Outreach at the Herriman Library

On Friday, April 27th, at the Herriman Library parking lot, my friend Mat, myself and my 18 year old son Nathan conducted an outreach event for our local community.  It was cold, very cloudy and I wasn't sure if it would go.  I set up the 14 and 10 inch dobs and Mat set up his 8 inch dob. We had people waiting for us as we set up and though the clouds were there, the moon did begin to peep out enough that we could share views with them.  We had one or two families with about six kids and the kids had quite a bit of energy, more than normal (remember, I am a teacher).  So Mat, Nathan and I each stood really close to our scopes.  However, what was wonderful was as the moon came out and played peek a boo for a little before it came out more, the thrills and excitement from both the parents and the children at seeing the craters and other features of the moon was endearing.

After the initial group (we had about 20 to 25 people show up which wasn't bad considering the conditions but down from the 45 or so from last month) we had an elderly couple who was there when we set up, but had come from a wedding reception and then went home to put on some warmer clothes and then came back.  The wife really wanted to view Venus and then BLAM, Venus came out and the sky cleared up really well. She and her husband were able to see Venus, Mars, and Saturn.  After about 9:15p.m. the people were gone, the cold and the weather put a damper on things but the sky and seeing improved so each of us put a view on Mars, Saturn and the Moon.  Mat taught Nathan how to Star Test also.  

So though we didn't see quite as many people as last time, the magic of the evening was interacting with the public, spending time with Mat, and having my son share in a local outreach event and watching him learn and enjoy showing the public items through the 10 inch.  Nathan also ran the 14 which he has been a little nervous of and found it was just like running the 10.  So in the end, we did serve our local community which is wonderful and we strengthened friendships and from about 9:30 to about 10:15p.m. we had our own little observing session.  We'll be doing this on the fourth Friday of every month through September so if you live in Herriman and/or Riverton and want to stop by, feel free to do so.  If you live in the area and want to set up a scope feel free to come by or not.  As John Dobson has said, "IF THERE WERE A MILLION PEOPLE WITH TELESCOPES WILLING TO LET A FEW THOUSAND OTHER PEOPLE LOOK THROUGH THEM, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT EVERYONE WHO WALKS THIS EARTH, WITH EYES TO SEE, MIGHT SEE THE UNIVERSE."  Though I enjoy my time at a dark sky site working my observing lists, there is time once a month, to share the views of the universe with others. This can be done with or without a club, with or without a scheduled event, the important thing is to share with others the wonders of our universe.  Again to quote John Dobson, "Obviously the billions of poor can NEVER afford a telescope at any price, but they can, IF GIVEN THE CHANCE, afford to look through one."  To be given that chance means we don't attempt to limit ourselves or others from the opportunity to share the views in any location, or at any time.  We need to promote more people sharing the views.  If you don't think your telescope is big enough, or good enough, here is the last quote from John Dobson (he created the Dobsonian telescope btw) "Now to me it is not so much how big your telescope is, it's not so much what figure the mirror has or what pretty pictures it takes. It's how many people in this vast world, less fortunate than you, have had a chance, through your telescope, to see and understand this universe. To me that is one thing that drives me."

I'll post on my observations from last weekend sometime this weekend!


The Somberro is an Elliptical Galaxy with a Spiral in it! has a nice article about Messier 104 as found in this link.  First, I encourage everyone to read that article.  Second, to summarize the article it basically says that the Spitzer Space Telescope's image of Messier 104 shows that it has the mass and size of an elliptical galaxy.  So where did the dust lane come from?  Some may speculate that it is a merger of a spiral with the elliptical but it isn't.  it is basically an Elliptical with a Spiral in it, but the spiral may have come from a gas cloud that got caught by the elliptical and then by the gravity of the galaxy was absorbed to the middle of the galaxy.  The article speculates that NGC 5128 or the Centaurus A galaxy is also an elliptical with a gas cloud being pulled into it by gravity and in time, Centaurus A may just end up looking similar to Messier 104 (in millions of years of course, well 100's of million of years).  Oh, and if isn't good enough, here is the release from the Jet Propulsion Lab:  Link 

Anyway, here is the Spitzer image of Messier 104 and you can see the elliptical there with the spiral inside of it:

A better view of a visible and infrared like above, the visible and then the infrared alone.

