Halloween Outreach and Quick Catch Up

Well, tomorrow is Halloween and so I thought a picture of the Witch Head Nebula in Orion would be nice. Located next to the star Rigel in the knee of Orion is very appropriate for this time of the year. With the holiday this year in Utah will come mild temperatures, in the 50's for trick-o-treating and clear skies. Last year it was cloudy so I couldn't do any outreach. What I do is set up my 10 inch dob and an older 1960's zoom scope and show off the moon and Jupiter during this time. I pick a nice set of craters on the terminator and let them know what they are looking at. Often kids though want to see the whole moon and that requires a wider field of view and thus why I use the Tasco refractor. In the dob I like to show off Jupiter and hand out a quick hand out which I got from the Mohawk Astronomical Group and simply copy off.

This is a wonderful way to let your neighbors know about what you do, and why having lights off is important. It at least can establish a rapport to those who leave lights on all the time. More importantly it can introduce the thrill of looking up to our local community.

I have about three observing sessions to post and to me they are quite exciting. I was able to do some things with the stable air we've had that are simply amazing. One of them that I'll announce is I was after over an hour of work, I was able to observe Pease 1 in Messier 15. I've also found some objects that I really like and look forward to sharing them this week while the weather heads south here in Utah and we get our first snow at the house later this week (at 5000 to 5200 feet). So I thought I would share my non-observing list with you. I had planned to get some double star and lunar time in but I guess mother-nature has other plans. Anyway, I've made a list of things to do:

1. Update my observations and upload my digital recordings, transcribing them to the written document.

2. Upload my sketches to the blog with my observations.

3. Upload my sketches to my sketching site.

4. Switch my eyepieces over to a new case I got and show that here.

5. Introduce my new field heater here and how I've been using it.

6. Update my observing lists and make a check off of the Herschel 400 II.

7. Finish reading and reviewing here an wonderful book I'm reading called How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown.

8. Anything else I come up with but 1-7 are the priority.

So I have lots of posts coming, but work and class is keeping me hoping but I can post probably one a day for while until I am caught up once the observations are written down. So may your skies be clear and look up when they are!



Observing Near Moab/Canyonlands Utah; Thoughts

Imagine from the Grandview Overlook in Canyonlands National Park.

Well, I just got back after five days down in the Moab, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park with Dead Horse State Park also thrown in. In this
area and I was able to get in two nights of observing using the 20"
Obsession. The sky conditions were just wonderful, clear, crisp and the
summer Milky Way just jumped out! Spent a lot of the time in Hercules early
on going for A2151, A2197 of which galaxy NGC 6160 was the brightest, and
finally Abell 2199/or NGC 2166. This image, helped somewhat and the goal with
the Abell's list was to see how many of these faint galaxies we could
observe, and observe with detail. It's a great example of visual observers
using an astrophoto to aid in detection. The second part of the night was
spent up in Pegasus with Abell 2593 of which NGC 7649 was the brightest
(small, faint, elongated west to east) and in Perseus going after galaxies
and Abell 426 centered on NGC 1275 which was oval in shape, had a small
bright inner core and sat E-W. NGC 1275 was surrounded by a many smaller
magnitude galaxies. We also spent time on some of the eye candy (brighter
objects) and all of them stuck out really nice, some as naked eye objects.
I am planning next summer to go back for a week and observe during new moon
in these skies.

An image of Balancing Rock in Arches National Park.

Fisher's Tower at sunset. There is a formal campground right under this and some great spots to set up down the dirt road to observe in this gray to black zone. SQM: 22.2.

Twilight settling in near Fisher's Towers.

I also got in plenty of hiking, a favorite pastime and with daytime temperatures in the low 70's to high 60's it was extremely pleasant to be able to hike in and see a bunch of sites and take pictures of them. I won't post the images here but will add them to an online album if someone wants to see them. I'll update later with a link to those pictures.

The other highlight was hiking into Upheaval Dome, an impact crater from
less than a 170 mya. It was rather cool to think this is the ancient
(ancient for me, young in geologic terms) impact crater, representing
several lunar craters. Here is a link for information on this impact site:

A great getaway.

Last night, October 20th, I tried to get out to a new location with my friend Mat and this time the weather just didn't want to cooperate. I was going to view some more Abell's, some galaxies in Pegasus but the seeing and transparency last night just killed the galaxies. I did get a wonderful view of M15 and I decided to go back and sketch it when I realized the conditions were getting worse, but it was no longer the magical object I had observed. I love the stellar core, surrounded by a brighten halo and the amount of stars that were around it. I haven't visited M15 in several years and it was a stunner, if I can dare say, perhaps my favorite glob even over M13 in Hercules. So if you have a chance, go visit M15 again. Hopefully the weather clears and I can go tonight or at least Saturday and Sunday nights.

