) but the weather here in northern Utah continues to be very poor. Clouds and rain, well over an inch this weekend from the current storm. There is more water in the snowpack in the higher elevations of the mountains then the reservoirs hold empty, so, we are looking at flooding I fear in June. The good news is the weather looks excellent next weekend and the moon will only be a thin waxing crescent so there will be some observing done!

Today I want to review The Cambridge Double Star Atlas and my latest pick up, The Cambridge Atlas of Herschel Objects that I got back in April. I also picked up about 2 or 3 weeks ago a copy of the Deluxe Office Edition of the Sky Atlas 2000.0 version 2 that is laminated and I'll do another write up on that. Now that I am starting to feel healthy again, I need to swing by and pay Steve for that this week.



A couple of years ago I started getting bored with only observing for 2 weeks a month IF the weather holds up during new moon. I admit, I am an observable alcoholic, and during new moon I will observing at my site that is about 45 minutes away even on a work night. I can function relatively well on about 5 hours of sleep and then rest the next evening. However, I began to allow the moon to interfere with my observing and I wanted to expand my horizons. At that time, I decided to do the Astronomical League's Double Star Club list. This provided me with the avenue of giving me something to do during non DSO observing time. I found the list fun and during my time with it, The Cambridge Double Star Atlas came out and I picked one up.

First Impressions

When I first looked at the Double Star Atlas I thought it might server as a replacement for the Sky Pocket Atlas by Sky&Telescope. The Double Star Atlas is larger, spiral bound and is much easier to use in some cases. The problem with it when compared to the Sky Pocket Atlas, is that it is missing some key Deep Sky Objects that many observers want and that are in the Sky Pocket Atlas. For example. In the Double Star Atlas in O'Meara's August list, NGC 6445 a PN in Satitarrius is not included, nor is NGC 6528, NGC 6522, NGC 6540 which are globular clusters and two open clusters, NGC 6583 and NGC 6756. These are all included in the Pocket Sky Atlas.

Evaluation after Field Use

As I stated above, there are DSO's that are missing from the Double Star Atlas that are in the Sky Pocket Atlas. But one MUST remember the purpose of the Double Star Atlas; to guide you to Double Stars. The paper is not laminated, but my atlas copy has never had a problem with dew. The paper is thick and sturdy, and holds up well to being folded on the spine. This is an easy to view Atlas that makes those in their middle forties or above, who are starting to have issues with reading glasses easier to use than the Sky Pocket Atlas.

Review of the Atlas

The Double Star Atlas takes the user to 7.5 magnitude with the stars, while plotting companion stars down to around 10.5 magnitude. So there are fainter stars in the atlas from 7.5. There are a total of 25000 stars visible with the Atlas. Some pairs of stars fainter than 7.5 are also plotted because of their "striking color contrast or other striking backgrounds or difficult component configurations."

In both cases, the Introduction is an outstanding contributor to the Atlas itself. It is one that most observers will want to review, even if your very or highly experienced. Never hurts to have a good reminder of some wonderful tips. One of my favorite quotes from the Introduction is this one:

"It has often been stated that the person behind the eyepiece of a telescope is far more important than the size or type or quality of the instrument itself."

"It was Sir William Herschel, the greatest visual astronomer that ever lived, who said that "seeing" is an art and that as observers we must properly educate our eyes to really see what it is that we are looking at in the eyepiece."

This quotes to me, are the very basis of why this Atlas, and the other in the series are being made. They are to provide an avenue for the observer to get to the object so this type of art, this type of seeing can be made. This section makes three main points on gaining experience. First, the more one observers, the more one sees. Everyone says what great eyes Stephen O'Meara has, and having never met the man (would love to observe with him here in Utah though) I am sure he has fantastic eyes. I would bet though if we truly logged the number of hours he has spent observing, we would know one secret on why he sees so much detail in his observations. I know that based on my own experience.

Next is the area of training the eye/brain combination and using averted vision to do this. I think averted vision is one of the least used and least trained tools of observers and that often we don't ask the public at outreach to do this, because we don't take the time time to teach. I believe that both our own personal observing should be a training session, we need something to be working on to improve ourselves while also in outreach, teaching the public how to see. It is a critical skill when we work with new people in the hobby as well. This section in the atlas is rich with suggestions.

Finally, the third key in training the eye/brain is that of color perception. Take time next time your observing and see if you can see the tint difference between stars. Can you make out the color differences in various stars at different times of the year and variances even within that star? For me these three areas of the introduction, and touching on dark adaptation are the critical parts of the Introduction. They remind all of us as visual observers, what we should be doing when we go out to observe.

The Introduction now moves on to Sky Conditions and how they impact viewing, and what we can do about it. Next is Resolution and Magnification, a key part for the splitting of Double Stars. This section mentions using the resolving magnification of a telescope, or 25x per inch of aperture. For my 14 inch that is 350x or just around a 5mm eyepiece which puts me at 330x. For the "casual observation of double stars, the rule of thumb is to use the lowest power that just nicely separates the pair."

The next section is that of optical quality and collimation. The focus here is how to test your optics and collimation to ensure that you can get the separation needed to split these double stars. Record Keeping is the next section mentioned, and here I encourage the reader to spend some time here and think about how you want to record your observations of the double stars.

