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6/30/2011

GIF Animation of SN2011dh; Messier Catalogu Songs by Bruce Lazarus;

EDIT: On Friday, July 1st, 2011, a small group of us are going to the Pit n Pole location to observe. If your in the Salt Lake City area and would like to go out, your invited. Should be a really good night. If you haven't been there if you email me at jayleads at gmail dot com (write this as a normal email) I am willing to meet at the Walmart Parking Lot in Lehi off UT-73 at 7:00p.m. sharp and you can follow me out. Here is a a link to an earlier post on the directions and pictures of how to get there. I know we have someone using binoculars, a 12 inch Zhumall, a 14 inch and possibly a 10 inch. So come on out!

I have two items that I want to touch on tonight. First, the weather here is improving and it looks like I can get out both Friday and Saturday night! Yeah!!!!! Next, over on CloudyNights on their DeepSky Objects thread I found a post in the SN2011dh thread that does a super job of showing the SN and how it brightened over time. In case you haven't heard, it has began to darken and as of yesterday SN2011dh was down to magnitude 13.0. Anyway, the author of this work is Mogens Zachariasen and with his permission I am going to post his wonderful GIF animation here. Mogens runs the Astro Optics in Denmark.


































Very easy to see in his animation. Here's a link on his images used in the animations. Incredible to think that supernova is as bright as the core of that well known galaxy!

The next thing is from June's Astronomy magazine and it is music appropriate for observing. The article is called Songs of the night and covers some very well known pieces, but a new one really intrigued me and I ended up going over and listening to the pieces that are available. The Sunflower galaxy brought an entire chorus of images to my mind. Some images related to the actual view of a sunflower, well others triggered in me a very large and bright galaxy moving in motion with the many components of stars, star clusters, nebulae, supernova and other such wonderful objects comprising the galaxy. I could hear the discord of a supernova explosion in my mind at points. Most of all, I again recalled the thrill of finding this object for the first time and my excitement in viewing it. I literally saw myself in the music, at the telescope. I had the image of sketching it and trying to capture in my feeable way, the art of the heavens here. Certainly Bruce Lazarus has done a much better job at this then my feeble sketching did at that time. Here is the link to that portion of this wonderful composition called the Sunflower Galaxy.

The first song is called the Somberro Galaxy and it opens with a quick tempo and a variance in the music that brings to my mind the sheer size and the incredible wonder one sees when viewing this tremendous galaxy. I can see the dust lane and the wonderful bulges that protude out from above and below the dust lane. The tempo here is rushed at times, and reminds the observer not to rush this object. It can take time to observe the detail of this wonderful galaxy, and just when you think you've heard and seen everything related to Messier 104, boom, the eyepiece like the music here reveals much more, some subtle and some just taking the awe right out of you. By the time the music ends, and your observation of M104 ends, I was amazed at everything I had just seen and taken in. Some objects just blow you away and the music to M104 easily amplifies that feeling of an object blowing you away. Here is the link to that piece.

Messier 57 or The Ring Nebula opens up to me similar to a piece from Cosmos but yet strikingly different. Here the music captures my mind and imagination as I easily imagine the central star going through its red dwarf stage and then shedding off the outer layers to form the beautiful planetary nebula that we see today in the sky. At times I also hear an elusive key that reminds me that the central star is also elusive and it takes the right seeing conditions, the right scope and eyepiece in order to capture it. Sometimes, some things are just elusive as the music at the end reminds us and that is just okay. Much like music, observing is an experience to be enjoyed, taken in, and immersed in as we participate in the activity. Here is the link to this wonderful song.

M31 The Andromeda Galaxy begins majestically with some dissent (at times I think I hear the influence of the American composer Ives here but then again I am not a musically trained person, I'll have to ask my wife who is what she thinks). Anyway, dissonance is perhaps the best term here. This is a very loud, large, and luminous piece. I think of all the pieces this is the one some may not like the best. Wait for the halfway mark when it turns and turns drastically. It is much like going to a dark site and seeing it for the first time in dark conditions and not in light pollution. The theme then quickly returns and if your not careful, this galaxy will overpower you and you'll miss observing the many fine parts of the galaxy that are viewable. It ends with a crescendo and provides the listener with the majesty this galaxy delivers at the eyepiece. Here is the link to this song.