If your interested in heading out drop me a comment or an email at jayleads at gmail dot com (you'll need to know how to make that into a proper address as I did it so I don't get spammed). I was thinking Lakeside tonight but I think I may hit the Pit n Pole location tonight and Saturday and Lakeside on Sunday.


Public Outreach, October 8th, 2011/Arches and Canyonlands October 16th to the 19th; ATM session 10/15/2011

Last Saturday I took the XT10 out to the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex for a public outreach. Yes, the moon was very bright but I had a fun time showing the Alberio, the Double Double off in Lyra, NGC 457, NGC 864 and NGC 869 the Double Cluster, M13, M31, M32 and M110 and Eta Cassiopeiae which was a wonderful double star.

I had intended to do some double chasing this week and sketching in the backyard but the weather just hasn't cooperated or when it did (one night) I had something planned.

I am going to Arches National Park and Canyonlands for the next four days and I am taking the 20" Obsession. My days are packed with hiking and horseback riding and some other outside activities, but two nights I'll be observing with the 20". I am very excited for the opportunity to take this scope out in the field and I'll report back on that when I return. So I hope the weather clears up in Utah for new moon as it is not looking good right now. I am planning on a trip down to Notch Peak weather allowing after I get back so that should be a wonderful experience as well. If your local and would like to join in the Notch Peak trip drop a comment and I can get in touch with you as the details come together. Keep exploring the night sky!

I forgot to mention that my friend Mat had his monthly ATM session today and there were two people who showed up who are wanting help building a scope around the mirrors they already have. Another, Justin, showed up and he took the coating off his 8 inch mirror and that was fun to watch. Justin is going to build an 18 inch mirror and I am anxious to watch that since I think I am going to build a new system for the 14 inch once I get the Zambuto mirror. I didn't take my chair or work on the 8 inch mirror Mat has for me because of time and a commitment I had with my two adult (well 1 is a senior in high school) children. Anyway, all I did today was to mod my XT10 base by adding two rather large metal washers to the bottom bolt with a milk jug washer under them, and then about 7 more milk jug washers above them. My azimuth motions are pretty smooth now, as the Teflon on the bottom just barely make contact with the base board. Great mod to do if you own a non-Intelliscope Orion dob.


The Galatic Center in Infrared

I usually don't publish to many images here, but I thought this one was just way too cool. This is a NASA Hubble Space Telescope infrared mosaic image of the Galactic Center of the Milky Way Galaxy. This region is being studied for how massive stars are formed from around and in the galactic center and also influence this environment. The infrared image allows astronomers to gaze through the vast amount of dust that usually obscures our view of the central region. NICMOS shows a lot of massive stars throughout the image. There are three main open clusters here, the Central cluster, the Arches cluster, and the Quintuplet cluster. However, note that the massive stars are not confined to the clusters but are seen as I said before, throughout the image. The winds and radiation form the complex patterns we see here.
The last info I will quote from the NASA image of the day which states: "At the center of the image, ionized gas surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy is confined to a bright spiral embedded within a circum-nuclear dusty inner-tube-shaped torus."
You can find the image and much more detail over at NASA Image of the Day at this link.


Merging Galaxies Observing/Sketching Challenge; ARP Catalog Link

Merging Galaxies are fascinating to me and there are several at different stages that are observable and that can be sketched from now through next spring. There are plenty of others that you can find from this 2008 Hubble Telescope Press Release. So if your interested in taking up this challenge, I think it would be awesome to show a gallery of sketches of these objects. I'm looking forward to redoing these objects. I will be looking for more merging galaxies that are visible from the northern hemisphere to add to this short list. Know some that aren't here? Please let me know.

EDIT: Since many of the galaxies that I am coming up with are ARP galaxies, I thought I would share a link to the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies by Halton Arp who gave permission for it to be published on the California Institute of Technology Website. You can go to the upper left of the website and download the actual book as well. Not as good as holding the book, but it works. I know I have been working Arp's with the 20 inch scope when I'm down south but I'll be excited to see what the 14 inch dob can do when it gets its Zambuto mirror into it.

1. The first one is NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 called the Antennae Galaxies in Corvus. I sketched them this year in the winter but this year I'll have my much improved mirror from Carl Z. So I am going to do them again. Here's the wikispaces article on them:

2. NGC 2207 and IC 2163. Unlike NGC 4038 & 4039 and NGC 4676 A & B these two galaxies are still separated and are in the process of beginning to merge. This would be another winter image or sketch. Here is the Wiki Link.

