Next Weekend, The Wedge and Wolf Creek

EDIT: Due to some personal items I am NOT going to the Wedge this weekend (in September). Instead I am going to Pit n Pole on night and Wolf Creek on the other (learning towards Wolf Creek on Saturday though not sure). Same deal applies if you want to try using my 10 inch scope.


Here is an image of campsite 6 at The Wedge here in Utah. Campsite 8 is the site my friend Joe Bauman uses to observe from. Next weekend I hope with a few friends to observe from here. I posted about The Wedge last January in this post and now it has become time for me to go and test it out. Next Friday, my friend Mat and I as of now and with the weather permitting are going to head there and use the site for visual observing. It's about a 3.5 hour trip from Salt Lake City and besides the outstanding night sky, in the morning you can see one of Utah's wonders, The Little Grand Canyon before heading home (see my earlier post). We won't be leaving til mid afternoon on Friday so if your interested, leave a comment.

I am still planning on next Saturday at Wolf Creek also. It will make for some long drives but I like driving but if you want to hitch a ride, I have room for one other person in my Pathfinder. Also, if you want to use my 10 inch scope at Wolf Creek please let me know. As of right now the forecast is looking really good for next weekend so here's to a wonderful weekend of observing. The downsize for me. I need to come up with a new observing list. I only have the spring Herschel 400 left and they are not visible at this time of the year. So on to my next set of objects!

Stars on long exposure at The Wedge

Now we do not observe near the Little Grand Canyon, the site is a mile or two from the location but here is a wonderful link to a video on YouTube to show you the Little Grand Caynon.


Clear Dark Skies?

I have ran into several people who are amateurs from back east who think I am so lucky to live in the west, especially in Utah. I will openly admit that we have some wonderful dark skies in Utah when compared to most parts of the country, but we still have our challenges. Also, dark skies come in many forms so be careful what you wish for , you may get just that. I was hoping for dark skies this weekend, and I think I found them . . .

One of the challenges we face in Utah is this thing called the monsoon, and this year, well, its been in the way more often than not. The monsoon this year started early in June and has never really let up this year. Maybe for a week here or there, especially around full moon, but its been a struggle all summer. The cause of this is a high pressure that parks over the four corners (where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado meet) and that rotates moisture up from Mexico on the back side into Utah. It is the pits for observing especially around new moon. Last night wasn't any different. I wanted to go to Wolf Creek but that is out of the question because I'd be sitting in clouds I fear at 10,000 feet. So my friend Mat and I decided to try Pit n Pole since it is only a 45 minute drive for us and if we got skunked by clouds, it's not a bad drive and its quick. I got out there first and though hoping it might clear after the setting of the sun, I lost hope pretty quick. But it wasn't a total lost. On the way out I saw my friend the buck antelope and it was nice in a way to know he is in the area I guess. Click on the pictures as always to make the image larger.

After making my left turn off the bumpy road (it needs some TLC out there but state funds are really low so I guess back roads aren't a priority in Utah) I noticed a rather large rainstorm hitting the area to the south. It was captivating in many ways so I took the camera back out and started taking pictures. Here are some of what I captured:

Looking to the Southwest, dark skies but not the kind I want . . .

Yes, that is sheets of rain falling down, rather cool I think! Oh, I wish I could share with the smell of the rain out in the desert and the smell of the sagebrush (yes, it can cause allergies to go off), and the feeling of the expansiveness of the view. I think I connected this day with what I call my inner John Muir, it perhaps like a religious experience being part of this and being the only human (minus the one car on the highway that drove by at one point) that took this in.

I am hoping between the two images you can get a feeling for how fast this storm was moving. I took them back to back with about 10 seconds between shots.

Here's that same cell moving east and about spent.

Here's the view right after the turn on the dirt road looking northwest. At the low point was a really good down pour also.

Still some showers to the west south-west here.

Looking south-south-east with more rain showers in the distance. Yep, more dark skies!

At the Pit n Pole location (where we setup) looking east to the Wasatch Mountains (Mount Timpanogos in the background). Yes, blue sky! Not for long though.

This picture is at the Pit n Pole location looking north and it isn't looking so good out there.