Here is Centaurus A from Spitzer with a similar description to what is happening to it as mentioned above. The key is that astronomers believe that Centaurus A is going through this and is much younger at doing so compared to Messier 104.  Here is the NASA link on the image below: 

So why post this when I have sketches and two reports to get up? One, I won't have time to post my two experiences until Saturday or Sunday, but everything is ready to go.  Two, I think as we either image, sketch or just take in the view on things, knowing the science behind it enhances the experience and it shows how science is ever increasing its knowledge of such wonderful objects. 


Forest Road 006 Observing Site 4 Pictures from this Weekend April 20th and April 21st

WOW!!!! What a weekend of observing! I got out on Friday and on Saturday to Forest Road 006 Site 4 (yes Josh, I had it labeled, it is site 4).  I got a lot in and a lot of work done and I'll be posting that next weekend as this week I am swarmed with work and class (last week of class).  So until then I'll post what the observing site looks via some pictures.  The site comes in as a SQM reading of 23.49 which is about a 7.18 NELM.

I also want to say that on Friday we had Chris from North Carolina (Raleigh) with us and that was a blast. We enjoyed sharing out views and talking shop with him.  I want to say I appreciate that we all came out and had a blast. I think with this site I may camp over if I am doing a back to back though.  Okay, here are the images.

This is at the observing site looking north and if you look on the desert valley floor in the distance, you will see the sun casting its last rays down on the valley floor through a pass that was used by the Pony Express in the 1860's. Nice open view here though those are Juniper trees in the distance.  Right now we have short, green wild grass so the dust is very minimal.


This is taken looking northeast back toward where the Salt Lake Co. light dome will be.  Nothing that interferes and the several ranges of mountains shield a lot of that light from hitting this site.

This is looking west, you can see the Sun's rays that are hitting the valley floor in the first picture here.  Those Juniper's are interesting for my friend Nancy and her husband John because there is a Great Horn Owl that has taken resident up in those trees and hoots until about midnight and is answered by another Great Horn Owl just to the east of us.  We leave them alone of course and enjoy their serenade. The Junipers are short and really don't interfere with anything in the sky, unless you want to go really low.

This is another western view and you can see here a trail where ATV's are not allowed to allow soil and vegetation recovery.  We did have about 2 to 3 ATV's go by the main road during the day, but they left us alone.  It was nice, no guns though a kid did have a pellet gun and you could hear him hitting cans with his Dad (I drove by when they were doing this on Saturday).

Above is the view to the south, and the mountains don't interfere with the views.  Actually, in another month, we may just move to a ridge up there that overlooks the south with as good a view as Wolf Creek but we'll see if that is true.

This is the view to the south-west and the ridge is located on the other side to the left side of this image that I talked about in the last image.  Beautiful views, dark, dark skies and you just can't beat the location.  I don't have an eastern picture taken but to the east are some Juniper trees and under them are some unimproved camp sites.  So if someone wanted to have a star party here, it would be very easy and could probably handle a pretty decent side group.  You could ATV by day or go to the Vernon Reservoir during the day to fish or go hiking and then observe at night.

A very similar shot to the previous one, but more of a wider angle and this is the view of the mountains from the observing site.  It is a good one!

Here is the XX14i collimated and cooling and get ready for the night.  You can see the south to south eastern view here and in the distance to the far left (seems the scope is kinda of point to the Juniper Tree) you can see a Juniper Tree.  That is where they are and they are up about 20 feet and provide shade to the camping area.  I put my mat down but with the grasses here I really don't think I needed it.

On another note, my good friend Mat as he was setting up on Friday found a tick on the front of his shirt. So I pulled out the mosquito and tick spray I have and we all sprayed were our clothing was loose (feet, wrists, neckline etc) and as Mat has said, it is a good reminder that as warmer weather is here to make sure your prepared for the insects.  We would hate to see anyone getting sick from observing and an insect bite etc.