The last section is that of personal considerations. Here posture and having a very good observing seat is mentioned. Proper clothing to maintain warmth is important. It sucks trying to observer when one is cold and it is something I see many new observers make. Often, in the summer, I get weird looks for being layered, but by 11:00p.m. locally, I am no longer being given funny looks but being asked how I layer. This is true in the mountains, but equally true in the deserts of Utah as well. Proper rest and diet are important to observing. Getting a nap can help as can eating light meals, or just eating to keep the energy up and then eating after observing. Ever notice how hungry one is AFTER observing? I tend to get absorbed in my observing, will eat an apple or a piece of fruit, wash my hands off and then observe during the night. When its over and I've loaded up, YES, I am famished!

One of the nicest features in this Atlas is Appendix C: Double star target list that is in the back. It lists the Object/Constellation that the object is in. Next is the RA and Dec. according to the 2000.0. Then comes magnitude and the Separation in arc minutes and any remarks. Here is an image so you can see that. Each object alternates between white and green and is easily usable in the field.

Here is the Virgo, Leo area of the Double Sky Atlas and you can actually see, it does contain a significant amount of DSO material in it. However, remember, this is a Double Star Atlas and as such, it works tremendously well for that.

Here is a second image from the Atlas itself to show what it looks like. In this image you can see the Veil Nebula region and the Double Stars in that area and some of the major DSO's.


Appendix A is a listing of constellations by map

Appendix B lists the Greek letters

Appendix C is a listing of the Double Stars by constellation, RA, Dec., separation etc.

Final Recommendation:

I thoroughly enjoy the Double Star Atlas by Cambridge and find it a wonderful tool put together by James Mullaney and Wil Tiron. It is highly useful for finding Double Stars and for providing some of the better Doubles to go after, both at a dark site or in your own backyard/front yard during those waxing moon phases. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to expand their visual observing. Some think double stars are boring. For me, I find them very interesting since the vast majority of stars in the galaxy are just that, in binary or more groupings.



This one I found out about over at CloudyNights on their Stellar forum and since I am enthralled with most things Herschel, and with Star Atlases in general, I knew I had to pick this up. My local Barnes and Noble had this in stock so it was easy to pick up and my 10% discount helped in reducing the cost. I will review this in a similar way to the Double Star Atlas, but will point out the differences mainly, since some of the same points in the introduction of the Herschel Atlas is the same or same/similar point to what was made in the Double Star Atlas.

First Impressions

Much like the Double Star Atlas, this is of the same material and layout. I really like the layout here, and the size is terrific. I really would love to see a Sky Pocket Atlas in this size. Unlike the Double Star Atlas, which is designed to hunt those objects down, this atlas is not missing any of the Herschel 400 that I am currently finishing. Like the Double Star Atlas most stars go down to magnitude 7.5, they do lower since many of the Herschel items go down to 12.5 magnitude. Also, as pointed out in the introduction, in the area of the main object, are often fainter objects that if your telescope will go down to, will be visible in the eyepiece so look for those other objects as well.

Review after Field Use

The only difference between the Double Star Atlas and this atlas is that the DSO's are the focus here. The Herschel items do not have their NGC number next to them in the atlas. Instead they have Sir William Herschel's designation (which is given in the introduction) or a small h if the discovery was made by Sir John Herschel, Sir William's son. If you want/need the NGC number, it is easily located in Appendix B in the back, where all objects are plotted there. It worked well in the field and I had no problem with it, though it took some planning on my list so I knew what object I was going after from Sir William's list. If your working by constellation, I don't think this will be an issue. If your working by Stephen O'Meara's book, you'll want to plot them Herschel number in your observing list. I'll be updating my lists to reflect that number which is in O'Meara's book. That would be a good upgrade in a new edition of O'Meara's book, to include the Herschel ID in his nightly lists so its easier to use this atlas with his list.

Review of the Atlas

The Introduction is again, very, VERY rich in information. It begins with a wonderful introduction of Sir William, his sister Caroline, and Sir William's son, Sir John and their experiences and the telescopes they used, especially the 20 and then the 40 foot telescope. The Introduction the moves into the Herschel designations, so one can learn those, since they are used in the atlas itself. At first I didn't like this, but it has forced me to learn Herschel's designation and it makes sense to me, that since I am chasing his objects, I should know his designations. I can use and write down the NGC number, that is easy. This seems to connect me to Sir William, Caroline and Sir John and I like that. The Introduction then moves into nonexistent objects and the miscalculated objects. These are two important sections and I invite the owner to read them carefully since I think it is important to know these. Finally, the Introduction moves into the overlooked objects that the Herschel three missed. These include the Helix Nebula, the Flaming Star Nebula, Stephan's/Webb's Protoplanetary Nebula in Cygnus, Barnard's Dwarf Galaxy, Hind's Variable Nebula. The author also mentions they missed his one of his favorite objects, NGC 6791 in Lyra, an open cluster that resembles a globular because of its 300 members.

The next section reviews the map parameters and what was selected and why. A good read to understanding the rationale behind the choices made. The Herschel 400 as used by the Astronomical League are all included in the Atlas.

After this, the book gets into Instrumental and Personal factors, just like the Double Star Atlas does. In this section I like the portion where the recommend what power to use based on the Herschel Object being used. Like the Double Star Atlas, they mention "resolving magnification" as 25 x the aperture of the telescope, but then modify that by explaining what low, medium and high power is. "Big scattered open clusters or extensive nebulosities (and eve a few of the largest galaxies), the lowest possible power and widest field of view give . . . the most pleasing results. The same applies in the initial sweeping for objects to find them. In the case of rich, compact open clusters and tight globulars, medium magnifications typically give the best view. The same goes for the smaller diffuse nebulae and most planetaries, and also for galaxies in general. Unless the atmosphere is steady, high powers can give a 'washed-out' appearances to the image and typically restrict the field of view. But they are still worth trying on all but the very largest of objects to see if any additional details are revealed."