Well, that's all I post on the blog (I have more). I did have a wonderful time listening to Mat (he showed up right after these pictures were taken) and he told me about his adventures in Bryce Canyon at the ALCON that was there and being out at Great Basin. I am going to go to Great Basin as everyone who has been to both just raves on how dark Great Basin is over Bryce now. We also discussed some of the counter weight issues for when I get my 14 inch Zambuto mirror and how to counter the loss of weight. We went in the ATM projects I am going to do and I am going to do the dew straps since fall is coming up and that can be problem. Then I'll work on the 8 inch mirror and building that into a scope and I have my new chair that I am going to do and finally a binocular rig that will hold my binoculars in place so I can sit back and observe without holding them. Probably done in that order. I really enjoyed talking with Mat as we hoped for the sky to clear and between a great conversation with a good friend, my inner John Muir moment and the pictures, I really had an enjoyable experience. Just wish I had been able to get some observing in, only thing missing. Oh yes, I learned a new motto as well. I want CLEAR dark skies, not just dark skies since they can come in many facets as I showed today . . . So here is hoping you have clear, dark skies.


PK38-25.1: A Planetary Nebula in Cetus

PK38-25.1 with a background galaxy.

I subscribe in email to a wonderful service really designed by graduate students for undergraduate students. Many of the articles they post are really interesting and I love following Astrobites. Today, in this article, they discuss planetary nebula and specifically a study done on Abell 70 a very interesting planetary nebula that is a binary system and as a side note it has a background galaxy at the top of it. You can see this at this APOD image here. What is fascinating is that in this system the central stars are a solar-temperature main sequence or subgiant star (G8IV-V) and a hot white dwarf (WD) companion. The white dwarf is really faint and was identified not by optical spectroscopy, but by UV imaging (see the article please).

This planetary nebula is in the constellation of Aquila and is primed for both visual observing and astro-photographic. It has a visual magnitude of 14.3 so in the right size scope, but it is challenging because of the star field and neither a OIII or Ultrablock filer helps much here. Here are some links about viewing these:

Jay McNeil Data found here.

:Update: December 22nd, 2013 (16 months after the original post): At the request of the original poster of the observation who left me a comment tonight saying I didn't not credit him in the tabular data, though  I did post a link back to his page which gives him the credit, (see this link where it discusses how a link is a bibliography and shows the author of a blog is not claiming the original work as their own while directing traffic back to the original author. It states: "it’s also polite to link back to the author’s original work. This makes it clear that you’re not claiming that you created it yourself, while also helping to broaden the audience for the original poster. Linking is the virtual equivalent of a bibliography – it gives credit to the work of the original authors and helps to build the blogging community by creating connections between writers.").  I have decided thought to remove the table of his observation and the link and not drive traffic to his observation. Evidently that observer does not want their information posted or linked to their site on another site or blog. No offense was intended and as stated, the original was linked back to the observer's own web site to give the author both credit and to drive traffic to their website.. The data is removed and if I find I did that to any of his other observations, I will remove them.

I'll offer a richer replacement though with a link to the Deep Sky Forum Object of the Week for September 9th, 2012 which has several different recorded views of this PN and Galaxy. Someone going to observe this object will find a more complete set of information there I believe anyway.

So if your in for a challenge this summer and like planetary nebula then this can be a good challenge object for you. I am going to try for it this weekend and will hopefully have a succesful hunt. Here are some finder charts from Starry Night Pro to help. It is just above the Saturn Nebula (another great planetary nebula to view) and Messier 72 & Messier 73. Click on the image to make it larger. The star hops are from Al Bali, the end star in Aquarius. Good luck!


Changes to the Orion XX14i Mirror and Mirror Cell

Well, I have a friend and observing companion who recently ordered an Orion XX14i from Orion with the notion of updating the mirror from Carl Zambuto. To make a long story short, Orion has taken the convex mirror and updated mirror cell from the XX14g model and put that into the XX14i model. It should save weight and make cooling time quicker, allows for up to 3 fans to be installed to cool the mirror and thus is a good thing unless you want to upgrade the mirror. That becomes more difficult than if you have an older Orion XX14i with the regular mirror and 18 point mirror cell as seen in this article by scrolling down or see the image below.