M42 the Orion Nebula begins musically as a tease to me, and then erupts from this tease into revealing the fast star formation that is occurring here. I can definitely see the young stars flaring into existence, the gases coming together and I definitely see in my mind the Trapezium with its wonder of stars at the heart of M42. The music ends having reminded me that Messier 42 will continue long after I have left this world, producing new stars, new solar systems and in the end, another cycle in the life and death of stars, including some supernova eventually. In the end, the song reminded me that death is not something to be feared, because from death, new life springs and the cycle continues. Here is the link for that song.

Now if you get tired of clicking on each link above, here is a link to the main page where you can listen to them on your own in your own order. If you want to learn more of Bruce Lazarus here is his website. I can't wait to see and hear his completed album on this and one thing is for certain. His music makes me think and is such that it will make for me, the time fly as I am observing. It will also be enjoyable being played in the car and at home in my opinion. An outstanding effort.

Here is a list of the objects/songs he does on the album.

Book 1

1. Messier 104 – Elliptical and Spiral Galaxy (“Sombrero” Galaxy)

2. Messier 18 Open Cluster with Red and Blue Stars

3. Messier 51 – “Whirlpool” Galaxy

4. Messier 1 Expanding Remnant from Exploded Star (“Crab” Nebula)

5. Messier 57 Ring Nebula

6. Messier 45 – The Pleiades

7. Messier 31 – Andromeda Galaxy

Book 2

1. Messier 40 - Double Star in Ursa Major

2. Messier 63 - Sunflower Galaxy

3. Messier 42 - Orion Nebula

4. Messier 16 - Eagle Nebula

5. Messier 24 - Star Cloud in Sagittarius

6. Messier 20 - Triffid Nebula

7. Messier 13 - Globular Cluster in Hercules


I eagerly await hearing the Whirlpool Galaxy (appropriate with the SN there right now!), the Crab Nebula ( I think he will nail this one for me), the Eagle Nebula, the Triffid Nebula and M13 or the Globular Cluster in Hercules.

6/26/2011

Lakeside, Utah Observing. Lemonade from a Lemon of a Night

Well, I was excited to go out tonight and get observing. The Clear Sky Clock didn't look promising at either Lakeside or at the Pit n Pole locations in the West Desert that we use. Looking at the satellite and since two were already going to Lakeside I decided to go there.

As usual, it is a long 1.5 hour drive out, 72 miles one way for me. I was amazed by the water levels in the Great Salt Lake and the wonderful smell of the Lake was evident. I was trying to drive with my window down because I'm finding for some strange reason this year, I like the feel of the wind on me and the warmth. I only used the a/c when the smell got too bad. I'm usually a cold weather guy, because I have a very high internal temperature, I'm always hot. Anyway, hope that isn't changing with age!

I got out there and an observing friend Troy was already set up with his six inch Celestron and shortly thereafter my observing friend Joe arrived. We began the process of setting up and the sky looked absolutely wonderful. After setting up, our enemy from above began to muster in. Here is the XX14i set up.



















And another shot of the XX14i set up. I collimated the scope using a HoTech collimator, and then checked it with a Catseye Collimation set and it was spot on when I was done. I actually got excited and was trying to convince myself that the clouds would just blow on by . . .




















This is the view looking north with Troy walking toward's Joe setup for Astro-Imaging.


















Another view looking north. I expected to see these clouds as there was a front to the north and the satellite showed it staying up in Idaho. No problem, right . . .


















After collimating the scope I looked up to the southwest. The satellite had showed clouds forming over the mountains on the border of Nevada and Utah, typical in a late summer pattern and when I looked up I saw this:


















I continued to scan to the west and saw this:



















and a little more to the west-southwest was this view:



















Finally, looking east I saw these:



















Well, during setup I noticed I had forgot my AstroSystems cover for the dob, so I opted out of not putting down my blue tarp as a ground cover. I had also forgot the rubber/carpeted mat that I have for observing on also. This was a very fortunate decision on my part. After everyone was set up we went down to Joe's scope and began talking. We talked about another observing companion who was at this very site and had some strange things happen one night. He saw strange lights in the distance in the military area to the north. Heard the coyotes and reported seeing a wolf. Finally he heard someone whispering to him so he packed up and left. That led me to state I usually fear the human animal more than anything and we talked about a trip where a pickup truck sat and watched us for about 45 minutes at this site and then met Joe as he drove into the observing area. At that point Troy commented that he felt a rain drop and Joe confirmed it, and then I felt one.