Great advice that most observers know. Low magnification, wide field for scanning or well spread out objects. Medium power next for details and then high power if conditions allow.
They also talk about the star test to test optics to see how well the optics and collimation is.

Under Training the Eye, they again emphasize the need to train the eye and the brain to use averted vision. They do a good job as they did in the Double Star Atlas in explaining this. Next they focus on Dark Adaptation focusing on the dilation of the eye and the chemical changes that occur in the eye in the dark. They add here visual acuity, "the ability to see or resolve fine detail in an image or in splitting close double stars." This is gained by spending time at the eyepiece, with experience. They do share an excellent way though to improve visual acuity, and I'll leave that as a tease for getting the atlases. They also touch on color perception again.

The rest of the Introduction is almost verbatim to the Double Star Atlas, where they discuss sky conditions, record keeping, personal considerations. They close the Introduction, and I left this out in my review of the Double Star Atlas above, with a recommendation list of Herschel Showpieces (in the Double Star Atlas they have 133 Double Star Showpieces). There are 215 Herschel show pieces based on James Mullaney's thousands of observations of Herschel items.

The Appendix

Appendix A in the back is a listing of Constellations and which maps correspond to them. You'll use this if you hunt by constellations or are looking for objects in various constellations.

Appendix B is the Cambridge Atlas of Herschel Objects target list. This is the 2500 + clusters, nebulae and galaxies arranged by right ascension. This list the item by its Herschel designation and by its NGC number. Provides RA and Dec information, Constellation, Size, Type etc.


Here is the northern hemisphere by map and constellation:

Here is what the Atlas looks like in the Veil Nebula region.

Here is M31 and M33 areas.

Final Thoughts.

If you are doing the Herschel 400, or a want to do what I am going to expand to, to do all 2500 objects in this atlas, then I recommend the atlas. It may not go as deep as you need it to in some areas, but for the most part it will work nicely. When added to a computer chart, it is a very helpful item. These are fine products to own. Disclaimer: I receive no financial compensation from anyone associated with either atlas.


Update on Current Status; Posts coming

I just wanted to take a moment and let you know that I haven't had time lately to publish any of the material that I have because I have been really sick. About two weeks ago, right after the mirror test, I started coughing and that cough became very hard and deep quickly. By that Friday I was coughing up blood and had pneumonia. I have been on two antibiotics for it, and finally, the cough has left, I am able to sleep and things are returning to "normal." I am still very tired so no observing of late. The weather isn't normal for late May here in northern Utah. Cloudy, cool and lots of rain. Flooding is something that could become common place when the weather warms up. I am hoping to get out next week for a couple of nights of great observing.

I have a review of the Herschel book that Cambridge put out, and a review of a couple of other Atlases that I have received. I have some more apps to review and to update some of the ones I've done. So hopefully, as I feel rested this weekend, and am thinking a little more clear, I'll make some posts. Keep looking up and equally important, share the views.


Observing Session May 12th and 13th XT10 with Carl Zambuto Mirror

This link to CloudyNights will provide you with the information of this loaner program for the 10 inch mirror that Carl Zambuto has offered.

I was at home, and everyone was gone to activities or such and so I plugged down to CloudyNights and began reading in the reflecting forum. I had been reading about how Carl Zambuto was offering replacement mirrors for Chinese made dobs, mainly the Orion series of scopes. That got my interest because I have an Orion XT10 along with an Orion XX14i and a 20" Obsession that was purchased used.

I followed this thread for several days and then watched as Carl himself signed on and offered to send otu a test mirror for people to try. He stated in his post that it would be a 250mm mirror. Well, that would work in my XT10 so I followed the thread until life got in the way between work, family and other obligations. I thought about putting my name on the list for viewing with the 250mm mirror and putting it in the XT10 to see how well the mirror was. Then I noticed that there were four or five people ahead of me and I thought I had better rethink this as it could be fall before I see the mirror.

Carl then posted and mentioned that Steve Dodds of Nova Optical was doing the coating and Steve only lives and has his shop ten minutes from where I live. So a thought occurred to me. Why not offer to test the mirror over that weekend since the forecast was decent and then ship it to the first person on the list, CityKid or Phil on Monday? I posted that, and Carl thought it was a good idea to get the mirror out and a review done as long as everyone on the list in front of me agreed. Graciously they did agree so I picked p the mirror on Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 from Steve at his shop next to his home. I took it home knowing that Thursday looked very promising and it was the second day after a storm had gone through. Typically the second day after a storm in the fall, winter and spring brings really great conditions to northern Utah.

NOTE: I sketch and I do not claim to be a terrific sketcher or to capture everything perfectly. Errors are mine and mine alone in terms of star placement or any other error. I use my sketches as visual reminders of my experience. All sketches here are not corrected except for the background. I used GIMP and the curves feature to try and capture what I was seeing in terms of the background and contrast. Everything else on the sketch remains as it was sketched.

Also, when referring to the XT10 in this rest of this article, I will mean the XT10 with a Zambuto ten-inch mirror in it.