Here is what Orion has on their site about the XX14g and their mirror. I would assume they would be updating their website on the XX14i to include a similar statement:

"The XX14g features an innovative convex-back 356mm diameter primary mirror and a newly engineered mirror cell, which weighs 10 lbs. less than standard 14" mirror and cell combinations, yielding faster ambient temperature equilibration times so you get optimal visual results more quickly. The mirror cell accepts six specially designed threaded counterweights (included) to optimize balance."

Here is an image of what the old mirror cell looked like on the XX14i from the article by David Knisely I linked above. This cell accepts the standard 2 inch (almost 2 inches) mirror that came with the first shipments and is open in the back (this looks to have a lid or to be sitting on a table). In this view you are looking down on the cell where the mirror would lay.

Here you can see a close up of the new mirror cell from behind and you can see the convex mirror sitting in the new cell. Click to enlarge or go to the Orion Telescope site to view it yourself here.

Here is an image of the bottom tube from the XX14g which seems to be the same now for the XX14i.

So be aware if your ordering an Orion XX14i or XX14g that you will be receiving a convex mirror with a different mirror cell. Glad I got one when they first came out as I am sold on what a Zambuto mirror can do in a scope. It might be a pain for Orion but I would love to see on the XX14i the option of mirror and cell you get but that won't happen since they are into mass produced scopes. I don't like the fact that Orion in some ways in doing this have limited options for those who purchase the scope in case they want to upgrade the mirror. It is never good for a product when choices are removed from the consumer. In my experience it usually means a short lifespan for the product but we'll see.


For Local Observers or those wanting to travel Wolf Creek Pass August 26th and 27th

Well, a busy week at home and at work with another family member in the hospital this week. They will be released on Friday so that is good news. Anyway, this is for those local or for those who may want to travel but all are welcome!

On August 26th and 27th I and I am sure a group of others will be doing personal observing up at Wolf Creek Pass in the Uintah Mountains about 1.5 hours east of Salt Lake City. I will have the 14 inch scope there and IF your a newbie, not sure if you want to do this amateur astronomy thing or observing, IF you are willing and IF you leave me a comment here I will bring the 10 inch dob I own and I will teach you how to use the Telrad, finderscope, and a star atlas to find some pretty good objects in a Bortle 2 sky. Get there early so I can help you set the scope up and teach you some things in the daylight. If I don't get any replies then I'll simply leave the 10 inch at home. IF you know your coming and are experience but don't have a scope, I'll bring it and you can use it to look to your heart's content.

If you want to go but would prefer to follow someone, if you contact me I can probably arrange to have you meet me and then follow me up. I'll be leaving by 4:00p.m. to 4:30p.m. to get up there and set up before dusk.

Here are some posts about how to get up to Wolf Creek Pass at 9800 feet in elevation.

This link is to an older blog post from a year ago on the directions from the campground with pictures.

Here is a link to the written directions and I'll copy them here. They are from either the Salt Lake or from Utah Valley:

Wolf Creek Summit Star Party Travel Directions


Take I-80 East (past Park City exit) to Exit 148. (Rt. 40 East). Stay to the right on the exit, as it splits. Head East on Rt. 40 to Exit 4. At the bottom of the exit ramp, go left towards Kamas. Follow this road as it winds through the hills to Kamas. In Kamas there is a stop sign at the intersection of this road and Rt. 32. Go right (South) on Rt. 32. Take Rt. 32 several miles to the intersection with Rt. 35 in Francis. See below for directions from Francis.


Go up Provo Canyon either by going East on 8th North in Orem or by taking University Avenue North in Provo. Go past Deer Creek Reservoir and when you get to the stop light in Heber turn Left (North). Go all the way thru Heber. As you approach the Jordanelle Dam there will be a signal light. Turn right at the light and go several miles to Francis.


When you get to Francis there will be a flashing light at the intersection. If you are coming from Provo, go straight (East). If you are coming from Kamas, turn left and go East. In about 3 1/2 miles you will go through a little community called Woodland. Continue on for another 16 miles (+ a little) to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. You will see a sign for the Wolf Creek campground on your right. Go thru the campground on a dirt road. It is a little rutty at first. Continue on about 2 miles heading south, until you reach a "T" intersection. Turn Left and go past the "Dead End" sign .8 miles. There is a beautiful wide grassy area to the right.

