Zambuto Mirror Test 2 XT10i with Zambuto vs XT10 with Stock Orion Audio

On Saturday, July 23rd, 2011, a fellow club member named Jeff took his XTi10 with a Zambuto mirror up against my XT10 with a stock Orion mirror in it to compare both size scopes at a decent local dark site that locally is called Pit n Pole. I recorded about 22 minutes of the observations along with background chatter such as a discussion of why a tube 1o or 12 inch can be more of a grab and go scope than a 12 inch or larger truss design. On that I would have to agree in that I can set up my 10 inch much faster than my XX14i. Not by a lot, but by about 15 minutes if I rush, 25 minutes if I take my time.

What you'll see are images of the objects we observed, and then some images of my XX14i, XT10 and of the Pit n Pole landscape. It was a clear night, that is the best that can be said. Down low, say under 40 degrees of the sky the stars were really twinkling at first, giving an Antoniadi IV that later moved to a III. At zenith I rated the sky as a III to begin the night and kept it there, maybe hinting toward a II on the Antoniadi scale.

The video with the audios are on YouTube ( doesn't upload very well) and here is the first link to video 1.

Here is the link to video 2 where I finish my recording.

Some highlights. The XX14i beat both mirrors in the conditions tonight, showing far more structure on M51 than either the 10 inch. Jeff asks if he should include that, I say no at first joking, and then say to include it. Sometimes aperture does win as in this case.

The Veil Nebula, NGC 6960 showed wonderful filaments and structure with the Zambuto. On the Trifed Nebula, M20 the Zambuto brought out the dust lanes with direct vision and they popped because of the improved smoothness of the mirror and the contrast. On the stock Orion the lanes were there, very easy to be seen but not as crisp as in the Zambuto. The Zambuto mirror also showed a touch more color especially of both pink and green where the stock Orion showed some pink, with a hint of green from the site. There are other comparisons but I'll let you listen or if you want, you can go to this link on CloudyNights and read Jeff's report. I invite you if you are having cloudy nights and days like I am, to listen to the video/audio and to read Jeff's report. Outside of what I have posted, I am not going to put in my two pits since this was Jeff's opportunity and he did an outstanding job with it.

So as it was so cloudy this weekend killing the new moon observing, I did some work on some sketching of some targets I want to focus on in my next sessions. These were last years sketches which I redid and used a layered approach of dark gray, light gray and white. I am anxious to try them again with the Mellish method.


The Little Dumbbell Nebula

Messier 33 Rough Sketch


Observing Session July 23rd and July 24th 2011

Well on Saturday night a local club member, Jeff P. got a hold of a 10 inch Zambuto mirror and we took his XT10i and my XT10 out to Pit n Pole and did another comparison of the two mirrors. There is no doubt who won but I don't want to take Jeff's reflection/post that he'll do on Cloudy Nights. I had the XX14i out there as well and it performed quite well. I have an audio recording and I'll be posting that up on the blog in the next day or two after I add some images to the audio so I can post it.

On Sunday, July 24th, 2011 I went back out to Pit n Pole and got the XX14i totally back to working order (I had the mirrors out and the base apart), well, sort of. The intelliscope worked for a moment and then went wild with its warp. So I need to make some adjustments with that (I played with it for about 45 minutes which was a waste). I like it when it is working, I don't like it when it doesn't work as it is a waste of time because in that 45 minutes I could have star hopped to a half dozen objects or to two or three Herschels and done an observation and a sketch.

Well I was working on my collimation, my friend Jorge showed up and set up next to me. I had been tweaking some things and had to stand up to stretch my back when I noticed that about 15 yards away, we had a new visitor. Here is a couple of blurry images:

Sorry, another picture:

When I first got there, I noticed that down in Pit was some Antelope droppings, some old and some fresh ones. Yet I wasn't expecting this buck to come walking up that dirt road you see just to the left of the pole, look at us and then turn to the left. He kept on walking and eventually changed directions back toward the main road and then to the east. That night for about an hour and a half he was relatively close again and made some grunting like noises, clamped his hoofs a couple of times and just made some noise moving around. He got close a couple of times so I simply shouted out and we never had an issue with him again. I've observed where pronghorn are, and have seen them, but this adult male buck was good size and not afraid of us. It is the closest to the wild pronghorn I have ever been and I have to say, it was cool to see him that close.

So after playing with the intelliscope I gave up and went to the star atlas and my printed maps to get my July Herschels done (I have like 7 to do). I got six done and will present five here tonight. The sky this night was rather iffy, lots of twinkle in the upper atmosphere as the jet stream was shifting round a moving high pressure that brought some rain and thunderstorms in this evening. I put it initially at an Antoniadi IV and then moved it down to a III later in the evening. At zenith (up top) the sky was an Antoniadi III. Having said that, it was clear, dark, and the Milky Way just shown with its dark lanes being very visible.