On Thursday, May 12th, 2011, I have to admit that I anxiously waited for the last bell of school in order to get done with my work obligations and to have a quick exit. I completed my teaching duties and was out the door and on the way home by 4:00p.m. At 5:00p.m. I had the XT10 tube out, and had undone the base screws holding the primary cell in the tube. I have to say, that I had to replace the Orion stock screws about two years ago because I found they stripped far too easily when one had to remove the mirror cell for some maintenance in the tube. I put steel screws in and they work much better and don't strip though they are silver. Anyway the mirror cell cell came out quick enough, and it was on to the clip screws. There are two screws in the clips and you have to remove them to get the mirror out. Watch out for flaking of the black paint off the screw as you take them out. Not an major issue though, just thought I would point that out in case you see it.

The XT10 stock mirror came out easily enough and then I opened up the box that holds the 255mm Zambuto mirror. The mirror has a cover and it is held in place by blue painters tape to protect the top of the mirror. To remove the top simply undo the tape carefully and then the top will just lift right off. Installing the Zambuto 10 inch mirror was a breeze and within ten minutes the scope was back together and ready to go less a good collimation.

I used my backyard for this task since the moon was a nice 66% plus, waxing gibbous and I figured a dark site wasn't going to help in those conditions. Plus there is this thing called work the next day and by using using the backyard this night meant more time viewing with the scope and mirror since I wouldn't have the drive back and the unloading.

The box the mirror arrived in and was shipped to the next trial user in.

The mirror with its cover on.

The stock mirror is on the left, the Zambuto mirror is on the right.

The Scopes: Night 1

Orion XT10

Zambuto 10 inch mirror

Stock secondary mirror.

Stock focuser

9x50 RACI Finder; Telrad

Orion XX14i

Stock Primary; Enhanced Secondary

9x50 RACI Finder, Telrad, Shroud

That is my son in front of the XX14i.

Eyepieces and Equipment

27mm Panoptic, 22mm Panoptic; 14mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW; 6mm TV Radian;

Filter: Orion Ultrablock on Ghost of Jupiter PN; 13% Neutral Density Filter (for the moon);

27mm TV Panoptic, 22mm Panoptic; 14mm, 10mm, 7mm Pentax XW; 6mm TV Radian;

Filter: Orion Ultrablock Filter , 13% Neutral Density Filter (for the moon);

Breakdown of Eyepiece magnification by Scope:

EP XT10 XX14i

Panoptic 27mm 61x

Panoptic 22mm 55x

Pentax XW 14mm 86x 118x

Pentax XW 10mm 120x 165x

Pentax XW 7mm 171x 236x

Radian 6mm 200x 275x

In using eyepieces we really tried to stick with these and to use magnifications that are similar. The field of view was the same with the Pentax, while 68 degrees in the Radian. For example in the Pentax XW 14mm was used in the XX14i at 118x so the Pentax XW 10mm in the XT10 gave us 120x, close enough for a comparison.

May 12th, 2011

Location: Herriman, Utah

Time: 03:00 UT on May 13th, 2011, or 09:00p.m. MDT. Session lasted until around 3:45a.m. MDT or 09:45 UT on May 13, 2011.

Seeing: Antoniadi II

NELM: est. at 5.5 at the beginning and moving to about 6.0 according to Polaris.

I used the XX14i first and used the 14mm Pentax XW. The images were sharp, clear and the seeing tonight was wonderful. It is the second day after a storm and as I previously mentioned, that usually means excellent conditions for observing in terms of seeing and transparency. Tonight, for the whole night, seeing conditions were excellent and transparency was very good. My friend and fellow observing companion, Mat Hutchings was observing this night with me. Mat has made both his own mirrors with exceptional results and has made his own ATM projects for sometime now, having learned the craft from Jeff Baldwin over in the Stockton (CA) Astronomical Society.

Before Mat arrived I had the opportunity to do some lunar observing in the XT10 using my favorite eyepiece, the 10mm Pentax XW. Copernicus was just wonderful and I enjoyed viewing Reinhold and Lansberg as well. The craters showed a terrific contrast between the light and shadows. My reaction was this is the best I have seen the moon and I thought my XX14i did a really outstanding job as did my Obsession 20 inch. In terms of contrast, this mirror was just making me goody for anticipation. I settled down as I didn't want to just buy in right away without testing and observing for the night. On my audio I did give the contrasts available on the Zambuto refurbished mirror a big wow at this moment. About this time, around 45 minutes into my lunar observing Mat showed up and it was game on. Mat asked me what I was doing. I told him to observe the moon in the XX14i giving him the craters and to pick a few items of his own, and then to compare it in the XT10. At this point I really wished I had spent more time practicing and doing lunar observing. I really need to be more consistent with this aspect of my observing. It would add another week to observing.

We both felt that the XT10 with the Zambuto mirror had jut a wonderful contrast between the shades of white, gray and black. The rays from the ejecta from the craters actually seemed to show a variation to their coloring, and it was just terrific to see the black shadows transit through a gray to a white color. The XX14i performed quite well here, actually, it was excellent if not outstanding but the edge in contrast is definitely to the XT10 with the Zambuto mirror in it. Some of this has to be given to the amount of light the 14 inch is gathering over the 10 inch.


Now that Mat was here we decided to do a star test using Regulus and a 6mm Radian. The star test shows, to quote Mat, "A phenomenal mirror with phenomenal smoothness." Mat told me while we were comparing notes on the test that the smoothness of the mirror is perhaps the best he has seen, and he crafted an eight-inch mirror that is just outstanding, and that Steve told him was one of the best he has seen. The eight would go head to head the next night.