Here is the LONG, 5 mile dirt road that goes out to the T where you turn right to get to FR006.  It is dusty, with some larger rocks so give some space between you and the car in front and behind you if you go out with others.  You'll need to wash your car after being out here!

Now why did I include a picture of a shovel here? Because it is an essential tool of the amateur astronomer! You can use it if it rains and it gets muddy and you get stuck to help you to get unstuck.  It comes in handy if you need to go to the bathroom and there are not any portable toilets around (yes, you should dig a hole down a good 12 inches or so, away from poison oak etc and make sure it is downhill from any trails, observing site or especially well away from a water source or well).  A shovel helps to clear out dried sheep or cow manure so your observing area is clean (if you want it to be) and it can help to remove rocks and other items as well.  So have a shovel in your car when you go observing is the tip for this week.

Hopefully a good many of you got out and got some great pictures taken or some wonderful observing in!

Edit: My friend Jorge used his Canon DSLR camera and took a one minute exposure of himself.  He had a small red light next to him for some illumination.  You can see Orion and Canis Major in the background easily.  You can get a sense of the dark skies here and this is early in the evening if I remember right.


Comparing Some Observing Sites with Directions near Salt Lake City, Utah

Not much is going on with all the clouds and rain right now. 70's and clear on Friday and all weekend though offer a great opportunity to observe Friday, Saturday and then Sunday night! I'll steal the chance since I am dying to get out.  I need to sit down and nail down my objects and my charts for this trip(s) since I'll be in Virgo and then in Ursa Major and Coma Bernices for almost all of my time.

A fellow member of CloudyNights asked where are there places near Salt Lake City about an hour out to observe from?  So I thought I would go through them here.  I've posted pictures and reviews of the sites, so I'll link those at the bottom.  In this post I'll simply talk distance and time and do a quick review of the sites.

Here are directions to Forest Road 006 from Salt Lake City from my Google Maps of my observing sites.  I am going to post it here and hopes it works like I want it to.  It did! Forest Road 006 has several sites on it that are really good.  All are up a little in elevation so your out of the humidity and the SQM says this is the darkest set of sites within an hour and a half of Salt Lake City.  It is darker than Lakeside.  It sits in a gray zone where as Lakeside is blue according to the LP maps and unlike the other sites, it is far enough south that the Salt Lake Co. and Utah Co. light dome are not an impact to the east.  Best views are zenith, southeast, south, southwest and west.  To the north you have some ambient light from the small town of Vernon, Utah, but placing your car between you and that light stops it. The site is nice as it has wild grass that is there and allows for the dirt and dust not to be as bad as other sites.  You could actually set up a tent here in the shade of the junipers and camp here for several days of observing.  Head over to the reservoir during the day to fish (no motorize boats) and/or bring an ATV and go exploring!  Just so you know the Vernon Reservoir has some excellent campsites (first come first serve) and toliets that are really clean in the off season at least.  I haven't run into dew yet but in one trip documented here, it was really, and I mean really muddy.  You can see mud up to 4 to 6 inches on my wheels and though a 4wd handled it, a car or minivan would not.  So watch it here after it snows and the snow melts!  Otherwise the site has been a good one.

It may have some impact come summer by ATVers who use the area and cattle are known to be permitted here on this part of the forest land. However, like Wolf Creek with the sheep and cattle, I don't see a conflict here.  In addition the Vernon reservoir is to the east but blocked by a hill leading up to it.  My favorite local place by far and I think my friend Mat would agree with me.  Here are the directions from Salt Lake City. 