1. NGC 6293 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; July 24th, 2011; 10:34p.m. or 04:34UT on 7/24/11; Clear conditions; Antoniadi IV; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley UT; Mag. 8.3; Size: 8.2' XX14i with 10mm Pentax XW;

Small globular with a bright core. There are stars resolved in the globular with both direct and averted vision. The core is about 1/4 the size of the halo that makes up the globular cluster and there appears to be a chain running to the northeast; this gives the globular an almost diamond shape appearance.

Object: NGC 6355 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 24th, 2011; Time: 11:20p.m. MDT or 05:20UT on 7/25/11; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Antoniadi IV-III; Mag: 8.6; Size 4.2'; Instruments: XX14i & 10mm Pentax XW;

A very small and faint globular cluster, almost galaxy like in appearance. 165x shows a stellar/pinpoint core and then a somewhat brighter halo around that inner core, with a diffused halo around that brighter halo. Averted vision shows a mottled type appearance. No chains of stars evident and perhaps a few stars are viewable though I believe they are foreground stars.

Object: NGC 6316 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 24th, 2011; Time: 11:45p.m. MDT or 05:45UT on 7/25/11; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Mag. 8.1; Size: 5.4'; Antoniadi III; Instruments: XX14i w/ 10mm Pentax XW.

This globular cluster is small, yet has a somewhat bright core. The core is white and round and about 1/2 the size of the entire halo of the globular. No stars are evident or resolved and no chains of course are evident then. Again another globular that appears more like a galaxy.

Object: NGC 6304 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 25th, 2011; Time: 12:18a.m. MDT or 06:18UT same date: Mag. 8.3; Size: 8.0'; Instruments: XX14i w/ 10mm Pentax XW; Antoniadi III;

Small globular cluster with no real core. No resolved stars are evident and no major detail. One item did stick out and it appeared that form the core a bright line seem to come out which I included in the sketch. The globular was somewhat irregular in shape.

Object: NGC 6451 Open Cluster in Scorpius: Date: July 25th, 2011; Time: 12:55a.m. or 06:55UT same date; Antoniadi III; Mag. 9.2; Size 8.0'; Instruments: XX14i w/ 27mm Panoptic;

In the Panoptic this appears as a small and tight cluster but it is rather medium size in terms of size and medium rich in the number of stars in view. Relatively bright and easy to discern as it sites in a equilateral triangle. Many stars in view and many more wanting to pop out. One that I'll come back to and take a look at with higher magnification.

Yes, I did this one digitally based on the sketch. You may have to click on this one to see the open cluster.

I also took time and examined Stephen's Quintet. It was better at Lakeside last September when it was in the southern sky more near zenith. All five were viewable but seeing limited them to being somewhat faint. NGC 7331 was nearby of course. Also took in the Helix Nebula and that was a wonderful site in the 27mm Panoptic. It was late and the moon was about to pop but that is one item that I am going to sketch this next weekend if the weather cooperates. Also Jorge and I looked at Jupiter as it was higher up now and saw the banding and the four moons. It was nice to see Jupiter again and brings back good memories of observing in the later portion of the summer of 2010 and the early fall of 2011. I saw some other objects, and I think I want to see the Snake Nebula this next weekend also. So much to see, not enough time! I hope the weather is great this week where you are and you get out.

Edit: My friend and observing mate Jorge took the following two pictures of our friendly visitor or Buck Antelope that wanted to Star Gaze. Please click on them for the larger version.


An Offer to Learn to use a Dobonsion Telescope

I wanted to extend to anyone in the Salt Lake or Provo area an offer. If you have ever wanted to try running a dobsonion telescope from now on when I go to Pit n Pole, I am taking my 10 inch/XT10 scope with me. It has no electronics and you have to run it manually but I have an extra copy of the Sky Pocket Atlas and I'll teach you a few tricks so you can start using this scope. I'll be observing next to you just in case you have a question and in education we call this a scaffolding approach to learning. Tonight, Sunday, July 24th I'll be out at Pit n Pole and probably next weekend to (was planning on Great Basin but some family issues arose where I need to be close to home). Here is a link to directions to Pit n Pole. If you plan to take me up on this offer I would ask if you could leave a comment and let me know, but you don't have to. I'll just bring the scope no mater what.

Here are two pictures of the scope you'll use to learn on. I think if someone is interested they will really enjoy this experience.


Thermals, Cooling and Dobsonian Telescopes; Reason for a Thinner Mirror in the XX14i

Well, sorry I haven't posted but I've been swamped this week. I had two finals on Monday and then had to to go to work on Monday and Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon I had the first of my last two wisdom teeth pulled and am looking to have my lower right 2nd molar, tooth 31 I believe, which has had a root canal and a re-treatment has to come out and soon as it is hurting. I hate all the dental work I have had to have because of my Celiac disease.

So on to the other news. I am going observing this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Utah has this holiday called Pioneer Day, which is celebrated on the 24th of July so on Monday the 25th, we are off. I'll go in to work today to finish being ready to start teaching on Tuesday (well at least until a dentist calls and says they can pull my molar). The weather should be good all weekend and the moon won't rise to around or after 2:00a.m. on Saturday, later on Sunday.