Messier 51/ NGC 5194 & NGC 5195 (Sketched)

We next decided to let our eyes undo from the moon and waiting for about twenty minutes to begin to recover. I did a sky hop on both scopes to go and check out Messier 51 in a very moon dominated sky. Here the XX14i showed a brighter inner core area, with some fuzziness around the core with some brightening toward NGC 5195. The XX14i was also not near as dark in its background contrast, but some of that would have to be accounted for from the increased aperture and the increase amount of sky glow from being in an LP area and especially with the moon being so bright. In the XX14i NGC 5195 showed a bright inner core with a hint of fuzziness around it, and it was relatively small. My sketch here doesn't do a good job of showing that detail, and I brightened the fuzziness of M51 to try and convey what we were seeing.

Having said all this, the XT10 had a very, very dark black background that allowed the galaxy to really stick out. There is definitely a hint of structure there that Mat observed first, since he was at the XT10 while I was still viewing the XX14i which he had finished viewing through. With my turn at the XT10 and when we conferred our observations, we both felt that we could distinguish a spiral arm. Also, NGC 5195 in the XT10 was much larger and the core brighter, and the shape was easily distinguished. The XT10 here had the advantage here and that was due to the contrast. The XX14i performed quite well, outstanding again, but could not match the contrast of the XT10. The contrast allowed more details to be observed in the XT10. Again, this has to be a factor of aperture in the given conditions because the 14 is bringing in so much more light. Eyepieces used in this trial were the 14mm Pentax XW in the XX14i, and the 10mm Pentax XW in the XT10. The 10mm Pentax XW was also used in the XX14i and the 7mm Pentax in the XT10. Conditions continues to allow for around 200x to 250x without an issue.

In my sketches here, I attempted to show a darker sky with the XT10 versus the XX14i and the details that reveals. You can decide if they enhance or detract from my observation.

XX14i Sketch

XT10 Sketch

Messier 13, Globular Cluster in Hercules (No Sketch, time)

By now the constellation Hercules was well up into the eastern sky and heading up toward Dobson's Hole. The night continued to be pretty steady so we did a quick Telrad to M13, used the finder to center and then used the 14mm Pentax XW in the XX14i and the 10mm Pentax XW (best views were with the 10mm Pentax XW) and the XT10 used the 10mm Pentax XW and the 7mm Pentax XW.

The XX14i showed a wonderful view of easily defined tendrils and stars showing up through the FOV. The contrast here was terrific and for being such a moon lite night, the globular looked reasonable (not as good at a dark site on a great night). In the XT10 the background again was darker than the XX14i, but it was harder for some reason to view as many stars as in the XX14i, and the detail seen in the tendrils was not as much as in the XX14i. For this object both Mat and I felt that the XX14i got the edge. Perhaps aperture was a deciding factor here?

Epsilion Lyra: The Double Double (No Sketch)

We decided to take a look up in Lyra which had arise and was decently up in the night sky by 12:30 a.m. MDT on May 13th, 2011 or 06:30 UT. The star hope was easy using the Telrad on each scope and we used the 10mm Pentax XW on the XX14i, the 7mm Pentax XW on the XT10 and then the 6mm Radian on each scope for fun. Both scopes split the Double Double easily enough, and did so nicely. However, the XT10 with the Zambuto mirror had a nice dark edge and the black in between the doubles was cleaner. Edge to the XT10 with the Zambuto on this one because the contrast was darker. The XX14i again did an outstanding job just all the LP and the Lunar light is hampering the views I believe.

Saturn (Sketched but I'm not a good planetary sketcher at all so no post)

We now went to Saturn and took a gander at a planet. Saturn showed a wonderful view in both scopes. We used the 7mm Pentax XW on the XX14i and the 6mm Radian on the XT10. Both scopes showed the first northern band and one southern band. The Cassini division was visible as was the A and B rings. The XT10 performed wonderfully here but so did the XX14i. Perhaps fatigue was beginning to set in as we observed Saturn for over an hour to capture as much detail as possible. In the end, the overall view of the XX14i was better, but the contrast of the XT10 showed through also.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Herriman, Utah

Antoniadi IV to III (what conditions moved to)

Spring in Utah! The weather is great one day, and begins to degrade the next. Conditions tonight were not as good as Thursday night. Antoniadi IV moved to a III later in the evening. Clouds were all around when we set up (no rain clouds, just clouds). I'm tired of clouds but that is another story. Let me state up ront that Mat and I and a couple of others got some observing but my 17 year old son (see the picture) came out and spent the evening with us (he is truly deadly with a Telrad) and so did my 18 year old daughter. She spent a lot of time in the early evening/night doing lunar observing. She also made the decision that she wants to get in and do astro-photography! NO!!!!!! I'll have to convert here to visual observing . . . actually no. I'll support her in whatever she does because though not perfect, who is, she is just an incredible young woman as my son is also. It's pleasing to see them growing up and coming to the journey that is their life. Very satisfied as a parent and I just enjoy being able to be in their lives and to share the journey of life together. Sorry, I don't talk much about my family, but they do mean the world to me as do my friends.