View Jay's Astronomical Observing Locations in a larger map

Salt Lake City, UT

1. Head north on S Main St toward W 300 S/W Broadway

0.1 mi
2. Take the 1st left onto W 300 S/W Broadway

0.2 mi
3. Turn left onto W Temple

0.3 mi
4. Take the 2nd right onto W 500 S/Cesar E. Chavez Blvd

0.6 mi
5. Merge onto I-80 W via the ramp to Reno/S.L. International Airport

20.9 mi
6. Take exit 99 to merge onto UT-36 S/State Hwy 36 S toward Stansbury Tooele

45.8 mi
7. Turn right onto Benmore Rd

5.0 mi
8. Turn right at Greenjacket Rd

0.5 mi
9. Turn left
Destination will be on the left

0.8 mi

Total Distance from Salt Lake City is 74.2 miles. Total drive time is estimated at around 1 hour 35 minutes. 

Here is how I get there from my house:
View Jay's Astr onomical Observing Locations in a larger map

3. Turn right onto W 13400 S

2.4 mi
4. Turn right onto UT-154 S

2.5 mi
5. Turn right onto UT-68 S/S Redwood Rd

8.1 mi
6. Turn right onto UT-73

20.9 mi
7. Slight left toward Pony Express Trail Rd

11.1 mi
8. Continue straight onto Pony Express Trail Rd

2.5 mi
9. Turn left onto UT-36 S

6.5 mi
10. Turn right onto Benmore Rd

5.0 mi
11. Turn right at Greenjacket Rd

0.5 mi
12. Turn left
Destination will be on the left

0.8 mi

Total Distance for me is about 60.9 miles or so or 1 hour and 20 minutes.   It is closer and darker for me than Lakeside but for those in Salt Lake City I believe Lakeside is closer.  So here is the information on the Lakeside site.  

Lakeside is a very good site, not quite as good on the SQM as Vernon but still plenty dark. It sites on the LP maps on the border of blue and gray.  You do get ambient light from the I-80 in the distance and your eastern sky is heavily impacted by the light pollution from Davis Co. and Salt Lake Co. to the point that I don't look at objects in the eastern sky.  I wait for them to move up toward zenith.  Weekends bring out some strange people sometimes here driving around in the desert in the middle of the night and I have run into them a several occasions. Like Pit n Pole, never a problem but they do drive up with their high beams on and then sit in their car trying to figure out what your doing.  There is military near by also.  This is my second favorite site local to Salt Lake City, but one that I stay the night at and sleep over because of distance.  Oh, the fine dust here will get into everything and when wet, this place makes Vernon look like dry ground compared with its mud. I won't drive my Pathfinder with its 4wd at Lakeside when it is muddy due to the fine sand/mud that is there.

View Jay's Astronomical Observing Locations in a larger map

5. Merge onto I-80 W via the ramp to Reno/S.L. International Airport

57.9 mi
6. Take exit 62 toward Military Area/Lakeside

0.2 mi
7. Turn right

138 ft
8. Turn left toward Frontage Rd

0.5 mi
9. Slight right onto Frontage Rd

4.8 mi
10. Turn left

0.3 mi

Lakeside Site
Total distance from Salt Lake City is 65 miles.  About 10 miles closer than Vernon and on all Freeway I-80 so it is even quicker as the roads to FR006 are two lane highways.  My total miles from my home to Lakeside is 84.2 miles or 1 hour 39 minutes versus 1 hour 12 minutes for someone driving out from Salt Lake City.

The next location that is used often is the one that is called the Pit n Pole.  It is a nice location in a blue zone that has wonderful southern views and southwestern views.  The north is impacted by some ambient light from the Tooele Weapons Depot and the north eastern and eastern sky is a wash with light pollution from the Salt Lake Co. and Utah Co. light domes.  Form me the Pit n Pole is an easy 45 minute drive and only putting on 39 miles or so on the car.  You can see this in this map.

View Jay's Astronomical Observing Locations in a larger map

From Salt Lake City or that area, it is a little farther than that being 55.7 miles roughly and about an hour drive or so.  The Pit is famous for having a lot of dew! Yep, it can be as dewy as some places east of the Mississippi after it get really dark, especially in the fall, and spring. In the winter, it is just cold, much colder than Lakeside or Vernon.  It is next to an ancient dry lake bed which causes the dew and the low temperature since you are down in the bottom of it.  Bring dew preparations and dress warm here.  Dust is minimal and you can camp here, it is on BLM land as is Lakeside.  Not much to do during the day and in the summer it gets hot here, really hot.  Here is the Salt Lake Co. drive. 