I wanted to share a link to a wonderful article by Gary Seronik called Beat the Heat and is located on Gary's site at this link, while, that is Part 1 of the article. Here is a highlight from Part 1 discussing how to know if your mirror reaches withing 3 degrees C of the outside air, an place that Gary says will free you from thermal viewing problems.

"make a trip to your local hardware store to pick up an inexpensive indoor/outdoor digital thermometer. Tape the “outdoor” probe to the back of your scope’s primary mirror. Place the probe directly against the glass and insulate the other side of the probe with a piece of foam before taping it down. Next, attach the display (which houses the “indoor” temperature sensor) to the back end of the scope somewhere. This way you can compare the mirror temperature with the ambient air temperature. Your scope will mostly be free from thermal problems when the mirror is within 3° C (5.4°F) of ambient. Chances are, this is something you’ll rarely see."

In Part 2 Gary discusses several key items. First are the two reasons why your Newtonian has thermal problems. One is the difference in the air temperature between the outside air and the primary mirror. This is called delta T and is explained in depth in the article. Some may think in winter you have worse delta T, yet often summer is just as bad as winter. The next factor that determines how bad a thermal issue is, is the thickness of one's mirror because the mirror's heat capacity is determined by its thickness, not its diameter. Gary's article goes on and discusses thermal issues, where to store your mirror when your not observing and why, the need and location of fan(s) and how to control thermals next to the mirror.

I found this part of Gary's article very interesting since I own a XX14i. Specifically Gary makes it very clear that "if your mirror is thicker than 1½ inches, you should consider using fans to work both the rear and front surfaces of the mirror, which effectively doubles the cooling efficiency." If your using the XX14i the stock mirror is 1 13/16 inches thick (almost 2 full inches) and the XX14i has one mirror mounted in the back and no side mounted mirror with holes on the side so don't expect a ton of cooling and in terms of planetary performance, or having sharp images, this thermal issue will impact your viewing, especially on planetary objects. As Gary states in the article, "if optimum performance is your goal, avoiding thick mirrors is virtually a necessity."

This is one of several reasons why I have decided to put a Carl Zambuto 14 inch mirror in my XX14i. The money will go off in the next two weeks to Carl to pay for the mirror and it will take about 4 months for the mirror to get done. When it is done, my current 14 inch mirror will head off to Carl for review and then re-figuring and that will open the door for Carl's mirror program for Chinese Dobs to into the XX14i. I believe the mirror will be about 1 and 3/8 inches thick, and about 6 to 7lbs less than the current mirror. That means instead of 52.9lbs in the bottom mirror tube, it will be 46.9 or 47.9lbs in the bottom tube, less weight than in the XX12i. So if you have the extra money, and put in one of Carl's outstanding mirrors, there is no reason weight wise to not get the 14 inch instead of the 12 inch now (unless you can get Carl to do the 12 inch and take more weight off that as well). It will mean that I will have to add some counterweight to the back of the tube, but I have some cast iron dumbbells I can use for that so the center balance point doesn't come off and a new base is required. In addition, I may have to make some adjustments, about 7/16 or so to keep the mirror focused in the focuser but I intend to upgrade the focuser to a Moonlight and according to another XX14i owner, Ken, that adds about a 1/2 inch so I think I can compensate for that as well. So for around $3800 or so I'll have an excellent scope to use for some time.

Some may ask why I am doing this since I've said my 14 inch mirror is good. It is good, but I've seen what Carl's mirrors are like and what they deliver and for me as a visual observer, I really believe the views are just outstanding. I have the opportunity, I have the money and I'm going to do it and for me that is enough justification. There are other reasons as I believe the contrast is just tremendous, as is the amount of detail that contrast brings out and in the end, I know that I will have an exceptional mirror that provides exceptional views in the west desert of Utah or up in the Unitas Mountains or in the National Parks of southern Utah. That much more seeing and viewing is worth the cost to me. Bottom line is that it is my money and that means I get to choose how I spend it and for me, this is a worthwhile upgrade.

Some may say what about motions? You won't have premium motions. True to a point, but I like where I have my XX14i and unlike the Obsession, a gust of wind won't send the XX14i turning in the wind. In the end, the motions are adequate and I like the XX14i's motions and have no problem bumping it to keep an object in view and I have to do that often when I am sketching. It comes down to choice and sure, someday I intend to have either Dennis at Dobstuff or Rob at Teeter telescope make a system to hold the 14 inch mirror but that is down the road after my two teens are done with college (4 or 5 years). This will cap me off for sometime and I will be content. So if you own a XX14i or have considered it, and want a premium primary I'd contact Carl and get on the list to get a mirror. The ten inch mirror program is truly terrific. However, I think the 14 is a logical step up and you can get a premium mirror from Carl down the road to put into the 14 with some adjustment to counterweights, and enjoy observing for a very long time.