I rushed back to the scope knowing I did not have time to break her down and with Troy's advice, I put the blue tarp over the dob. It fit perfectly. I then put on the cover on the secondary, put the plug back into the eyepiece holder, and put the caps on the top and lower tubes. We then went back and I used my cell phone to try to identify what was happening with the weather. I access Skippy Sky which really didn't help, and then tried the National Weather Service out of Salt Lake City and that didn't help. Troy recommended Weather.com and that site worked wonderfully on my phone, with some download delays. We got a radar and satellite image that showed larger clouds and rain heading our way. At that time, though we had clear sky above and stars, it rained a summer rain, quick but not too hard, but hard enough I couldn't break down the scope. Troy graciously held the tarp in place well I loaded up what I had brought out. After about 20 minutes the squall passed and I broke down and cleaned up.

There were some sand that had gotten splattered on the base on the lower tube, but nothing on the mirror. So I've cleaned up both, made sure the teflon on the base is good to go and am now home.

So what did I observe? Leo falling fast into the west with Virgo on his heals. Antares and Scorpios were lovely sites and the summer triangle came out to greet us after we had packed it up. It was nice to see Deneb, Altair and Vega in the sky together. I know this week I will be getting out at least two or three times so that helps ease the pain of tonight. More importantly I realized something. It seems like it was just yesterday I was observing Leo high up in the sky and Orion was fading quickly into the west. Now Orion is gone, and Leo is fading quickly. How fast this thing called life is and I've realized that one of the reasons I love observing is that is slows me down. It makes me take in and appreciate this thing called life. For a night, I get to see objects that many don't even know exist, and the objects change by season. Observing reminds me that I need to take time and see the stars/smell the roses and enjoy life, it only happens once. Observing reminds me that keeping a good balance in one's life helps one to be healthy. Here's to finding your lemonade when the clouds make lemon of your observing trip!

Also, if you have a truss dob, have something to cover it with in an emergency. Or better yet, listen to your inner voice when it says break it down instead of holding out hope that the sky will clear. Oh, one other thing I did observe; I got some nice pictures of clouds and of clouds and a sunset.

6/24/2011

Wolf Creek Pass June 24th, 2011 No Observing here for awhile

I am going observing tomorrow night so I'll have an observing report for that, and then I am going out Wednesday again and next Saturday if this lovely weather we are having in Utah holds up. If you want to go along, just add a comment and I'll post here where I am going. We have a good group for Saturday so that should be both fun and the opportunity to get some real good time at the eyepiece. The rest of this post is probably more geared to local folks, but I invite you to view the pictures as some are rather amazing. If you want to see the images larger, please click on them.

Today I spent some time up in Park City and then drove out to Wolf Creek Pass because I wanted to see what the winter had done to the road; there was reported damage to the road and I found it. It's been repaired but only recently, I could still smell the tar on the road. From what I have read the road sunk here a significant amount and had to be built back up. Fits with what I saw there. Here is an image of the repair done to the road.























The first thing we noticed as I had the family with me for an outing was the amount of water that was everywhere. The NWS is stating that the river is at 6.12 feet with the flood stage being 7 feet. There is a prediction by the NWS for the river reaching/approaching flood stage on Saturday afternoon and possibly on Tuesday afternoon. Here are the pictures I took of the river, and I have to say in just watching the flow of the water, I estimated that the water was probably around 30mph or greater. In this link you can see that the forecast is for the river to continue to rise. I will state right now that my 17 and 18 year old did not get out of the car, I was the only one foolish enough to do that to take a picture a good 10 feet from the current bank. For most, we were in the Pathfinder as you should be able to tell.


Here we are heading down Hwy 35 with the river on the right. Is was very close to the edge of the road.

























A closer shot of the river near Highway 35

























An image showing the Provo River near Highway 35 and how fast it is running. This was taken from about 10 feet from the bank.