Hubble Image of this pair:

3. The Mice or NGC 4676A & B are in Coma Berernices which is a spring object and are in the process of merging but not as far as NGC 4038 & 4039. Here is the Wiki Link.

4. NGC 7318 Stephan's Quintet which is a fall object and all four galaxies (well five) are in the process of merging. Here is the Wiki Link.

5. ARP 299 or NGC 3960 and IC 694 are two galaxies in Ursa Major that are merging. This would be a spring image as well for best location. However unlike most of the others, these are barred irregular galaxies that are colliding.

Here is the Wiki Link.

Image taken from this Hubble Telescope site by NASA.

So this will be a longer term project, say the next six months but well worth it I think when we are done. If you know of other good galaxy mergers that can be added, leave a comment so we can add them. Please leave the object identification, the constellation and the best season for observing them. I'll also add some finder charts to this post for these items and any others that are posted in the comments.

Edit: I am already up to about 12 merging galaxies that should range from easy to challenging for visual observers. I am hoping to make a nice seasonal list of these objects in Excel and then post them here in the next week.


ATM Making (and other things) Session October 15th, 2011 Near SLC

I have failed to mention that my friend Mat holds a monthly ATM session at his garage. In October that will occur on be on Saturday, October 15th, 2011.

There are several items that will be either discussed or started. There will be mirror grinding and testing; discussion of building and possibly starting of building an observing chair. Also I will be finishing building some dew strips for a dew heater. Finally, if you own an Orion XT Classic Dob you may want to look over some of these mods and see if you want to get what you need and come by and do some of these modifications to your scope to improve it.

1. Balancing with bungee cords as tension mounts vs the spring on the Orion XT10, 8, 6 or 12 if someone has this. Not an issue on the Zhumell brand.

2. Altitude and Azmuith Motion fixes

I can supply the plastic milk (actually distilled water but same plastic) if people want to try the milk jug washers. They can also put a milk jug washer on their secondary so the screws or Bob's Knobs don't grind into it when they go to adjust the secondary during collimation. Putting plastic washers on an intelliscope base won't work as it interferes with the clearance necessary for the reading to be correct on the encoder.

3. Accessory Shelf for Dobs

Think I want to make one of these!

4. Lazy Susan Fix for Azmuith

To be done at one's own risk because it can ruin the encoders.

5. Simple metal handles via screws on the tube for carrying.

6. A BIG Mod is to fix the reverse dovetail on the Orion scopes that holds the finderscope or the EZ finders. Because the dovetail is reversed mounted it means the finderscope or EZ finder can easily fall out if the screw becomes loose. This has happened to me at least once that I can remember and it means that you could be looking to buy a new finderscope. This thread from CloudyNights discusses how to fix the reverse dovetail by putting a hole in the dovetail so the thumbscrew can fit into it and not become loose and fall. I'll be doing that modification as well. You can see in the photo below (from Ken at CloudyNights) that he simple used a Dremel tool to make a notch; you can see the photo and comments from others at the thread link above to CloudyNights.

So if you want to come out, simply email me at JayLEads at gmail dot com (please fix this to normal email standards; this is done to avoid hackers) and I can get you in touch with Mat or give directions to his garage where we do the ATM session.


Observing Pit n Pole, Friday, September 30th, 2011

Well, I made it out to the Pit last night for a night of observing. The forecast called for either partly cloudy or clear conditions and when I got out there, it was pretty cloudy with a very large sucker hold over the Pit location (see above). When I arrived my friend Jorge was already there as was a fellow friend and club member Mark. The RV that had been there had left a mess, which is a shame. I spent a few minutes picking up trash and stuff. I wish people would pack out what they pack in. Parts of the BLM land is just turning into what looks like a dump and that is a shame. Anyway, I began setting up when a white pickup truck came out and there was a man named Allen and two of his friends, Wendy and Summer. Allen had a XX12i and he set up next to me. I got set up and collimated with the help of Jorge as it was getting dark. Seems we are meeting new people whenever we head out and that is always a good thing.

While I was setting up my friend Mat and another person I met for the first time named Josh, who has a love and good knowledge of astronomy came out with Mat and borrowed Mat's 8 inch scope. With what sounded like a few pointers from Mat, Josh was out star hopping in now time and bringing in objects!

My first target goal was to align the Intelliscope. I am getting warps of 1.4 every time on my initial alignment and it is because of the eyepiece I am using. By using the align, enter, enter, I usually get it down to a warp of .4 or .5 which is workable. To be quite honest, I think the Intelliscope at times is more of a nuisance if you know how to star hop really well like I do. It does save time and can put you in the general location when its working and thus would allow someone not wanting to use a Telrad or a Rigel to star hop from a star to the object. I just prefer my faithful Telrad and finder.