Tonight Mat brought over two eight inch scopes that he had built, both the mirror and the dob. The F3.6 (I believe) 8 inch he just finished with his 12 year old daughter and he just finished it a few months ago and it was coated by Steve Dodds. It has an excellent to outstanding mirror in it. So we decided to include that scope with the XX14i. My regret. My friend with a Z12 and another with a Z10 couldn't show. For the first two hours we all did a lot of lunar observing and observing of Saturn because the clouds just came flying in. Clear Sky Clock stated that the clouds would go away around 11:00p.m. and they did. I will state that during this time my 17 year old son who has been observing for about 3 years now, told us that quite frankly, after viewing the Moon and Saturn that "This mirror is much better than the one I have in there normally." I asked why he felt that way and he stated "You can see far more details. . ." Leave it to younger eyes I guess.

Here are a couple of photos of what we called Dob Row that night.

Looking west south-west with several houses in the distance.

Looking south with two light shields which are not needed after 10:00p.m. when the neighborhood goes pretty well dark. You can see the clouds we fought for the first part of this session.

Mat's two ATM 8 inch scopes.

Gamma Virginis (Sketched)

After the clouds cleared out, Mat suggested that we try to split Porrima or Gamma Virginis. This is a tight split of around 1.7 seconds I believe right now and a good test of the scopes. We used the 6mm Radian in the XT10 and the 7mm Pentax in the XX14i. Both scopes split the pair, but the XT10 again had the finer split and showed more of both a black area between the stars and a gap in the split. This to me was due to contrast yet again and the light impacting the 14. We next compared the XT10 to the 8 inch portaball that Mat had made recently. Again the Zambuto mirror in the XT10 won, but not by much. The 8 inch gave the 10 inch a good run for its money.

NGC 3242 The Ghost of Jupiter

I wanted to observe a planetary nebula, one of my favorite objects to view and I knew that The Ghost of Jupiter was still up, and bright enough to view. So both the XX14i and the XT10 and the 8 inch star hopped over to The Ghost, which was relatively easy. Without a filter in all three scopes, the planetary stood out, even in the poor conditions. Conditions would hurt detail though I believe. The XT10 showed a better contrast but the color was better in the XX14i without the filter in. With the filter, both did fine and all it really did in this situation was increase the size of the object. Overall the 14 did a better job on this one. I did not pull out my OIII filter at this time. We observed a little more and did so for the enjoyment and I let others have a go with the scopes now that the weather cleared. I spent some time observing and interacting with my kids/teens, observing and going through the sky with them. The mirror in the XT10 was just outstanding, but man, I tell you, spending time with my kids, with the sky, is just magical. I truly hope it is something we enjoy together til the end of my days because it is what I call, a magical moment. Actually the last two days had been magical in may ways and a terrific learning experience.


So what is my conclusion after spending two nights with my XT10 with a Zambuto mirror? That as I stated it was a wonderful experience, an outstanding learning experience, just wonderful. The biggest takeaway for me is the amount of contrast in the mirror. That contrast allows an experience observer to see more detail and thus gleam more from their experience. No one will go wrong buying that mirror or one like it, or any Zambuto mirror. Regrets? Yep, that I would have loved to have it for a dark sky trip to Notch Peak (one of the darkest areas in the continental U.S.A.) for a two night observing trip, with no moon and excellent conditions.

To be honest, if you buy the mirror its not that it is a huge WOW factor, but it is a major subtle factor. Also, don't expect to perhaps glean details unless your experience observer. It takes time to achieve this and one thing I've learned in this hobby is to be able to really gleam details it takes experience and that means time. When you purchase a mirror like this your buying into your future as an observer and committing to it. An experience eye will see a just a tad more detail with the Zambuto mirror than with their stock primary and the contrast is what helps you to do that. What else? It confirmed to me as Mat and a couple others have that I have an excellent mirror in the XX14i, and I could be very happy observing with it. I will state that as soon as I can get the money together, if Carl is willing, I want a Carl Zambuto in my 14. My brother in law wants to buy me out of the 20" Obsession and I now have a reason to let him buy me out, and I enjoy my 20" views in an observatory in southern Utah! My XT10 mirror is just average, there is no doubt about that. It is a good scope and I'll keep it but it also at some point will have a Zambuto mirror put in there. Not all at once Carl, the 14 is my preferred scope so that is the priority! I also know to give this some time as the wow reaction to the mirror is such that I have to make sure I am thinking through everything here.

Whether it is worth it to buy a mirror like this will be up to each observer and owner of a scope. For me, I will upgrade as soon as I can bring the money together and there is an urgency for me to do so because I have seen the difference. It is subtle but it exists. The 10 inch wasn't that much better than my current 14, but enough that for me, I believe that I want the upgrade. However, it is for everyone? Much like Jason D. at CloudyNights, I am not sure if it is for every user right away. I will not regret spending the money. Conditions will always play a role in viewing and it is up to each observer to determine if the upgrade is the correct thing for them. I could be happy staying with my stock 14 primary, yet on those nights when the seeing and transparency are excellent, a difference would be seen. I guess I'll pay for that opportunity as soon as I can. If fiances warranted that I had to keep the 14 as is, I could do that or I could look to reconfigure but as Mat told me, your mirror is "well configured, both tests and visually we've seen that." An outstanding done 14 will increase the performance but only you can decide if a mirror that is almost equal to the cost of the scope is worth it. Guess I'll strive to get that money together and to upgrade, not because the scope is terrible or I have a terrible mirror, but because I want that opportunity. So if you doubt, get on the list over at CloudyNights by PMing CityKid/Phil and take a test drive. Beware though, it may just wet your appetite for more. The link is at the top of the post.