Another shot from Highway 35 a little bit farther up.























My take away from seeing this. Don't go anywhere near the water regardless of whether your an adult, teen or child. The water is rushing so fast and is so cold you'd be gone in a millisecond. At places on the drive up we literally saw the river dividing into several new channels because the main channel could not handle the amount of water coming down from the melt.


This is an image of the bridge on Highway 35 and you see how swift and wide the river has become here.























After we got past this point, we began to be able to see how the river had flooded some of the low lying areas, and how it may have been in its main channel, but how the water had overflowed up river. Here the river is not too far from the road (we are farther up the canyon) but all that light green vegetation around the visible flowing water is flooded.

























As you come down from Wolf Creek Pass and just a mile or so there is a parking lot to the left (if your heading down) and an overflow on the right. We went into the parking area on the right here for a picnic lunch. The temperature was terrific, probably upper 60's to low 70's, the sun was warm and though protected from the UV, it felt good to be in the mountains again.



















Perhaps my favorite shot of the day came near this area as I ventured out to take a look at the wild flowers and scenery. I would call it Aspens in Spring (it probably is more like spring up there) but I'll just call this one Aspen's in June.























After the picnic we loaded up and drove up to the campground. If you looked at the top image I could see snow on the tops of the ridges and I was pretty confident I would find snow at the Wolf Creek campground and mud. However, as I drove up further my fears of even more snow began to arise.

If you've been up to Wolf Creek you should recognize that ridge line as it is just down from the camping area. Hmmm . . . .


















Coming up Highway 35 more snow began to show, and more snow, and more snow . . .



















Well I finally got to the campground and someone had their trailer and truck pulled over so I pulled in ahead of them and took the following shots:


Here is the sign across from the entrance/exit that says Hanna/Francis and the mileage to each. The snow around the sign has melted down but there is a good three feet of snow around it it and in some areas, slightly more.
























Here's the bathrooms at the campground from the road. You can see how much snow and know that most of this is between two to three feet of snow also.


























Finally, here is the close-up of the bathrooms at the campground entrance.


























Based on what we saw up there, we took bets as a family and I said it would at least be late July before the area could be used. My son took mid July, he was trying to bolster my spirits I think. My daughter said basically said Good luck this year coming up here. She and my wife don't believe I'll be observing at Wolf Creek until August IF I'm lucky. I think I'll see patches of ground in the next two weeks according to how the snow is melting with clear ground in 3 weeks. Then the ground will need a couple of weeks to dry out so I'll go with late July to early August.

So, two items I took away from this little trip. One, the amount of water still in our mountains is incredible and more importantly the amount coming down is even more incredible. Keep yourself and your loved ones away from the water. Next, I think this winter may have a longer impact on observing because I honestly don't know if the Duchense Ridge will be available this year for viewing. With my schedule this summer and what I am doing, it looks to be a West Desert summer at either Pit n Pole, Notch Peak/Great Basin Natl Park or Lakeside. Finally, IF Wolf Creek opens up, bring Thermacell and bug spray. The critters are going to be plentiful with all the water up there. I'd love to hear what others think based on their experience and looking at the images to how long before Wolf Creek could be usable. I guess I need to go find some formulas and calculate the amount of melt based on temperature and time and that would tell me. I am REALLY looking forward to tomorrow night.

Edit: I found some more recent pictures of snow up at Wolf Creek. From June 15th, this rider took an image and it will show the amount of melt that has occurred up top:




















Then for those who may have wondered what conditions are like just down the dirt path from where we set up to observe, a back country report on an avalanche that occurred in March can be found here. There is a Google map to confirm the location.

The image:

6/19/2011

June 15th 2011 Paper on SuperNova 2011dh by Van Dyk et al.

This will be a rather short entry but if you've been following the Supernova in M51 called SN2011dh, or observing it, then this paper by some rather famous astro-physicists/astronomers is rather interesting. It is published by Cornell University and can be found in this link. Simply go to the upper right and click on the PDF to download a copy to read. The paper identifies the

progenitor star, that it is a Type IIb or transitional TypeII/Ib, and is very similar to SN 1993J which happened in M81. It is probably a 18 to 21 solar masses and likely to have been bluer than a red supergiant that would explode as a Type II Plateau SNe. The article also explores if this could be an explosion from a binary system.