Remember to dress WARMLY! We cannot emphasize this enough. Dress like you want to go night skiing and you might be comfortable. Hats, gloves, and warm boots are smart year-round. Keep in mind that you can always leave extra stuff in the car, but if you don't have enough layers, you'll be sorry!

Please use good star party etiquette; dim headlights if arriving after dark, and be sure to bring red lights for wandering between scopes, etc. so you don't spoil dark-adapted eyes.

Here is a link to a map in case your more visual.

Hope to see some of you up there!


I believe I have mentioned this website before and I believe I have it as a link, but I went to the site this morning and found it has been updated and new information added. So I thought I would review the site and the items there.

Here is a link to

The main page reviews what you can find in the site. One thing to know up front if your the type to just jump in if your reading in English, don't worry about the language tab. Everything is in English. If your not a native English speaker, pick your native language and the web pages are put into your native language. I believe the booklets though are still in English.

The booklets allow you to have a basic book for each of the objects. Similar to the logbook it allows you to fold the booklet in half to save space. The space isn't extensive, but allows you to enter the basic required information needed for yourself or to fulfill the AL requirements. Overall I really like the concise format found here. AstronomyLogs Booklets. Here is a view of the Messier Booklet:

The AstronomyLogs Log Books are one full page of the booklet that are regular size. The log book has a place for the Object, the date and time, site, see and transparency and the Equipment and then comments. The comments are a a full line so a little bit more than the booklet. I have used the H400 one and the Double Star one and I have gone into the space under the notes area. I tend to write a little larger and would prefer two lines if I am writing in the field. If I am transcribing from the digital recorder then I using the Word Format ones (they are the ones I use) since it is easy to type into the log. I'd like to see on for the AL Planetary Nebula program.

Here is the Herschel Log Book:

The DeepSky logs offer a variety of logs that one can use from simply information to ones with sketching from one item per page to two or five items per page. I really recommend looking over this page to see if one of these formats works for you. An excellent starting point for someone new to observing or looking for a way to record their observations.

The Reference Page is perhaps one of the handiest on the site. The first chart provides a way of rating the night sky. The next chart allows one to have a reference to the Pickering Scale for rating the quality of the night sky. The next three charts show rating limiting magnitude by the Little Dipper, Pegasus and Andromeda and Cygnus. The next one is the constellation names and abbreviations. Description Guidelines provides a way for someone who needs help in knowing what to write down or record by type of object (open cluster, planetary nebula, globular cluster, galaxies etc.). I really recommend that sheet for someone starting out or who hasn't recorded observations. You could cut out the descriptions, laminate on a 3x5 card and then have the card for when you observe. Dryer and Herschel Abbreviations, the Hertzsprung Russell Diagram, a Hubble Galaxy Classification, the Shapley Sawyer and Trumpler Systems are there as is an Averted Vision Scale that finish this section. Again, if your new to observing or looking for a place to print this off and have in one place this is a tab for you.

On the reference page a download table for the Antoniadi Scale needs to be included in my opinion (since I like using that one). Here is the sample of the page with some of the items.

Another jewel of this site is the findercharts. The finder charts are available for each program you want to go after and it has a wonderful planetary nebula. The finder charts are well drawn out, and very useful. Take a look and see what you look like.

Here is the finder chart for Messier 1:

The Lunar Atlas is equally useful as is the digital version that the site provides. Here I prefer my Sy&Telescope quick atlas but this one is more in depth and well done. A good reference to have on the computer.

Here is a sample of the Lunar Atlas.

I really recommend the H400 Atlas if you want a free atlas for hunting down the H400. The maps are there and if you can limit the light from a computer, is an excellent atlas to use. If not, and you spend the money to print off the atlas and put it in a binder in clear protective sheets it is still useful and one I recommend in using for the H400.

A sample from the Herschel 400 atlas:

The links tab shows some of the more helpful links that are available and some that are free atlases that go lower than the atlases provided here or in an outstanding lunar atlas.

So overall I really enjoy this site and recommend it. I would like to see a few more of the Astronomical League items on here. Check it out and see what you think.


Observing Objects for September and Fall

Okay, fall is coming just around the corner (September) and is my favorite season and is usually pretty decent here in Utah to do some really good observing. So I thought I would put together some objects that are decent for fall objects and are some of my favorites. These are not very hard objects and they are good for astrophotography or for visual observations. Some can be viewed in late August near new moon if one is up at the right time.