I did something that I haven't done in almost 5 years now. I had a night where I did not sketch an item! Nor do I work on actual observing list which was rare for me. I had intended to do some work on the Herschel 400 (a few fall items I needed) and to do some work on about 10 Herschel II 400 and then just pick a constellation, Pegasus, and go to work on looking at objects there, mainly galaxies by starting at the upper portion of the constellation, and working my way down the atlas. Alas, I never got that opportunity. The south and south-western sky was really impacted by clouds but the Big Dipper was up so I went out and found M101. SN2011fe was still visible, but it is definitely fading. M101 showed a bright core, no hint of structure since the seeing was an Antoniadi III overall last night. The location of M101 meant I would rate the sky there an Antoniadi III to IV. I showed this object to Allen, Wendy and Summer and then showed M51 and its companion. After this I moved to M13 to take a view which showed the propellers tonight.

Wendy was interested in Sagittarius, which was her astrological sign, so I went there as the clouds had cleared and showed her and Jorge and Mark the Lagoon, the Trifed, and the Swan Nebula. On these objects I was using the 10mm Pentax XW with the Ultrablock Filter.

In Messier 8, the Lagoon Nebula, the open cluster NGC 6530 was brightly visible as always. Two areas of nebulosity were visible, a bright region NGC 6526 and a lighter region NGC 6523. The dark lane or the Hourglass Nebula as called by John Herschel was clearly evident.

Messier 20, the Trifid Nebula was also evident this night. B85, the dark lanes stuck out against a very light nebulosity that was lighter than normal even with a filter. The NW lane was wider than the other two. One thing I learned about the Trifid tonight is that most people see the double star near the center at magnitude 7.6 and 10.4 at 6", but they fail to capture the second pair at magnitude 8.7 and 10.4 at 2.3". I'll have to look for that second pair next time I head out. In January, 2005, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope discovered 30 embryonic stars and 120 newborn stars not seen in visible observing or images.

Messier 17, the Swan Nebula showed off its stuff also, but not as good as last Saturday night at the Pit. I did not spend a ton of time here and after here Wendy, Allen and Summer stayed by their scope for the most part and I began to have some fun.

On a local message board, my friend Mat discussed how he spit the Epsilon Lyra or the Double Double in Lyra at about 91x last Monday at our Lakeside observing site using his home built 16 inch truss dob. So I decided to see what the XX14i could do. Putting in the 14mm Pentax XW, the split occurred but it was not an easy split. At basically 118x I was expecting to split Epsilon Lyra but for some reason it took some work. Confirmed by Jorge and Mat, I then tried Mat's 22 Panoptic at 75x magnification. This took some work, as one star would split, then fade out and then the other found split and fade out. It took some time but when the seeing cooperated the split occurred. Jorge and Mat both had the same experience. I next put in my 27mm Panoptic and at 61x I was able to work a split as was Jorge. Matt couldn't get a line to separate the stars when he tried. This was a fun experience and I enjoyed the challenge.

After Epsilon Lyra I went to the Helix Nebula to show it off, and everyone came and took a look. By this time Allen, Summer and Wendy packed up and left and I started to get ready to go to work. I decided to head up to Dobson's Hole and take a look at Cepheus and take a gander at NGC 6946 and the Open Cluster NGC 6935. I used the 27mm Panoptic (and while observing Epsilon Lyra I lost one of my eyepiece caps for the Panoptic so I need to track a replacement down) and took in both objects in the same field of view. I then put in the 10mm Pentax XW and really studied the galaxy. The core was easily seen next to two stars that were close to each other. I was able to view the arms, all three. There is one on the north, the brightest that is connected to the core and fades to the east. This arm splits and a branch turns south past the core. The third arm comes off to the western portion of the core, and juts up to the north. Very wonderful galaxy as always to view.

NGC 6935 the open cluster is extremely rich, tight open cluster with over 125 stars. Most stars are in the 12th to 14th magnitude range. It is an open cluster but it did remind several who looked at it last night of a open globular cluster. If you haven't seen these two objects, please take the time this fall to go and see them.

Next, I went and hunted down Comet Garrard. Was easy to do so with the finderchart from Sky and Telescope (you can download the chart in the link). The comet had a bright inner core, a diffused outer shell and a distinct but short tail. I was going to sketch the object but then the clouds moved in. I waited for about 40 minutes to see if they would clear but at 12:40a.m. MDT, I started packing up. When I was done about 1:00a.m. of course the sky cleared out again. Overall it was a good night and an enjoyable one. I enjoyed everyone who came out and it was nice to have a good time observing. Now I'll move into some lunar observing next week as the weather is going to get rough for observing for the next five to seven days.

Here's my blurry picture of my setup.