So check out the article by Gary, its quite interesting if you haven't seen it and I am very excited to be getting down the road a 14 inch mirror from Carl. I'll post up here of course the mods I make to the XX14i so those of you who are more adapt can make even better mods and I can learn from you.


iPad/iTouch Free Astronomy Apps 3a

Well, the other two posts on this topic have been popular so I thought I would do one more after scanning the app store and finding some more free products that are available. Seems astronomy keeps growing. There are also plenty of 0.99 apps but I have not purchased those yet and will be a little more selective since I'm spending money to do that.

1. AstroCalc is a free program that will take your telescope and your eyepieces and let you see your true field of view, magnification etc. for that eyepiece. I am assuming that because the program locks up when you add a telescope or an eyepiece and you have to allow it to reset which is done when the iPad is off. Thus this is not a practical tool to use which is unfortunate because it would be nice to have such a tool on the iPad for when you want to consider a purchase or borrow an eyepiece. Here is what the program looks like:

Sorry, it was stuck there and I was not able to get any further shots of the main screen or of the telescope portion etc.

Update: Once I got all the data entered for my scopes and my eyepieces, the program actually gives you a data summary of the eyepiece on that scope, basically the data you entered in already, the magnification and Exit Pupil info, the Telescope and your eyes allows you to enter your age and then provides pupil diameter and how much of your scopes aperture is equivalent to one's eyes and what the gain in magnitudes is. The Magnitude and Resolution gives you a theoretical limiting magnitude for your scope, a brightness factor, a resolving power of ____ per seconds of arc and then the smallest features you could theoretically see on the moon would be about ____ miles across (0.78 for my XX14i). Finally under other it gives you an optimum magnification range and what the corresponds to in terms of what in an eyepiece (say 18.5mm to 9.3mm). Provides the lowest magnification the scope should theoretically go to, and the minimum airy disk diameter in arc seconds and the image scale at prime focus per arc minutes per mm.

All in all, once you get through it, a nice piece of information to have on hand I guess. Total stars, 3/5.

2. Sky Almanac
This is a fun program, though not a necessity if you have other planetarium programs like StarmapPro or Star Walk etc. as they have the information in their programs as well. Be aware that all times provided in this program are UT time so be ready to add the hours based on your +/- to UT time. Here is the opening screen or what they call time in the program:

As you can see it will show the system time and Julian date, your GMST time and your Fixed Observer time.

Next come the Today tab which shows the following screen:

It will show you when the Sun is at Civil Dusk, Nautical Dusk, Astronomical Dusk, when the moon sets or rises, when the moon will transit, when the Sun sets, etc. etc. Nice to have all that information in once place and it is the first program I've seen that actually does this.

The Solar tab is next and here is that screen:

It shows you the Topcentric Position in Azimuth and Altitude. The Geocentric Position using R.A. and Dec. Finally here you can see the time the sun will rise and its azimuth, the time the Sun transits with time and altitude; finally the time the Sun sets with time and azimuth. On the bottom you can see when the Spring Equinox is next by date and time, in 2012 since it has occurred for 2011; the Summer Solstice (same) and when the Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice will occur this year in 2011 by date and time.

The next object is the Lunar tab and here is that image:

You can see that this image provides the current phase the moon is in, what percent it is illuminated, the Moon Age for this cycle, its topocentric position and geocentric position. Next the Rise, Transit and Set time are given and finally when the moon will be in the stages of full, first quarter, last quarter and new by date and time.

The last tab is the More tab and here it is:

By clicking on the planet you can get its mass, its orbital period, mean radius, topocentric position, geocentric position and its rise, transit and set times.

What is lacking in this program is a red screen, no option is given to allow this. Also, the app seems to run off of GMST but the times I get in this program are really funky/weird and I cannot figure out how the time in the program is working, unless it is based off of Zurich time which the creator was at when he made the app. If you gain insight please post here on this program. In the end, a fun app for an amateur but unless you get the time figured out, I'm not sure if it is useful. Total stars on this is 2/5 (would be higher but the time issue).

3. Galaxy Collider Lite

I love observing merging galaxies. You can say that they and supernova fascinate me, a lot! When I have free time to read, I read any professional article I can on both topics. Having said that, let me say this app has no real purposeful use for the amateur unless they want to just have some fun. I have this version and the HD version (lite for both) to review here and I will state up front I much prefer the HD version. It is a fun, very fun app to model the collisions of galaxies with though.

Here is the opening screen:


Settings (please note you can in the regular lite version only pick up to 2 galaxies. In the regular version in the HD one you can simulate three or more galaxies interacting).

The merger happening on your screen:

I do think this app can be useful in educational settings where you want to teach students or the public on what a merger could be like when two galaxies, say the Andromeda and the Milky Way merge in about 3 to 5 billion years. 2/5 stars.

4. Moon Map

This is a program for those observing the moon and wanting to have a quick guide to what they are seeing. Here is the image:

You can see that the blue line is the terminator, the point where light and dark meet on the face of the moon. The moon is also divided into a North 1 and North 2, a South 1 and South 2, and a West 1, 2, 3 and 4. Also an East 1, 2,3 and 4. You can click in a sector and the follow map will come up:

It shows in color the area of the moon for that portion that you have clicked on. Also based on the type of telescope you have, you can adjust the view to either a mirrored view or a rotate view (rotates the view down becomes up and up becomes down) as seen on this image:

This version which is free, has a Night Vision which turns the screen red and helps to not kill one's night vision. However, when observing the moon, night vision is usually not an issue. Overall not a bad tool to use when observing though I still prefer the app Moon Globe personally. 4/5 stars.