1. NGC 1491 an Emission Nebula in Perseus. RA: 004h 03m 13.5s Dec. +58 18' 58" Here is a link to the NGC/IC Data base on this item. An OIII fitler seems to help on this object. For the link, mouse over link and you can click on it.

Here is an image taken of NGC 1491 which can be found at this link:

Here is a finder chart from Starry Night Pro to help locate it. Click on it to make it larger.

2. NGC 1023 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Perseus. RA 2h 40m 23.9s Dec. +39 03' 38"
Here is the link to the data found in the NGC/IC Database.

Here is my sketch of this object on September 5th, 2010:

Here is an image (this is part of a cluster of galaxies and with a wide field there is a nice spiral to the east). Here is the link to this image and a link on some more info on this galaxy. The stars in the disk of the galaxy are moving at 1.3 million miles per hour, according to the Hubble Spectra and even at that speed they cannot escape the power of the central massive black hole found at the center of this galaxy.

Here is a finder chart for NGC 1023 from Starry Night Pro:

3. NGC 891 Edge on Spiral Galaxy located in Andromeda. RA 2h 22m 33.5s Dec +41 22' 03" Visual Mag. 10.0 This is a wonderful edge on galaxy and is often overlooked because of the Messier 31 galaxy nearby. Here is an image:

Here is the finder chart:

4. NGC 7293 The Helix Nebula (Planetary Nebula) RA 22h 29m 06s Dec -20 50' 13.2" in Aquarius. This is a wonderful object and it is best seen in a wide field eyepiece. I use my 27mm Panoptic but I've also used a 32mm Orion Q70. An OIII filter helps again on this object. Here is a link to the NGC/IC Database for this wonderful PN.

Here is an image and I selected this image because I think it comes close to how it looks visually.The link to the site the houses the image is here.

Here is the late Scott Mellish's Helix Nebula, the one that depicts it the best for me. Here is the link to the ASOD where the sketch is found.

Here is the finder chart for the Helix.

5. NGC 7331 in Pegasus a spiral galaxy. RA 22h 37m 4.5s Dec +34 25' 01" Wonderful galaxy and then it has some really nice tiny ones nearby if you want to see how deep you can go with your scope. Here is the NGC/IC database link. Don't forget Stephen's Quintant which is nearby also as show in this great APOD image.

Here is an image which is found at this link.

Here is my sketch of this object from September 11th to 12th, 2010.

The finder chart:

6. NGC 7479 Spiral Galaxy in Pegasus and by far my favorite. RA 23h 4m 56.4s Dec +12 19' 00"
Here is the link to the NGC/IC database on this object.

An image of this wonderful barred spiral galaxy:

Here is my digital enhanced sketch of NGC7479:

And a sketch using the Mellish technique:

The finder chart for this galaxy.

That's enough for today. I hope that you can find some worthwhile non-Messier objects here to go after come fall. I did want to share this link in closing though as it shows some of the wonderful galaxies awaiting either imaging or viewing in the constellation of Pegasus. Good huntin!


Watching the Perseids

Sorry I don't have much of late. Funeral arrangements have tied me up and I've been working up until today. The funeral is Saturday so after that I am hoping to get back observing, sketching and reporting on my activities.

The Perseid Meteor shower is this Friday night and Saturday and this image shows the general direction they will come from though the moon will be interfering except for the brightest of the streaks.

I noticed and wanted to share that over at NASA at this link. Some of the highlights from this article are the following:

"Chat with NASA astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center as they answer your questions about the Perseids via live Web chat. Join them on Friday, Aug. 12 at 11 p.m. EDT -- 03:00 UTC GMT -- then make plans to stay "up all night" until 5:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Aug. 13

Joining the chat is easy. Simply return to this chat page a few minutes before 11 p.m. EDT on Friday, Aug. 12. The chat module will appear at the bottom of this page. Simply type your name to join the chat, then we'll start taking your questions at 11 p.m. EDT."