View Jay's Astronomical Observing Locations in a larger map

Those are the three major observing sites and yes, I have about four more tucked away that I share with those in my observing group but not publicly.  Most of the time though you'll find me at one of these sites during the new moon period.  

The last one I'll share is a summer only site because of the amount of snow that falls up there in the winter. It is just under 10,000 feet above sea level and it is called Wolf Creek.  Wolf Creek has a large observing field away from the tree lines that is used for observing.  There is a Forest Service Campground as you enter the road areas but it does cost but has bathrooms.  I find nature usually does the trick for me and its one of the reasons I carry a small shovel with me.  Anyway, it is located out past Kamas Utah.  The site is a wonderful site with as good as if not a better SQM than I have had at FR006 or some in the Salt Lake Astronomical Society have said their SQM at Wolf Creek equal Bryce Canyon.  That would be for the eastern, northern and southern horizons.  You can still see the Salt Lake area light dome to the west, though it is not that bad of an impact.  There are unimproved camping areas in the pines in the area if you want to set up a camp and stay for several days.  No services as mentioned though.  

Here is the map from my house.  From my house it is roughly 79.2 miles if I go they way they have listed here on the map (I can also go the Salt Lake City Way which I believe is shorter but it has a steeper climb up Parley's Canyon on I-80.  It says about 2 hours but I have done it in about 1 hour and 40 minutes to my house in Herriman.

View Jay's Astronomical Observing Locations in a larger map

Here is the Salt Lake City Map to Wolf Creek.  It lists the distance as 73.4 miles and gives a drive time of 2 hours and 19 minutes which I know is WAY off.  I would say form Salt Lake City you could be at the Wolf Creek observing site in 1 hour and 20 to 1 hour and 30 minutes.  

View Jay's Astronomical Observing Locations in a larger map

By far I love observing at Wolf Creek in the summer and with myself being off, I am sure to spend a new moon here camping for a couple of days.  

There are many other sites that are wonderful in the area, Monte Cristo, Curlew Reservoir, Notch Peak, Great Basin, The Wedge Overlook and the list goes on.  There are several wonderful locations in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.  The key is to get out and enjoy them and observe at them.  I'm heading to Vernon this weekend so I hope to see some of you there. I hope this helps someone.  

If you wish to see some images of the Pit n Pole and the drive out, these are several years old but they are in my SLAS gallery of images located at this link

Here are the directions and images of the Lakeside site in this link

These two links will show you the Vernon Forest Road 006 site.  Link 1 and Link 2

This link will show you the Wolf Creek Pass observing location and directions from when you turn off State Hwy 35.  

All links are posts on my blog. 


Building an Observing Chair ATMing with Mat

Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of observing due to that wonderful condition know as spring in Utah.  It is cold, in the 30's right now (yes, that is cold for April) with plenty of clouds, rain and moisture in the air.  I woke up around 3:00a.m. and there was a sucker hold outside and I went out and looked at Virgo longingly.  Hopefully next weekend is much improved!

So with the down time my friend Mat and I and my daughter Kendra have been working on my new observing chair.  We met on Wednesday night for about three hours and worked on getting the notch arms connected by screw to the back.  Here is my daughter, yes she has short hair and she is wearing one of her grandfather's old lined plaid shirts which are warm, drilling hold on the the notch arms to the back support.  She did a really good job on this and it was fun having her along.  Kendra likes working with her hands and with wood so it was a great experience for her. Next, she is going to grind a mirror and make her own dob!

We spend Wednesday working on the notch arms and the back and when we were done, we noticed that there were three minor splits in the back from having the screws in those areas too close to the edge.  On Friday night we corrected that my putting in wood glue to the micro-fracture splits and you cannot tell where they were.  We removed the screws in those areas and then re-drilled above them so the splits won't have any reason to split in the future. 