5. Moon Map Lite

This is similar to the last app I posted since it divides the moon into four quadrants on a compass; Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast. Again a blue line shows the terminator.

Where it differs is when you touch on a quadrant it shows that area in black and white, a feature I really like for the moon. Here is the image:

The down side to this is you cannot zoom in on the map and only the features listed are the ones you can identify. So this is not a bad program for a new lunar observer but since the full version is free, go that route. It is the lite version of the one I just reviewed. If you want to choose, take number 4. Moon Map since you get more features and more details. 2/5 stars.

5. VARIABLE STARS (and there is a reason this is in caps).

Best program for an amateur astronomer out of the ones that I found. I recommend downloading this terrific program on variable stars and then going to the About tab in the lower right corner of the app. It will take you to this screen:

From here you can click on the Introduction and the app will bring a treasure of information up for you:

The next part of the About tab is on Types of Variables (it is the icon under introduction) and reveals this page:

This continues as the app introduces the reader to what the database is about, a user manual for the app and resources with links on variable stars. There is an icon for AAVSO and for Diatom Software (they made the app). This is a very in depth app and if you like observing variable stars and recording them, this is a program for you. You can even make a list of your favorite variable stars from the catalog and determine how many of the variables you are going to go after based on their exhaustive filter. On the Visibility icon you can determine to have only visible stars be listed. Of all the apps on this list, this is the one I give 5/5 stars to.

6. Grand Tour

An interesting though not glamorous planetary program. Here is the opening screen:

After you load you are taken to a picture of the Earth from space and your location is in a diamond. Down below on the icons on the very bottom you have Earth, Go to . . . What's Up? Clock, Prefs, Catalog and Info.

The Goto feature allows you to choose to go to the Sun, a planet and some of the planets moons for those who have a ton like Jupiter and Saturn, you can choose from the larger ones. I went to Saturn and then so you know you can zoom in and out per the usual command to see more of its moons etc.

What's Up will take you t o a screen of what objects in the solar system are currently up in your sky, and which are below the horizon.

Clock will allow you to speed up time or slow it down. Preferences allows you to personalize the program by putting borders on constellations or putting their names and stick figures on them. To put the names next to the objects in the solar system and to make Venus cloudless or to show or not show Pluto. Other options are contained.

Catalog brings up other planetary programs like Distant Suns etc. with links to let you buy the full version right now. A decent solar system program but not spectacular. I'd give 2.5/5 stars.

7. planetfacts app

This is a very solid tool that you can use in the classroom if you have iTouches or an iPad for your students or in outreach. Here is the opening screen.

The solar system icon will bring up the Sun, and then you can finger over to each planet one at a time. If you double tap the object (Sun or the planet) and information screen that will come up that will give some of the very basic information for that object that students may need for a report or an electronic presentation they may have to create. Here it is:

Scrolling down provides more information on the object. The next feature is a Size and Scale feature that shows how large the Sun is and compares each planet to the Sun. In this part of the app they let the user know that distance is not to scale. You simply keeping scrolling to your right to get the other planets.

The next one is distance scale which allows the user to see how far the objects are from the Sun in millions of miles.

The last feature is a wonderful dictionary going from A to Z with many terms that a novice to astronomy, and to the solar system would need to know. Here is that sample:

As an educator with iTouches in my classroom this program gets me really excited as I begin to think about changing up how to teach the solar system to my students. 5/5 Stars as an educational tool. Great for outreach as well.

I have about 5 more apps to review but the club is doing a public outreach and I am wanting to attend if the weather cooperates so I'll stop here. Look for Free Astronomy Apps 3b review probably tomorrow or early next week. Also, I have two other reviews on apps in my blog that I'll invite you to do a quick blog search for apps and they should easily come up. I'll include a link to all them in the next day or two. Continue to gaze upward!


Monsoon in Full Swing; Allred-Astro

Well, no observing for me since Utah and the Inter mountain area including Arizona went from spring right into the August monsoon season! No biggie I guess, I was just going to do some lunar observing and sketching. I might attend one of my club's star parties this weekend though.

On our local message board, Tyler Allred, Astro-Photographer extraordinaire, took some wonderful shots down at Bryce of the Milky Way at ALCON. I just wanted to post a link to his website and invite you to head over and take a look. Tyler does marvelous work. His site is located at this link. Hope your skies are clear and you can observe something wherever you are! Here's a view of his work:

Summer Milky Way, Bryce National Park, Rainbow Point, ALCON by Tyler Allred.

Also, check out his Double Star section located here.