Want more, go read the article. It is rather fascinating and one I'll try to follow the updates over time as the supernova lessens in terms of brightness and the pros do more work on it. Fascinating stuff and something I need to see if I can get my students involved with, even if it is simply going through images to try and identify former SN's. I guess Zoo would have something like that, I just need to head over and get to work there again (I took the last 3 months off from Galaxy Zoo).

Note that SN2011dh is now listed as mag. 12.3, and with the moon getting out of the way that is sufficient for many amateurs with medium size scopes to get a peek at this. My goal is to sketch is this week each night that the sky is clear and keep that up until it fades. It won't do anyone but me any good since everyone uses imaging, but visual observations are what I do so I'll keep a journal of the observations.

6/18/2011

Summer Observing Program and ATM Projects Dew Heaters and Observing Chair

Well, I've decided on one program besides the ARP Galaxies I want to work on (ARP's I'm doing with the 20 inch and I am going to post those sketches only on my Interstellar Sketching site where I catalog and post my sketches). Anyway, IF the weather ever improves and with the summer schedule I have which is not going to be conducive to observing except mainly on weekends (I am doing some more advance college work and I have a two week session where I go for 8 hours a day to remove two classes and have to be there by 7:30a.m. each day) so I want to go and view the major summer time planetary nebula as found over here at this link to Seasonal Best Planetary Nebula Summer. These aren't the only ones I am going after, there are more by constellation but I do think these are the ones I want to really focus on sketching unless another in a constellation just blows me away.

So not much to do. I'm still recovering from having been sick, and I have two new things I want to post about. First, my friend Mat is doing a monthly ATM project. It was today and we had an emergency family issue (the call came at 8:15a.m.) so that had to be dwelt with. So I did not make it but I have purchased the wood for a Denver Chair/Catsperch Chair combination. Why a new chair? I need a taller one with the XX14i. I like to sit when I sketch and the Starbound Chair makes that difficult. I want to work on my 8 inch mirror blank and get that project going

Finally its time to make some dew heaters for my Telrad, Finder, Eyepiece and perhaps the secondary. On the secondary, I have decided to go with the DewGuard because I can opt to run it off a 9 volt, a better use of the 9 volt than on the intelliscope, or run the cables and then hook them up to the controller. My controller will be a DewGuard, probably the BigBobDewBuster controller located here. If you have a SCT then your controller will run $20.00 more or $170.00 and you can find information on it here. I am going to use Ron Keating's plans located here to make my own set of heaters for my eyepieces, finderscope and my Telrad. For my Telrad I may break down and just spend the $26.00 and get this from Telescope Solutions. Makes sense then just something to keep the finder and the eyepieces warm and dew is gone.

I know, your saying, dew, in Utah? Well, the West Desert of Utah does have humidity and it can get up in the 70% to 99% range and that can ruin an evening of observing. So dew heaters are a plus and I intend to get them and use them for my 10 and my 14 inch scopes. The 20 in the observatory and in the field doesn't suffer to bad from this and I can use the same setup as the 14 (longer cables I assume) to keep the finderscope and the Telrad warm if needed.

To begin the controller will be either $150.00 if I don't want the thermostat that is built in or $170.00 if I do. I figured I've paid over $1400.00 in eyepieces over the last year, I might as well spend some on getting rid of dew. For sure I am getting the Kendrick Secondary Mirror heater and the Telrad Heater. Cost for that will be about $70.00 (actually less but I am trying to add for shipping also). The Telrad heater will be $26.00 and combine that with the controller it comes to $266.00. About the cost of one of my Pentax XW's (when I bought them they cost me $270.00) and well worth it. A power source that is recommended is found at Amazom.com and is called Pyramid PS15KX 10A 13.8-Volt Power Supply with Cigarette Lighter Adapter and costs $53.70. I have a power source that will work nicely already so this expense is saved for me, for now. I may pick one up and if I do the cost is now about $330.00. To make my Heater Strips will cost me about $15.00 and the time to make them.