After getting done we assembled the chair and both Mat and I sat on it and it held both of us.  We did this to ensure we got the right angle for the chair.  Above is the back leg.

Here is the chair with the seat on it as we sat on it.  We used a wide angle on the feet here but you'll see from Saturday's picture the actual seat won't be spread apart so far I believe.

A close up of the seat and I offer that because the seat I took the cheap road on as I have mentioned in a previous post using 3/4 inch plywood that Mat had.  I figured I am going to cover the seat so it doesn't matter.  Mat thought about it and decided though for the bottom that we would use some corner acrylic (I believe) covering for the bottom which we ironed on yesterday.  Mat's used it on his equipment with no problem of it coming off for well over 10 years now.  

Here, in the light of day, you can see what the strips look like glued down to the bottom of the seat.  This is not the top, but we'll flip it so this is what the bottom looks like.  It allows for the plywood to more closely resemble the actual chair, though not too many people I fear will be looking at the bottom of the seat while I am sitting on it or someone else is! That would just be wrong unless we are trying to fix something. Looks great though and I am glad Mat thought of his.  I am also glad to have Mat's help on this and he has been a tremendous help in terms of saving time.  I owe him big time. He's looking for a 24 inch mirror blank 1 to 1.5 inches thick that isn't too costly if anyone knows of one, leave a comment please or email me at JayLEads at g mail dot com (put it together, it is this way to avoid spammers). 

On Friday as I stated, we glued up the very small splits and that worked great so on Saturday we assembled the chair on last time and then started final assembly with glue.  Here are the wedges, sanded down on the end being glued and screwed to the chair braces.  The braces were needed to keep the angle of the chair correct since the plans were off somewhat. 

One of the things we learned from Mat's neighbor who is a woodworker is that the notch arms had some space between them after we had screwed them down to the back.  Mat's neighbor said that when we went to glue, to screw down the screw in the middle and work to the each end from there. That should eliminate the space. Sure enough, it did! Saturday then we glued the back leg, the two notch arms to the back and we put the bottom brace on using hanging bolts 1/4 inch with two wing knobs. I'll get a picture of that next time to show.  This will allow me to take the bottom brace off and thus to easily take off the seat and transport the entire chair flat. I have Velcro and am going to make two Velcro strips/belts to hold and secure the chair for transport.

So, what is left? We'll, I have all the materials for the seat and we need to finish assembling the seat and glue and screw the actual seat to the supports.  Then I need to put my memory foam, my foam and then I purchased a blue sleeping bag pad from Walmart and I'll cut that material to match the foam and put it on top to provide some support to the foam so I don't just sink to the wooden chair when I sit on the cushion.  I am going to use a couple of my son's jeans that he has worn out of late to cover the cushion.  I thought of a vinyl or something similar but I think that is too much money.  The jeans provide a unique look and if I do the pockets right, I just may have a place to store some sketching materials!

After the seat, we have to redrill the holes for the foot rest and assemble that with screws and glue.  Then we have to decide where to put the aluminum support, whether up high as designed or down low.  I hadn't thought of this until now but if I put it up high I fear it may interfere with the movement of the chair up and down. I'll have to release the aluminum support, move the chair up and then reattach it. I got a 3 foot aluminum piece so we'll see and I'll talk to Mat and look at the chair. 

After that I need to sand down the edges so they are rounded and not sharp, and apply five coats of my MiniWax Helmsman Spar Urethane to the chair.  I am not going to stain it, I really love the natural color of the Red Oak.  It could be stain, but I love natural wood like this so it is just going to get the clear coat.  I figure I have another week to go on it and I fear in this week my new Zambuto mirror will show up and I want the chair done before I have to put on my virtual counterweight and perhaps one other counterweight on my 14 inch dob (which I'll document here).  Here is a picture of the chair so far right before it got glued. 