New Sketching Pad Light; Black and Decker BDCLIP-B

Well, I had to go to my least favorite store, and while there I usually go by their camping area to see if there is anything I can use for astronomy. Don't take me wrong, I don't mind shopping at Walmart, but I am the kind of guy that if I can buy something from a local store with a local owner, I prefer to do that, but I'm not radical about it. Anyway, while there, Nathan, my 17 year old son, saw this Black&Decker clip light with a red, blue and green filter. He held it up and said "Won't this work better than your big clip lamp on your art board?" I looked at it and felt the heart start to beat a little faster and sure enough, I had to buy it and try it out. It was only $10.00 with tax so why not. I also got the 3 LED replacement bulb for my two AA Mini Maglite flashlights I've modified and I am happy to report, they made the red light a little darker than the standard bulb.

Here is a photo of the Black&Decker BCLIP-B:

It is an LED light so that is good and it comes with a belt holder which I also really like and somewhere is a holder for the filters. EDIT: The holder is in the belt loop holder and they fit right into a sewn compartment, one for the blue, green and red filter. Nice! What I like about it is that it clips right on to my large art board I use to sketch on and I can put it on the right or left side and the light is right on the piece of paper I am sketching on. Here are a couple of images to show that.

I put a sketch I did from Saturday's observing to show how close this light can get to the paper if your using the clip to hold the paper. This is on the left side and you can see my left thumb.

Here it is with the light on, and yes, the light is bright and will need to be dimmed. I'm doing that today.

This picture is with the clip light on the right side with it turned on, and I am holding the board with my left hand as I usually do when sketching. I love the fact that it is light weight, easy to clip on and works so well. It works so well that I bought another today and it comes with a lifetime warranty.

I also figure I can dim the green light down and use that for looking at star atlases since green is a better light to do that by. Hope this little find helps someone else!

Observing Session July 1st and July 2nd, 2011, Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah

Well, I have a LOT of things to post out. First though, after over a month of just plain bad weather, summer hit the last few days. Temperatures in the 90's (over 100 today) and wonderful, mild nights (temps in the low 50's, now lower than 48 degrees in the West Desert). So on Friday I loaded up the 14 inch and headed out to my local spot that is really good and about 45 minutes from home, yep, Pit n Pole or Rush Valley Utah. I had posted an open invitation to anyone left behind who did not attend ALCON at Bryce National Park to go observing with me. I was eager and left early to leave me plenty of time to set up and then enjoy the evening. Well, I got out there around 7:00p.m. and it was just plain hot on Friday. I thought I had packed enough water but I realized I probably hadn't. I set up and collimated and then drank my thermos of cold gatorade to get rid of my thirst. It worked. I then waited.

After awhile fellow SLAS club member and my observing friend Daniel showed up with his binoculars for the evening. After Daniel, came a new club member and astro-photographer named Jorge. Jorge has a six inch Meade I believe and he does astro-photography without a laptop by connecting his camera right to the eyepiece. Jorge got set up and I then was waiting for my friend Shahid to show up. I saw a vehicle come down the road to you take to get to where we set up and it ended up being another club member named Charlie who came with binoculars and to use what he called GoTo: I going the going with my scope to the object, he comes to take a look! It worked great! Next another car came with three people, a young man named Todd (not sure I am recalling) and his wife and another young lady I believe. Shahid and his brother showed up and we were good to go! A small star party took place.

I began by just testing out the scope and noticed that my azimuth motions were just plain horrible because I had not clean the teflon pad or the base after the impromptu rain event on my last outing. I got a few Herschels in and then I had others around me so I decided to do the summer Messier tour. Daniel wanted to see M83, but it was too low to really see much of its spiral structure. I went and looked at M4, M22, the other globulars in Sagitarrius, the Lagoon, the Trifed, the wonderful Sagittarius Star field, M17 the Omega or Swan Nebula, the Ring Nebula and I really tried for the central star in the 14 but seeing conditions were not great so that didn't work this night. I then went and looked at M13, tried for M27 and felt dumb for not remembering the hob, and then went to the Veil Nebula using the 27mm Panoptic. I borrowed Shahid's 2 inch Orion Ultrablock filter for this. The Veil was visible without the filter but the filter popped out detail so much more. I sketched the Veil, well the Western portion and here is that rough sketch.

By this time it was late and everyone but Daniel, Charlie and I had left so I packed up and called it a night. It was a very good time and I enjoyed having everyone there.

Oh, we had one rather bizarre incident though on Friday night. About 12:30p.m. or so, on the other side of the road a car pulled off and started shooting target practice, or they were shooting coyotes or more likely rabbits. Anyway, after a few shots and a ricochet, Daniel and I took our bright flashlights and waved them up in the air and in the shooters direction so they would know we were there and wouldn't shoot in our direction. Now, just so everyone knows, they were shooting in the a non-shoot area, but as typical, that was forgotten since they wanted to shoot and nothing would stand in their way. What is showed to me is the need for common sense in our world. I don't like to comment to much on my personal opinions, and I don't oppose safe gun use, but to shoot in a recreation area that is clearly defined as a non-shooting area is not using common sense. Luckily they must have saw us and quit firing. I got my dark adaptation back and I could actually see their truck across the road and see them standing next to it when a series of flashed and then shoots rang out as they were using a handgun. I never felt the need to get my bear spray out of the Pathfinder though and in all my visits over the last 4 or 5 years to Pit n Pole, I have never had anyone shooting like this. In a way I expected something since it was the 4th of July weekend.