So for basically $350.00 I can have my secondary, my Telrad, my eyepieces and my finder equip and ready to hold off any dew that comes up. What does that mean for me? Probably 2 to 3 hours more of observing and for me this summer and moving forward, that is a wonderful thing to capture more of. If I have to chunk this and do it in order, I will do the secondary and the Telrad first. Why? With a Telrad I can get to an area where I can then use my 27 Panoptic to search for an object and if the secondary is free from dew, viewing won't be an issue. Next will be the eyepiece heater strip because I know I have to keep them from dewing up. Last would be the finder scope. It is nice to have but not a necessity in my book. That means the controller. If your doing imaging imagine spending $350.00 but eliminating the fear of dew from your corrector plate and being able to image to the wee hours of the morning! All you have to do when done is put away the SCT or have a really good cover for it.

So if your interested and live in the Salt Lake Valley or Utah Valley area, once a month my friend Mat is doing ATM at his house and in June I would welcome the opportunity to work with you on creating some heater strips even if you can't get the dew controller yet. Kendrick makes one that runs about $80.00 I believe and that is an alternative. I may go with a Kendrick to save money, I have to call Ron and see what he says about his product. The Kendrick's don't have the built in thermostat though except for their new top of the line model. The site uses Canadian dollars and I believe that means the cost is barely more in U.S. dollars since I believe the U.S. dollar is worth 3 cents more than the Canadian dollar right now.

To make one's own heaters or to purchase? DewBuster doesn't make heaters, but per the above link, Ron shares how to make then, but at your own risk. Here is Kendrick's list of heaters. As a local SLAS member Erik said in a post, "
I have the Kendrick Heaters, but it seems shrink wrap and having your wife sew covers out of cordura with velcro closures and you could make
some fine dew heaters." I agree, but I'll do the sewing, or better yet, my daughter will as she is a master at sewing. So there, again interested in doing either this project or in making an observing chair or learning how to make a mirror then come on by!

6/12/2011

June 7th 2011, XT10 View of SN2011dh

Well, not a long post. It now looks like I've gone from pneumonia to walking pneumonia. That's an improvement I guess. Truly, I am feeling better, I just have to take it easy for another week so that's good news.

On the evening of Tuesday, June 7th, 2011, as I've posted here, I went observing and saw SN2011dh through my 10 inch dob. It was harder than what I depicted in the sketch here. It was with averted vision I saw it and it looked more like a fuzzy blob though it did sharpen from time to time. Here is my sketch of what I saw:


























The stars are a little brighter with direct vision but I haven't mastered making them look more like averted vision yet. Hope it helps someone trying to see the SN with a 10 inch. By the way, here is a cruel joke Mother Nature is playing on me. I decided to do some lunar observing and sketching with some doubles this month right? Yep, thought time to take what I can in terms of seeing. Well, since that decision the clouds have come back as has the rain and no observing for me. Hopefully in about a week and a half it works.

6/08/2011

Observing Session Tuesday, June 7th, 2011; 10 inch Dob

Since participating in the Zambuto mirror project and then cleaning, and reinstalling my mirror, I have wanted to get the 10 inch out to collimate it, and make some adjustments to it. So on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011, I took the ten inch out locally and had some fun with it. There's a spot I go locally, where I have permission, that is mostly free from stray light and allows me a decent view of the sky above 20 degrees.

The scope collimated easily, it usually does, and I had it up and cooling in a matter of minutes. I did not take my sketching materials and I only had my premium eyepiece case (my Pentax XW eyepieces, the 5mm, 7mm, 10mm and 14mm and the 27 Panoptic). I mainly for this night used the 14mm as my finder and the 10mm and 7mm as my main eyepieces in the eyepiece holder that night.

After getting settled, and setting up my observing chair, I spent some time on the moon. I used my 5mm Pentax and the images were sharp, crisp and clean. My first object was what I believed to be Maurolycus which instantly made me regret I did not bring my sketching materials (please provide some latitude in crater identification as I am still learning the moon). Inside this large crater was a perfect pacman shape shadow. My son was with me, since I am still not completely healed (I am starting to cough hard again, sigh) and he was amazed by the shape, agreeing that it looked just like a pacman. I also looked at what I believe are Aliacensis, Werner and Blanchinus. These were lovely and had a rich contrast in black, gray and white on their rims. Any would have made a find sketching object. Next time I will get them (would have done it tonight but guess what is back . . . clouds!). On Tuesday, after doing a star count in Bootes and Ursa Major again, I estimated the NELM to be at 5.7 to 5.8 and the SQM rather agreed with this coming in at a 20.39 (conversion would put that at a magnitude 5.75 NELM or so.