What have I learned from this? First and foremost having an active ATMer in the community like Mat who is willing to share his time, talents and tools is significant.  People here in the Salt Lake area who want to make their own stuff need to get involved in his monthly ATMing.  It saves money, I'll have well over $150 in the cost of the chair and more importantly, I know that I will have played a role in building what I am using and that brings a sense of pride. Secondly, it taught me that guess what, I at home, could do this IF I had to and more importantly, I am going to have to second think whether purchasing an Astro-Gear is worth it if I can make it myself.  Third, ATMing is a blast. Good friends, good project, and you end up with something you've made yourself.  I have to thank Mat again for his assistance, guidance, friendship and all that he has done, not just for me, but for many who are in the process of making scopes and other  things. Next up will be a 4.5 and then a 6 inch mirror and then perhaps an equatorial platform for the 14 inch dob.  Here are some links for doing that:

Link 1 

Link 2

Link 3 

One more link to the AstronomyinUtah ATM forum where I've posted a lot of links for this:

ATM AstronomyinUtah Link

If your interested in trying out making a small telescope, I have an extra 4.5 inch mirror blank someone locally could work at Mat's ATM marathon coming up the first Friday and Saturday of May.  Just let me know.  Friday will be from around 6:00p.m. or when you get off work til 12:00a.m. or you get too tired and then all day Saturday from 9:00a.m. til 5:00p.m. or Mat kicks us out! In that time you should be able to finish a 4.5 inch mirror and then in June, build a structure for it and then get it coated.  Nova Optical is right down the road from Mat and I and Steve can get it coated for you (see Nova Optical for costs or email Steve at that link).


Observing Chair Work April 7th 2012

Yesterday was the local ATM session at Mat's house.  There was actually quite a bit going on.  There was a father and son, Tyler and Levi I believe, who are building their own 8 inch dob.  Yesterday they worked on the mirror box and that was interesting to watch.  Mat's son Jeff worked on regrinding his 8 inch mirror which was at F10 and which he wants taken down to about F5 or F6 I believe.  Josh, check the polish on his 4 inch and 8 inch mirrors and found that the polish needs to be done more on his 8 inch and that his 4 inch had some scratches in it that require further polishing.  I was there and with a lot of Mat's help and some from Josh, we worked through some issues on the chair and got the back leg put together.  Here are some images of the build of the chair. They won't be in any order of how we did this but I'll try to explain.

Here you can see the back leg of the chair that we assembled.  It is up and ready to go.  It is extremely strong and will hold weight quite well.  No worries there.  Working on the leg was one of the last things we did on the chair as it took time to drill the initial hole, then a larger hole to help the screw to go into the red oak which is really hard, and then we did a counter hold so the screw would be flush with the wood, keeping it smooth. 

 Here is the back and we cut the handle and I began to sand the inside of the handle by hand.  It worked quite well.  I like how the handle is back, allows for a good grip of the chair. 

 Next is the support for the front of chair and will be on the bottom.  In the plans it doesn't call for the support brace here to have its feet angled like the feet and to have them match for better support and aesthetics, we did that. I also sanded the bottom and Josh shared a sanding technique to get the bottom completely smooth. 

I also spent the first part of the session sanding the two notch legs to get them down so the chair can move. Mat finished as I was getting them uneven.  Here you can see them with the bottom brace before it was worked on.  Mat said that if you do this chair one thing he would do is to do the actual math to figure out where the angle of the holes need to be for the notches.  The plans are very good at that.  However, if I were to do this over, I would probably order from Catsperch their plans and hardware for $44.00 (the plans are just $25.00 and I am going to order them at some point just to take a look at them).  The plan and hardware can be found at this link about 3/4 to the bottom if not a little more. 

 One problem we continued to face with the chair is that the angle of the chair just wasn't right. To correct this Josh came up with the idea of making two wedges that go on top of the seat rest that we will secure to the them in the near future.  This fixed the angle issue quite nicely.  You can see it in the picture below.

Here is a close up of the two wedges on top of the seat support.  

And from another angle that is straight on.  Nothing fancy but it works.  Thanks Josh for the idea and cutting the tricky pieces. 