On Saturday though, I had already made the decision to go again because weather conditions had improved. I posted an open invite on Utah Astronomy and Jorge replied he would be going. Most everyone else had had their fix on Friday, and that was fine. Earlier on Saturday I had unloaded everything into my garage since I need to make the Saturday grocery run and do some other errands. Oh, on Saturday morning I ordered the rest of the Pentax XW line that I wanted to own. I had to re-order the Pentax 5mm and the 7mm, as my brother-in-law wanted mine and paid for their replacements; well, I am keeping mine back when his arrive. Complicated but he is out of the country for another week and thus why I ordered. I also ordered the 3.5mm. I also ordered a 35mm Panoptic and a TeleVue Nagler 17mm Type 4.

So my eyepiece kit will look like this:
Pentax XW
3.5mm ( probably shouldn't have as one shouldn't order an eyepiece lower than the F ratio of their scope but I figure I'll be safe since the option could be going away, and yes, I know it will be rare when I use this, but its my money, I earned it, and this is money that is discretionary for me).
14mm (I stopped here because of the field curvature issues in the 20mm, 30mm and 40mm. I also feel my other eyepieces cover this range a little better. The Paracorr I I have resolves the issue on the 14mm so I'll keep it).
TeleVue Nagler 17mm Type 4. Use it, loved it, like the option it gives me from stepping down from the 27mm Panoptic to the 17mm to the 10mm Pentax.
TeleVue Panoptic 27mm (My finder eyepiece and workhorse).
TeleVue Panoptic 35mm (for those nice large objects that need a good FOV).

I'm done! No more. In the field I usually take the 14mm, 10mm and 7mm Pentax XW, the 2x TeleVue Powermate and the 27mm Panoptic. I'm sure the 17mm Type 4 will fit in that case also. That will be the eyepiece case I use and carry with me the most.

After running my Saturday errands, I came home and cleaned up the XX14i's base and boy, I needed to clean it. The teflon was very dirty from the sand and dirt grinding up but no damage so that was good. Applied a coat of SailKote as I like using it. Put everything back together and loaded the car back up later that evening to head out.

I arrived at the Pit and set up and collimated. I got out there around 8:00p.m. and it was me and me alone. After getting done, I took my camera out and took some pictures as that "magic time" settled in. There is a wonderful time and I know I've spoken of it, when after setting up, when the sun sets and twilight arrives and there is a transition in nature. We go from the daytime world to the nocturnal world. If you observe you can see this happening, and for me, it gets me as excited as I got waiting for Christmas to arrive.

I still need to work on the animation but I put together a quick movie. Nevermind the movie. It seems that it won't upload today to my blog for some reason. Needless to say, I should have shot a movie of this on the camera as it was the first time I actually could see a dark line with twilight advancing behind it. Cool.

Here are the images. I am looking east and that mountain in the distance with a flat line is called Mt. Timpanogas, a beautiful place. By the last image you can really see the Belt of Venus coming out (it is in the third picture also, perhaps the second also) :

So before I get into my sketches, I just wanted to show a comparison of the vegetation growth that has occurred at this site due to the abundance moisture that has been around this winter and spring, killing observing here. I will be using a late spring 2010 image where I was using my XT10 at the site and then compare it with some images from last Saturday, July 2nd, 2011. At Pit n Pole there were two observing spots in the past. One right off the main dirt road that comes in next to the pole and near the pit where ATV drive on it. This set up area was to the right as you drove in heading west. To the left, or south, was a quick two tire paths that lead to a very open area off the road by a good 50 feet or so and provided good even ground and a nice observing site. That site is now overgrown with vegetation. You can see how clear this site was with the XT10 set up in this picture, and the pole is in the background sticking straight up.

Another image looking south that shows a much similar position to the next picture in terms of location:

Here is an image from Saturday of the same area just over a year later:


If you've been to the Pit in the past here is what is left of that road that most took to get to the clearing. The vegetation is between 2 feet to 3 feet high. Lots of fire tinder here, I hope everyone who uses the area is careful when this dries out.

Here is the XX14i set up and collimated ready to go.

Last, I have to include my favorite time of the evening, twilight/sunset as the world transitions from light to dark, and I anticipate the evening at the scope! On Friday I was able to easily catch Mercury in that little bowl where the sun is going down right after sunset in the 14.

Here is my poor man's attempt at Mercury. As the digital sketch says, if I could animate it I would show a gibbous stage with the red and pink and white flaring on the bottom right and darker to the upper left. West is located to the lower left in the sketch.

So on to the observing and sketches. Here are the Herschel Objects I took the time to hunt down and sketch. They are not necessarily listed in the order I observed.