Thanks to Carl Zambuto and to Phil and others who allowed me to sneak in front of them. It is an incredible opportunity, what in business we once called "The Opportunity of a Lifetime" for some and I encourage you to take advantage of it. Please feel to ask questions or to contact Carl at his website located here. Simply go to contacts or go to Carl's Yahoo group to ask more questions or to CloudyNights.I am in no way employed by Carl or receiving any incentive for the report that I have written. Tests were done willingly and to the best of our ability. I am sure Mat and others would alter some of what I have written based on their experience and views.


Observing Session May 6th, 2011 Notch Peak Utah

I am literally exhausted today. On Friday after I had done my prep and grading for last week, I left school at 3:20p.m. and headed home. I loaded up the Pathfinder and then my friend Mat came over and we drove 3 hours to Notch Peak. This Wikipedia article will give you some background information and an idea where it is located, about an hour west of Delta, Utah. This is an article you can read about hiking Notch Peak so you can observe at night, then do the hike the next day if you want. Check out the video clip on hiking Notch Peak. So if your into observing and hiking, and perhaps have someone who will stay with the scopes, you can observe and do a wonderful hike while here.

Getting there is relatively easy. There are two ways. You can drive down I-15 to Nephi and then take State Hwy 132 over to State Hwy 6 and head south to Delta. Stay on State Hwy 6 which is also State Hwy 50 and go west. Near milepost 46, turn north on a graded dirt road (on the map on the link I provide it is the turn after the Amasa) turn right and then left and then left again to head up East Sawtooth Canyon. We observed about half way up the canyon before the ridge to the south came into play. At the end of East Sawtooth Canyon is a parking area and that is probably the ideal place to set up but the southern horizon is impacted by about 5-10 degrees but who looks that low? Usually I don't, tonight I did. In the future though, I think this is where I will set up unless I am wanting to get low into Scorpius or Sagittarius in the summer. Here is a map that shows the area: Map of Notch Peak Area. It comes from this site.

Here are a couple images showing the landscape as your drive west from Delta, Utah.

That very flat looking object in the distance is Lake Sevier. It is a lake, usually quite dry but because of all the moisture from the last few years, it is retaining water. It has no outlet and it does lead to a fun time with mosquitos in the early evening. So make sure you have bug repellent. I used Thermacell and 40% deet and the deet took care of me that night with no bites. If I hadn't had protection, they would have eaten me up. You'll see more of Lake Sevier in a moment.

Here is the target of your destination. Notch Peak as seen from afar and from closer up.

From the distance through my bug hit windshield. It is to the far left in this shot (click on the image, last high point to the left to expand it).

Closer Up

Let me state, this is a rough area. Your car will get extremely dusty if your following someone in. It will get dirty no matter what. On the edge of the road and sometimes in the road are large boulders so beware. The main dirt roads are fine though.

For setting up if you don't set up in the parking area at the end of East Sawtooth Canyon, you can park to the side of the road and set up off the road. This is what we did. Here are some more images:

This shows you the dirt road we came in on and about where we observed from.

This shows the west view from the Parking Area I said may serve as the best observing site:

A bad picture of the Notch from the Parking Area (looking west, south-west)

A final image of Lake Sevier from where we observed off the road.

You can see in this image why you park off the road and then set up off from there. Very rugged land. I could have taken my Pathfinder off with someone guiding me to make sure I didn't hit a large rock or drive over it. My friend Mat had a minivan and that would not go off the road period. The site is about 1 hour east of Great Basin National Park. My friend Mat who has been to Great Basin and who says the skies are outstanding there, says that Notch Peak is slightly better because there is no ambient light from a city (Baker, NV) and other points coming up.

In terms of darkness, this is the darkness site I have ever been too. The Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude had to be around 7.0 to 7.5, a true Bortle 2 site as the clouds in the sky are visible only as dark holes or voids in the starry background. We could also see our telescope and surroundings only vaguely, except where they project against the sky. Many of the Messier globular clusters are distinct naked-eye objects. I left my SQM at home but I am sure it would come in at around 22.0. There is NO visible white light except for a car on Hwy 6 /50 or if one comes up the canyon (we had one early in the evening), or ours when we broke down. There was no breaking down without at least a red light. The clouds that came in later that evening were as black as coal. It would have been a wonderful experience except that the clouds, which were not suppose to come in, came in anyway around 12:30a.m. So we only got a short observing session in, but once the moon was down, wow! I got to see Omega Centauri and a Herschel and then was going to sketch my dark site objects but that never came about. Next new moon I am going back with Mat and extend an invitation to anyone who wants to come, to join us. Here is my sketch of Omega Centauri. I'll post the UMa galaxy pair later.
It was huge in the Pan. 27mm but no details of stars. It was slightly brighter near center but the sketch here seems too bright. I may have to adjust that.

Last, if you go to this site, DO NOT go alone. You can get a flat, or vehicle issue or health issue and you are in the middle of no where. Delta is an hour to the east, Baker NV and Great Basin Natl Park are an hour to the west and few people come out here. Bring plenty of water and food to eat just in case. DO NOT go if there is a threat of rain. It would be easy in the mud for even a 4WD to get stuck. Wonderful site though. Truly it has to be one of the darkest sites in the continental U.S. Edit: A few more thoughts. First, humidity is very low because your up several thousand feet above the surrounding valley floor (around 6000 to 7000 feet). I felt the low humidity while observing and then felt it really increase as we got back on the highway around 1:00a.m. Next, if you pull off the road, and set up, be careful of all the prickly cactus that are around. They are small and have nasty thorns on them. Finally, as I looked around there was plenty of deer and antelope scat and some other creatures. One, a Horny Lizard is in this image. Can you see him or at least part of him? Look for his ring tail.