What's left is for us to round the back legs so the seat does all the way up, attach the front back rest to the front legs, put on the bottom support brace, redrill the holes for the foot rest and then I have a lot of sanding to so. I need to round the edges and just sand and trim.  I found that Catsperch uses thumbscrew  to secure and take off the bottom brace for transport so I'll probably do something similar. You can see that at this link (sorry, I don't want to post the picture that belongs to someone else).  Then I'll have to coat the chair so it holds up to dew and other moisture over time.  I am hoping for good weather next Friday or Saturday for observing and if so I'll be heading out to the Vernon site.  I did find another set of plans online for an observing chair and will post that link here in case someone wants to view those. 

Oh, my mirror is scheduled to be at Nova Optical for coating from Carl Zambuto so I'll more on that soon.


Messier 45 and Venus, April 3rd, Sketching M42 over time.

On Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 the clouds cleared enough here in northern Utah, that in the early evening I was able to capture Messier 45 and Venus next to it.  I did several sketches, taking from 7:30p.m. until 9:30p.m. to try and capture it.  One I did in my 9x50 finder and the other was in my 10 inch dob with a 27mm Panoptic.  Venus gave a very heavy glare and being in light pollution with only so so skies meant no other details.  Here are the two sketches.

Messier 45 and Venus.  I tried to capture the glare of Venus in each sketch.  This is in the 9x50 RACI Finder. Again, you can click on the sketches to simply view them in order in a larger format.

 This is in the 10 inch dob using my 27mm Panoptic.  I tried to capture some of the glare in Venus and the original sketch had this, but I picked up some of the pastel dust so when I went to adjust the contrast and brightness, I lost some of the glare that I had sketched in from Venus.

 I haven't published a sketch of Messier 42 in some time.  Well, to be honest, it was this sketch that I did and it reminds me more of a nightmare than of a sketch.


 Later came this attempt at Messier 42.  An improvement over the nightmare but still leaving much to be desired in my opinion. 

 Well, I finally put together a sketch that I'll post here of Messier 42.  It's not great, but I can see the improvement in both my sketching and in the amount of detail I am actually taking in. Hunting, observing, writing down or recording all the details on the Herschel 400 and 400 II is paying off at the eyepiece.  I use to feel bad about only observing ten to fourteen objects when others would get thirty or more.  Yet for me, I think sketching has done what I always wanted it to do, make me a better observer of details while teaching me patience. In terms of my artistic skills, as I put in practice time and actual time at the eyepiece, I think I am improving slightly.

 I would say that aperture, the ones above were done in a XT8 and then a XT10 scope and this sketch was done in my 14 inch and 20 inch dob also helps in observing details of DSO's.   I used 40mm Pentax XW, the 27mm Panoptic and a 10mm and 7mm Pentax for some of the details.  You can decide for yourself if you like the black and white version or the one where I added some green to it.  I feel I added to much green as the green should be more transparent. Next time.  I will also admit that Messier 42 scared me.  It is one of those items as you can see above that I think many people don't nail because it takes time to develop the skills to be able to sketch it. I used the Mellish technique that Alex Massey introduced and I shared on my blog a while ago.  This technique has by far increased my enjoyment of sketching.  Anyway, I look forward to the North America Nebula, the Veil Nebula and other such large and wonderful targets both this spring and this summer.

Here is after I added color to the sketch. I darkened the background to cover up that annoyance I have of getting some of the pastel on the edge of my hand and having it rub off on the black paper.  I'll have to be more careful in the future.

Feel free to leave a comment on which sketch of Messier 42 you like, the Black and White or the color if you want. I'd be interested to read them. 


I posted the second image back in February after re-observing and sketching it and then for fun, I found the original sketch I had done of it digitally based on a field sketch. Since I'm comparing some of my objects of late I thought I would post both sketches of NGC 2467 a reflection nebula around an open cluster in Puppis.

Here is the original done in my old XT8 back in 2009. 

 Here is the one I did in February of NGC 2467 from a dark site with the 14" dob.  I think they make for a fun an interesting comparison.