My next object was Saturn and I spent a good deal of time on Saturn. Saturn was beautiful, showing its storm and its four moons. The rings looked far better than last year and I actually got some contrast out of it. Saturn is one of my son's favorite objects so he took some time taking in the views, while talking about his thoughts on the new Nintendo Wi console that is coming out in the future.

After spending a good forty-five minutes on the moon, and another thirty on Saturn, I went off the moon and duplicated my galaxy observations from Sunday night in terms of the Herschel ones. Very faint and I can certainly tell the difference between the 14 and the 10 inch on these two (more moon light also).


Next, I jumped up to M51 to see if the 10 inch could get SN2011dh into view. This was a harder observation than in the 14 inch truss dob. I was able to see 3UC 275-121854 which is a magnitude 13.58 star to the SE of the core with N being straight up (bottom right of the core, the first bright star in the trail of four. Here is a link to local Salt Lake Astronomical Society member Kurt Fisher's gallery where he has posted a finder chart with these stars labeled on them). I could hold this star with direct image as seeing allowed, which was pretty often. 3UC 275-121870 is a magnitude 13.74 star and this one was slightly hard to view, taking averted vision to obtain it, and then direct vision would maintain the observation until after that. SN2011dh is reported at magnitude 13.3 right now, and should be seen. Using averted vision I was able to pick up the supernova and then to hold it. It appeared not as crisp tonight versus Sunday and often appeared fuzzy. There were a few times that I felt it was visible, and then others when I lost it all together. Based on this experience, and the fact that when I looked a waxing crescent moon was in the sky I would say that my ten inch will not be able to detect SN2011dh for the rest of this waxing cycle of this moon. It also shows that as reported at Sky&Telescope medium (for me 12" to 16" telescopes) and large scopes (17 inches plus) should be able to bring in this supernova visually. A ten inch is really pushing it though it is possible, just don't expect to hold it in your view.

After M51 and the forty-five minutes I spent there, I next took the scope over the M13 and observed a lack luster globular cluster. It was missing its brillance, and it did not just pop out for me. Part of this was location. Hercules was heading up toward zenith but still in the eastern sky and there is a lot of light pollution in that direction. The heavy light pollution of the Salt Lake Valley really impacted the view. It did remind me of how spoiled I have been to be at several dark sites and to gaze at this wonderful globular and see it in such splendor. Five years ago, M13 was a wonderful sight from the backyard and this shows why viewing at a dark site is so wonderful and an experience I highly recommend on a regular basis.

After M13 I went to Antares which had risen and I hoped over there and took a look at M4. Not much in light pollution. I then hoped over to the star Vega, and then took a look at the Double Double and ended this night with the M57, the Ring Nebula. Position in the sky, M57 is in the north-eastern sky and that lovely light pollution is heavy there, drowned out most of the stars, but without a filter I was able to detect a faint greenish color to the ring and saw its shape and its fuzzy interior. It was good to see an old friend for the first time in 2011. The summer constellations are arriving, and I fear I need 3 good nights with the spring constellations to complete the H400 (and some open clusters in Puppis next winter). Oh well, another year may go by.

So no sketches this time. It was wonderful to be out under the stars and spending some time with my son and pushing the scope to see what it could do. It reminded me of why I am glad I kept my ten inch and sold my 8 inch scope. My son and I talked about that and he wished I had kept the 8 inch scope. I have an 8 inch mirror blank so I will be making a new 8 inch reflector because that scope is such a pleasure to use on planets, double stars and on deep sky objects. However, the ten really did allow me to push into some challenging magnitudes that night, and it was fun to do that. It isn't that much heavier than the 8 inch and it sets up easily and quickly. It is my scope of choice for using in the backyard and locally because of its convenience unless I need the 14 to do something. I am hoping to get the 20" up here in July for some fun comparisons and to report on that. Overall a quick night, but a good night. Lets hope summer arrives and clear skies to all.