1. Object: NGC 4251 Barred Lenticular Galaxy in Como Berenices; July 1st, 2011; Time: 11:51p.m. MDT/7/2/11 05:51 UT; Pit n Pole, Rush Valley Utah; Clear, Cool, Antoniadi III; Mag. 10.7; Size 3.7'x2.1'; XX14i; 10mm Pentax XW and 27mm Panoptic as finder.

Object at first appeared as a dull, faint fuzzy and really stood out though in the 27mm Panoptic and so when I went to the 10mm Pentax XW I expected a little more than what I got. Surrounded by 12th and 13th mag. stars that form an equilateral triangle. With patience there is a touch of brightening around the core, and the core becomes brighter with averted vision. Somewhat irregular in shape. The galaxy looks to laying SW to NE.

2. NGC 4448 Spiral Galaxy in Canes Ventici. July 1st, 2011; Time: 11:10p.m. MDT/05:10 UT on 7/2/2011; Magnitude: 11.1; Size: 3.7' x 1.4'; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, UT; Conditions: Clear, cool, Antoniadi III;

Notes: The galaxy has a bright inner core that is very stellar, and is surrounded by a brightening around the core with a diffused halo that is around that slightly less bright halo that is around the core. Averted vision helps to see some hints of structure.

3. Object: NGC 4274 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices; Date: July 2, 2011; Time: 11:21p.m. or 05:21 UT on 7/3/2011; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild; Antoniadi II; Magnitude: 10.4; Size: 6.7' x 3.5'; Instrument: XX14i, 10mm Pentax XW, 27mm Panoptic as finder EP;

Notes: Very bright stellar core, star like and surrounded by a diffused halo. Some structure is hinted at, wanted to say I saw a bar but can't confirm it. Core is surrounded by a brighter region than diffusion into the blackness. Diffusion makes it hard to discern structure.

I did something different and would like to see if anyone prefers one or the other. Since I sketch white/gray on black I inverted the second image in GIMP for run. Let me know what you think, I'll try to get a poll up perhaps.

Here is the inverted image:

4. Object: NGC 4278 Elliptical Galaxy in Coma Berenices: Date: July 2nd, 2011; Time: 11:37p.m. MDT/05:37 UT on 7/3/11; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild, Antoniadi II; Magnitude: 10.2; Size: 3.5' x 2.5'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece(s); 27mm Panoptic as finder, 10mm Pentax XW

I almost used the Panoptic to do a wide field sketch but was said to do the higher magnification to try and show more detail so that is what I have done with these. This galaxy has a very bright stellar core, surrounded by a small halo that is very diffused. More round in shape than elliptical to me. No other structure evident.

5. Object: NGC 4314 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Coma Berenices: Date: July 2nd, 2011; Time: 11:49p.m. MDT or 05:49 UT; Conditions: Clear, mild, Antoniadi II-I; Magnitude: 10.6; Size: 4.2' x 4.1'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece: 10mm Pentax XW.

Notes: Seems to have an off center core that is bright and round, core seems to be more on the southern side, and the galaxy is elongated north to south, slightly to the NNW to the SSE. A very bright stellar core is evident and then I realized that since I showed the last object to Jorge, I hadn't re-adusted the focuser, doh! After re-adjusting the focuser the core came into sharp focus and is centered and is oval in nature. No bar was visible, though with averted vision I may have convinced myself I saw it. I did detect the outer shell of the diffused part of the galaxy.

6. Object: NGC 6287 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 3rd, 2011; Time: 12:27a.m. MDT or 06:27 UT on 7/3/2011; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild; Antoniadi II-I; Magnitude: 9.3; Size: 4.8'; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepiece: 10mm Pentax XW;

Notes: Somewhat bright core, some individual stars are evident, more wanting to peep out with both direct and averted vision. Hints of stars all over. Two tendrils going east and north are evident.

A 1994 article published and link by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and published by Peter Stetson and Michael West found at this link, argue that this may be the oldest object in our galaxy and the oldest globular cluster in the Milky Way. Head over for a read if you want.

7. Object: NGC 6235 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus; Date: July 3rd, 2011; Time: 01:00a.m. MDT; 07:00 UT on 7/3/2011; Location: Pit n Pole, Rush Valley, Utah; Conditions: Clear, mild, Antoniadi I; Magnitude: 8.9; Size: 5.0; Instrument: XX14i; Eyepieces: 10mm Pentax XW;

Notes: Uneven globular cluster with a bright off center core to the west, and what appears to be an inner equilateral triangle surrounding the core, with a larger equilateral triangle surrounding the globular itself. A faint diffusion surrounds the globular cluster.

That's it for sketching and Herschel's. If the weather cooperates I have about 6 more globular clusters to get in Ophiuchus but my summer and fall Herschel 400 are done. Weatherman today said we went from spring right to our monsoon season, sigh. Hopefully its gone by next new moon. I have another post on a new lighting source I found that I am going to post right after this. Anyway, I hope to get out soon and get some more observing in. Hopefully the weather pattern changes.