Need to watch them because your skies are cloudy? Then join NASA and watch the Perseids via "A live video/audio feed of the Perseid shower will be embedded below on the night of the chat. The camera is mounted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala." Go to the site and check out all the information on how NASA has a rather cool experience planned for this event. Perhaps even better is to link up with some friends or family and head out to a nice dark site, perhaps on a hill and lay down and look up. The moon will be an issue but it is the experience of getting out and enjoying each other and the time together after all. Beats watching TV in my opinion.


Non-Messier List to Observe: Update to Mods on XT10

Well, I guess I lied in a way. Its 2:25a.m. MDT or 08:25 UT on 8/4/2011 and I can't sleep. So I decided to add a simple post to the blog tonight. One of the things I do with the blog from time to time is to check the stats at Site Meter and to see what people who come here are looking for. Some of the most common are mods for an Orion XT10 or XT10i and lists beyond the Messier. So I thought I would review some basic mods to do to the XT10.

I'll start with the mods to the XT10. As I've stated here I added a concept called Scope Totes (find them here) that allow me to carry the XT10 tube from my office to wherever I am going to use it really easily. No more straining the tube for me. You can see it in the picture I included below. I've noticed on Cloudy Nights that some people have found a hardware solution called Strap a Handle for Scope Totes that cost about $10.00 to $20.00 and work just fine. Here is a link to Strap a Handle. I'm still glad I purchased the Scope Totes though but that is just me.

Another modification I made was to buy from The Astronomy Shoppe is their Scope Grips product located here. Some have made their own who have the materials and the machinery to do it, but they replace the spring tension system with a know system that for me, allows me more control over my altitude tension. A major improvement overall for me and one I recommend. Just like other such knobs though, mine will sometimes work lose during a period of observing, so I check them once or twice to keep the tension where I want it.

I also use some counterweights on my XT10. My first counterweights are simple ceramic magnets I got from Lowes and encased in black electrical tape so they wouldn't scratch up the tube. I found they weren't quite enough with some of my heavier eyepieces so I got this magnet holder from Harbor Freight. I put felt on the bottom so not to scratch up the tube and this was an easy counterweight that resolved any altitude balance issues for me. However, this won't work for the XT10i since the magnet will interfere with the intelliscope functions. For this you could add a simple $29.00 mounting rail from Scopestuff and the counterweight you needed. I'll be doing this with my XX14i after I get the Zambuto mirror in it that will weight about 6 to 7lbs less in it (I may first just try to find heavier counterweights to add to the back/replace the current weights in the back, we'll see). If you scroll down in this link you'll see a simple rail system that AdeyG installed on his own using parts from a hardware store. Rather simple solution in my book.

The next mod I did was the Milk Jug washers for the secondary and in the case of the XT10 Classic on the base. Here is a post with a template for the Milk Jug Washers on my blog for th secondary mirror. Works great with Bob's Knobs or any other type of knob system for collimation. Next, I used the same template and put several washers (3 or 4 if I remember right) but you'll have to play with yours on the base to improve the azimuth motion. I got mine to wobble just a bit and for more information on this please visit this fine article on motions for an XT10 Classic. Ebony Star laminate works well for azmuith motions also as do several other products. I also installed a cooling fan on mine.

There are other mods to make to an XT10 Classic but the basic design is such that you can do this with this scope. Go for it but I am not responsible for any modifications you make that mess up your scope. The decision is yours and yours alone to do mods. Again, if you've been around, you've seen images of my XT10 but here it is with these mods.

Non-Messier Objects to view.

My next add are two lists that someone who is done with the Messier list or done for a season can turn to in order to expand what they are viewing. The first list is from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and is their Finest NGC Objects by season. Here is the link. You can get a finder chart for these objects by entering their designation over at Messier 45 which is at this link.

Another great list is the 110 Best of the NGC by SAC. Simply look for the constellations that are up and then go to work. Here is the list sorted by constellation: link. SAC has a book you can download and they do request a small payment for doing so. Here is one link to their book that includes Telrad maps and here is the other link right to the SAC page. Hopefully one works for you. I hope that gives some people some other objects to take a look at.

NGC 7027 a Planetary Nebula in its earliest stages of development on these lists in Cygnus. One worth checking out since it is a very bright PN.

Again, not sure if or when I'll post again but I am going to go and try and get some sleep now. I hope you may have clear skies wherever you are.