My friend and observing partner Mat emailed me the directions for this site and I would like to include them here:

Right turn onto a dirt road off Highway 50 immediately after mile marker
48 (N39.07182 W113.21832).
Left at the Miller Canyon sign (N39.11218 W113.22034). Note that the
sign is very hard to read, but is the first sign you come to.
At this point we just parked on the side of the road where there was a
very low southern horizon. But there are many roads in the area that
take you into higher country. Maybe next time we go, we can explore
some of them so we can get to higher elevations. It should be fairly
easy to get up to around 6500' or maybe even 7000'. Higher than that
would probably require hiking and my 16" does not backpack well.
Rather, I do not backpack well while carrying the scope!

Exploring is fun, a blast and I like new areas! Looking forward to new moon in May!

A few items for fun from the SLASS Star Party at Stansbury Park: A club member bought a 13.1 Coulter and took out the mirror and made the following Truss Dob that saw first light last night. The Truss Poles are made out of wood and though we didn't have much to look at, the moon looked good through it. A very nice first ATM project! Way to go Mark!

Here is Mark (sitting) with his new creation! Anyone know the object at the bottom of the rocker box? It took me a minute but it is a Messier object.

Here is a picture of his cover with Saturn being the handle to his cover. We tried really hard to convince Mark that he could make money with this copyrighted item. To see more images please go to SLAS member Daniel Turner's gallery located here and take a look.

Finally, another side of Jay. My mother-in-law wanted to go to Thanksgiving Point, which is a golf course, a place for children and families to go to look at farm animals and to tour their wonderful garden. Every spring, and spring has come quite late to Utah this year, they have a Tulip Festival. Usually it runs in early to mid-April but with this patch of bad weather were in, the Tulips were delayed until late April and the festival ended yesterday. Here are some images I took of the site. I really enjoy going there, it is very large and very relaxing, even with all the kids running around and especially rolling down a 100 yard hill. There is much beauty above, but I think it is also important to recognize and adore the beauty down here. Nature amazes me. The diversity and beauty that is all around is truly a wonder to behold.

First up, "The Bear Statue." Why, because Bears are my favorite animals, and I in many ways, am like them. My daughter says she tells her friends I may look like a grizzly bear at times, but in reality, I'm just a big Teddy Bear when you get to know me.

Yes, it is a Tulip Festival.

A pond with Tulips.

Red Tulips!

Even the trees are getting into the act (now just the weather needs to!).


Quick Observing Session April 30th, 2011

Well, the skies were clear and I wanted to go to a dark site but decided that the backyard was better. It has been a long time since I seriously went after any of the H400 from my backyard using the 14" but I decided to try it. Not to be this night. Too much light pollution and I was tired so I didn't stay up after 12:00a.m. when the skies and light pollution fade off. For that matter my SQM was 20.2 for most of the session. After tearing down, and putting up the equipment it was at 20.5, improving. Oh well. One other curse. The weather is clearing and tomorrow I go back to work! Go figure.

So after trying for some Herschel galaxies and just basically striking out, I decided to get going on a project I have had in mind for some time. I noticed that in checking the alignment of my intelliscope that the Messier galaxies were viewable. So I decided to sketch these galaxies using the new technique that I am working to develop some skill on, to capture what these galaxies look like under light pollution. Next dark sky trip next weekend, I will sketch them under some of the darkest skies in the United States. Then people who are in light pollution observing can examine the sketches, my notes and determine why observing from a dark site is so helpful. I tend to do this with three to five objects from each season. There won't be a ton of information on these objects like when I post up my Herschel 400 objects. One item though, NGC 5195, the companion to NGC 5194/Messier 51 is an Herschel object so I did technically get that object down.

Messier 65 & 66 in Leo.

Messier 65 was rather bright, bright inner core region though no nucleus was visible. Messier 66 was fainter and is just discernible in the sketch.

Messier 84 & 86

Messier 84 (I believe on the left) is brighter and has a brighter inner core area. Messier 86 was smaller and it also had a brighter inner core region, but not as stellar as Messier 84.

NGC 5194/Messier 51 & NGC 5195 (the companion).

Messier 51 had a bright core region but no stellar nucleus. A fainter halo was barely detectable. Someone who has experience looking at faint galaxies would notice the faint halo, while a newbie may not. No spiral structure was evident.

NGC 5195 was much smaller, also had some faint halo/diffusion with a stellar nucleus. No hint of the bridge could be seen and again, no other details.

My point is not that one should not observe in light polluted areas. For many, there is no option. I did that for the first two years of getting into this hobby and I believe, that it made me a better observer when I started going to dark sites. By learning to sketch and look for details in a LP zone, I gleaned skills that helped me to pull out whatever detail is there. Now at a dark site, these same skills serve me extremely well. So, when I sketch this anew at a dark site, it will be to show how location can really improve the amount of details one sees. I'll talk in detail then about some of these skills. Hope this helps or interests others. If you want to have your sketches included on these objects from similar SQM sites, please contact me and send me a link to your sketch and I'll upload for others to see what these objects look like for others in LP areas, and at a dark site. I really believe that this would be helpful for both newbies in the hobby, and those who may not be able to get to a dark site all that often. Best.