6/06/2011

Observing Session June 5th, 2011

Well, this weekend was suppose to be a great weekend to observe. Clear on Friday, clear on Saturday. Well, yet another low pressure was off the California coast and it didn't bring rain or snow, or any form of precipitation this weekend, just wonderful 90% or better clouds. I tried going out to a dark site on Friday with my friend Mat, but the sky didn't cooperate. I didn't take the 14 as I felt this would happen, and I needed to adjust the XT10 after doing some work on it and the mirror test etc. I actually cleaned the XT10's stock mirror since it was 3 plus years with lots of observing. From that experience I learned to let my mirrors go even longer before cleaning. It really wasn't that dirty.

So Sunday night came and I had to work today but the sky was just great, compared to the last 8 months. So I hooked up the 14 and went observing. I didn't go for, just stayed local, but the site was dark enough to let me observe. I began the night by looking at the crescent moon and making a determination that IF the weather cooperates (it isn't) to really get into lunar sketching using the new sketching method I'm learning from Alex. Next, I went to Saturn and the Cassinis division was easily seen with four of the moons. Next I just plopped down, and decided to wait another half hour for the main target, SN2011dh in Messier 51. As I waited I tested the NELM using several constellations but since Bootes was near zenith at the time, I used Bootes and got a 5.8 NELM for the night. Not bad for being under a light dome. Finally, I felt it was dark enough so I went to Messier 51 by star hopping (I never set up the Intelliscope tonight) and boom, there it was. M51 stood right out as did NGC 5195. Hints of arms were strongly there as was the supernova, both using averted vision at first. With some effort I was able to keep the supernova in focus with direct vision, after my eye had first captured it with averted vision. Pretty site it was and here is my rude sketch of it.




















After playing with Messier 51 I decided to see if I could get a few Herschel objects in. My son had strict instructions to bring me home by 12:30a.m. so I could get plenty of sleep. I am still having a rough time with my health, my Celiac disease impacts my autoimmune and I am finding I am still tiring easily, though it is improving. Pneumonia is a nasty illness I've decided.

My next object was NGC 4958, and using the Panoptic 27mm I easily went from my Telrad to Spica to its location and it stood out rather easily. I then brought magnification to this galaxy using my 10mm Pentax XW with the XX14i. It has a long shape that is masked in light pollution unless you use averted vision on it; the shape then popped into view for me. The core is stellar bright, and the galaxy is widest at the core region. A 14th magnitude star (estimating) is to the west of the galaxy and rather close. Overall, an easy target to hunt down. West is toward the upper left corner I believe on this one.



















I got NGC 4995 in also and it was also an easy hop from NGC 4958. The 27mm Panoptic again showed it easily and the 10mm Pentax XW brought it right into view. With the 10mm Pentax XW it took me a minute to ensure I was actually seeing the galaxy, but with patience I was able to take in the entire galaxy. It has a very, very faint core but what I saw from this location was mainly a very light fuzzy of a galaxy that was oval in shape. Probably much better from a dark site.




















My son now told me it was time, so I quickly went to M84 and M86 and a few NGC galaxies in Virgo, and also the Sombrero Galaxy as I am afraid by the end of the month, they may be fading quickly into the western horizon. Sad, I hate when spring is robbed by clouds but that seems to be the way it works often in northern Utah. I ended with M13 which was looking really nice, beckoning me to sketch it using the new method so I will next time I have a dark session. It was good to get out, even if only for a few hours and I was in bed asleep by 1:00a.m. so that is good for my ongoing recovery. I hope you have clear dark skies wherever you go. I know when the sky is dark next, most of my observing friends will be at AlCON while I am still stuck here. See that is the last week of school and I am not allowed to take personal time off during the first or last week of school. I'm fine with that, as I truly care about my students and enjoy being with them. I will miss though the public outreach and guess I need to make plans to really get out to Great Basin.

A side note on that. Mat is from California as I am and in California is a great park called Big Basin State Park. A park near where I grew up and I spent many weekends hiking and camping there. Close to the ocean for surfing also. So often I catch myself writing or calling Great Basin, Big Basin. So if I or another observer from California do that, please excuse our slip up.